We Own the Internet!

December 21, 2010

…but only by one vote, and only for now.

Today, the FCC passed new net neutrality rules by a 3-2 vote. In one of the bigger judgments that no one will ever know about, the people that use the internet just won ownership of it rather than the companies that allow us to access it.

If it had gone the other way, it would have generated an uproar, and we all would have heard about it. Why? What are the rules that were passed?

Well, at the most basic level, Comcast and other large internet service providers want control over the internet so that they can restrict user’s access to certain sites, and charge more for “preferred” internet users who want the fastest possible connection.  While defenders of net neutrality, Google standing at the forefront, demand that no one have control over the internet.  Users should be free to see it all, without jumping through hoops, or paying more than anyone else.

In my opinion, net neutrality is a no brainer.  The fact that the vote was 3-2 surprises me.  The fact that the 2 no votes were Republicans does not surprise me.  Calling the new rules “unnecessary regulation” is one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.  I wonder if either of them has ties to Big Internet.  I wonder if there are any registered republicans who use the internet out there who would not be happy if all of the sudden they could not use the internet at peak hours unless they paid more for it.

But none of that matters now, because the rules passed, and no one will ever hear about this one way or the other.

Either way, we the people won the day.  Congrats to us!


Google Should Only Buy Groupon if…

December 1, 2010

They’re smart.

The biggest purchase in Google’s long history of acquisitions has yet to happen, but it’s about to.  It’s a $6 Billion plus offer that makes a lot of sense for both companies.

Having never met Groupon’s founders, or any members of the team other than a few phone calls with some of their sales reps, I cannot attest to the vision or goals of the company.  But to be acquired by Google can’t be too far down on anyone’s wish list.

As far as the huge valuation that Google has given them, I would warn that Groupon is worth every bit of it, and then some. In a field that is quickly becoming overcrowded with clones, Groupon has demonstrated an ability to stay relevant, and become even more relevant.  As the local coupon company that took a deal a day to the next level, as the company that today thousands try to imitate, Groupon has set themselves apart.  And through the right kind of marketing, and the right kind of positioning, they’ve built an army of potential consumers for every brand.

Here’s a hint that every potential business owner should take from Groupon: create a way for consumers to get deals on products that they most likely would have bought anyway at full price, and you’re bound to make anyone happy.  In a lot of ways, that was Walmart’s vision when they got Sam Walton got started back in the early 60’s.  Serve the under-served yes, but offer deals on products people need or want based on another company’s advertising.

In any case, am I surprised that Google didn’t try to create their own clone? Yes. Am I surprised they’re interested in Groupon’s business? No. It opens up new doors to Google’s plans to take control of the “local” business of mobile and web apps.  Using Groupon in conjunction with other Google services may prove Groupon to be the company’s most successful acquisition ever.


123People Scares the Innovation Out of Me

March 25, 2010

As a proponent of new technologies that make it simple and convenient to find information online, I am struggling with this one.  And as I question the people around me, it seems that they are struggling with it as well.  Most people are a bit put off by the service, yet others think it’s an innovative step forward in connecting people.

I am talking of course about 123People.com.  The two year old “person search service” has people questioning the now age old principle of identity and privacy in the digital age.

123people is basically an aggregator of sorts, which locates and collects information on people.  Anything online appears to be fair game in their algorithm.  It looks at everything from Google images to LinkedIn profiles, blog posts and articles to social networks, and everything that falls in between.

A simple search of my name brings up images, blog posts, an old address, and my old company and work number.  And I have to say that when I first found it, I was stuck in between feelings of disgust that all that information was out there, and feelings of amazement at how easy they made the process.  For those people with little to no online presence of their own, 123people has found a way to scrape together anything that exists, and land one of the top results in a Google search for their names.

Of course we all know that in this day and age, privacy is a hot button issue, and will be for some time.  Our lives on the internet are public, whether we want them to be or not.  But whereas without 123people, someone looking up information on me would have to put in a little extra effort, perform several search queries, look at a couple of different sites, and put it all together; 123people has put it all in one place for you.  It’s more than a little scary.

If you take a look at the 123people blog, they’ll have you believe that people search is incredible, and can only mean good things for the world.  I have to think that more of us believe this type of service is more trouble than they’ve let on.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.  If you haven’t done a search for yourself, check it out and then post your comments below.


Google TV is Coming!

March 18, 2010

I know that I don’t update this blog as often as I used to, or as often as I probably should.  But upon scanning the headlines of the blogs that I follow this morning, one inspired me to get back in the game, if only for this one post.

Awhile back I posted a blog titled “When Will Google Take Over TV”.  And apparently, the answer is soon.

From Mashable yesterday comes a report that Google is already a few months into a project to develop an Android based TV platform that may include both set-top boxes and internet connected TV’s.  Google is partnering with Sony and Intel on this project, which is sure to shake up the media world as it gets closer.

This is a big move for Google, whose advertising possibilities will increase greatly with control over a television based platform.  Obviously we’ll have to wait and see what kind of experience the Google based TV platform will give us, but this is a big step in the converging of traditional television media and the internet.

I for one am excited.


NY Times Allows Adam Raff to take out Personal Vendetta against Google

December 28, 2009

Here is an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times about “Search Neutrality“.

Before I respond, its only fair to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and so Adam Raff is not wrong for writing this piece.  A lot of his points, upon further investigation, are wrong.

It does not take long, only a couple of paragraphs, to discover that Adam Raff is not in favor of Google for a reason.  He blames the failure of his company, Foundem, on Google’s “decision” not to rank them near the top of search results for product comparison.  More likely, the website was not favored by people on the web, or was not refined to show up for relevant searches.  I doubt very much that Google took the time to single them out and destroy their chance at success.  But that is not for me to say.

Here are a couple of other issues I have with Adam’s rant:

1. Google only controls so much of the search market because their service is better.  People have a choice when it comes to searching the internet, and we choose Google because we like their results more than others.  Why mandate changes to those results when they are the reason people choose them over competitors?

2. Youtube is the most popular video sharing site.  Why shouldn’t that show up over other videos?  Google was smart enough to buy them.

3. Google being innovative has really nothing to do with the companies they have purchased.  They just have better business sense, and the ability to foresee how we will use the internet, than other companies.  Their ability to incorporate all of these services in their core business, and make it both free and easy to use, is what makes them far more innovative than Mr. Raff gives them credit for.

4. Google Maps is better than MapQuest.  If it wasn’t, Google would not be able to use it the way they do.  The same is true for almost all Google services when compared to the competitors that they successfully “took down”.

Don’t penalize Google for being the best.  And definitely don’t force your opinions on us just because you blame Google for your failure.


Microsoft/Yahoo Deal Makes Google Stronger

August 12, 2009

Bing-Yahoo-search-engineNot 0nly do I not believe the hype that the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo will hurt Google, I actually believe it has positioned Google to grow even stronger. Why?  Well lets take a close look at the deal first.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft’s Bing will power all Yahoo search sites, and in return Yahoo will sell premium advertising for both companies.  This creates a partnership where each company is using one of its strengths to help the other.  It creates an atmonshpere of no competition among these two companies, essentially making them one company in the search industry, and thus the number 2 competitor to Google in the area.

What the deal does not do is add any more ingenuity or creativity to either company.  What the deal does not do is set up a jointly run division with new talent and new ideas.  It takes the Bing search results, puts them on Yahoo’s sites, and allows advertising to flow freely across both companies’ websites.

Google has come out publicly and welcomed the competition when most people expected them to challenge the agreement, much like Microsoft challenged Google’s own search deal with Yahoo last year.  This deal, like that one, must pass scrutiny by anti-trust regulators.

However, if it does pass, as many expect it to, I think Google has made the right choice not to challenge it.  They will still remain the dominant player in the industry, at close to 70% of all search traffic.  And the combination of #2 and #3 in the industry will make the barriers to entry that much higher. Now, instead of a bunch of small competitors chasing Google, you will have a solid #2 player who will hold off some of the competition that Google should have gotten.

In addition, I think that this deal will send some competitive energy Google’s way.  It will keep them on their toes, make them take a few more chances in their search strategy, and maintain that culture of innovation that has taken them so far.

Of course this is only one man’s opinion.  What do you think?  Is Google better off with Bing and Yahoo on the same team or are they in trouble for this first time in years?


What does Free Mean to you?

July 16, 2009

youtubeThere are many ongoing debates on whether or not the nature of free information on the web can continue to last.  As free content continues to put at risk the traditional media sources that charge their customers to get the information, it also has proven tourblesome for many of the companies that offer the free content.

For example, this story from the New York Times discusses the many issues with Youtube.  As Google continues to try to find big money in advertising dollars for the most popular video sharing site on the web, the cost of storing the infinite amount of videos uploaded to the site everyday is out of control.  It appears that no amount of advertising can possibly make up for the money lost just on server space each year.  Therefore, at this point, Youtube looks like a failing business for Google, and one they will need to evaluate over time.

In addition to Google, there are entire industries that are caught in between free models and paid models.  For example, CNBC recently aired a special on the porn industry, and how they are caught trying to embrace the internet and trying to protect their profits at the same time.  For porn, free videos online have taken a big swipe at profits from paid sites as well as dvd sales, which some say are down close to 30% this year.

Once something is available for free, it decreases the likelihood that anyone would want to pay for it.  Whereas in the past you could say, “you get what you pay for”, nowadays the quality of content and information you can get for free is many times just as good as the stuff that you pay for.  We are approaching a time and a place where Free is costing businesses a fortune.  And eventually, Free may hit a brick wall.

How much is Google willing to lose on Youtube before they charge you to upload videos?  How much is Facebook willing to lose before they charge you to share photos, or to write on someone’s wall?  How much are we all willing to pay to use the sites we love so dearly?

Right now there is no balance between free and pay. The time is coming when we need to find that balance or internet users and businesses alike are in for a major shock.