July 16, 2009
There 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.
November 12, 2008
Making big news yesterday was the announcing of Google FluTrends. The idea is simple: use search trends and data to track the spread of the flu virus throughout the country.
Google has long been able to track everything that people are searching for, and they have used that data to find trends, recommend certain search phrases, and track where their users go for answers. Most people that use Google may not realize this, but they know a whole lot about you by “watching you search”. This has brought up privacy concerns for a long time, but the company built on the motto “Don’t be evil” seems to be using this data to help people.
Google FluTrends is one example of an innovative way to use this information for good. Google can see where their users are searching for things like “flu symptons”, “flu shots”, or anything else flu related. Now obviously there will be people with the flu that don’t search, and people who search it just for information and not because they have it, but overall this system works well.
Now, even the government is taking interest. Whereas normal health reporting agencies will notify when and where the flu is most active within 10 days, Google FluTrends can do it almost instantly. In many ways, it can predict the outbreak, and help health officials prepare. The goal is to get the vaccination in the hands of those that need it most before things get too bad.
In my opinion, when a company like Google has this type of information, they have a moral responsibility to use it to help people. And if this new “product” proves useful this flu season, it is an ingenious way to use their power for good.
For more information on projects they are working on at Google, visit www.google.org.
August 13, 2008
One day we woke up and we had the internet. At least that is how it feels for my generation. All of the sudden, businesses had websites. All of the sudden, there were business online that did not exist offline. And all of the sudden, we had options.
The history of business on the internet is not an easy one to decipher, but there is one fairly interesting trend that stands out. In the beginning, regular “brick and mortar” companies used the internet to supplement their offline activities. They had simple websites with general information about products and services, and how they could be found or contacted. The URL was the name of the company and all was right with the world.
Then, internet businesses (dot com’s) were born. These companies did not exist in any form in the pre-internet days. Most did not even have any type of “brick and mortar” setup. It was all about the website. These websites grew from simple to complex very quickly, offering more and more options to their users. There was a push to put the most information in one place so that users did not have to use other websites to get information that they could just as easily get from you.
Over the next few years, even after the bubble burst, the goal for many websites was much the same. Add context, give options, dump information on the customer and become the self-proclaimed “one-stop-shop” online. And all was right with the world.
But more recently, the opposite is happening. Google has a cap on the number of words it puts on its home page. Woot offers one product a day. Twitter limits you to one, 140 word status update. Simplicity is gaining importance. Today’s online consumers will surf the web for the right site with the right information for them. Websites that have a simple, direct message that is easy to use and understand are developing huge followings.
“Kill the clutter”, is the message from users and developers alike. Keep it simple, do one thing, and do it the best. This trend is picking up steam right now, where will you take it?