Category Archives: The New Web

Vying For Your Attention

In an effort to vie for your attention in the Check In Wars, Gowalla now lets you check in on Facebook and Foursquare.

In an effort to vie for your attention in the TV and Movie Watching Wars, Netflix is willing to shell out big bucks for in-season TV shows. Good thing because the prospect of paying $15 for Netflix and $8 for Hulu – while still cheaper than cable, satellite, or AT&T’s thing – is starting to look expensive to a cheapskate frugal person like me.

Hamstrung Hulu

On TechCrunch Mark Suster compares Hulu to the oil cartel OPEC. I’m not sure what this point number 2 has to do with the cartel comparison, but I think it’s one of the more interesting points of the post:

2. Limited “Targeting” of Advertisements: The great promise of the Internet for advertisers was that they were finally going to be able to deliver targeted advertisements to users because they could finally know who you were. This has become a reality with banner ads, search ads, contextual ads and Facebook ads. But not Hulu ads.

Why? They know who we are, don’t they? Yes, they do. But they generally don’t even allow advertisers to purchase ads for a single show let alone ads targeting YOU by reading your cookies on your computer. So we have ads that are even less targeted than those on television. The reason lies in protecting the high price of broadcast & cable advertising rates. They are nervous about “trading analog dollars for digital pennies.” So advertisers have to buy “run of site” ads rather than show specific ones.

It was over a year ago now when I wondered why Hulu wasn’t targeting ads to it’s users. I haven’t run the numbers on targeted ads with lower volume vs. sitewide untargeted ads, but I’d have to think there’s a price point at which you can at least break even. I mean, Facebook’s advertising platform specializes in making it easy to target people based on tons of different criteria. Again, I haven’t run the numbers, but I think Facebook is making a lot of money.

Of course, even running the numbers won’t get to the heart of the reason that Hulu is basically having it’s hand tied when it comes to being able to innovate like other technology companies. For as long as the cable and satellite providers control that major distribution channels, the networks have no choice but to hamstring the efforts of other methods of distributions (even, obviously, ones that they support). Unfortunately (for me and other Hulu users), since the user base of people watching TV via the Internet using Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, etc. is still tiny compared to the number of people who pay companies to provide them with TV (while most of the time also paying them to provide Internet access), the networks have to tread lightly when it comes to the user experience provided through these alternate services.

Cable companies (and satellite and other pay-TV providers) are certainly scared pantless when they realize(d?) that something like Hulu could easily make networks more money by showing targeted ads for higher rates (not to mention charging people $9.99 per month without having to hand any of that over to the cable company). But they still have the market share, and therefore, the power, to make sure that networks don’t get too excited about prospects of nearly infinite riches. Netflix has run into the same problem (over and over) in dealing with movie studios who still see DVDs as their major distribution channel (although that point of view is even more short-sighted than the view that cable companies will continue to maintain their dominance in the television distribution market).

Best Yet: Twitter Movie Trailer

This one not only has its own song, but the best parody of the magnitude quote with “140 words per post?” “140 characters.”

(Brought to me to you by TechCrunch, of course)

Groupon Fail Whale

I’m sure this is a situation that’s starting to happen more and more often as Groupon gets bigger and bigger (what up Chicago-based start-ups!) …

Just a bit ago, (okay, it’s actually been over a month now) I went to Tank Sushi with my wife and a friend for dinner. We were going there because we had a Groupon – an expiring Groupon. As in, expiring on the day we went. (Can you see where this is going?)

We got there about 8:30 and were told it would be about midnight before we would be seated. Now, if it were just me, I’d say “funk dat!” and use the 3 hours to make up for the $20 I would have lost by not using the Groupon.

But, since I was with my wife and a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, we were okay with waiting for 3 hours since there were plenty of things to talk about.

As we waited, the length of wait for people who came in after us was given as anywhere from 11pm to “We’re not going to be able to get you in.” The point is not the variation, though, but rather that the restaurant was staying open an extra two to three hours just to accommodate all the people who’d waited until the last minute to use their Groupons.

Here’s my solution: Give restaurants (and other Groupon offering establishments) a sign (preferably designed by either the person who does the Foursquare badge or the oatmeal [that dude is awesome]) that would basically say “You waited till the last minute and now we have too many people up in here. Let this be a teaching moment for you.”

Of course, they might just be able to turn the old Twitter Fail Whale upside-down and have all the little birds bringing the big guy down.

So, really, I guess the question is: Can something like Groupon be too big for it’s own good? Even with their “diversification” via “personalization”? People are looking to cut costs just as much as businesses in this economy…

Twitter Fail Whale

YouTube Movie Trailer


Thanks TechCrunch

Weekend Reading: Is HTML5 Hot or Not?

Scribd is ditching Flash for HTML5, but Tim Bray says HTML5 ain’t all that big a deal.

HTML Is The Future

I declare that emphatically because I want it to be so. I’m sure I’m not the only code monkey out there praying that “write once, run anywhere” doesn’t leave us like ###… Even now web developers have to test across at least 3 different browsers,* but at least things are trending towards standardization and it’s becoming easier to create a web app that will behave the same independent of a user’s choice of browser.

Smartphones pose a serious threat to that ubiquity in the same way that the differences between Windows, Mac OS, and Linux made developing desktop apps an elephant-sized pain in the ass. Web developers have long wished and advocated for browsers that run everything the same way. While that is probably never going to happen, the difference between developing for IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera is much (much much) smaller than the difference between developing for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

if (Portability > Usability) then ?

There is a reason that desktop-style web apps are popular. Yes, people still use Outlook, Thunderbird, and many other fat desktop clients for email, but there’s a reason that there’s 300 million people using Yahoo Webmail, Gmail, Hotmail, and AOL Webmail (I extrapolated that number from these percentages of market share), and that given the choice, 49% of people choose Gmail as the best email client. There’s also a reason that Google has basically given a big fat middle finger to native iPhone apps with their Gmail client in HTML5 (and now Google Voice web app, also in HTML5). There a reason that there’s a lot more “mobile touch” web sites than there are iPhone and Android apps. There’s a reason that I get practically all of my links from Read/Write Web and not Read/Write Native Smartphone App.

That reason is Portability. That is: I can run a web app from anywhere on anyone’s computer (or phone) as long as I’ve got internet access. So, while a client like Outlook or Thunderbird offers a slightly faster response time and some extra features, if you use one of those and don’t use a web-app version in addition to the desktop client, you suddenly sound like someone who doesn’t really know how the internet even works (do you really want to be the person who says: “I have to check my email on my home computer”?)

And for the second part of the equation: Usability – the gap between web app and desktop app is getting smaller every day. Web developers continue to push the limits of what web-based applications can do with respect to speed and user interfaces. Sure, web apps (even the good ones) are slow compared to native apps when they’re running on a (relatively) slow phone with a (relatively) slow 3G internet connection. But the speed of the phones and the connections is improving even faster than the speed of the apps themselves.

So, now take the difference in Portability (we’ll say this difference is a fairly large positive in favor of web apps) and add the difference in Usability (we’ll say this is slightly negative with respect to web apps) and then add in the fact that you can write a web app in one language and have it run on every single phone and computer with internet access and see if you don’t come out with a conclusion that says: HTML is the Future.

And, if you want some awesome tips for developing in HTML5, check out Alex Bosworth’s post.

* Yes, all you Opera and Safari heads, I said at least.

Blogging is Easy

From a (sort of) recent Facebook status update:

While I agree for the most part with the “Tumblr > Twitter” sentiment, well, that’s kind of obvious. Twitter is definitely good for some things (mostly sharing short fleeting thoughts, but also sometimes for sharing links, and conversing with people who use Twitter as their main form of communication). I did not see “being a blog” in that list, though. And as Commenter #1 points out, you can view Twitter updates on your Tumblr dashboard while posting slightly longer commentaries on Tumblr. Of course, Commenter #1 also makes the fatal mistake of saying that he (or she) wishes they knew HTML.
Read the rest of this entry

Who needs a newspaper?

or: The True Power of RSS

On the same day when TechCrunch delivered this piece on the Internet as Robin Hood, I also realized how irrelevant “old media” and/or “the establishment” has become to me personally. What brought me to this realization before I even looked at the TechCrunch article?


I am going to say with all honesty, that nearly all of the blogs I read via RSS (which is nearly all of the blogs I read) are focused on tech (e.g., TechCrunch) and basketball (e.g., Ball Don’t Lie). And yet, I still found out about Vajazzling only a day after Jennifer Love Hewitt was on George Lopez’s late night show. Thank you, Basketbawful.


You can almost see the sparkling Swarovski crystals.

As someone who has received some of the riches that Robin Interhood has stolen from the big news outlets, I can’t help but champion the power of the Internet. But honestly, I was kind of amazed that I can be plugged into pop culture even when I limit myself to two particular subject areas. And I’m not the only one who’s interested in this kind of thing. Tracking new media, I mean, of course. Not the vajazzling itself.

Lala Bought by Apple: Please Let This Be Good

According to MacDailyNews:

“Apple Inc. acquired online music company Lala Media Inc., possibly signaling an expansion of the computer giant’s music strategy,” Ethan Smith and Yukari Iwatani Kane report for The Wall Street Journal.

Terms of the deal were not available, but there’s this:

“One person with knowledge of the deal, but who was not authorized to discuss it, said that the negotiations originated when Lala executives concluded that their prospects for turning a profit in the short term were dim and initiated discussions with Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president in charge of iTunes,” Brad Stone reports for the New York Times. “This person said Apple would primarily be buying Lala’s engineers, including its energetic co-founder Bill Nguyen, and their experience with cloud-based music services.

(Emphasis mine)


This Could Be Good If

1) Apple uses it to start their own cloud-based music streaming service complete with iPhone app and allows users (like me) to transfer all their purchases to the new service. This scenario seems most likely if Apple is indeed basically just buying Lala’s engineers. Of course, the “be good” part of this hinges on Apple letting people move their purchases to the new service. Of course, people who don’t already use Lala won’t give a shit, and Apply might not care enough about the current users of Lala (who are probably a tiny minority of music listeners) to make this sort of transfer available.

2) Apple starts adding their branding muscle to, and adds integration with Lala to iTunes. I mean, the service is already set up and seems to be working pretty well. The music syncing app could use some work, but that seems like something that Apply could do pretty well. Then they could add their Genius power to Lala to make it even awesomer (and get people to buy even more music, since the web songs are only 10 cents).

3) Apple does anything as good as Lala without Effing it up. I’m sure there are other possible roadmaps that my feeble mind has yet to conjure into being. As long as Apple doesn’t rip the still beating heart from Lala and stomp on it (as Google has done with Oh So Many Startups), then, it should be okay.



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