Archive for the 'business' Category

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The Washington Post has a really fascinating (and entertaining, especially for people who are familiar with the DC area) article speculating what Washington might look like in 2025: “Washington’s Future, a History.” Technology, communication, and the Internet play a major role in influencing where and how Washingtonians live in the future, at least according to the author’s view. (And for everyone who is studying for final exams, this is a good study break!)

Facebook: Your One-Stop Shop for Web Updates

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Two announcements this week indicate that Facebook is on its way to becoming even more of an update site than it already is. First, Facebook is going to integrate updates from Flickr, Yelp, Picasa, and Delicious into the News Feed. Second, Six Apart, former owner of Live Journal, has developed a Facebook App called Blog It, which will let you update your Facebook status, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, and LiveJournal all at once. I find the first announcement very exciting. But I also found it surprising given Facebook’s increasingly strong position in the market for on-line photo sharing. Why increase the visibility of Flickr and Picasa to Facebook users that currently use Facebook to share photos? Evidently Facebook thinks they can expand their audience and uses to a wider population, but I think they risk losing their core users to other sites.

Politics and open source

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One of the readings for today talked of the great potential of applying the Linux open source model to political campaigning. Is the open source model really different? Here’s an article describing the rapid increase in open source acquisitions by wealthy investors. Is open source going “corporate”? What type of effect will the outside money have? Is this symbolic of other trends of web differences?

Book Publishing

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This article in the Times today is pretty interesting. An author (and management professor) is using computer algorithms to generate books from information publicly available online. The web also changes the way the books are sold – many are printed only when a customer orders a copy on Amazon. At least one customer has complained the books aren’t that great – so maybe this isn’t that big a change for right now. But this seems like it could be a big deal as the algorithms improve.

Online Software

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Though online software has been gaining momentum for a while now, Google has stepped up its efforts with its recent deal with Salesforce. I expect this will be a web difference, to the extent it is not one already. Software applications, and the documents created within them, will increasingly be saved, stored, and accessed remotely via the Web. Why host a program or document on your own computer or server when you can outsource it to a more secure server? That said, unlike most of the writers covering this news story, I do not expect this Web difference to demarcate the battle line between Google and the software companies. Rather, I expect the software companies, to the extent they have not done so already, will follow Google’s lead by making forays into online software.

Yahoo’s New Ad Initiative

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This morning Yahoo released some additional details on their new ad program, AMP!, formerly known as Project Apex. The specs are still a bit fuzzy, but the basic idea is that Yahoo has recruited a network of approximately 600 websites, mostly news media sites, and plans to offer the ability to purchase targeted ads from any of them through a single interface. It’s supposed to make it easier for ad sellers and ad purchasers to determine availability and target advertisements. Yahoo reports that the system, which is already in testing form, will be launched this summer. Yahoo has posted a video preview of the service, which you can watch here. Obviously, it’s not a coincidence that Yahoo made this announcement just days after Microsoft threatened a proxy fight in the ongoing struggle for control of the company.

Arrington, Comcast and a Chicken walk into the tweetosphere…

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With the twitter facebook app finally getting fixed last week I resurrected my long dead twitter account just in time to see a bit of a ruckus today in the tweetosphere (is there really such a thing?).

Long story short, Michael Arrington (of TechCrunch fame) was having a long Comcast internet outage this weekend and was none to happy about it. The usual customer service problems ensue… long holds, non-answers, wrong answers. After crashing with a chicken for internet access he tweeted out his anger and within 20 minutes apparently has a call from Comcast.

Some thoughts and a link collection after the jump.

__(‘Read the rest of this entry »’)

Yahoo’s new site driven by desire to sell more targeted ads

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I just saw this in the NYT and thought it was pretty timely. It suggests that Yahoo’s creation of this new site aimed at women was motivated by advertisers wanting to reach this demographic. It’s unclear whether the new site itself is the main form of “targeting” here — in the traditional sense, where ads are sent out based on the general audience of of the site/ TV show/ newspaper — or whether there will also be more specific targeting going on based on the web activity of the users of the new site. (I’m guessing the latter.)

I guess I see this as underscoring the importance of targeting to advertisers, and the importance of advertising to the business plans of big Web companies like Yahoo. Which makes the whole debate all the more salient! Companies really want to find better ways to reach consumers on the Web, and I think we need to come up with some reasonable means of making sure people’s privacy concerns aren’t stampeded in the process.

What’s the harm?

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Relevant to the discussion we’re having at the moment in class, here’s a hypothetical: Your local supermarket chain uses software at the checkout line that compares the set of stuff you’ve just bought with the entire population of purchases by all shoppers, and from this derives a guess at what other stuff you might be interested in buying. It uses this guess to print a coupon on the back of your receipt. It then feeds your list of purchases into its general database of purchases but it records no identifying info about you – no credit card number, no discount card number, etc.  Let’s say the guesses it makes on this basis are good, so lots of shoppers are happy to find the discount coupon on the back of their receipt.

Does anyone think that this activity ought to require an opt in? That it ought to be regulated?

Has the Web Increased Corporate Responsiveness?

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Adobe has vowed to modify its new Photoshop terms of service in response to user complaints regarding a particular term that gave Adobe a non-exclusive license to each user photograph uploaded to the system. The story sounds somewhat similar to Facebook’s responses to users’ privacy complaints regarding news feed and beacon. Hopefully this increased responsiveness on the part of corporate entities signals a web difference.