China’s Alibaba

Bambi Francisco writes:

Alibaba owns two of the largest B2B marketplaces in the world; has a joint-venture partnership with Softbank in a popular Chinese online auction business, called Taobao; and owns a Chinese online payment system, called AliPay. Hmm, sounds like eBay’s Asian twin to me.

There’s quite a stir coming from Alibaba, and it’s likely because the company is seeing a dizzying combination of consolidation, investor interest and competition all at once.

Taobao had 9 percent of the market for online auctions in China, as measured by gross merchandise volume, at the start of 2004, while eBay had 90 percent. By the end of last year, Taobao, which is jointly owned by Alibaba and Softbank, had 41 percent of the market, Chi said.

AliPay doesn’t charge its users for the payment service just yet. But about $3 million worth of goods per week, or a third of Taobao’s volume, is completed using AliPay.

In addition to future revenues from a bigger AliPay, Alibaba and Taobao should be able to generate revenues in other ways, as they continue to grow and service their online communities. For example, Alibaba has just launched a trial of a keyword business for its domestic B2B clients to find more trade leads.

More on Structured Blogging

Jon Udell writes: “I want to blog an event; when published, my event should have a certain look; my writing software knows how to produce that look; I’ll use it to achieve that look. I don’t know, or particularly care, that machine-readable content comes for free. I will, however, be pleasantly surprised when I find that the Net does intelligent things with my event postings: aggregates them with others that share the same venue or date, syndicates them into upcoming.org….Brokering the differences among multiple microcontent formats for events, reviews, how-to’s, and other content types would be a good problem to have. At least we could identify the types. That’s huge.”

Videocasting

Robert Scoble writes:

Video is about to go through a breakthrough. The forces are just too strong to ignore. Cheap (and very high quality) camcorders. Increasing broadband adoption. Cheaper storage. Decent low-cost display devices (and as the PSP shows us, more to come).

Just a few things need to align. OurMedia is damn close to making magic happen.

To those who say there isn’t a business here, pox on you. They said that about Google in 1996 too. You’re missing the point.

The Long Tail is about to bring us millions of video channels. Already I’m seeing hundreds of new videos put on blogs every week. It’s interesting to see what people are doing with their camcorders.

How Google Codes

John Battelle excerpts a post by Joe Beda (Google engineer):

There is, by and large, only one code base at Google. This has many advantages. Most obvious is that it is really easy to look at and contribute to code in other projects without having to talk to anyone, get special permissions or fill out forms in triplicate. That is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Having one codebase means that there is a very high degree of code sharing. Need to base 64 encode/decode something? No problem, there is a standard Google routine for that. Found a bug? Just fix it and check it in after getting it code reviewed by a documented owner. One of the reasons that environments like Perl, Python, C#, Java, etc. flourish is that they have large and well through out libraries of useful code. For a variety of reasons, C++ has never had this. …

… The intranet in Google is super transparent. Teams are actively encouraged to share the most intimate details of their projects with the rest of the company. This happens through tech talks, design docs, lunch table conversations, etc. When two teams are doing similar things, people start with the assumption that they must have their reasons and that the situation will be worked out in time. There isn’t a huge push to over optimize and have only one solution for each problem.

…When someone comes up with a new idea, the most common response is excitement and a brainstorming session. Politics and who owns what area rarely enter into it.

TECH TALK: When Things Go Wrong: My Failures (Part 2)

The second failure is more recent. In fact, I think I am living through it and have lived through it for a few years. It is do with the current business that we do in Netcore around open-source messaging and security solutions. We have done this business now for nearly 7 years. The business has not grown in size significantly, and we havent turned the corner in profitability. At the same time, we have invested in many other related areas looking for the next big thing. The result we have challenges in our existing business, and we have been unable to monetise the new ideas that weve had in the past.

As I write this, it does seem a bit strange accepting responsibility for what we are going through. And yet, I know that the first step towards starting to get back on track is realising that one is on the wrong track. I had always hoped in the past years that we will be either able to grow our existing business fast enough or get our new ideas to start generating enough cashflow so that we will be profitable, and that would give us the launchpad for growth. But, increasingly, what has become clear is that the income and expenditure lines are diverging, not converging.

A couple of things have landed us in the present position. My ideas went far ahead of reality. I forgot my own lesson of managing the short-term and the long-term. I think there is a great vision that is there for tomorrows world thin clients, server-centric computing, and computing as a service. But in this, the short-term has been sacrificed we havent managed to build our first profit platform.

So, the challenge I now face is manifold: thinking whether the current business we are in can be made profitable, and if so, how; creating a sustainable profit engine either from the current business or a new business and doing so quickly; ensuring that we also stay on track for the long-term vision that we seek to implement; and doing the transition quickly. There is a need for putting ones head down and focusing hard on the business we are in and where we want to be. There is a lot of experience that we have gained which we now need to put to good use. But we have to make decisions quickly and then operationalise them.

When I look back, I see a lot of similarity between now and the 1994 period that I went through. This was not apparent until some time ago when I started realising that even as we continue to want to grow and have big dreams, we are not taking care of the present. Then too, I had big dreams but the reality of today did not match the vision of tomorrow. It does not make the situation any easier even though Ive gone through it before. I am confident we will pull ourselves out of the hole that we are in because at least I now recognise that we are in a hole.

Tomorrow: Why Failure Happens

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