Feed Readers Done Right

Dave Winer writes:

Imagine a newspaper that got more and more clogged with old stuff every day, as every category of news accumulated all the old stories you didn’t read, and showed them to you every time you looked, as if this time you might actually want to read a story that you didn’t want to read the last 80 times you looked.

Your daily newspaper doesn’t tell you that you haven’t read 83,284 articles, why should your computer-based news tool?

Well, that’s how most feed readers work, and it’s just plain wrong. Your software should, instead, find the new stuff since the last time you looked and show you that first.

Startups Embracing Amazon’s S3

Om Malik writes:

The growing number of early-stage start-ups signing up for Amazon S3 indicates that something big is afoot. One of the reasons for the growing popularity of S3 is because the service is optimized for developers and offers REST/SOAP access to its system at pretty affordable prices. Amazon currently charges $0.15 per gigabyte of storage per month and $0.20 per gigabyte of data transferred.

These prices, as Jeff Barr of Amazon explained at SF TechSessions in June, will trend lower, thanks to constant commoditization of hardware and Amazons scale. We are not speculating on the future except to say that we will continue to offer Amazon S3 at extremely competitive pricing by passing along Amazons own benefits of scale to Amazon S3 customers, a company spokesperson said.

Strategy as Commodity

Umair Haque writes:

30 years ago, thinking strategically about business was revolutionary. It allowed visionaries to shape value creation in entirely new ways. The result was the death of conglomerates and the birth of the modern transnational.

Today, the average corporation is packed to the gills with strategists. It’s up to it’s ears in strategy consultants. The language, vocabulary, and ideas of strategic thinking permeate it.

And that’s no surprise – strategy is a very useful way to think about commerce (art, life, etc).

But that also means that everyone and their grandmother knows how to pick profitable markets, segment them, price goods and services, analyze competitors, understand industry economics, etc, etc.

Strategy itself, in a very real sense, is becoming a commodity.

Clearwire and WiMax

The Economist writes:

As well as providing broadband access in rural areas, WiMAX could challenge the duopoly of cable operators and telecoms incumbents. But despite much hype from Intel, WiMAX’s main cheerleader, it has taken far longer than expected to get the standards agreed and the technology working.

Clearwire’s way around this problem has been to offer a precursor technology to WiMAX that can be upgraded once the technology and standards are sorted out. Its subscribers100,000 of them so far, in America, Belgium and Irelandget a wireless modem, which they plug into a computer. The modem is portable, so users can connect from anywhere within a region, but not yet mobile, so users cannot connect from a moving bus. Now flush with cash, Clearwire will buy more spectrumit already owns more suitable spectrum in America than anybody except Sprint Nextel, a mobile operatorand lots of base-stations from Motorola. Intel hopes to benefit from all this in future by selling WiMAX chips that can be built into laptops.


Seattle Post-Intelligence writes:

Cellfire’s system requires consumers to download software to their phones. The company then transmits coupon offers to the phone, where consumers can choose what they want. But there’s no charge to the consumer, Dusing said.

So far, Cellfire has signed up eight advertisers, including Hollywood Video and TGI Friday’s, who pay for the service. Dusing claims a redemption rate of 17 percent to 23 percent, far ahead of traditional paper coupons.

For now, the privately held Cellfire works only on Cingular cell phones. Dusing expects both the number of advertisers and cell phone carriers to increase, and expects to offer targeted coupons using ZIP codes.

Retailers are at least trying phone coupons. Quickpons’ Web site offers discounts from hundreds of retailers in dozens of categories.

TECH TALK: Video on the Internet: P2P

The third leverages the network entirely, focusing on a way to solve the distribution problem posed by very large video files. Robert Cringely wrote a series of articles earlier this year talking about various ways to distribute video on the Internet, with a specific focus on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. This is from a column in Feburary:

The poster child for television 2.0, it seems to me, is a company like Grid Networks, which might be a new name to you. Like Bit Torrent, Grid has built a peer-to-peer distribution system. Like Mike Homer’s Kontiki, Grid has married Digital Rights Management and a business model of sorts to its Torrent-like distribution system. But unlike most of the others, Grid (no, I am not an investor but thanks for asking) most approximates what my Mom thinks of as TV.
Kontiki has been around for a long time, and are definitely first mover in the market. They adopted a subscription model (RSS+P2P=Video), but for that the videos have to be downloaded in entirety, and there really is no “browse, click, watch” functionality in their system (at least yet). It is certainly better than waiting 2 days for NetFlix at the mail box, but it’s just not quite user friendly enough in my opinion.

Grid’s system, on the other hand, accomplishes two things from the end-user perspective: it is point, click and watch; and it is very very high quality. Using p2p, they can afford to send 1.5Mbps – 2Mbps video over their network because it costs the same as sending 150Kbps-200Kbps video.

BitTorrent remains the solution most synonymous with peer-to-peer video distribution. This is what Fortune wrote last October: The 30-year-old [Bram] Cohen’s invention BitTorrent is the next generation. It makes it simple to download massive, bandwidth intensive files (everything from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the latest episode of Desperate Housewives in high def to a file containing 400 Amazing Spider-Man comic books). BitTorrent is so popular that it now accounts for at least 20% of the entire volume of the Internet. And it’s attracted over 45 million users. For high schoolers and college students, using BitTorrent is as natural as wielding a cell phone.

An articled in Wired discussed the origins and technology behind BitTorrent:

The problem with P2P file-sharing networks like Kazaa, he reasoned, is that uploading and downloading do not happen at equal speeds. Broadband providers allow their users to download at superfast rates, but let them upload only very slowly, creating a bottleneck: If two peers try to swap a compressed copy of Meet the Fokkers – say, 700 megs – the recipient will receive at a speedy 1.5 megs a second, but the sender will be uploading at maybe one-tenth of that rate. Thus, one-to-one swapping online is inherently inefficient. It’s fine for MP3s but doesn’t work for huge files.

Cohen realized that chopping up a file and handing out the pieces to several uploaders would really speed things up. He sketched out a protocol: To download that copy of Meet the Fokkers, a user’s computer sniffs around for others online who have pieces of the movie. Then it downloads a chunk from several of them simultaneously. Many hands make light work, so the file arrives dozens of times faster than normal.

Paradoxically, BitTorrent’s architecture means that the more popular the file is the faster it downloads – because more people are pitching in. Better yet, it’s a virtuous cycle. Users download and share at the same time; as soon as someone receives even a single piece of Fokkers, his computer immediately begins offering it to others. The more files you’re willing to share, the faster any individual torrent downloads to your computer. This prevents people from leeching, a classic P2P problem in which too many people download files and refuse to upload, creating a drain on the system.

Tomorrow: Business Models

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