MerchantCircle

Business Week calls it a MySpace for Local Businesses:

Using data obtained from public records and a proprietary Web crawler developed by cofounder Yamamoto, the eight-employee MerchantCircle builds the listings, then relies on merchants finding listings through word-of-mouth and search engines. MerchantCircle optimizes each entry in the directory, so that it gets good placement when it is picked up by major search engines such as Google (GOOG). “We make it easy for people to link to your site, make it easy for merchants to create new content, and tag it in a way the Web loves. Google wants people to be able to find stuff that they’re interested in. For a small-business man to do that himself would be impossible, but we’re applying that [technology] across lots and lots of merchants’ pages,” says Yamamoto.

MerchantCircle also hopes to appeal to small-business owners by aggregating every review and consumer-generated posting about a specific business on the Web in one placein essence, providing a way to manage a business’s online reputation. Whenever a comment is posted anywhere on the Web, the business owner can read about it almost instantaneously on the free online dashboard provided to each of the businesses with entries in the directory. It’s an effective way for the “merchant to understand what’s being said about them anddecide how they want to manage it,” says MerchantCircle cofounder Smith.

Feed Market Overview

FeedBurner provides an overview. One stats: “The top 4 aggregators as measured by clicks – My Yahoo!, Google Reader/Personalized Homepage, Bloglines and Netvibes – account for 95% of all web aggregator clicks to FeedBurner publisher’s content.”

India’s Mobile Revolution

International Herald Tribune has an article by Shashi Tharoor:

By 2010, the government tells us, we will have 500 million Indian telephone users. China will probably still be ahead, but on a per capita basis there will be little to choose between us.

Now to anyone who grew up in pre- liberalization India, that is astonishing. Bureaucratic statism committed a long list of sins against the Indian people, but communications was high up on the list; the woeful state of India’s telephones right up to the 1990s, with only eight million connections and a further 20 million on waiting lists, would have been a joke if it wasn’t also a tragedy and a man-made one at that.

The cellphone revolution is exciting not only as a sign of India’s economic transformation, but as a symptom of something far more important, a change in the attitude of India’s governing classes.

The government is marginal to this success story, since we don’t need it to lay telephone lines across the country any more, and the private sector telecoms companies develop their own connectivity.

Quest for the Perfect Ad

Business 2.0 writes:

unlike the first Internet boom – where dumb, old banner ads were slapped up with zero regard to effectiveness – this time around, the programmers and analysts are taking center stage, helping to create new forms of display ads that not only do a better job of getting your attention but also can be tracked with laserlike precision. The new breed of supersmart, supertargeted display ads, says Usama Fayyad, Yahoo’s head of research and data, is “just so much more powerful than search.”

This is Web advertising 2.0, where machines play as big a role as the copywriters and designers. In the midtown Manhattan offices of Ogilvy North America, co-CEO Carla Hendra and her team run online campaigns for blue-chip clients such as Allstate, American Express, IBM, and TD Ameritrade. The agency’s Interactive division is one of its fastest-growing operations, says Hendra, and most new hires come with a deep understanding of analytics.

TECH TALK: 3GSM 2007: An Operator Perspective

Telco 2.0 wrote about a presentation by Hamid Akhavan, CEO of T-Mobile International:

Hamids presentation talked about the key changes in the mobile industry around three themes:

1.Customer Needs Tailor-made services, Ease of use, Simple and worry-free pricing,
2.Markets Even stronger competitive and regulatory pressure, and market saturation and price erosion, and
3.Technology, specifically: Digitisation of comms and content,
4.Broadband mobile and IP networks,
5.Acceleration of innovation in devices and apps,
6.Delayering of access and services, i.e. apps becoming network-independent, therefore operators losing control.

He described Tomorrows World as being about:
– Multiple devices per person, rather than one converged device.
– Targeted offers for individuals hyper-segmentation needed.
– Overlap with adjacent markets: Operators, handset manufacturers, and service providers stepping on each others toes (e.g. Nokia buying Intellisync for push email).
– Super-broadband mobile networks: wireless 100mbps a reality by 2010 beating Fibre/DSL (!)
– Mobile phone evolving to becoming the personal companion (SMS/IM/Email merging into social networking tools).
– Rich services on the Internet at your fingertips (entertainment, information, transactions, etc).

Weve just scratched the surface in terms of leveraging customer insights, he said. Were not harvesting our existing customers very well today.

He summarised by saying Operators have no choice but to actively take part in new business models – the operator as access provider, enabler, or partner. 2007 is going to be year of business model experimentation.

Tomorrow: Snippets

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Web Widgets

Niall Kennedy writes:

Netvibes announced a “Universal Widget API” at last week’s Future of Web Apps conference in London, promising a write-once run anywhere widget environment using an open-source widget runtime. The new widget system encourages publishers to author widgets using the Netvibes API and extend the reach of their content beyond the Netvibes user base through an adaptable wrapper. In this post I’ll walk through some of the differences between widget deployment endpoints from the publisher’s point of view, explaining just a few ways a widget must adjust its dialect and structure to adapt and optimize in different widget environments.

Gmail as Personal Nerve Centre

Steve Rubel writes:

In recent weeks I have started using Gmail as much more than an email host. With its gobs of storage, speed and tremendous search/tagging capabilities, you can transform it into a personal nerve center that’s available from any computer or mobile device. When you tap into this power and combine Gmail with some other tools, it is perhaps the most essential site ever developed. Most of the following life hacks have not been documented.

This series has several parts…

* How to turn Gmail into a massive personal database (Gmail + the Google Toolbar)
* How to get real-time news updates in Gmail (Gmail+ Google Talk + Twitter)
* How to automatically store your bookmarks in Gmail (Gmail + del.icio.us + Yahoo Alerts)
* How to manage Calendar and To-Dos in Gmail (Gmail + Backpack + GCal + GTalk + iMified)
* How to blog from Gmail (Gmail + WordPress/TypePad/Blogger + IMified)

Quigo and Contextual Advertising

The New York Times writes:

In the last year and a half, a trickle of large media sites like ESPN.com, FoxNews.com and Cox Newspapers 17 sites have stopped using Google and Yahoo and instead signed up with Quigo.

What Quigo offers is transparency and control in what can often be an opaque business: advertisers pay Yahoo and Google for contextual ad placement on a wide variety of Web pages, but get little say over where those ads run or even a list of sites where they do appear.

Quigo, by contrast, gives advertisers not only the list of specific sites where their ads have appeared but also the opportunity to buy only on specific Web sites or particular pages on those sites. It also allows media company sites like ESPN.com and FoxNews.com a chance to manage their own relationships with advertisers.

Innovation in India

San Francisco Chronicle writes:

Academics like [Ashok] Jhunjhunwala — along with the country’s business leaders — want more for their students than good jobs. They’re hoping to instill in their graduates the spirit of innovation and incubation that has been the earmark of Silicon Valley for decades. They want to use technological invention to help India ascend.

To put it bluntly, India is sick and tired of simply cranking out the world’s best engineers. It now wants to create the world’s best ideas.

To do so, it will borrow heavily from the model perfected in Silicon Valley, where the academics of Stanford mix with bankers and business experts to create opportunity. Not surprisingly, many of the top supporters of IIT’s push into “entrepreneurism” are the very graduates who found their way to the Bay Area over the past 20 or 30 years. The lessons they’ve learned are now being passed back to their alma mater.

TECH TALK: 3GSM 2007: Mobile Web

The most important talk at 3GSM was the one given by Tim Berners-Lee on the Mobile Web. Here are some excerpts:

The Web is designed, in turn, to be universal: to include anything and anyone. This universality includes an independence of hardware device and operating system, as I mentioned, and clearly this includes the mobile platform. It also has to allow links between data from any form of life, academic, commercial, private or government. It can’t censor: it must allow scribbled ideas and learned journals, and leave it to others to distinguish these. It has to be independent of language and of culture. It has to provide as good an access as it can for people with disabilities.

The Web worked because of a number of technical and social reasons. It worked because there was no central bottleneck for traffic, no central link database to be kept consistent, no central place to go and register a new page or a new Web site.

The Web is a huge platform for innovation because of those standards. Any new genre of communication, any new social networking idea, immediately can gain the value of unexpected re-use by people across the world.

There is a very important difference in attitude between a foundation technology and well let’s call it a ceiling technology. A foundation technology is designed to enable innovation, to be the base which will support other even more powerful things to come. A ceiling technology is not. It is designed to provide a value, and for its provider to cash in and cash out. Proprietary music download systems are ceiling technologies to the extent that the technologists design to be also being the only store in town, rather than creating an open market. Though putting a lid on further innovation, they are still providing a service, and making sure they profit from it.

As the Web platform and the mobile phone converge what do we want the result to be? A foundation or a ceiling technology? Clearly, a foundation. A mobile phone or whatever device we carry around which uses GSM technology and its successors is going to be everywhere, and everyone will have one. It has do be designed to be universal. So that everyone can use it. So that you can do anything with it.

The choice is the new platform being a privately owned walled garden, or a competitive open platform. Both models can work in the medium term. But the open model opens up new things which we can only try to imagine.

What are the standards? Basically, the same standards as the current Web uses. That is the most important point. It is one Web. The Web works on phones. There are effective browsers which can give you access to the same information which you could see from any laptop or desktop. Of course, looking ahead, small devices will get smarter and displays will get more and more pixels, so mobile devices are taking the same track which larger computers did a few years before.
….
It isn’t just about making the Web you know today work on mobile phones. We are talking about innovation. The innovations which will really count are the things which I can’t imagine now. They may include new applications built using the familiar AJAX technologies used cross-platform now, well known by developers, and increasingly available on mobile devices. These new applications may also operate across multiple devices. This is where we talk of the Ubiquitous Web. Have you noticed the price of LEDs is coming down, and more and more surfaces are covered with them? Not just at rock concerts and Times Square, but coming soon to all kinds of surfaces near you. Your phone could use these displays, and the abstract task you are doing can really rise above individual devices. Imagine that my phone or my wristwatch has details of a flight I am booking, and I walk into a room where it negotiates to project a map on the wall. And so on. Imagine yourself. Innovate on the mobile Web platform.

Tomorrow: An Operator Perspective

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Broadband over Power Lines

ZDNet.com writes about a roundtable at the Wharton Technology Conference:

Lesson 4: Broadband over powerline technology needs evangelists. Current has two large customers, Duke Energy and TXU, and it will need those partners to convince other utilities to follow suit.

Lesson 5: Success is a slog. Translation: Don’t expect broadband over powerlines any time soon. Current had to face regulatory hurdles and is targeting broadband services market by market, says Herron. There is no number of customers that will create a snowball effect right now although Current will need more than TXU and Duke on board.

Advertisers and Brands

Business Week writes: “It’s time to remember that advertising needs brands more than the brands need advertising. A good product creates its own relationships.”

Understanding what the consumers want and bringing solutions that will inspire them is the most powerful way to support any business strategy. Putting consumers and the product at the center of the equation is fundamental to a brand’s success. Design then becomes the message and the advertising, as it’s proof of a company’s commitment to people and to innovation.

A relevant and well-designed product will make its way into the world, will be spun across the blogosphere, will be sought after and endorsed in the most emotional fashion as a reward. Indeed, advertising needs brands more than the brands need advertising. When the commercial becomes more popular than the product, you really have a problemnot least that it doesn’t serve your brand long-term.

The Future

Brenda Cooper asks if we should be optimistic:

As a people, were not very sure about tomorrow. We worry about what we will leave our kids. Deficits. Dangers inherent in genetic engineering (of people and food). Global warming. Pollution. I could make a bigger list, but we all know the bogeymen of today, and we all know some are real. We even know yesterdays fears (such as nuclear proliferation and eventual war) are still partly untamed. Our famous scientists (like Stephen Hawking) talk about the need to flee before we destroy our home. So were at least a little afraid of the future.

Being afraid of the future will help make it better. It keeps us cautious. The things we have today that make the world small (the internet, the light of accountability) may help keep it safe. Knowledge in growing, and so is access to knowledge. In the past, as knowledge shone on various civilizations, they generally got better. Recently, knowledge and education have helped third world countries develop stronger economies and more social equalities. Indias rise is at least partly related to a commitment to education. Education is one of the biggest tools in the fight against AIDS. Im willing to bet connectivity and knowledge will continue to create better places and lives. So my hope no better than that, my expectation is that the future will be better than today. There is reason for optimism to temper our fear and lift our hearts.

Media Industry Schism

Scott Karp writes:

The real divide now emerging is between companies that create original content and companies that create platforms for aggregating and distributing that content. Newspapers embody the old media world where content creation, aggregation, and distribution were inextricably linked. But the digital media revolution has made it possible to separate these functions.

For traditional media companies, original content creation still straddles both coasts, but geography is quickly becoming irrelevant as an army of newly empowered individual and small enterprise content creators are storming the web from every corner of the globe.

The radical shift in the newly disaggregated business of original content creation is that, with so much competition (one might even call it a content creation bubble) and no control over distribution, content creation is no longer an easily scalable business in fact, many players in the new content creation game are not in it to build scale business, or even to make money at all.

Web 2.0 and Mobile

BBC writes: “With a growing demand for a better browsing experience on our mobiles, there is, according to the industry, demand for Web 2.0 on the go.”

While text blogging on a mobile is still seen as a minority sport, the explosion of camera and videophones now allows us to upload pictures and videos to our homepages. It is something that is already extremely popular on the successful South Korean social network Cyworld.

The social networking craze has seen phone manufacturers, network operators and big internet names announce various tie-ins to give users access to their own content.

TECH TALK: 3GSM 2007: Key Learnings

Come February and its time for another mega event for the mobile industry 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. This year saw 55,000 visitors and 1,300 exhibitors. I have compiled together reports from various sources to provide a snapshot of the discussion.

Perhaps the best summary of the learnings from 3GSM comes from Katherine Hannaford. She has put together a list of 30. Here are a few:

1. There was no big theme this year
3GSM 2006 saw immense hype around mobile TV, with companies queuing up to proclaim it the Next Big Thing in mobile entertainment. The fact that it’s since disappointed means that the lack of a single big hype this year isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There was lots of buzz, but spread around a bunch of subjects, which is a healthier state of affairs.

2. Mobile social networking is a hot topic
There were lots of companies – many of them startups – promising to create MySpace-like communities for mobile. Meanwhile, the big players – the actual MySpaces, Bebos and so on – were undoubtedly at 3GSM, even if they weren’t talking about their plans…People aren’t sure if mobile-only social networks will succeed, for example, or whether mobile is just an add-on to existing web communities. 2007 should give some clues.

10. The operators need to sort out their data-tariffs
If we’re all going to be downloading music, video and games onto our phones from sources other than the operator’s own portals, we don’t want to be paying through the nose in data charges. Yet although T-Mobile and 3 have launched ‘flat-rate’ tariffs in the shape of Web’n’Walk and X-Series, the other operators are dragging their heels a bit.

13. Mobile TV is still underwhelming
Research firm M:Metrics surveyed 22,000 European mobile users before the show, and found that former mobile TV viewers now outnumber current mobile TV users. 45% of the people who’ve turned off say pricing issues were a factor, while 24% cite concerns over service quality and reliability.

14. Mobile blogging is growing, with photos and videos the focus
The problem with moblogging was always the assumption that people would type posts on their mobile keypad to upload. However ninja your texting skills are, it’s not very appealing.

23. Windows Mobile is gearing up for another big push
Microsoft launched Windows Mobile 6.0 at 3GSM, with all manner of on-stand demos showing off its new features, which we’ll be looking at in more detail in the weeks ahead.

30. Everyone thinks mobile advertising will be big. Nobody knows quite how it’ll work
The advertising industry loves the thought of putting ads on phones. Not least because the young cool hipsters it likes to target aren’t as susceptible to TV and print ads. Along with online advertising, mobile is the new buzz area. Trouble is, nobody’s quite sure what kind of mobile advertising will work well, and what us users will put up with.

Tomorrow: Mobile Web

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VMware vs Microsoft

The New York Times writes:

VMware, a young Silicon Valley company, is the early leader in a fast-growing market for what is called virtual-machine software. And that puts it on a collision course with Microsoft, the industrys Goliath.

A virtual machine essentially mimics a computer so that several copies of an operating system say, Windows or Linux or both can run on one physical machine. It allows computing chores to be done on fewer computers, using less electricity and taking up less space, promising a way to control costs at corporate data centers straining to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the Internet age.