Monday, March 23, 2009

Internet to shatter advertising business

My basic premise is that the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it, and all the king’s horses, all the king’s men, and all the creative talent of Madison Avenue cannot put it together again. To analyze this statement we need a working definition of advertising, and I proposed the following, which is as general as I could make it:

Advertising is using sponsored commercial messages to build a brand and laying to locate these messages where they will be observed by potential customers performing other activities; these messages describe a product or service, its price or fundamental attributes, where it can be found, its explicit advantages, or the implicit benefits from its use.

It is frequently argued that the advertising industry will provide sufficient innovation to replace the loss of traditional ads on traditional mass media. Again, my basic premise rejects this, suggesting that simple commercial messages, pushed through whatever medium, in order to reach a potential customer who is in the middle of doing something else, will fail. It’s not that we no longer need information to initiate or to complete a transaction; rather, we will no longer need advertising to obtain that information. We will see the information we want, when we want it, from sources that we trust more than paid advertising. We will find out what we need to know, when we want to make a commercial transaction of any kind. The conventional wisdom is that this is exactly what paid search helps us to do, but all too often they are nothing more than a form of misdirection, as I explain further below. Instead, we will use information that we trust, obtained at the time that we want to see it.

Read the rest of this very interesting article at TechCrunch.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Microsoft losing online battle

Microsoft is loosing the online battle. First and foremost, they're losing it to Google but (maybe a wee bit of a surprise), Apple is regaining authority on the web as well. A recent stat analysis by Net Applications showed that the Internet Explorer marketshare has dropped to an all time low of just (cough) 67,55% amongs the surfing crowd.

Most notable online competitor of course is the Mozilla Firefox, with a 21,53% market share. Take heed, Firefox is not the adversary from the old days, Netscape (which is down to a mere 0.57%), but a Google funded open source community thingy, which is rapidly reaching its end of life status. Chances are it will eventually be replaced with Google Chrome, which is up from nowt to 1.12%. As said in the introduction, Apple is slowly gaining weight again, with its popular iPhone and iPods, more and more people start the like the Apple way of life. In the last year, the Safari webbrowser increased it's market share from 5,82 to 8,29%.

Mind you, we're talking percentages here of web broswer users, so every percent counts for tens of millions of users. The image below is a summary of the first and last line of the Net Application results, showing the statistics for January 2008 (topline) and January 2009 (bottom line).

The upside of losing millions of customers

What we're looking at is a bunch of statistics, numbers and percentages. However, when you translate it, Microsoft has lost millions of customers on the online market in the past year. However, this loss may hold a bright spot for Microsoft in the European Union.

Microsoft and the European Union have been clashing heads over Microsoft's market dominance for years on end now. The EU has been investigating to see if the company has taken advantage of its position by offering the Internet Explorer as an integral feature of its Windows OS and deliberately straying away from internet standards making other browsers to work incorrectly.

Microsoft has noted that it's marketshare is going down and isn't as oblivious as it was before, hence there can be no talk of unfair competition.

Dominance or Survival?

Well, we've taken out a few million IE users, so what? Microsoft still is the preferred supplier to the vast majority of websurfers. What's the big deal?

The big deal is that we're seeing the first signs of Microsoft loosing the online battle, the war of the web. And they're loosing it to Google. I've written a few blogposts on this before (see referal list below) as I wrote that Microsoft desperately needs the cooperation with Yahoo to strengthen its online position.

More blogposts on Google, Microsoft & Yahoo:

Beware of Snakes dressed as Spiders

A lot of people I know are welcoming the downfall of Microsoft and Internet Explorer. Throughout the web we're familiar with the anti Microsoft campaigns, the Bill Gates parodies and we all cheer the efforts of the European Union to crack Microsoft's market position, but in the mean time, Google crawls its way to the top. Just earlier today I wrote how Google teamed up with Nasa to get Mars into Google Earth and in November I blogged the Google Flu tracker, which they'd developed in close cooperation with the government.

Whereas Microsoft seems to get the full load from Governments, they're actually helping Google to take over the position...

and worse.

More blogposts on Google's rising dominance:

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Friday, January 23, 2009

World Economy Crash

These days you might be willing to be everything but a bank, or at least stay away as far as possible from anything just remotely looking like money. The world is in bad shape as it is with the credit crunch and the recession taking its toll, but I am noticing a rise in bad tidings as well.

Security Plan leak

Todays latest news is that the security plans for the renovated Dutch Ministry of Finance have accidentaly thrown out with the garbage in december. The plans contain checklists of camerapositions and many more details. (source Nu.nl)

Credit Leak

Earlier this week, on tuesday, Ars Technica reported that millions of US Credit Card details may have fallen into the wrong hands.

...payment processor Heartland Payment Systems has potentially leaked up to 100 million credit and debit accounts into the black market. That number, if verified, would make this the largest data breach on record. It also means the United States has managed to set two national records in the same day. Guess which one folks are paying attention to? Awful convenient, that.

The giant leak may have been a result of a malware infestation, but according to the Ars Technica report, Heartland doesn't really know what really happened. That's hopefull (not!)

Russians launching attack on Dutch Internet Banking System

Another troublesome newsitem was Nu.nl reporting that the Russians are planning an attack on the Dutch Internet Banking system last monday.

According to the article Russian gangs would be increasing their activity in the Netherlands and other European countries according to Ultrascan, a financial research institute.

Ultrascan says the criminals are looking for ways to hack the banks systems, already probing the ABN Amro Wincor Nixdorf cash registers and are installing skimming software all over Europe as well as having developed software to launch an all out out attack on Internet Banking. According to the research institute the current operations appear to be unprecedented and urge banks to take precautionary measures.

Amidst a credit crunch and a recession where we see thousands of jobs disappear and billions of dollars evaporate due to bad banking, it is extremely sad to see leaks and security breeches on top of that. Our money is melting fast, too fast to handle for some. Maybe it's time to reconsider the gold standard?


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Introducing the Hyperspeech Transfer Protocol (HSTP)

A recent study by Pew Research on the future of the internet was clear on one thing: Every expert in the field feels the focus of the web is moving towards mobile. The number of cellphones worldwide is rapidly growing. In India for example, there are 10 phones to every 1 pc. The latest wave bring smartphones with full internet capability. IBM's institute for Business Value predicts the number of mobile web users worldwide will reach one billion by 2011.

So it's really not surprising that businesses are starting to shift gear as well. One of IBM's latest insights is the voice controlled web, or the spoken web. 'You will talk to the Web... and the Web will talk back,' predicts IBM in its latest list of innovations that "have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years".

The concept is gathering steam with a project named "Spoken Web" that is being led by IBM's India Research Laboratory (IRL) team, and also being incubated in IBM's eight global labs in six countries. In fact, the corporation recently completed a pilot in Andhra Pradesh to implement the concept.

"The project was very successful. It started out with around 100 villagers but many hundreds joined later after seeing the response," Guruduth Banavar, director, IBM India Research Laboratory (IRL), told Business Standard.

The reason for this enthusiasm, he said, is simple. "Most people do not have a PC. Even smartphones are far and few. Besides, most people, especially the semi-literate kind, are not comfortable using a visual interface. But what most of the Indian population can do is talk. So the spoken web project makes immense sense." he added.

Read more at Rediff News / Business Standard

To support this fundamental change in how the internet works, IBM has developed a new protocol, named Hyperspeech Transfer Protocol (HSTP).

World Wide Telecom Web (also called as Spoken Web or Telecom Web) is an initiative to create an alternate web for the under-privileged. It could help bridge the digital divide by bringing the benefits of the information revolution to the billions of underserved people by providing information and services through a voice driven channel over an ordinary phone call. Information on this web could be community created as well as leveraged from World Wide Web. It is essentially a voice driven eco-system parallel and complimentary to that of the existing Web. Though primarily meant for the under-served in population in emerging economies, it has several applications for the developed world as well.

WWTW can be accessible to more number of people in the world as it enables an ordinary phone subscriber to join the digital information revolution. This enables a significatly larger fraction of the human population to benefit from existing and envisioned services than what was made possible by WWW. Specifically, it removes accessibility barriers that manifest themselves in terms of illiteracy, unaffordability and lack of relevant information. Further, it provides the means to create and sustain an ecosystem of local (and global) services, information and communities relevant to these underprivileged users. [Wikipedia]

IBM has put an effort into getting the abstracts of the HSTP onto the web, with wikipedia entries a with brief outline of how it works and various papers, such as the paper submitted for www2008, the 17th World Wide Web Conference in China in april last year (Paper:
The World Wide Telecom Web Browser) and an introduction to HSTP on their own website.

photograph from the book: The First Book of Sound: A Basic Guide to the Science of Acoustics by David C. Knight, Franklin Watts, Inc. New York (1960). p. 80

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

A.D. 2009, Open Beta or Stable?

Just been looking at the news again. Not something to relax on these days. We're barely two weeks into the year 2009 and shit happens everywhere. We've seen earthquakes and Israel waging war on Gaza and so on.

As a project manager in the IT Business I'm responsible for bringing projects to a happy end. We deliver and when we deliver the customer usually has a two week acceptancy period to fully test the application or implementation to discover bug and decide whether or not they're happy with the project. Then we'll go live.

Looking at this years' start you'd almost say that the product delivered is not acceptable. Take it back to the drawing board and fix the bugs and nasty little things that make it an inpleasant experience. Unfortunately. It can't be done. Almost like you have to live every year in public Beta, knowing you'll see so many disasters that at the end of the year it has reached the end of its lifecycle already and the next beta version will be packaged.

So much for this random thought though, which came up after a review on the 2008 technology scene and a look forward into 2009.

2008 definately was a year of Beta releases, closed and open. It seemed like half the internet was in open beta. We saw tons of virtual worlds and social networking sites walk this path. Some of these sites have been in open beta for years. Let's hope 2009 will be a year of stability; applications and worlds closing down their beta stages and moving into stable production.


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Friday, January 09, 2009

Crazy little thing called Privacy (1)

Privacy is such a crazy little thing. We love it, we ache for it at times, yet we throw it away like garbage every day on the internet.

To most people it has become clear that the internet isn't a sunny day at the beach without worries. In the past year we've all read the stories about identity theft, complete identities and credit cards to go with it for sale for a few bucks in Russia and what have you got.

Most of these stories we quickly forget and the ones that cling to us are the tales about children getting framed and abused through chatrooms. Mostly the discussion afterwards centers on how we need to teach our kids to be carefull on the internet, which is fine, but not good enough.

I posed the following thought on LinkedIn a few months back to ponder this idea:

"The failure of maintaining a shred of privacy is not the carelessness of the internet-generation. Primarily it is the ignorance of pre-internet generations failing to guide teenagers growing up with the net and secondly a flaw in the design of the internet"

It led to a number of interesting reactions

Interesting concept. The internet, like any consumable product, should come with a warning label "caveat emptor", but it doesn't. The pre-internet generation (the bulk of my end user community) don't generally comprehend the basics of internet use much less the imminent security concerns with using this public domain. They can't teach their children what they don't know but I do have to believe that any generation would chose to protect their offspring to the best of their ability. Going forward from here, the watchful eye of a parent certainly should be on minors using the internet and there are enough support and information tools out there to guide the less internet saavy.

Secondly, to comment on a flawed design of the internet - I have to revert back to the original intent of the internet being to provide a highly secure network for Government and use only. In designing that infrastructure it would be unreasonable to have thought that the internet would become so readily available. Clearly, the internet was never planned to grow as it has (as noted with the consumption of IP addresses leading to the IPv6 addressing plans). Perhaps flawed may not be the right word - outgrown may be better.

Liz Dowie Manager - Information Management Systems

In summary, the majority of organisations have been aware of the privacy issue for years but has taken the hard-nosed decision that it is not a priority. Even in states where there is a formal system of laws and regulations requiring adequate security, such regulations are routinely ignored and data security is compromised. I fear there is no likely change in this reality in the foreseeable future.

David Marshal Legal Consultant

The reduction in privacy in today's world (and not just on the internet) is happening because...

  • most people have no realistic idea of the degree to which it is happening and only the faintest grasp (if any!) of the technologies that make this possible.
  • in the past privacy of information was often the "default" state simply because it was too hard to do otherwise (compare and contrast the problem of opening, reading, re-sealing and forwarding millions of letters with the ease of storing and data mining hundreds of millions of e-mails)
  • too many people believe in the fallacious "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" argument

It's not a design flaw in the internet. Technologies exist to protect much about you when surfing (Tor Project, cookie management softwarecetc.) and strong encryption for e-mail has been around for ever - just that hardly anyone bothers to use it.

Teaching children to act prudently on the internet is simply an extension of decent parenting into the modern world. And, as another has observed, the "risks" they face because of the internet are often as nothing compared with other risks they face and, I believe, often grossly exaggerated.

David Dingley IT Consultant

If communication passes from one place to another, and some part of that communication is neither protected (e.g. via encryption) nor destroyed (e.g. stored in a log), the privacy of the communicators is dependent only on the ethical integrity of both ends. When one end is a company, privacy depends on the integrity of every current and former employee at that company who has/had access to the data.

Since the Internet was not designed to hide the source or recipient of a network packet (i.e. via TCP/IP), this information is very difficult to obscure without a long series of trusted network proxies.

Sadly, most products - Internet or otherwise - that involve some level of communication are not designed with the privacy of the communicators in mind. This is true of everything from messages sent between national leaders in the ancient world to the original telegraph to the modern Internet. After all, communication is pointless if you don't know who you're communicating with.

As for teenagers on the web, most modern "social" websites encourage listing of personal information. After all, I can't "friend" you on MySpace or Facebook unless I know your real name, or at least your email address. Teenagers are usually aware that there will be some loss of privacy upon signing up for these services, but either accept the risk or do not recognize it exists. To their credit, these services do a decent job protecting those who do not want to be found. Hiding somebody who wants to be found, while still allowing them to be found by those who legitimately should find them is a difficult problem.

The use of aliases, which ensures some level of privacy via Instant Messenger, represents a severe hindrance to any real social networking. This would be analogous to you and all of your adult friends going to a bar, wearing black hooded robes and voice manipulators, and then referring to yourself only by ever-changing code names.

Devin Rosenbauer Software Engineer

There is privacy on the Internet depending on the choices you make. In most cases an online transaction be that purchasing something online, joining a social network or sending emails has privacy as an element of that transaction. In order to buy those goods you surrender your privacy surrounding your personal details to recieve those goods, you also probably use a credit card which means that you transactions are noted by your credit card issuer and finally sites may keep track of your activity to suggest recommended goods on your next visit.

This is no different from the physical world where you purchase items by credit card and perhaps use a loyalty card in the store. Joining a social network, e.g. Linkedin, also has its privacy transaction costs. You want the benefits of a social network then you need to surrender your personal details to become part of that network. In real life you join social clubs, meet friends in public places where you also trade part of your privacy to take part in the group.

Some will argue that governments monitoring of Internet usage etc. is a breach of privacy, e.g. EU Data Retention Directive and that your ISP knows all your activity from their system logs, e.g. the recent Phorm controvery in the UK.

This is true but you can still take measure to protect your privacy online using various techniques such as anonymous proxies, never using your real name online, never purchasing items online and not joining any social networks or forums. You can control your privacy on the web, the question needs to be asked, at what cost?

Brian Honan CERT Team head

(All respondends agreed to be named in this article)

As I realize this piece is getting longer than anyone wants to read on the internet I'll go into these responses in follow up posts. I also would like to dig into the phenomenon of lifebloggers like iJustine who have a near 24/7 internet presence and what impact that has on privacy.

Meanwhile, I'd like to invite you to comment and add your thoughts on Privacy on the internet.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Experts on The Future of the Internet (1)

Timing is everything, but I see I get fed interesting news at wrong times all the time. Just as I was about to hit the sack early, @malburns put up another interesting link on twitter on a recently published report by the Pew Research Center.

A survey of internet leaders, activists and analysts shows they expect major technology advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, artificial and virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet itself improves.They disagree about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives.

Here are the key findings in a new report based on the survey of experts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that asked respondents to assess predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020.

The overview and report is filled with captains of industry in the internet market, and I do believe they put up a likely scenario, but it's the wrong scenario. To be blunt, it's crap.

Why is it a likely scenario?

It is a likely scenario as most of the experts questioned are making a ton of money from the way the internet works right now. They have everything to gain in keeping the way things are. Just slight improvements, no big changes.

Why is it a wrong scenario?

Let's have a look at a few remarks from the report. I hope I'll find the time somewhere to get into these in detail later.

"You cannot stop a tide with a spoon. Cracking technology will always be several steps ahead of DRM and content will be redistributed on anonymous networks."

- Giulio Prisco, chief executive of Metafuturing Second Life, formerly of CERN

Cracking technology will always be several steps ahead of DRM as long as record labels sell content at rip off prices. Consumers, music lovers and fans will very likely to be willing to pay reasonable prices for works of art, directly to the artists. As long as record companies take in the motherload and throw a few pennies to the artists, no wonder we'll see piracy till the end of days. Music and other IP-protected material will likely to be distributed at fair prices through social networks in 2020.

"Viciousness will prevail over civility, fraternity, and tolerance as a general rule, despite the build-up of pockets or groups ruled by these virtues. Software will be unable to stop deeper and more hard-hitting intrusions into intimacy and privacy, and these will continue to happen."

- Alejandro Pisanty, ICANN and Internet Society leader and director of computer services at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

This is so true when you make money of the current internet architecture. ICANN stands for The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and is the organisation responsible for domain name registrations, a business worth 25 Billion dollars a year. Sure you won't give away your source of income if it would benefit the world and the safety of your children?

The group of experts is sure the internet will not be redesigned, they have a Laissez faire mentality to the architectural faults of the internet when it comes to privacy, protecting our children from evil as it is a multi billion dollar industry that gets into their own pockets. Alternatives are readily available, for instance the Handle architecture, orginally designed by Dr. Robert (Bob) Kahn who invented the TCP protocol and worked out the IP protocol along with Vint Cerf, hence, in creating the TCP/IP protocol laid the foundation for the current internet.

Almost every answer given in the Pew Research Report on the Future of the Internet III (and I must admit I skimmed the report due to the late hour) is the obvious answer. Obvious from the line of work the respondents are in, but failing to take a few things into consideration.

The most important oversight is that the outcome of the report is an extrapolation of current trends without paying attention to the equivalently growing deficits. Yes sure, it's easy to predict that the web will get more and more mobile, it is a trend that has already started. However, take into account that more and more we hear about Identity Theft and abuse of personal data. Take into consideration another trend that Governments and Social Networking platforms alike are tying together more and more databases and more of our real and digital identities will be up for grabs. Take into consideration the safety of your children from perverted souls and all screams for a redesign, a place which is focussed and built upon protection of your personal data. This is the plug in the ocean that needs to be pulled.

As said, it's getting late and I hope I'll find time to explore this report some more. Take care andtake heed ;)


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