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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Google Changes China Access after Beijing Objects
Associated Press

 
Google Inc. said Tuesday it will stop automatically routing users in China to its Hong Kong site after Beijing threatened the company with the loss of its Internet license in their latest skirmish over censorhip.

Google shut down its China-based search engine March 22 to avoid cooperating with the communist government's Internet censorship and has rerouted users to Hong Kong. But Google said regulators told the company its Internet license, which allows it to operate a music download service and other features in China, would not be renewed after it expires Wednesday if that tactic continues.

"They made it clear to us that they did not think the redirect was acceptable," said a Google spokeswoman, Jessica Powell. She declined to say what reasons the government gave for its objections.

The loss of permission to operate a China-based website would damage Google's access to an Internet market that already is the world's biggest and still growing fast, with 384 million people online at the end of 2009.

Under the new measure, instead of being automatically switched to Hong Kong, visitors to Google.cn see a tab that says, "We have moved to google.com.hk." Clicking on that takes users to the Chinese-language site in Hong Kong, which is Chinese territory but has Western-style civil liberties with no Internet filtering.

Automatic rerouting would end completely in the next few days, Google's chief legal officer David Drummond said on a company blog, leaving open the possibility that some users still were being switched to Hong Kong on Tuesday.

There was no immediate word from Beijing about whether the move was sufficient for Google to keep its Internet license.

"This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self-censor and, we believe, with local law," said Drummond.

"We are therefore hopeful that our license will be renewed on this basis so we can continue to offer our Chinese users services via Google.cn."

But Chinese regulators might not be satisfied, said Edward Yu, president of Analysys International, an Internet research firm in Beijing.

"It's not clear today whether just doing it that way is also permitted," Yu said.

Google's popularity in China was unhurt by the automatic rerouting and advertising revenues stayed strong, Yu said. But he said the added click to reach Hong Kong, if Chinese regulators allow Google to operate that way, might drive away some users.

"If traffic is hurt, then advertisers will panic and cut spending," he said.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said he had not seen Google's announcement and could not comment on it. However, he added, "I would like to stress that the Chinese government encourages foreign enterprises to operate in China according to law."

Beijing encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block access to pornography or subversive material.

Google launched its China-based site in 2006 after the filters blocked many Chinese users from reaching its main site.

The Mountain View, California-based company announced in January it no longer wished to comply with Chinese censorship and said hackers working from China tried to steal its code and break into e-mail accounts of human rights activists.

The statement was an embarrassment for China's leaders, who want foreign companies to help develop its technology industries.

Google hopes to keep a research center in China, an advertising sales team that generates most of its revenue in the country and a fledgling mobile phone business.

It has a 30 percent share of China's search traffic, versus 60 percent for local rival Baidu Inc. Baidu is expected to pick up any advertising lost by Google but industry analysts say the lack of competition if the U.S. company leaves could slow the development of what Chinese leaders see as an important industry.

In a statement June 8, the government said the Internet played an "irreplaceable role in accelerating the development of the national economy." But it vowed to keep a tight grip on online content and to block subversive material.

Regulators block websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to prevent dissidents and human rights or Tibet activists from using them to spread criticism of Beijing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

U.S. Unveils Plan to Make Online Transactions Safer
Associated Press

 
In the murky world of the Internet, how do you ever really know who you're talking to, who you're buying from or if your bank can actually tell it's you when you log in to pay a bill?

Amid growing instances of identity theft, bank account breaches and sophisticated Internet scams, the government is looking for ways to make those transactions in cyberspace more secure.

But officials must tread carefully, as efforts to create identity cards, personal certificates or other systems of identifiers raise privacy worries and fears of Big Brother tracking its citizens online.

In a draft plan released Friday, the White House laid out an argument for a yet-undeveloped, voluntary identification system and set up a website to gather input from experts and everyday Internet users on how it should be structured.

The website was already getting votes, snipes and suggestions Friday afternoon - underscoring the incendiary nature of any discussion of Internet regulation or formal structure.

"The technology that has brought many benefits to our society and has empowered us to do so much has also empowered those who are driven to cause harm," said White House cyber coordinator Howard Schmidt in a blog posting Friday outlining the need for better security online.

The plan, he said, envisions a future in which people would be able to get a secure identifier - such as a smart identity card or a digital certificate - from a variety of service providers. Customers could then use the card or identifier to prove who they are as they make their online transactions.

"Digital authentication has been the holy grail of Internet security policy since the early '90s," said James Lewis, cyber security expert and senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. This latest effort, he said, has a better chance of succeeding than previous tries, "but we need to see how much opposition it runs into and whether people will actually use it even if it gets deployed."

Ari Schwartz, vice president at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the unfettered openness of the Internet is what allowed it to grow and prosper but also created security gaps that need to be addressed. But any move to improve identity systems raises many concerns.

"The whole thing is very difficult to do and privacy is one of the more difficult pieces of it," said Schwartz, adding that the system has to balance efforts to maintain privacy while still finding out enough about someone to ensure his identity.

The government, he said, is correct to try to plan ways to move toward better security, rather than letting it just happen with no coordination.

But cyber security experts also argued that the technologies for creating such identifiers already exist and are already used in different ways by businesses, particularly banks.

"The vision they put forth is already realized and commercially available," said Roger Thornton, a cyber security expert and chief technology officer for California-based Fortify Software.

He noted that banks already use sophisticated fingerprinting processes to identify a customer who signs in. The system knows if a customer is using a different computer and will often require additional identification if that computer has not been used for the banking website before.

But many companies don't bother with the more expensive or complex identification systems.

So, said Thornton, "the opportunity is there to make things more interoperable and more uniform."

The draft plan is part of an administration effort to promote cyber security both within the government and among society as a whole. Lawmakers have introduced a number of bills aimed at furthering those goals, and the White House plan was met with initial support from one of the authors of Senate computer security legislation.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Internet Bosses set to Approve .xxx for Porn Sites

Reuters



The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet on behalf of the U.S. government, has in the past resisted creating a .xxx generic domain name system akin to those for .com and .net.

It has in recent years repeatedly rejected a request by U.S. company ICM Registry Inc. to sign off on the .xxx domain.

But members of ICANN's board have argued that in order to maintain neutrality in dealing with domain name assignations, it should create .xxx and allow websites with sexually explicit content to start using the suffix on a voluntary basis.

"If expedited due diligence results are successful, then staff will proceed into contract negotiations with ICM (over .xxx)," ICANN's general counsel John Jeffrey told delegates at a week-long ICANN meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

Online pornography is a vast industry. Figures collated by Internet Pornography Statistics suggest more than $3,000 is spent on Internet pornography every second, with "sex" the number one search term in the world, accounting for 25 percent of all Internet searches.

With an estimated 370 million pornographic websites on the Internet, .xxx could become one of the largest domain name repositories, as big if not bigger than .com.

But some members of the adult entertainment industry oppose .xxx, saying it will invite censorship and harm their business. Members of the American religious right also oppose its creation on moral grounds.

ICANN is expected to make a formal announcement on its decision on Friday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Google Wins Key Copyright Ruling
The Wall Street Journal



A federal judge in New York ruled in favor of Google Inc.'s YouTube unit Wednesday, in a closely watched copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by Viacom Inc.

The judge granted Google's motion for summary judgment in a three-year-old lawsuit in which Viacom claimed that the video-sharing Web site had sought to exploit Viacom's copyrighted works for profit. Google argued that YouTube was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Both sides had asked for the judge to decide the case before it went to trial.

Viacom, which has been seeking more than $1 billion in damages, said it plans to appeal Wednesday's ruling.

"We believe that this ruling by the lower court is fundamentally flawed," the media company said in an emailed statement.
In an interview, Google's general counsel, Kent Walker, called the decision "a full vindication across the board" that "resolved all the pending issues."

He said Google remains confident of its position if Viacom appeals, and continues to closely watch similar copyright cases, including one on the West Coast against Internet company Veoh.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan said a jury could find that YouTube and Google "not only were generally aware of, but welcomed, copyright-infringing material being placed on their website" because it was "attractive to users."

But Judge Stanton said YouTube's "general" awareness of copyright infringement was not the same as "knowledge of specific and identifiable infringements of individual items." And when YouTube received "specific notice that a particular item infringed a copyright, they swiftly removed it," he said, adding that all of the disputed video clips involved in the lawsuit were off the site.

The decision is the highest-profile in a series judges have handed down in favor of Internet companies over whether they should be held liable for distributing content that might be copyrighted. It has become a pressing question as more companies, from photo-sharing sites to Facebook, rely on user-generated content.

At the same time, it is a setback for media companies, who for years have been trying to curb Internet companies' ability to distribute their content without compensating them. Media executives say they expect companies like YouTube will continue to automatically filter for copyrighted content, however, as the companies jockey for licensing agreements with media producers.

"This is a very significant decision," said Ian Ballon, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP who represents both technology and entertainment companies.

Mr. Ballon, who wasn't involved in the YouTube case, said Judge Stanton, relying on recent copyright decisions in West Coast courts, drew "a distinction between pirate sites that have been held liable for inducing people to infringe on copyright and legitimate service providers," such as YouTube, which the judge said are entitled to "safe harbor" protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act even if users upload unauthorized material.

Michael Fricklas, Viacom's general counsel, said he thinks that some of the previous court cases Judge Stanton cited in making the decision won't hold sway. "We believe that the Second Circuit [Court of Appeals] will ultimately decide these issues our way," he added

The ruling came several months after each side requested summary judgment and unsealed a slew of documents, in which Viacom painted YouTube as a pirate and the Internet company accused Viacom of distorting the truth.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bing Adds Music, Videos, Games
The Washington Post

 
Tuesday, Microsoft's Bing search engine built on a good news month--Apple added Bing to the search options in the iPhone and its Safari browser, followed by Google's awkward imitation of Bing's artistic home-page photos--by adding some potentially useful search shortcuts.

That's "potentially" because some of these features aren't working yet.

As a company blog post explains, these changes aim to free users from having to click through to other sites (and, in the process, risk themselves to a "drive-by download" malware attack).

First, if you try a query that Bing recognizes as musically inclined, it will include links to play relevant songs--in many cases, entire recordings, not just 30-second previews--and view their lyrics. A query for "r.e.m. radio free europe lyrics," for instance, will connect you to a page with the song's inscrutable verbiage ("Keep me out of country in the word") and an option to listen to the 1983 recording. But on Wednesday afternoon, that second link only led to an apologetic please-come-back-later notice.

Lyrics sites have a bad history of leading Web users to their computers' doom, so by eliminating the need to look elsewhere Bing does its users a favor. (Bing gets its lyrics from Toronto-based LyricFind, which develops applications for the iPhone, Android and Facebook.) But it's a little weird that its site is coded to stop users from selecting and copying a verse or a chorus, and it also misses some less-than-obscure works--if you want to read Lou Reed's wonderful wordplay in "Sick of You," you'll have to search elsewhere.

Second, a Bing search for a TV show or movie title now surfaces extra data. For example, looking for "The Simpsons" brought up thumbnail previews of individual episodes, which started playing once I parked the cursor over each; clicking on the thumbnail brought up a Bing page showing the episode at a more normal size. TV-schedule listings are supposed to come later. Searches for "Mad Men" and "The Office," however, yielded nothing special. A query for "Toy Story 3," meanwhile, brought up a list of show times as well as links to reviews, blog posts and the movie's Wikipedia entry.

Finally, if you search for some popular games--for instance, Bejeweled or blackjack--Bing will let you play them right on its site. Microsoft says it's added "nearly 100" titles, courtesy of its Microsoft Games division, but many searches I tried ("sudoku," "checkers," "Risk") didn't pan out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stop Wasting Time on Social Media
Bloomberg Business Week
BNI.com's Ivan Misner explains why small business owners aren't getting the most out of such tools as Facebook and Twitter, then offers tips

Entrepreneurs are spending too much time on online social media and have unrealistic expectations about results, says Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of business networking organization BNI.com. Misner, author of 10 books that include his latest, Networking Like a Pro (Entrepreneur Press, January 2010), spends a lot of time teaching small business owners how to market online. He passed along some tips in a recent interview with Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.

Karen E. Klein: Most entrepreneurs know they should be using social media, but beyond establishing a Facebook page and a Twitter account, they're kind of lost. What are they doing wrong?


Ivan Misner: There are three problems. They're spending too much time on it, they don't understand how to leverage their time, and they anticipate immediate results, which they're not going to get.

Here's what happens: You go to LinkedIn or Facebook and you read a comment and it takes you to another link and now you're on YouTube, watching someone's video. Pretty soon something weird happens in the space-time continuum and you look up and you've lost two hours.

How should they be leveraging that time?

There are great services they should be using like Ping.fm, Seesmic.com, and Hootsuite.com. You can go there and it ties all your social media together. In other words, they're probably logging on to their Facebook account and going to their page and typing in their message, and then going to Twitter and LinkedIn and doing the same thing. It kills time. If you use sites like this, you write one message and they ping everything so you're not spending 20 minutes to do what you can in three minutes.

Is it okay to post the same content to all your networking sites?

I think it's alright to put the same content on most of them, perhaps with some variation. The key is that you've got to be putting good content up. If all you do is say, "Hey I'm at Starbucks getting a latte," nobody's going to follow you.

You need meaty content, but occasionally a personal touch is good. I was in Big Bear on my deck one time and a bald eagle flew 20 feet above me. I happened to have my camera on hand and I took a shot of it and posted it on Facebook. That was one of the biggest responses I've ever gotten.

You can't go wrong with animals.


It starts a dialogue and that's what social media is all about. That's also why you should respond to some of the comments you get. Say, "thanks," or "that's a good point," or "here's something I forgot." Engage personally—not with every comment, but with at least some of them.

All of this costs very little, but it is time consuming, isn't it?

Here's what I recommend: Set aside a certain time each day, and don't make it prime working hours. Do this at night while you're watching American Idol, during a commercial break. Maybe on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you post your messages, make comments, and add content. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, do your friend requests.

When I started doing this, I would take bite-sized pieces of my books or articles and make up 50 or 100 of them in 140 characters or less. Then over three or four weeks, I'd Tweet them out or put them on Facebook. I schedule Tweets at CoTweet.com, so the same tweet goes out every six or eight hours when it's in the middle of the day where my clients are on the other side of the world.

There are so many social networking tools and websites. Is it easy to get overwhelmed with choices?

You have to find a system that works for you. If you're looking for the biggest bang from social networking, go with the big three: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Then look around and see what else suits you; focus on sites where you like the people. I'm on Ecademy and Xing, which are like LinkedIn, but different.

For instance, the people on Ecademy are highly engaged. It's very much about bulletin boards and a lot of dialogue. I did a blog post that got 25 comments but when I put it on Ecademy, it got 120 responses. So check out groups and find some that suit you and your focus. Just remember that building a powerful personal network is more about farming—cultivating relationships—than it is about hunting.

Does that mindset help avoid those unrealistic expectations?

Entrepreneurs need to understand that social media is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It's a way of building up you, your expertise, and your brand. In my latest book, I talk about a concept called VCP: Visibility, credibility, and profitability. It's a chronological process. You first have to be visible, so you have to get out there and network. Then over time you establish credibility, so people know what you're good at by reading your material, by seeing you in operation face-to-face, and through testimonials.

Only when you've gotten to credibility can you nudge it over to profitability. Networking goes bad when people try to jump ahead of the process. That's why networking sometimes feels so slimy. You're at a business mixer where everybody's passing out business cards and trying to do business when they have no relationship whatsoever. That's not networking, it's direct selling—and it's bad direct selling.

You're the founder of a face-to-face networking organization. Why talk so much about online networking?

Face-to-face networking is not going away in my lifetime. Unless someday it's like in Star Wars, where we have holograms of ourselves that are so big and impressive that we don't have to be at the table, it's still important. It's like a haircut: You have to be present. So whenever there's an option, there's something better about face-to-face. That's why we have 5,600 BNI groups in 44 countries around the world.

But you may want to sell to people all over the world, in places where you can't meet them face-to-face. That's where the online option comes in, and it's powerful word-of-mouth for your brand. Just make sure it's part of your comprehensive marketing strategy. That should include traditional advertising as well as networking.
Investment Firm Buys AOL's Bebo
San Francisco Chronicle

 
AOL Inc. paid $850 million two years ago for Bebo Inc., but on Thursday unloaded the slumping San Francisco social-networking firm in a deal reportedly worth less than $10 million.

Criterion Capital Partners LLC, a Los Angeles private investment firm that specializes in turnarounds, takes over a company that is more popular outside of the United States, but by far is overshadowed by social-networking rivals Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Exact terms were not disclosed, but AOL chief executive officer Tim Armstrong said in a memo to employees that the deal for AOL "will also create a meaningful tax deduction, which should allow us to more effectively manage our tax strategy."

Bebo has 30 employees working in offices in the same South of Market building that houses Twitter Inc. Bebo also has three workers in the United Kingdom. Its headquarters will remain in San Francisco.

In April, Bebo's future didn't look bright after AOL said it would either sell or shut Bebo down.

AOL was still part of Time Warner Inc. when it bought Bebo in May 2008 for $850 million, although Time Warner chief executive officer Jeff Bewkes has later said the company "may have overpaid."

At the time, Bebo was particularly popular in the United Kingdom, but Bebo's fortunes waned as Facebook Inc. overtook MySpace as the world's most dominant social network.

According to ComScore Inc., Bebo had 12.6 million unique visitors worldwide in April, down from 26.9 million one year before. Bebo's U.S. traffic dropped to 4.9 million visitors in April 2010, from 10.2 million the previous April.

Meanwhile, traffic to Palo Alto's Facebook zoomed from 307.1 million worldwide and 67.5 million in the United States in April 2009 to 519 million worldwide and 121.8 million in the United States in the same month this year, according to comScore.

AOL said Bebo also has members in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Pakistan and the Netherlands.

Criterion Capital Managing Partner Adam Levin led the acquisition, joined by business strategist Paul Abramowitz and Web entrepreneur Richard Hecker, a news release said.

"The young, highly active user base, revenue history, presence in countries throughout the world and solid technical infrastructure make it an attractive media platform both as a stand-alone entity and in the context of our broader investment objectives," Levin said in a statement.

But AOL founder Steve Case, who is no longer with the company, used his Twitter account to voice his skepticism about the deal.

"AOL buying Bebo for $850 million and then selling 2 years later for $10 million doesn't seem like a winning strategy," Case said in the tweet.

Augie Ray, a social-media analyst with Forrester Research, said that "at this point, it does not seem Bebo has any serious chance to compete as an all-purpose social network."

However, he said, Bebo's best chance could be to concentrate on a niche audience, in the same way MySpace "is focusing more on social sharing around entertainment."

Or Criterion could "simply let Bebo run the course that it's on. It still receives several million visitors per month, and even though Bebo continues to shrink, those visitors still represent ad revenue," he said.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Google Wi-Fi Data Collection Discussed by Law Enforcement in 30 States
Bloomberg

 
Google Inc.’s collection of data via Wi-Fi networks was the subject of a conference call among law enforcement officials from 30 U.S. states, according to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

“We’re looking to establish where, when, why, for how long and for what purpose there was this collection of information on wireless networks,” Blumenthal said yesterday in an interview. The call included representatives of the states’ attorneys general.

The discussion reflects widening concern among law enforcement over the way Google handles user information. The company said last month it mistakenly gathered data from open wireless networks while it was capturing images of streets and houses for its Street View service, a product that lets users view photographs of an area online.

Blumenthal has demanded that Mountain View, California- based Google inform his office of any data gathered from his state’s residents and businesses without permission, the attorney general said this month. Google owns the world’s largest search engine.

“This was a mistake, but we don’t believe we did anything illegal,” Google said in an e-mailed statement. “We’re working with the relevant authorities to answer their questions and concerns.”

Illinois was among the states that joined in last week’s call led by Blumenthal.

Illinois in Talks


“We did participate in a conference call with other attorneys general regarding Google,” said Robyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Additional information wasn’t immediately available, she said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said last month that it is reviewing Google’s data gathering. An Oregon judge has ordered the company turn over similar data collected in that state, including any e-mails, files or digital phone records, according to court documents.

Also this month, Google said it was turning over to regulators in Germany, France and Spain data it mistakenly collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Those countries are investigating Google’s data-gathering practices after the company said in May that its cars used to photograph roadsides for its Street View mapping service inadvertently recorded information.

Prosecutors in the German city of Hamburg opened a criminal investigation. Authorities in Italy, Canada and the Czech Republic also have begun inquiries.

The Oregon case is Vicki Van Valin v. Google, 10-00557, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon (Portland).
Less May Be More for Murdoch, New York Times as Newspapers Put Up Paywalls
Bloomberg


The Times, the London newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., is offering free tickets to Toy Story 3 or the chance of a weekend at the Grosvenor Hotel in Dorset to persuade readers to pay for news online.

The newspaper this week began closing down its free website and will charge for access, mirroring a long-standing practice at the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times Co. plans to do the same next year. Both concede the step will mean fewer readers. A drop in advertising revenue is forcing them to seek other, more steady, sources of income.

“We don’t expect or require that all the people who do now will still look at it,” said Daniel Finkelstein, executive editor of the Times in London whose online fee will be 2 pounds ($2.89) a week. “What’s left is still a vast market.”

Among the first general newspapers seeking to charge for online content, the Times and the New York daily are betting that a smaller number of committed, paying online readers may allow them to extract subscription fees and bigger advertising sales. Print ads in the U.S. last year slid 29 percent to about $24.8 billion, the lowest since 1984. With online ad sales holding up better, newspapers want to capture a bigger piece of that pie, even as they lose some readers.

“Obviously a huge number of casual readers will get their news elsewhere,” said Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis Securities Ltd. in London. “What you’ll have left is a core of readers that you can target more effectively with advertising and services. If you know who your readers are it’s easier to monetize them.”

Hard to Do

While the Financial Times has had some success with the strategy, the ability of general interest dailies to carry it off is less obvious, industry experts say. Luring paying online readers may be harder with news that is more easily available for free on the Web.

“They’re not going to convince people to pay for news, because people weren’t paying for news,” said Nelson Phillips, professor of organization and management at Imperial College in London. “The big brands may be able to do it. But if you’re a mid-level paper, what do you have that’s not available on the Web for free?”

Murdoch’s News Corp., which this week offered to buy the rest of U.K. pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting Plc for 7.8 billion pounds ($11.5 billion), is pushing a business model with clients paying for content as a driver of revenue growth. He’s using that same strategy at the Times and the Sunday Times. The Times is now offering paying subscribers access to free events and discounted products through its ‘Times+’ service in an effort to build customer loyalty.

Volume Battle


News Corp. shares dropped 1.5 percent to $14.16 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading yesterday. The stock has risen 3.4 percent since the start of the year.

In May, the Times said it would cut its editorial budget by 10 percent, leading to the departure of as many as 50 staff. Editor James Harding said the newspaper’s “losses are unsustainable.”

Revenue at Times Co.’s News Media Group, owner of the New York Times, tumbled 23 percent between 2007 and 2009 to $2.32 billion. The company as a whole reported a $20 million 2009 profit, after a $58 million loss in 2008.

Charging for online content is among efforts at the two dailies to boost sales.

“If you want to get into a battle on volume, Facebook has already won,” said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of Pearson Plc’s FT.com, alluding to the world’s largest social-networking site. “You can gain a lot more on yield,” and by offering advertisers information on paying visitors, he said.

Striking a Balance

The Financial Times, which has a daily circulation of about 390,000, began its current system for access to its FT.com site in 2007. The site has about 126,000 subscribers, each shelling out at least 3.29 pounds a week in the U.K., and two million more registered users, who provide basic personal information in exchange for 10 free stories a month.

While the site usually charges about 35 to 40 pounds in fees from advertisers for every 1,000 views of a story, some parts of FT.com command “much higher” rates, according to Grimshaw. That compares with as little as one pound for less focused sites, he said.

The FT’s website has succeeded in striking a balance between mass-market appeal and winning money from subscribers, said Alexander Wisch, a media analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in London. “They are able to draw ads and get the eyeballs, and at the same time to monetize subscriptions.” Specialized publications “do draw audiences, and they draw audiences that pay.”

‘Prix-Fixe Menus’

The New York Times will see “some effect” on readership after it implements a paywall next year, Times Co. Chief Executive Officer Janet Robinson said in an interview. “We feel that we will protect as much of the audience as possible” with a “metering” approach, that allows free access to a limited number of stories, she added.

Existing paywalls usually follow one of three strategies: a flat-rate subscription for all content, a mix of paid and free articles determined by editors, or a metering system that allows readers a capped number of free stories of their choice.

Flat-rate subscription models have the advantage of “decoupling” the unpleasant experience of payment from that of reading articles, according to Ziv Carmon, who researches consumer behavior at INSEAD in Singapore.

Newspapers should “look at the prix-fixe menus in French restaurants,” he said. “If you’re eating a shrimp appetizer, you don’t think that every bite equals two bucks.”

Makes No Sense


The Financial Times in 2007 switched from a mix of free and paid content to its current metered model.

“One person’s goldmine of an article was behind the wall, but it could be irrelevant to another person,” Grimshaw said.

Still, any paywall strategy risks cutting newspapers off from an ecosystem of blogs and social media sites that was created partly by the availability of free content.

The New York Times in 2007 abandoned its two-year TimesSelect experiment, which charged for access to some columnists and articles.

Andrew Sullivan, a commentator at The Atlantic magazine whose site is among the top 15 blogs on the Web, dubbed the service “TimesDelete,” because of the difficulty of linking readers to stories behind the paywall.

Tim Kevan, a legal blogger, on May 28 left the London-based Times, arguing that he didn’t want his work to become “the preserve of a limited few.”

The Times’s Finkelstein argues that the newspaper needs to charge to invest in content output, even at the risk of smaller readership.

“It doesn’t make sense for any length of time to give away the product you’re selling,” he said.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Google 'Newspass' to Save the Newspaper Industry?
Fortune
According to a report from Italy, Google plans to release a micro-payment system that will link to paid newspaper content directly from search results.

 
Italian newspaper La Repubblica is reporting that Google has been contacting Italian newspapers (wonder how they found out?!) about a new service called 'Newspass' which will be released later this year.  Newspass will provide news organizations with micro-payments for direct links to their properties from Google News.  The move is likely in response to an Italian publishers organization/antitrust authority who is reviewing Google's relationship with the newspaper industry.  However, the move could have implications on the global newspaper industry.

Here's how the system would work: When users do a Google News search, they will receive both paid and unpaid results.  If users choose to click on the paid results (which will denote the cost), they will be charged a fee through Google Checkout.  If they refuse payment (or don't have/want to have Google checkout) they won't be able to see the content.

Google will share the analytics information with the site owners so that they know how successful (or unsuccessful) the program is.

According to the paper, the service is set to roll out later this year and may find its way into other markets.  In future iterations, Newspass  will adapt to any payment method chosen by the owners of the sites including micro-payments or various subscription models.

Henrique de Castro, a Google vice president, said in a translated statement, "Google wants to be partners, not competitors, with the Newspaper industry."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Google Music Store Could Launch this Fall
cNet

Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, is preparing to take on Apple's iTunes. Schmidt visited with Doug Morris, Universal Music Group CEO (left) and Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, the Sony Music chief, during the Vevo launch party last December.
 
 
With the iTunes' banner waving supremely over the digital music landscape, Google continues to build its own music service, CNET has learned.

According to multiple music industry sources, Google could launch a music service that offers song downloads and streaming music as early as this fall.

Google has already signaled that it wishes to give users of phones equipped with Google's Android operating system a better music offering. At Google's I/O conference last month, the search engine offered attendees a demonstration of a Web-based iTunes competitor. Also TechCrunch reported two weeks ago that it discovered a "Google Music" logo hosted on Google's domain.

But Google's plans go beyond Android, say music sector insiders. CNET has learned that Google first stoked excitement among executives at some of the top four major labels during the Consumer Electronics Show in January. That's where they revealed some of the features that a Google music store might include, such as tying digital downloads and streaming music to Google's search results.

Google did not respond to interview requests.

Google knows music
 
Google first tried wedding songs to search last fall. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company launched Music Onebox and enabled people searching for song titles to stream the tunes via online music stores Lala.com and iLike. The experiment seemed to be derailed after those companies were acquired by competitors; Apple and MySpace respectively.

A Google-backed challenge to Apple's dominance of legal online music sales would be warmly welcomed by the top labels. They have tried for years to convince heavy hitters such as Google, Facebook, and AOL to take on iTunes.

The other top digital music stores, Amazon and MySpace Music, have yet to cut into Apple's huge market share. Those two big names, however, don't possess Google's reach with Web consumers.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt can already boast some success in music with YouTube. Before three of the four top labels launched Vevo and took control of their videos, YouTube was by far the Web's most successful streaming music service. Zahavah Levine, YouTube's general counsel who previously worked with RealNetworks' Rhapsody music subscription service, has a prominent role in helping to develop Google's new music store, the sources said.

The other piece of Google's music puzzle is software company Simplify Media, which Google acquired earlier this year after kicking the tires on several cloud-based media services. Simplify enabled PC and Mac users to stream songs from their computer-based iTunes or WinAmp libraries to other Web-enabled devices. Vic Gundotra, a Google engineering exec, said during I/O that Google would build Simplify Media's technology into a future version of the Android OS and thereby boost Android's music features.

Google is racing iTunes to be first with a cloud service. Sources in the music and movie sectors have said Apple is working on a Web-based iTunes service that could enable users to store music and video on digital shelves and then stream the content to Web-enabled devices.

So, while Apple works on a cloud service, CEO Steve Jobs might be surprised to find Google has begun serenading iTunes users.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

FCC Set to Reconsider Broadband Regulations
Associated Press

 
Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed Internet connections - wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in court for years.

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. That includes a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.

Genachowski's proposal is a response to a federal appeals court ruling that has cast doubt on the agency's authority over broadband under its existing regulatory framework.

The plan has the backing of many big Internet companies, which say it would ensure the FCC can prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over broadband connections to determine what subscribers can do online.

"There is a real urgency to this because right now there are no rules of the road to protect consumers from even the most egregious discriminatory behavior by telephone and cable companies," said Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition. The group's members include Google Inc., eBay Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and online calling service Skype Ltd.

But Genachowski's plan faces stiff resistance from the broadband providers themselves, including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. They say it opens the door to onerous and outdated regulations that would discourage them from upgrading their networks.

"This FCC proposal could call into question the business assumptions underlying multibillion-dollar broadband investments," said Howard Waltzman, a former Republican staffer on the House Commerce Committee who is now representing telephone companies as a partner with Mayer Brown LLP.

Many Republicans and even some Democrats on Capitol Hill - as well as the two Republicans on the five-member FCC - oppose Genachowski's plan. At least one House Republican, Rep. John Culberson of Texas, has proposed blocking funding for the FCC if it pursues the plan.

The FCC currently defines broadband as a lightly regulated information service. But in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that this approach does not give the commission the authority it needs to adopt so-called "network neutrality" mandates, which would bar broadband providers from favoring or discriminating against traffic traveling over their networks.

Supporters of network neutrality say such rules are necessary to prevent phone and cable companies from blocking or degrading online calling services, Internet video and other applications that compete with their core businesses.

Indeed, the recent appeals court decision grew out of a challenge by Comcast Corp. to a 2008 FCC order directing the cable company to stop blocking subscribers from accessing an online file-sharing service. Comcast and other broadband providers insist they need flexibility to manage their networks and ensure that certain applications don't hog too much bandwidth.

The court ruling also undermines the FCC's ability to act on several key recommendations in its national broadband plan - another top priority for Genachowski - including a proposal to expand high-speed Internet access by tapping the federal program that subsidizes phone service in poor and rural areas.

Genachowski says his new regulatory framework would allow the FCC to move ahead on both fronts by placing broadband connections firmly within the agency's jurisdiction as a telecommunications service. At the same time, he has pledged to impose only narrow telecom rules on broadband providers, avoiding burdensome mandates such as rate regulations and network-sharing obligations. He has also stressed that his approach would not impose regulations on Internet content and services.

In outlining his proposal last month, Genachowski called it a "third way" that respects "investment and innovation" and protects consumers and Internet competition.

Thursday's vote will launch a proceeding to examine:

-Genachowski's proposal;

-the implications of leaving the existing regulatory frawework in place;

-and the implications of imposing the full array of traditional telecommunications regulations on broadband providers.


If the FCC ultimately adopts Genachowski's plan, it will almost certainly draw legal challenges from phone and cable companies that fear any shift away from the current deregulatory approach adopted under the Bush administration. That approach was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2005 and a battle over any attempt to overturn it could go all the way back to the high court.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

News Corp. Acquires Skiff
Guardian UK

 
News Corporation has made its latest move to look to charge readers for digital content by acquiring e-reader platform Skiff and investing in a company that develops paid content models for publishers.

News Corporation, which is close to charging customers for access to the Times and Sunday Times online, said that the two deals represented "key building blocks" in the company's strategy to transform publishing with pay models.

Rupert Murdoch's company has acquired Skiff, established by magazine publisher Hearst last year to develop an online store and e-reader for its publications, which delivers "visually appealing layouts" of content to tablets, smartphones, e-readers such as Kindle and netbooks.

In addition News Corporation has invested in Journalism Online, which has a multi-faceted e-commerce platform, which develops models to enable newspapers, magazines and online-only publishers to charge for content. Publishers can select their own business models and pricings.

The financial details around the two deals were not disclosed.

John Miller, digital chief at News Corporation, said that "both Skiff and Journalism Online serve as key building blocks in our strategy to transform the publishing industry and ensure consumers will have continued access to the highest quality journalism."

News Corporation also named strategic adviser Jon Houseman to the newly-created role of president of digital journalism initiatives. He will be responsible for "driving and managing new business efforts in premium digital journalism".

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

News Corp. Makes Bet on Journalism Ventures
Associated Press

 
News Corp. is placing bets on two ideas that it hopes will shore up sagging business models for media companies: electronic reading devices and charging readers for access to websites.

Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate said Monday that it has acquired Skiff LLC, a company started by magazine and newspaper publisher Hearst Corp. to create a technology platform for e-readers. News Corp. also is making an investment in Journalism Online LLC, which is developing technology to help publishers collect payments from readers for online material.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Both fledgling ventures are seeking ways to support journalism at a time when publishers are struggling to find ways to be as profitable online as they once were in print.

The idea behind Hearst's Skiff business is to boost the value of material offered by newspapers and magazines by delivering them in a more attractive and distinct form than they exist on the Web.

It previewed a Skiff e-reader in January that it plans to start selling later this year. It featured an 11.5-inch, grayscale touch screen with the ability to download material from Skiff's online store.

The company has announced deals to put material on the Skiff reader from The New York Times, The Financial Times, Forbes and Popular Mechanics, along with book publishers Simon & Schuster and Random House. Skiff says the device will also carry advertising, which would make it distinct from Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle readers.

The technology Skiff has developed could also be used to publish material on separate gadgets made by other manufacturers.

The other business News Corp. is investing in, Journalism Online, is setting itself up as the single cash register for a wide swath of online publishers. About 1,500 have signed up, the company said Monday.

Readers will be able to sign in with their credit card and other information just once and buy material from any publisher using the company's system. Each publisher will set its own prices and terms. Journalism Online, which is backed by Court TV founder Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, will take a 20 percent cut of the revenue.

The company said it is in final stages of tweaking the system and expects publishers to be rolling out pay models based on it this summer.

News Corp. is buying a minority stake in Journalism Online and will get a seat on its five-person board, the company said.

Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman, has been a vocal advocate of the idea that readers should pay something to get news from authoritative sources. The Wall Street Journal, which he bought in 2007, is one of the few major news providers that charges for unfettered access to its website.

Others are following, frustrated that even big online audiences have not translated into enough digital ad revenue to support newsgathering. The Journal's main rival, The New York Times, says it will move to a metered model next year, which means it will charge readers after they view a certain number of articles. Subscribers to the printed edition would maintain free access.

Monday, June 14, 2010

AOL Struggling for Ads during Overhaul
Fortune

 
AOL was coming back with a vengeance, brand-new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told Fortune's 2009 Brainstorm Tech conference last year. He was fresh out of the starting gate, and had just done a 100-day "listening tour," checking in with AOL's global workforce.  He was pumped, and ready to shake up the brand.

But the problem with cleaning up a brand is that there's some turmoil in the interim. For AOL (AOL) that meant trying to rejuvenate its image, cutting costs, cutting jobs, yanking some investments, making others. Armstrong also needs to figure out how to turn AOL's strengths -- instant messaging and customer familiarity -- into a profit.

At last year's conference, Armstrong said that AOL was going to do for online content what Google (GOOG) did for online advertising. That is, build a thorough, targeted delivery method from the ground up. Unfortunately, you need advertising to pay the bills to make the content, and advertisers have been cautious during AOL's massive makeover.

Advertising revenue dropped 19% percent to $354.3 million, according to AOL's first-quarter earnings report. The company's profits were $34.7 million, down from $82.7 million last year. Armstrong said that AOL has a ton of data about users, which should be money in the bank as far as targeted advertising. But right now, the company is still working on tuning up the platform.

Armstrong just appointed 28-year-old Maureen Sullivan as chief marketing officer -- she used to work for Google as Armstrong's assistant. At AOL, she's been working on logo redesigns to freshen up the site. AOL has also built a "Homepage Blog," which updates users about new AOL features like themes and privacy settings. It's only had one post in 2010, and it was in February.

Last year, Armstrong mentioned that AOL was going to move social networking site Bebo into the venture capital arm of the company and monitor its performance from there. In April, AOL announced that the match didn't pan out, and it would either sell Bebo or shut it down. The company is still looking for a way to link its instant messaging capabilities, which are strong, with solid social networking partner.

AOL's to-do list also includes plans to modernize Mapquest and manage a host of other offspring properties, like Engadget, Autoblog, and hyperlocal journalism site Patch.com, that will fuel AOL's proposed strategy to carpet-bomb online content. At the "D: All Things Digital" conference on June 3, Armstrong announced that AOL would be looking for a partner to help power its search engine for the site. He said that so far, he's been talking with his former company, Google.

Armstrong is on deadline, according to a Business Insider blog post that mentioned an investor note from AOL chief financial officer Artie Minson who said that Armstrong will have another year to start pulling the company up by its bootstraps.

He will appear again this year at Brainstorm. We'll see if the overhaul is over and he can really start pushing a fresh brand.
Mobile Internet Exploding, Online Ads about to take off, says Analyst Mary Meeker
The Washington Post

 
Internet research analyst Mary Meeker delivered a full plate of mobile and online advertising optimism Monday in the form of her 48-page Internet Trends slide presentation.

In the Morgan Stanley analyst’s presentation at the Conversational Marketing Summit in New York, Meeker said mobile Internet use is ramping up faster than desktop Internet use did, with Apple leading the trend with the release of the iPhone nearly three years ago.

In three years, Apple attracted 86 million users for its iPhone and iPod Touch. As a comparison, in their first three years, Netscape attracted 18 million users and AOL had 8 million users. The Japanese company NTT Docomo’s I-mode attracted 31 million users.

Mobile use will only continue to grow, Meeker predicted, with smartphone sales surpassing PC sales in 2012. And smartphone use will dominate – with mobile Internet users buying more smartphones (93 million) than basic-feature phones (90 million) by next year, she forecasted.

Meeker's predictions come amid concerns by federal regulators that mobile networks in place today and in the near future won't be able to meet the data demands of smartphone users.

And AT&T's announcement of tiered data pricing for new iPhone and iPad users show how the company is trying to manage capacity issues as they gear up for sales of Apple's new iPhone 4 (check out Rob Pegoraro's post on the company's announcement Monday) and the iPad.

Why now? Among the factors that are driving the mobile Web, Meeker said, 3G wireless data networks rank most highly. All major carriers introduced 3G access for Android phones, the iPhone, Blackberry and Palm Pre this year, making mobile Internet use mainstream at 20 percent of all wireless users, Meeker said. There has also been an explosion of Wi-Fi connection hot spots.

Advertising may finally be set to take off on the Internet, she said. People are spending more time on the Web – more than they do reading print publications or listening to the radio. (But not as much as TV, which still dominates.) But even as users spend 28 percent of total entertainment time on the Internet, advertisers only spend 13 percent of their budgets on the Internet. That represents a $50 billion opportunity, she said, that advertisers are starting to seize.

One measure of online advertising growth is paid clicks on Google’s advertising platform. The company brought in $12.95 billion from paid clicks in the first quarter of this year, up 15 percent from the same period in 2009. Yahoo’s display advertising revenues also increased 20 percent in the first quarter, to $444 million, from the first quarter of 2009.

And sites like Facebook have massive advertising potential. The number of people who clicked they “like” Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread, equal the number of people who watch the television show "Scrubs." The number of people who show a preference for the Facebook game Mafia Wars equal those who tune into CBS's "The Good Wife" and outnumber those who watch "Glee" on Fox.

Behavioral and targeted advertising is under scrutiny by regulators and lawmakers. Rep. Rick Boucher's privacy bill allows advertisers to collect information about users for targeted advertisements, but limits the use of location-based services and the collection of sensitive information such as financial, health and political preferences.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Twitter Buys Analytics Company
PC World

Twitter, which recently announced its Promoted Tweets advertising program, has acquired the maker of a cloud-hosted Web analytics application, Twitter said Thursday.

Smallthought Systems' Trendly lets Web site owners dig deeper into the usage and traffic data that Google Analytics collects about their sites.

The Smallthought staff has become part of Twitter's analytics team, where they will integrate Trendly features and technology into Twitter's existing systems, as well as help develop new products.

In April, Twitter launched with a limited number of partners like Starbucks and Best Buy the Promoted Tweets program, which is designed to let companies market their products and services on the popular microblogging and social-networking site.

As with all advertising services, a key to the success of Promoted Tweets will be Twitter's capacity to analyze the popularity and effectiveness of these ads so that mobile seo campaigns can be evaluated and optimized.

The analytics for Promoted Tweets may be more challenging than for other online advertising programs for a few reasons, including the fact that the ad format for Promoted Tweets will be the same as the format for regular "tweets" and that Twitter's usage is going through the roof, with 2 billion "tweets" posted in May, according to Web monitoring company Pingdom.

"Every day millions of people use Twitter to create, share and discover information, and as we grow, analytics becomes an increasingly crucial part of improving our service and Twitter seo," reads Twitter's announcement of its Smallthought acquisition.
Feds Laid Foundation for Apple/Google Mobile Ad Feud
WIRED

 
Apple has invited the ad networks of the world to serve ads within apps on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, with one crucial exception: Ad networks run by companies that make a mobile operating system or hardware are barred from gathering user data about how people interact with their ads.

That effectively blocks Microsoft, Nokia and other companies, but it is aimed squarely at locking out Google, which recently won clearance from the feds to buy AdMob, the leading provider of ads in apps.

Tracking is a crucial aspect to any form of digital advertising, which offers several advantages over “dumb” paper — how long someone views an ad, which parts they tap on, what they’re doing when they decide to view the ad, and so on. Without those metrics, advertisers won’t use an online ad system.

Like Apple, Google both owns a mobile ad network and develops a mobile operating system. As one would expect, Google’s AdMob is irate about its ad network being locked out from Apple devices, after having previously been allowed to place its ads within iPhone apps. Those ads were a bigger part of its business than ads in Android apps (see chart).

“This change is not in the best interests of users or developers,” wrote AdMob chief Omar Hamoui in a blog post on Wednesday. “In the history of technology and innovation, it’s clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.”

That may be true, but Apple’s position isn’t as crazy as it might sound.

First, the company never said it would block all competing ad networks on iOS devices, as was reported by the WSJ. On April 14, in fact, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller told Wired.com that app developers were free to include ads from third-party ad networks. Apple barred those ad networks from collecting and sending “device data to a third party for processing or analysis,” which drew criticism — including from us — because mobile ad networks need to see how people are viewing or interacting with their ads in order to be as effective as Apple’s own iAd, set to launch July 1.

The new Apple policy Steve Jobs announced on Monday now allows ad networks with a legitimate reason to collect user data to do so, as noted by All Things Digital — unless they also make a mobile OS or mobile hardware:

3.3.9 You and Your Applications may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent, and then only under the following conditions:

The collection, use or disclosure is necessary in order to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application. For example, without Apple’s prior written consent, You may not use third party analytics software in Your Application to collect and send device data to a third party for aggregation, processing, or analysis.

The collection, use or disclosure is for the purpose of serving advertising to Your Application; is provided to an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads (for example, an advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems or development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent); and the disclosure is limited to UDID, user location data, and other data specifically designated by Apple as available for advertising purposes.

This leaves Google out in the cold, and seems to strike a big blow against competition in the mobile ad space.

It also smacks of payback, because Google swooped in to buy AdMob when Apple was just about to purchase it.

But think about the alternative. If Apple allows Google to track user data within ads, Google can see how people interact with advertising elements within iOS apps. And it would be able to use that information to inform the process of building AdMob ads into its own Android platform.

The real problem here is the vertical integration between these influential mobile operating systems and the biggest mobile advertising networks (Apple’s purchase of Quattro Wireless and Google’s purchase of AdMob), both blessed by the FTC. Apple shouldn’t be able to wield its control over its operating system and app store to create an unfair advertising advantage, but neither should it be compelled to allow a competitor to gather valuable usage information from its products.

This controversy goes to the heart of the difference between Apple and Google. Apple wants to build a closed system where it can make sure everything from apps to advertising works the way Apple thinks it should, while Google wants to overtake Apple by pursuing a more open approach, licensing Android to a variety of hardware manufacturers, allowing all comers into the Android store and allowing mobile OS companies to run ad networks on each others’ devices.

Apple’s Quattro Wireless already advertises in Android apps, even as Apple bars Google from advertising in iPhone apps.

“Android is an open platform,” Google spokesman Rob Shilkin told Wired.com on Thursday. “Android developers can choose which ad network or ad company they use to make money, as we believe that competition and openness deliver the best outcome for developers, which in turn leads to the best apps for users.

“Apple, through Quattro Wireless, already serves ads to app developers on Android, and we have no plans to change that — in fact, we’d welcome improved Apple ad products on Android.”

Neither Apple nor Google is wrong here. Both are acting in their best interests using the strategies they see fit. But now that they’ve gotten what they wanted — their own ad networks — the stage is set for limited competition in the mobile ad market, which ultimately limits app developers’ options, and that eventually trickles down to harm consumer choice, as Google AdMob’s Hamoui rightly points out. But he shouldn’t be angry at Apple, when the root cause of this situation is the same FTC policy that allowed his company to be acquired by Google for $750 million.

On the other hand, perhaps there was a long-view wisdom at work in the FTC’s decision to allow these acquisitions. Mobile advertising is still in its early stages, and several alternatives exist that will have an easier time competing with Apple’s and Google’s mobile ad networks if those two can’t compete directly with each other.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mobile Revolution Powering Shift to a Connected World
Boston Globe

Emily Nagle Green is president and chief executive of Yankee Group, the Cambridge technology research firm. She is also the author of the recently published book, “Anywhere: How Global Connectivity Is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business.’’ She recently spoke with D.C. Denison of the Globe staff.

Will the mobile revolution be bigger than the Internet?
Yes, I think so. Over a 10-year period, the Internet connected about a billion people. This revolution will touch 5 billion people, but more importantly, it will probably touch a trillion things. And once you do that, you create a structure that will support the building of a lot of value on top of that.

What kinds of things will be connected?
A pill bottle is a good example. I have one that was developed right here in the Boston tech hub by a company called Vitality. It’s connected to the Internet, and it communicates when it is opened and closed. The value is that other people, like family members, can keep track of how well I’m doing in taking my medicine. But there are many other things that are also getting connected: pianos, pallets in factories, vending machines, miners’ helmets — all sorts of objects can now report where they are, whether they are full or empty, wet or dry, running smoothly or broken. The ability to send that kind of information to the network in real time is important. These things are better, more useful, because they are connected.

Will the next Google be a mobile firm? Could well be, and it could even be Google, because Google recently said that they’re now putting mobile first in their business.

Has the growth of mobile been accelerated because executives are fascinated by these gadgets and the connectivity?
You’re half right. It’s being accelerated by enthusiasm, but not just executive enthusiasm. It’s the enthusiasm of incoming employees and workers. We’ve all gotten quite savvy as individual consumers, and we’re taking that into the workplace. The millennials are bringing a much savvier sense of technology into the workplace. It’s that energy that’s pushing businesses toward the anywhere revolution.

Is all this connectivity going to benefit developing countries more than people in the United States, Europe, Japan, etc.? There’s a whole different set of benefits emerging in those developing markets. In the Boston area, for example, mobile experiences are supplementing experiences we already have access to, like banking and health care. But the mobile benefits that are emerging in places like India are often their first opportunity to get access to health care or banking. So it’s completely transformational for them: It’s contributing to changes like increased literacy and longer lifespan.

Is there anything that could derail this mobile revolution? There are a whole set of threats. I don’t think anything could stop it completely. But the wrong kind of regulation could slow it down.

What is the most recent connected device that you’re now using in your home? It’s a cool thing called a Chumby. It looks a little like an alarm clock, and it’s taken the place of the alarm clock on my night stand, but it’s much more than that because it’s connected via Wi-Fi to the Internet and it rotates through a series of widgets according to how I set it up. Mine displays the time, but it also wakes me up to Pandora Internet Radio in the morning, shows me headlines from The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and displays feeds from Twitter and Flickr. It’s a new path to me as a consumer. It’s a path beyond the computer, radio, phone, and TV.

What was the last mobile app you downloaded?
RedSox.com. I like to have latest stats available in real time on my mobile device.

Do you try to plan and protect offline time? I do, but I’m not always successful in keeping my promises. We have a summer house in Pennsylvania, and one virtue it has is that the connectivity there is really poor. My daughter finds that annoying, but it does make it a place where it’s pretty easy to keep my promise to stay offline.
Yahoo Facelift looks like Facebook
Associated Press

 
Yahoo Inc.'s latest facelift will include a Facebook touchup.

As part of changes rolling out this week, Yahoo will import personal updates from Facebook's social network for users who want a bridge between two of the world's most popular websites. The Facebook link will need to be turned on by each Yahoo user.

The personal updates, known as a "news feed" in Facebook's parlance, will be available throughout Yahoo's website, including its front page and e-mail service. Other tools will empower people to automatically let their Facebook friends know what they are doing and saying on Yahoo services such as its photo-sharing site, Flickr.

The additional tie-ins follow through on a makeover that Yahoo announced late last year in an effort to make its website more compelling.

Although Yahoo still commands a worldwide Internet audience of nearly 600 million, people have been hanging around for progressively shorter periods during the past few years. One of the reasons is because people increasingly congregate on Facebook to share photos, video clips and music, discuss current events and bond with their families and friends.

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is betting that more of its visitors will stay on its website if they can simultaneously monitor what's happening on Facebook. Keeping people on its site longer would give Yahoo more opportunities to sell online ads and revive its revenue growth after an extended slump that has sapped its earnings power and stock price.

Connecting with Facebook is just the first step in Yahoo's attempt to establish its website as a social hub. Later this summer, Yahoo intends to import personal updates posted on Twitter's short-messaging service. And by the end of the year, Yahoo will begin featuring widely played Internet games such as "Farmville," ''Mafia Wars" and "Fishville," made by Zynga.

The increased emphasis on so-called "social media" could make Yahoo more susceptible to the privacy backlashes that have plagued Facebook in recent years. Yahoo is trying to ensure people don't inadvertently share any sensitive information by simplifying its privacy controls and urging visitors to review their settings.

As part of that process, Yahoo's identify control center has been renamed "Yahoo Pulse." It had been called Yahoo Profiles since its October 2008 debut.

The Facebook alliance is just the latest example of Yahoo's growing reliance on partnerships since the company hired Silicon Valley veteran Carol Bartz 17 months ago.

Yahoo's search engine is in the process of adopting Microsoft Corp.'s technology. And the company recently decided to rely on IAC/InterActiveCorp.'s Match.com as its online dating service. Bartz is turning to outsiders to lower Yahoo's overhead and sharpen its focus on its strengths in online news, sports, finance, entertainment and e-mail.
Google Introduces Encrypted Web Search Option
cNet

 
Google began offering an encrypted option for Web searchers on Friday and said it planned to roll it out for all of its services eventually.

People who want to use the more secure search option can type "https://www.google.com" into their browser, scrambling the connection so the words and phrases they search on, and the results that Google displays, will be protected from interception.

The beta service of the secure Web search option begins in the United States on Friday and will be rolled out over the next few days to users around the world, said Murali Viswanathan, a Google search product manager.

Friday's announcement makes Google the first major search engine to offer this privacy-protective feature. AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft currently do not.

"Some users will want the extra privacy and security this feature will offer," Viswanathan said in an interview with CNET. "But it's not going to be the default option, at this point. There's a lot of work to be done before we get there."

The encryption protects only data in transit between an individual's browser and the Google search server. When people click on a search result and are directed to another Web site, they leave the encrypted channel.

Offering encrypted connections to Google.com means that users in China and other regimes that engage in significant surveillance will -- assuming the connection is not blocked in the first place -- be able to conduct searches without governments knowing the search terms.

The protected Web search service will feature a customized logo that includes an icon of a lock and "SSL" which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, the technology used to encrypt the information as it travels between an individual's computer and the Google search server.

The SSL technology is typically used on banking and e-commerce Web sites. Google has always offered Gmail users the ability to use HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), which uses SSL, in the browser. The company enabled Gmail users to set it as a persistent preference in mid-2008 and offered it as an option for Google Docs, as well. It became the default for Gmail in January.

People who choose the secure option on Google will only be able to get encryption for Web searches and not for other types of searches, such as Image Search and Maps, at least for now. As a result, links for those searches will not appear on the side or top of the search page when someone is in the secure search mode.

The secure Web search option will slow down the initial connection a computer makes to the Google server, but it may be hardly noticeable to most people. It also means Google will have to use more processor power to handle the scrambling and unscrambling of the SSL connection, which is the biggest reason most Web sites don't offer it as an option.

The service does not protect data stored on an end user's computer or at the Google server, and if someone has malware or a keylogger on the computer, Web search data and other information could be stolen or leaked.

Google announced last week that it would offer encryption for Web search soon, in the wake of the news that vehicles for capturing Google Maps Street View images had mistakenly been collecting data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks for years.

But Viswanathan said the timing of the encryption announcement was completely unrelated and that Google had been working on the Web search encryption offering for a few months.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

China Vows to Continue Blocking Internet Content
Chicago Tribune


BEIJING (AP) — China vowed Tuesday to keep a tight grip on the Internet, saying it would continue to block anything considered subversive or threatening to "national unity."

The "white paper" statement of government policy was released three months after a public dispute over censorship prompted Google Inc. to shut its mainland-based search engine.

It said there were 384 million Internet users in China at the end of 2009, about 29 percent of the population. The government aims to boost that to 45 percent in the next five years by pushing into rural areas where the white paper said there was a "digital gap."

It said the Internet had taken an "irreplaceable role in accelerating the development of the national economy" and would continue to impact daily work, education and lifestyles.

But China, which routinely blocks websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, gave no sign there would be an easing of the "Great Firewall" — the nickname for the network of filters that keep mainland Web surfers from accessing material the government deems sensitive.

The official English translation of the white paper favorably mentions Twitter — an apparent glitch since the U.S. microblogging service has been banned in China since last year. The English version named Twitter as an example of a fast-growing service that allows people to express themselves, while the Chinese version mentions only micro-blogs.

The 31-page white paper did not give specific examples of what content would be banned, saying Chinese laws prohibit the spread of "contents subverting state power, undermining national unity, infringing upon national honor and interests, inciting ethnic hatred and secession" as well as such things as pornography and terror.

The white paper also put the onus on companies to block content deemed sensitive, saying China required Internet service providers to set up "Internet security management systems and utilize technical measures to prevent the transmission of all types of illegal information."

Google ran afoul of the government when it accused Chinese hackers of trying to plunder its software coding and of hijacking the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, and said it would stop self-censoring its search results in line with Chinese regulations.

It moved its search service to the freer Chinese territory of Hong Kong in March.

The white paper did not mention Google, but said anyone using the Internet in China had to respect its laws. "Within Chinese territory the Internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The Internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected," it said.
Australia Launches Privacy Investigation of Google
Associated Press

 
Australia announced a police investigation Sunday into whether Google illegally collected private information from wireless networks, becoming at least the second country to probe the Internet giant's "Street View" mapping service.

The Australian criminal investigation comes as more regulators and consumers watchdogs around the world are complaining that Google doesn't take people's privacy seriously enough. Google maintains that its users' privacy is one of the company's highest priorities.

Last month, Google acknowledged it had mistakenly collected fragments of data over public Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries while it was taking pictures of neighborhoods for the Street View feature. Google said it discovered the problem after German regulators launched an inquiry into the matter.

Also last month, the head of the House Judiciary Committee in the U.S., Michigan Democrat John Conyers, sent letters to Google and Facebook urging them to cooperate with any government privacy inquiries. Conyers asked Google to retain the data until any inquiries are complete.

The Australian probe follows questions over whether Google employees taking photographs for the mapping service violated the country's privacy laws.

"In light of concerns having been raised by the public, my department thought there were issues of substance that were raised that require police investigation," Australia's Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland told journalists in Melbourne.

The case was referred to the Australian Federal Police on Friday, he said. It will focus on whether the company breached the country's telecommunications interceptions act, which prevents people accessing electronic communications other than for authorized purposes, he said.

Google has characterized its collection of snippets from e-mails and Web surfing done on public Wi-Fi networks as an error and said it has taken steps to avoid a recurrence.

"This was a mistake," Google said in a statement on the Australian case. "We are talking to the appropriate authorities to answer any questions they have."

Street View provides photographs of neighborhoods taken by Google cameras. The service has been enormously controversial in Germany and other countries as privacy groups and authorities fear that people - filmed without their consent - could be seen doing things they didn't want to be seen doing or in places where they didn't want to be seen.

Last month, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, addressing the Australian accusations, said Google was responsible for the "single greatest breach in the history of privacy."