08 Apr

Will Caixin Preserve Its Editorial Independence?

I don’t speak Chinese, so I rely on English editions of Chinese media to have a bit of a local perspective. The state-owned media such as Xinhua tends to run pure propaganda right out of their government/party/military masters. It’s so laughably bad it’s good. There is some fledgling independent media though, and among them I’ve been reading Caixin with interest for a while. I think Western media – and its media about the media – should stop their navel gazing and pay more than token attention to events such as China Media Capital (CMC) taking a stake in Caixin Media late last year.

There is of course some amount of Western reporting, and meta reporting, on this, but it tends to be ghettoized in sections about China/Asia. Approaching such issues primarily through the lens of geography strikes me as somewhat provincial, but this may reflect audience preferences that publishers don’t dare challenge. Read More

26 Mar

Out-of-Left-Field Idea of the Day: Google Broadband

Over the past decade, the headline of this entry, first published in October 2004, seemed less and less outlandish. By March 2014, Larry Page had made that a very explicit goal, echoing Bill Gates’ earlier promise of a computer on every desk and in every home. Here is how the idea that Google would get into the internet access business – as a fundamental enabler to bigger things, not in a Comcast incumbentish (hereby a word) way – turned into reality over the years: Read More

11 Dec

The End of Free Archives

We lost the domain name in some administrative snafu a couple years ago, but for anyone who might still care, I just realized Jason Shellen has revived TEOF’s archives hosted now on blogspot.
The Google “everything for free” effect is now at its apex with the NYT, WSJ or the Economist pretty much throwing the towel on online paid content to go after more ad revenue. Of course when the next advertising cyclical downturn comes there will be a lot of hand wringing about lost revenue and how subscriptions are nice and predictable.
This must be why we’re working on our own subscription service! Not for the general public though. We might be bold but not crazy.

08 Jul

Google Invests in Power Line Internet Access

People intrigued by Google’s investment in Current Communications Group might want to check this post from my archives about a speculative Google Broadband. Can you feel it coming? The edge has to become the middle again. Since Microsoft is too scared and corporate to do it, and Yahoo is focused on mimicking (quite successfully these days) the Google recipe, Google has to step up to get us back to original internet peer architectures, and it seems they might just do it.
All current assumptions about the need for centralized servers and separate ISP services to deliver their content to “end users” may be disrupted within the next decade. I just hate that I was able to upgrade my DSL from 512Kbps to 2Mbps downstream, yet upstream is left untouched at a measly 128Kbps. Get and serve any data (text, voice, pics, video) from your own desktop, laptop or phone, through your electricity bill or the wireless mesh. Who’s a gatekeeper then?
Google might end up as much a hardware as a software platform, and I’m not talking about their webfarm, a mere drop in the sea of the billions of connected devices out there. (And yes, I can hold widely conflicting opinions about Google yet my head doesn’t explode!)
Update: I should translate into practical terms what limited upload bandwidth means. We use both Vonage and Skype In/Out at our home/home office (we have 4 phone numbers in Portugal, the US, the UK and France). 128 Kbps upstream means at this very moment, because my girlfriend is skyping her sister in France (nothing wrong with that, honey!) I can’t call my business partner in the US. Forget the thought of making a VOIP call and playing an MMORPG at the same time (yes, I know about Ventrilo, I’m talking about real extended conversation here, not barking orders and the occasional laugh in an online game raid).
Yet Portugal and other countries are full of outdoor and TV ads about the newest, baddest, fastest DSL services now available. Most are increasingly asymmetrical. Talk about selling technology and not paying attention to actual user scenarios. The internet is a household utility with concurrent use by several of its members, not a solitary activity anymore.

23 Aug

Technorati, Socialtext Raise Financing

Joi Ito is an investor in both, as well as in Six Apart. Loic le Meur and Reid Hoffman (of LinkedIn fame) also have a stake in Socialtext and Six Apart. I have a hard time thinking that some if not all of those four companies won’t somehow be merged within the next two years, since they’re all facets of the same thing.
Following its Craig’s List investment, I also believe eBay is the most likely acquirer of that social web editing and identity conglomerate in the making, which should be a piece of cake to set up through the Hoffman and Omidyar connections. Identity and trust are central to eBay, so this could make sense in several ways.
It’s also interesting to see Hoffman and Mark Pincus (Tribe.net) invest in the same company, as the social networking space will of course need to go through a lot of consolidation probably starting next year if not sooner.
Update: Pierre Omidyar: What I’ve been up to.
09/30/04 update: Esther Dyson, Reid Hoffman and Joi Ito invest in Flickr. These people hunt in packs!
12/15/04 update: Feedster Becomes Omidyar Network Partner.
01/17/05 update: omidyar.net FAQ.

02 Apr

Gmail is a Highly Offensive Move

In the face of an ever increasing space-to-pricing ratio in the storage world, Google is going to take the fight outside its borders and attack both the free and premium email accounts at Yahoo and MSN. When Gates says that hardware will be close to free 10 years from now, you can bet he’s pondering all the ways Microsoft can leverage that (and still not get commoditized) and Google is playing the same game.
Bill and Matt are right, this could be highly disruptive, and might be the big move I was waiting for. Not only it can hurt competitors big time (Yahoo more than MSN) but they might even make webmail useful again, instead of a fly cather for those throwaway addresses you give to companies you don’t trust. The question is, can Google be better than the competition on spam filtering (which in a new twist is embedding news items in its copy to look legitimate)? So far they’ve been struggling against spamdex, and email spam is an order of magnitude more brutal. And if Google can make email useful and productive again, now that’s something. Unlimited storage and good search means a huge barrier to exit. Throw in a wizard or two to import and clean up existing email sent from a Yahoo account, and the consequences on the competitive landscape boggle the mind.
Update: screenshot (real, as there are a couple fakes floating too). (More.)

26 Mar

Yahoo to Acquire Kelkoo: dot com stupidity or simple consolidation?

Yahoo and Kelkoo:

"today announced they have signed a definitive agreement under which Yahoo! will acquire Kelkoo. Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! will acquire up to 100 percent of the share capital of Kelkoo for an aggregate cash purchase price of approximately EUR 475 million, subject to certain adjustments."

I can’t believe Yahoo is going to waste more than half a billion dollars for this piece of junk. And I was starting to think Yahoo was finding its way again. Kelkoo is so bad it makes even Froogle shine in comparison, not to speak of its retarted approach to Internet shopping (with site silos based on individual countries — hello this is the EU, and with the weak dollar you might throw in the US as well). Google will probably tweak its algorithm to downplay Kelkoo’s currently well positioned millions of pages, and then what’s left?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the acquisition ended up being cheaper of even cancelled altogether, once Yahoo gets to the operational level and realizes what it is they’re purchasing. But if the deal goes through, this is one of the biggest successful exits in the dismal French internet world (which, to be totally fair, is at last moving in the right direction as far as DSL and VOIP are concerned, thanks in good part to Proxad). Smells like dot com stupidity all over again.
Or maybe Yahoo just wants to ditch Kelkoo altogether to have a clearer road ahead in European ecommerce. Yeah, that’s probably that, they can’t seriously think there’s anything to do with those sites and I doubt there’s much know-how Yahoo doesn’t already have. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, this is just consolidation at work rather than something supposed to bear fruit. The noise about keeping the brand run as a subsidiary with no impact on headcount is probably lip service to prevent a French strike. In the end, it’s easier to close a subsidiary altogether.

20 Jan

Yahoo “Innovates”, Launches Research Labs

ResearchBuzz: Yahoo Announces Yahoo Labs

"Yahoo on Monday announced Yahoo Research Labs at http://labs.yahoo.com, describing it as " a research organization focused on inventing new technologies and solutions relevant to strategic Yahoo! businesses. The group will pursue a portfolio of topics that include pay for performance search, web search, vertical businesses and platform technologies." […] The first thing it lacks is some kind of API or at least guidelines on how programmers might use Yahoo data (since Yahoo is a searchable subject index, and is divided into categories, you could do some really fun stuff with the search data.) There needs to be more communication between Yahoo users and Yahoo."