Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are you XING?

Now, after some rumors in the blogosphere and in the news, it's official that openBC will become XING at the end of this year. Although the introductory video seems a bit silly to me, Lars Hinrich seems to have spent quite some budget for this relaunch under a new name. Let's see what the changes will really be - for the normal as well as for the premium users.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yahoo! and Facebook

While I have a hard time keeping track of all this talk about mergers and acquisitions related to collaborative platforms and services, my attention got caught by Techcrunch's notice that, once again, Yahoo! is about to spend money to acquire Facebook. For those who want to read the original note in the Wall Street Journal, it's possible today since it's free Friday. Anyway, these acquisitions talks are also going on because the investors in start-up companies also want to see some return on investment, so it's easy to calculate the lower bound for a potential investment. It's a win-win situation for the company which is being sold and the investors, but the risk is on the buying company. On the other hand, in order to gain some advantages over other collaborative sites, it's always easier to buy than anything else (provided that the money is there). But I'm digressing.

While the question of which community to join is probably left as an exercise to the end user, facebook originally had a well-defined target group of college students, but in order to gain momentum, it expanded into high school kids and alumni - and the next step is to allow anyone with a valid e-mail address to join, probably leaving out a small group of those who are not using the Internet at all or some senior citizens that don't care about computer-mediated communication.

Whether Yahoo! would succeed in gaining more momentum than its competitors, I do not know. But time will tell whether the investment will have been a risk or a success.

Update: Some more coverage on this from the New York Times

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Soapbox about to be launched ...

Yet another YouTube clone: Microsoft is launching its Soapbox service that seems to do more or less what YouTube is all about. While I do understand that other companies are envious of YouTube's success, I am really curious about whether Microsoft will succeed this time (given that they are also trying to copy Apple concerning mobile entertainment). For now, Soapbox is still a closed service, requiring an invitation to join.

YouTube goes commercial

As reported yesterday, YouTube just signed a deal to distribute videos from Warner Music Group. Seems like the first step for commercial media distribution - and the only way to prevent entertainment companies to close YouTube in order to circumvent illegal media sharing such as with Napster. Does this mean that other entertainment companies will follow, turning the platform into an alternative to other entertainment platforms (without user-generated content)? Does this mean a step backward from the Web 2.0 ideas of collaborative content and media sharing? How will users react to this? How will YouTube's business model evolve? I suspect there will be a basic YouTube service (similar to the platform as it is now) complemented by a premium service which allows the download of copyrighted material for a monthly fee.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who cares about mobile entertainment?

When looking at the latest figures from m:metrics, I am really wondering how much of a serious business mobile entertainment can be. I can imagine that some people may download media for later consumption, but mobile entertainment that is really enjoyable would require a decent sound quality (for music), or a sufficiently large screen (for video). On the other hand, when it comes to business models, I have the impression that pay-per-use needs to be complemented by entertainment flatrates, such as flatster.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Whose showtime is it?

Shortly after Amazon's announcement of unbox, Apple is starting with their iTV service, also known as Showtime (watch Steve Jobs' announcement). While I do not really see the advantage over renting a movie, given the (still) considerable download time, I am wondering what's next in terms of collaborative and interactive entertainment. Also, I suppose there will be other players in the market - but who's going to win? While I understand that music downloads have threatened the music business, I am not sure if media downloads will seriously affect the movie industry - but that's just a guess until I am proven wrong.

Update (1): CED Magazine has some comments on this that are worth reading.
Update (2): We may probably soon see Google Videos on our home TV as Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs are in close communication.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fictional Identities

I just came accross a discussion about a user, lonelygirl15 (or Bree) on YouTube (also having an identity on MySpace), which raises the question about how real virtual identities should be. The LA Times has some more information about that story.

Although at first we tend to assume that there is a real person behind each user id, this obviously does not need to be the case. This raises the question how much we believe in videos, pictures or stories that are told. And as we start building up some relationship to user identities we do not know nor get the chance to meet personally, of course we may build up relationships to people that do not exist.

When it comes to collaborating, of course I cannot imagine anyone that would like to work with someone that they cannot trust. In other words, I get the impression that true collaboration has to involve not only asynchronous, but also synchronous exchange in order to prevent ourselves to waste our time on fakes.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Identity Service - a project or a product?

Recently found some information about an initiative called Identity Service by a company called CuteCircuit, obviously started by Francisca Rosella back in 2003. The company itself, with a first product called the Hug Shirt, was started in 2004. There's a research paper about this, which dates back to 2004. The basic idea behind it is shortly described:
Subscribers can decide to share or broadcast types of personal information through any type of connected device, such as a mobile phone or wearable interface. Through the wearable interface users gain access to ad-hoc identity networks created dynamically as they move through the day. If desired buildings, machines and computers could become smart through Bluetooth or WiFi networks, allowing a users identity needs to be serviced in real time in any place. Subscribers can also enrich their database profile with new information collected on the move, from other people.

I am wondering what kind of information is referred to, but maybe this is the company's very own secret, as the whole thing is patent pending.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Triple Play in Germany

According to a recent survey from TNS Infratest, not only does the attractiveness of Triple Play services primarily depend on the associated pricing models, but interactivity as related to television is only interesting for a mere 23% of the population. Perhaps this is because television is still seen as a broadcast medium and the potential value-added services are not yet remarked as a new quality of service. Thus, in order for triple play services to really take off, it will be crucial for telecommunication providers to offer triple play bundles with attractive pricing models. We shall see how long it will take for ordinary television to be substituted by IPTV offerings ...

Qiro, a mobile find service

Deutsche Telekom has just launched Qiro, a mobile location-based find service for points of interest as well as other persons (such as nearby buddies). Sounds like Google Maps on a mobile device plus location-based support. Too bad my mobile device is not supported yet so I cannot download the Qiro client to test this out. But from what I can see & read, this sounds like an opener for more advanced mobile services employing personalization. In fact I'd say that personalization based on other parameters (such as fields of interest and time) is a must when considering use of mobile services in order not to get lost in heaps of non-personalized information. I am definitely anxious to test out this innovative service as soon as possible.

Update: An interview about Qiro (in German)

Friday, September 01, 2006

All about connecting people ...

As Tim Berners-Lee said in a podcast currently available on the IBM developerworks web site, the Web was supposed to be all about connecting people:
It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along

For those of you who prefer to read, have a look at the transcript.

The API battle goes on ...

Well, shortly after Amazon's announcement regarding their Simple Storage Service, also known as S3, Google in turn announced their GData API (read this for some more details). GData offers

a standard protocol for reading and writing Web data, combining XML-based syndication formats (Atom and RSS) with a feed-publishing system, based on Atom.

Let's wait for the next Web 2.0-related API that is going to appear in the next couple of weeks, if not days, play around a bit with all this and see what implications this will have on collaborative services ...