My pronouncement at the end of the short story about the brief Google Docs outage did not go over well. I said, "This is likely to be a major blow to the growth of cloud computing, as it reminds IT managers of the danger of relying on a unified product to serve all a company's users."
As commenters said, and I'm generously paraphrasing, I'm a kook. One little outage may send worrywarts like me running for the safety of Microsoft Word, but work is moving to the cloud, and it's high time, since overall it's a more reliable and more cost effective place to store documents.
Right on all counts. Let's posit that the cloud is a hundred times more reliable and less expensive than a corporate working infrastructure built on local computing power and local storage. Fine. Now let's imagine what failures look like on a fully old-fashioned (local model) system compared with a modern, fully cloud-based one.
Update 3:25 p.m. PT: As of 3:10 p.m. Pacific Time, users from locations around the world are reporting the services are coming back online. Google's Apps Status Dashboard is still showing that Docs and Drawings are not working.
Update 3:35 p.m. PT: The status dashboard has been updated to reflect that all services are back online. Apparently, the word processing and drawing apps (Google Docs and Google Drawings) and the main document listing page (Docs List) were nonfunctional during the outage, but other files, in particular spreadsheets, were still available for people who … Read more
Reddit, the community-curated site that's picking up the pieces that Digg dropped, today announced that it's spinning out from the company that acquired it, Conde Nast. Sort of.
Reddit is moving up a notch in the org chart. No longer will it be a part of Conde Nast, which publishes among other things, Wired, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Ars Technica. Instead, Reddit becomes an independent company under Advance Publications, which owns Conde Nast.
By becoming a bigger wheel, Reddit General Manager Erik Martin (see his blog post) says, the site will be able to "go back into … Read more
Facebook is going to launch a music service. That's the oversimplified version of what the tech press expects to see at the company's September 22 developer conference, F8. What we are much more likely to see, as Om Malik reports: A new, Facebook-sponsored way for music distribution companies, in particular Spotify, to worm their way into the Facebook social network.
Because that's how Facebook rolls now. It's not a destination. Well, for consumers it is. But for everyone else in tech, it's a platform. Facebook started saying that at the first F8 conference in 2007. Since then, the company has solidified this position. Facebook's move to becoming a platform is one of the most canny business shifts in tech. Initially Facebook roped users in and sold ads against their page views. And then Facebook figured out that instead of selling advertising impressions, it could sell the network of users itself to other companies.
That's why Facebook never pushed its own gaming service and why Zynga is big. Because Facebook knows that Zynga knows how to make games. And if it wasn't Zynga in the social game spotlight, it'd be some other company. Meanwhile Facebook makes the network that Zynga can leverage. When Facebook wins, Zynga wins. And when Zynga wins, Facebook collects the rent.
It is a brilliant strategy, and it's playing out in other areas where, if Facebook were not a platform company, it would almost definitely have its own branded services.
For example, Facebook could take on LinkedIn as a jobs network. Why doesn't it? Because it's not a company that builds new specialized services. It's a company that lets other companies take on those tasks. For professional networking, for example, there's BranchOut, a rapidly growing Facebook-based service that does resumes, endorsements, and job search for "Main Street, not Wall Street," according to CEO Rick Marini.
Professional networking would seem like a natural fit for the social network service Facebook, and I asked Marini if he's worried about Facebook horning in on his territory, users, and revenue plan. On the contrtry, he said, BranchOut has a "special relationship" with Facebook. Kevin Efrusy, the man who brought the Facebook deal to VC firm Accel, is also on BranchOut's board of directors. Facebook, while it encourages other companies to succeed on its back, also nurtures special partners.… Read more
The pitch from the Uncram PR rep was that Twitter's 140-character limit is holding it back from being truly useful. "I'll take this meeting," I replied, "since I fundamentally disagree with the premise. Twitter is great because of its limits."
But Uncram isn't a text expander like Deck.ly. Instead, it's a quick-and-dirty page publishing system that uses Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as its social communications strata. It has potential.
The idea with the service is that if you want to share an idea, there's a better way to do it than just typing a short blurb and putting in a link. On an Uncram page, you can insert multiple links, photos, videos, and maps. More interestingly, Uncram has a strong topic extraction system. It can discern what the text in your post is about, and will offer up topic snippets from MetaWeb's Freebase, where Uncram's CEO, Arial Porath, was once director of strategy.
Uncram has a little browser extension that makes getting into the system easy. When you're writing a post on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, you get an "Uncram" button alongside the usual "Post" button. It fires up the page creator for you and lets you immediately share a page--called a "diary" in Uncram lingo--as soon as it's ready.
The Uncram pages look very good and carry their own discussion threads, which is both necessary and weird. It's necessary because nothing else will drive repeat traffic to these pages than a social component, but weird because the whole idea of Uncram is that you share these pages from social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which are primarily discussion platforms themselves. Uncram is designed, Porath says, to be a "write once, broadcast anywhere" system for social networks. "You should use the social network for your headlines, not the end destination," he says. In that regard it's not that different from many other Web publishing platforms, but its integration into social networks is tighter.
Uncram pages can also be private, or unlisted.
I'm not sure Uncram works as a large-scale consumer play. Google+ and Facebook are getting better at allowing users to create rich, multipart status updates. But it does have a potential revenue angle for businesses. There will be white-label or brandable versions of the platform. Since it is so easy to create a diary page on Uncram, it could be useful for marketers who quickly want to generate nice-looking and complete landing pages for social-media campaigns. Launching a weekend promotion for your nationwide chain restaurant? Throw together a page on this platform in a second and share it on all your networks. It's not a new idea, but the Uncram publishing system and social-network integration could make this platform a solid tool for brand marketers. … Read more
I wrote recently that receipts are the the new check-ins. And now companies are emerging that are trying to roll up the receipt collection process for consumers. One smart new business doing this: Itemize. It scans your e-mail receipts to build a profile of your favorite brands, and then it sends you deals so you can get the stuff you like at a discount.
"We are receipt geeks," CEO Jim Thomas told me. He previously worked on analytics for MasterCard, which you'd think would have the mother lode of data when it comes to analyzing what people like. But think again: credit card companies know where you shop, but not what you buy. "I wanted to build a Pandora for shopping," Thomas said.
There are two challenges facing Itemize. First, it needs a diet of receipts to work. Pretty much everything you buy online will generate an e-mail receipt, which works to its favor, but things you buy in physical retail stores generally don't--except for, say, the stuff you get at the Apple store. Thomas believes more retailers will be following Apple's lead, though.
Itemize will get a physical-receipt-scanning app eventually. The iPhone app for that is being built. Thomas does think that physical receipts will eventually vanish, but not soon enough.
The other problem: So you have this mailbox full of e-mail receipts. How do you get them to Itemize? The service gets your receipts by scanning your live inbox. You give it access to your mail (it works on Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and several other mail providers) and it watches for receipts. Thomas says the service does not keep your e-mail nor read anything that it doesn't at first determine is a receipt, but there will be consumers, like me, who don't like the idea of giving yet another third party access to their communication.… Read more
From the Are You Kidding Me files today comes VizLingo, a New York-based company that takes the words you type and creates quick-cut videos out of them. You type in, "I want to buy some cheese," and you get a five-second video of the concepts, "I," "want," and so on. Go see what I mean.
Let me be clear about this. I don't get it. These vids don't help comprehension. If they did, they wouldn't need subtitles. And the emotional content whipsaws all over the place due to the quick cuts.
But, says CEO Azeo Fables, that's the point. "We're responding directly to the A.D.D. generation, who wants things quick and fast. The clip length is tuned to the mindset of users who watch music videos."
Fables says his target demographic, 14- to 24-year-olds, has not been well-served by text messaging, in which it's hard to embed emotional content save for emoticons. He also believes that the clip library now on the service (30,000 tagged clips taken from Fables' post-college around-the-world video tour) will eventually be supplanted by user-generated tagged videos.
VizLingo has raised $1.8 million in venture funding and there are 11 people working on the project. Fables believes revenues may come from third-party content providers. If you use the word "car" in a clip, maybe you'll get a Ford-provided image. Also, he hopes to integrate the VizLingo function into existing messaging platforms, hopefully at a profit. Mobile apps are on the way.
I don't dispute that this is a fun experiment. And props to the VizLingo team for at least trying to come up with two-second video clips to illustrate words like "is," and "fund." Anything that pushes the boundaries of language and expression is likely to get some initial interest. But I believe this experiment is a novelty, not the dawn of a new post-text form of communication. I'm shocked it's raised so much money. Maybe the millennials that Fables is targeting will prove me wrong, but I doubt it. … Read more
I recently heard two different pitches from entrepreneurs who think that the business of focusing on physical restaurant or retail check-ins--in other words, Foursquare--is old fashioned and played out. At least as a business. They're pitching start-ups that check in your transactions, using the receipts you get when you pay.
The idea is not to get you to share your financial history with the world, as Blippy did at first. That was nuts. Instead, DailyGobble and RewardLoop are loyalty programs, in which you use your receipt as a virtual box top, a proof of purchase that gets you some consideration from the business you just patronized.
What makes these two services modern and smart is the way they're designed to take the hassle and friction out of making your claims. In the case of DailyGobble, the whole check-in process is stealth, which may appeal to people who don't want to appear to their dining companions to be coupon surfers. First, you find a restaurant deal you like on the DailyGobble site or mobile app. Then you go to that restaurant and have your lovely meal. Afterward, you snap a picture of the receipt from your phone and upload it using the app. Then you get a cash payback in your PayPal account.
What you have to do when you arrive and leave the restaurant: Nothing. DailyGobble execs pitch the fact that you don't have to present "embarrassing" coupons and potentially suffer "inferior service" from waitstaff who know you're dining below normal rates. I'm not sure that's a big problem, but I do like the simplicity of the DailyGobble deal flow.
Meanwhile, the restaurant gets your business, plus some details on who you are and what you ate. DailyGobble itself gets to build a dossier on your preferences and collect a per-seating fee from the restaurants. The business is like OpenTable's, but without that service's traditional recurring fee for its restaurant customers (a newer program, OpenTable Connect, is pay-as-you-go). It's a smart update on the aggregator/loyalty program model.
VANCOUVER--The Grow start-up conference here is supposed to be off the record. I'm here as a mentor, not to cover it. But you know how it is with entrepreneurs--you can't stop them from pitching.
One such entrepreneur here (not in one of my mentoring sessions) is Chris Houston, who showed me a hardware mockup of his safe Web surfing package SurfEasy. It's a USB key that stores in a business-card-size container and holds an auto-launching version of a portable browser--it runs straight from the USB stick--that connects via an encrypted link to a proxy server farm that … Read more
Modern captchas are effective at keeping bots and algorithms from accessing Web sites made for humans. They also generate collateral damage and keep up to 25 percent of humans out, too, according to Ron Moravek, COO of NuCaptcha. He says he has a better, more flexible technology for filtering humans from bots.
NuCaptcha is a replacement technology for the free, Google-owned ReCaptcha service. There are two major differences between NuCaptcha and ReCaptcha. First, NuCaptcha displays moving text against a moving image. While this makes it harder for computers to discern text from background, it makes it much easier for humans. … Read more