Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Told you so

Okay, so I was about five months out on the Google/Feedburner acquisition, but I put that down to Google getting too big and slow.

In December, 2005 I wrote.

P.S. If Feedburner isn’t acquired by Google [next] year, I’ll be very surprised. But then that’s a whole ‘nother blog and a whole ‘nother opportunity to bring you more riveting messages from Web 2.0 Corporation.

I then wrote that whole ‘nother blog on January 12th

When will Google acquire Feedburner?

TechCrunch has an article asking “When will Yahoo acquire Technorati?” and it makes a good argument as to why it should, and probably could, happen.

I reckon the same thing goes for Google and Feedburner, a move I’ve suggested here before. Look at what Google is doing with GoogleBase, which as explained here is really about building out the world’s biggest XML database. That’s got to be complementary to Feedburner’s business. Then consider if you put Feedburner and Google’s RSS ad programs together, you’ve got a pretty massive headstart on any other competitor at a time when MS and Yahoo are both coming into the market. After all, if RSS does take off this year as everyone is predicting thats going to be a big growth market in Google’s core online advertising space (and let’s face it Google hasn’t really done anything of note in the RSS space yet and would get some much needed RSS cred along with this acquisition as well).

The nice thing going in Feedburner’s favour is that once you’ve published your feed at a particular address it’s an absolute bitch to move it anywhere else. So Feedburner’s critical mass is absolutely valuable as are the deals it has done with big publishers like Reuters. I just can’t see Google letting such a key asset in the online advertising market end up in the hands of Yahoo! and Microsoft.

It’s not everyday you’re right about these things, so I couldn’t help but gloat. Excuse the indulgence!


Filed under: Uncategorized

Big boys embrace Ruby on Rails

It’s not much more than a year since my company, MediaConnect, did a total rewrite of our platform in finally moving away from Lotus Notes.

At the time, I decided to stick with what was then the defacto standard platform for web application – aka LAMP – although I did look pretty deeply into both Java and Ruby on Rails alternatives.

Well, we’re about to embark on yet another re-write, so we can better make-use of AJAX and also so we can allow for far more customisation and advanced functionality. I’ve spoken to a few other online app makers who are doing likewise. We sat on our Domino platform for six years (which admittedly was far too long) but it shows the pace of change in today’s web environment, that you have to do pretty fundamental rewrites so regularly just to keep your base architecture up-to-date.

Making this move at this point, I did stop briefly to ask myself, should we stick with PHP. RoR has made a lot of ground since we first made the decision, as has Python, and today I noted this week that Borland company CodeGear has launched a Ruby IDE.

If there had been a really good Ruby IDE a year or so ago, I may have gone that way. In fact, if I was doing a fresh startup today I reckon I’d use Ruby but we’ve invested too much in our existing PHP code-base to totally abandon it. Thankfully, PHP is moving forward with PHP5 as well and we’re looking like using the Symfony-Project framework which is pretty new but exciting.

Ah the joys of an online application company…

Filed under: MediaConnect, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Symfony, Symfony Project

The day the music died…

Today, the music died… well on my PC anyway.

I don’t listen to nearly as much music as I used to, but when I do I listen to Pandora. Today, everyone with Pandora accounts outside of the US today received an email that politely stated that, sorry, we’re going to have to cut you off.

Delivery of Pandora is based on proper licensing from the people who created the music – we have always believed in honoring the guidelines as determined by legislators and regulators, artists and songwriters, and the labels and publishers they work with. In the U.S. there is a federal statute that provides this license for all the music streamed on Pandora. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent license outside the U.S. and there is no global licensing organization to enable us to legitimately offer Pandora around the world.

What a sad state of affairs. My hope for Pandora is that my prediction that Apple would buy the service plays out. I still believe that a streaming Pandora service to iPod/iPhone device is the end-point for music distribution and consumption and I’m still surprised this marriage hasn’t happened yet? Maybe, these legal issues are what has been stopping a deal from happening. Maybe, Pandora has decided to do this,  to clean up any legal issues that could be a hangover for a potential purchaser. But then they didn’t stop Google taking YouTube did it?

Whatever, the case, I think this increases the likelihood of a Pandora acquisition. Either it is prepping itself for buyout, or else it’s going to need to go looking for a bigger partner, like Apple, who has the pull to get global agreements in place with music labels.

Full email follows:

Dear Pandora listener,

Today we have some extremely disappointing news to share with you. Due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora’s streaming service for most countries outside of the U.S.

It is difficult to convey just how disappointing this is for us. Our vision remains to eventually make Pandora a truly global service, but for the time being, we can no longer continue as we have been. As a small company, the best chance we have of realizing our dream of Pandora all around the world is to grow as the licensing landscape allows.

Based on your email address, we believe you may be listening from a country outside the U.S. If you are in fact listening from the U.S., please disregard this email.

Delivery of Pandora is based on proper licensing from the people who created the music – we have always believed in honoring the guidelines as determined by legislators and regulators, artists and songwriters, and the labels and publishers they work with. In the U.S. there is a federal statute that provides this license for all the music streamed on Pandora. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent license outside the U.S. and there is no global licensing organization to enable us to legitimately offer Pandora around the world. Other than in the U.K., we have not yet been able to make significant progress in our efforts to obtain a sufficient number of international licenses at terms that would enable us to run a viable business. The volume of listening on Pandora makes it a very expensive service to run. Streaming costs are very high, and since our inception, we have been making publishing and performance royalty payments for every song we play.

Until now, we have not been able to tell where a listener is based, relying only on zip code information provided upon registration. We are now able to recognize a listener’s country of origin based on the IP address from which they are accessing the service. Consequently, on May 3rd, we will begin blocking access to Pandora to listeners from your country. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We will be posting updates on our blog regarding our ongoing effort to launch in other countries, so please stay in touch. We will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you. We deeply share your sense of disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Build-your-own-widgets gains momentum

So Google today relaunched its personalised home page as iGoogle and announced the ability for users to create their own gadgets, which has received a bunch of coverage throughout the blogosphere.

Personally, it’s nice to see Google heading in that direction because it’s exactly where we’ve been headed with the Wyaworks Widget Creator (disclaimer: I consult to Wyaworks on product development and strategy). While the Google Widget maker allows users to create simple, fairly static widgets, the Wyaworks Widget Creator enables you to build your own full-blown, database-driven widgets.

I’ve got to say, even I’m surprised how useful I’ve found these. My company is now standardising on the Pageflakes AJAX desktop as our Intranet platform and I’ve got about a dozen widgets running across our shared Pageflakes tab for various functions like HR, editorial management, project management, etc. Each of these widgets has taken about 5 minutes to create, they can all interact, and I can personalize them to match our business processes precisely. We had been using Google spreadsheets for these kind of ad-hocs applications, but the problem with that is that they’re difficult to find and never really at hand.

John Hyde, CEO of Wyaworks has added a host of functionality since they were first announced. Security has been added, they run across iGoogle, NetVibes and Pageflakes, columns can be sorted, data sets can be restricted by field values and widgets can share information and fields. Widgets can be created by simply adding fields, or alternatively you can turn any spreadsheet into an AJAX desktop widget by simply importing a spreadsheet. We took a spreadsheet of customer records, imported it, and bam, we had a customer contact management widget, automatically populated with our data in a matter of seconds. Being able to access this kind of information, all from your AJAX desktop makes this kind of information incredibly accessible and easy to use.

I’m convinced that some type of webtop, or AJAX desktop, will become most people’s home page and online hub. I predict that within the next couple of years, every web application will have widget-versions of their applications that can be integrated into this kind of environment, or else they will incorporate their own AJAX desktops – that’s the way we’re heading with our MediaConnect and ITJourno portals. Most likely, it will be both.

It’s nice to see this idea start to pick up pace, when Wyaworks is so clearly the market leader in this space. I still think the killer feature with these widgets it the cross-platform capability. The openess of AJAX desktops means you don’t want to be tied into any particular desktop, so you really want to be able to take your widgets with you. While iGoogle, Netvibes, and Pageflakes are supported right now, Wyaworks has the potential to allow widgets to be deployed to any platform and with this market moving so quickly, that’s an incredibly important feature.

Filed under: Google, Web Development, Webtops

Google launches Aussie blog

Google today unveiled an Australian-specific blog, which is apparently the first English-language country specific Google blog in the world.

You can also set up a personalised version of with themes now, and the direction appears to be that Google is setting about getting local.

This is going to be important. I have no doubt that local search is going to be the single biggest growth area in the search market but to make local search work, you do need to work with the local communities and understand various cultural nuances and sensitivities. I’m expecting to see Google do a lot of work in this area.

Interesting, that Google would choose Australia to move ahead in this regard first. Australia’s a bit of a unique market in the regard that this is the only market in the world where Yahoo has set up a partnership with a local company, which it’s done here to form Yahoo!7. With both Microsoft and Yahoo having Australian partners, they have a clear advantage in starting down that local path if they can convert. For Google to compete here, they may have to more actively operate as a media company or at least have a higher presence. Maybe, that’s partly why we get the first local blog?

Filed under: Google

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