The decade in politics

January 3rd, 2010

This evening at 10PM EST, Joe Trippi will be featured on the broadcast of the Weekly Filibuster. In the broadcast, Trippi joins NBC News’ Chuck Todd, Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), MyDD’s Jerome Armstrong, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, and Politico’s Ben Smith in a countdown of the top 20 political moments of the decade. Check back soon to find the podcast.

The browser wars heat up, Google’s Chrome moves ahead of Apple’s Safari

January 2nd, 2010

As advances continue to be made in the internet browser market and competition heats up, it is exciting to see major changes over short periods of time. Mashable.com reports on Google Chrome’s recent climb:

Google’s Chrome browser overtook Apple’s Safari in the final month of 2009 to become the 3rd place browser behind Internet Explorer and Firefox.

[Mashable’s] first set of stats covered the week of Dec. 6-12, during which Google (Google) launched Chrome for Mac — a rush of downloads was to be expected. Now web metrics provider Net Applications has released its full month of December stats, confirming that Chrome (Chrome) had 4.63% of the browser market that month, versus 4.46% for Apple’s Safari.

The Net Applications stats aren’t all bad for Apple: the iPhone saw its biggest jump in the mobile operating system market in December, climbing 20% over its November numbers to 0.43% of the market. On the desktop, Apple’s growth is slow, however: OS X usage grew to 5.11% of the OS market at the end of 2009 from 4.71% at the start.

Innovation in the browser market, with the aim to provide more full and personalized experiences on the web, will only increaes the competition and help the web user. Read more on Mashable.com.

Chinese efforts to censor internet are falling short

January 1st, 2010

Since the internet came to China over a decade ago, the government has attempted to limit access to content, with greater censorshipefforts more recently. However as The Wall Street Journal reports, the government is not succeeding in its efforts:

In 2009, Beijing lost a big battle, too, in the so-called Green Dam episode. It was the most dramatic illustration of the limits of the censors’ power. The government’s plan to quietly compel all personal-computer makers put Web-filtering software known as Green Dam-Youth Escort into new PCs shipped into China was indefinitely shelved, amid anger from global technology companies and Chinese citizens alike.

The government said the software was meant to block children from accessing pornography, but critics said that it was unreasonable to require a specific program for all PCs, and that the software was filtering a broad range of content, such as social and political commentary, and even health, among others.

What would have been the state’s most extensive measure ever to cleanse the Web instead awakened a new segment of society to the constraints imposed on them. The Great Firewall’s power used to be in the government’s ability to keep its vast Internet control system under the radar of Chinese users, few of whom use the Web mainly for politics.

Now, “fan qiang”—a cyber dissident’s phrase meaning to “scale the wall”—has become standard lingo for Chinese Internet users of many persuasions.

This year, the domestic backlash against Green Dam spread through the Internet, as did much lively discussion over matters long off-limits for public debate. It carried word of a young woman prosecuted for the self-defense killing of a local-government official who had tried to rape her.

In another case, it spread awareness that officials blamed the death of a man in police custody on a game of hide-and-seek with other inmates that turned deadly, which in turn led to accusations by Internet users of a cover-up. A relatively small—and growing—group of savvy Internet users have been able to able to access blocked social networking sites such as Twitter to express defiance over Beijing’s Web restrictions and to share banned information.

More broadly, the Internet has given citizens a chance to discuss and organize action on sensitive issues.

You can read more from The Wall Street Journal.

2009: The year in Twitter

December 31st, 2009

Twitter has been one of the premier phenomena of 2009. With incredible growth rates for the first part of the year, and reaching near ubiquity with mentions across the media landscape, the service has continued to evolve. In an end of year retrospective, ReadWriteWeb overviews some of the hightlights from Twitter:

One of the most notable uses of any social network to date was the role of Twitter in the Iranian election/debacle/bloodbath. The U.S. State Department even made a call when Twitter was scheduled for maintenance downtime during the pursuant protests because the messaging service had proven so vital to the democratic process in that country. The worldwide buzz - and the sudden surge of green-tinted user icons and locations changed to “Tehran” - make #iranelection the number one Twitter trend of 2009.

In an interesting convergence between mainstream Internet use and high-tech geekery that only Google could engineer, Wave appears in the number four spot for top Twitter trends. And we have a pretty good idea that Twitter users’ out-and-out begging for an invite provided the bulk of that talk. As our loyal readers know, the ReadWriteWeb team is divided on whether Wave is a win or a fail so far, but there’s no doubt that this tech launch was one of the hottest this year.

In a stunning and welcome upset, #musicmonday pulled ahead of #followfriday, besting the well-known but spam-heavy hashtag by four places (Monday landed in the second position, Friday in the sixth). Is Follow Friday, a charming concept created with the most harmless intentions by our dear friend Micah Baldwin, simply a trend that has seen its day? Or is there something about taste-making and multimedia content curation that draws users to simply participate more?

Read more from ReadWriteWeb on the year in Twitter.

What 2010 holds for mobile advertising

December 30th, 2009

The mobile web was revolutionized by the iPhone and is being transformed by the new mobile platform Android. AdMob estimates that 82% of mobile web traffic in the US comes from iPhone and Android users. This means that mobile marketing is breaking away from its strong shackles to the iPhone and is now possible for users on all wireless networks. Kevin Nakao of Whitepages.com breaks down what this means for the future of mobile advertising on Mashable.com:

At WhitePages, we are forecasting that there will be 10 million Android devices shipped in the US by the end of 2010. We arrived at this number by taking the 33.5 million customer base of T-Mobile (the first US carrier to offer Android) and dividing it by an estimate of 2 million Android devices shipped by that carrier to arrive at a 6% penetration rate. We then applied this penetration rate to the much larger and higher-spending customer bases of Sprint and Verizon who just started offering Android devices. The predicted result is 10.1 million Android devices in the US by the end of 2010.

Not only is the mobile market expanding, but innovations in mobile advertising and mobile technologies are also transforming the market. Mobile advertising services are starting to provide more metrics for analysis which allows developers to improve mobile campaigns. Also, handsets that allow multiple applications to be run in parallel allow for more geo-location targeted campaigns, something that the industry is continuing to tackle.

Furthermore, mobile advertising is just different than traditional web advertising. As Nakao explains, there are unique consumer calls to action that come with a mobile marketing campaign:

The key to the success of any marketing campaign is to make it easy for the consumer to react, but the tools of engagement for mobile are different than the web. The most obvious but often ignored advertiser action is the phone itself. By offering easy click-to-call actions, we have seen +5% conversion results for advertisers. A retailer may be better served by helping the on-the-go mobile user with location and mapping actions to get to their store, rather than asking them to register an e-mail.

In addition to location and calling, creative mobile marketing campaigns should make advertising fun by using unique device capabilities like shaking, blowing, and twisting. Ad agency OMD created the first shakeable ad for Dockers and reported a 300% increase in conversions and 2b impressions for this innovative iPhone ad campaign.

With mobile web users expected to reach millions of new users in the next year, and mobile technologies continuing to advance at a rapid rate, 2010 will be an exciting year for mobile campaigns. You can read more from Kevin Nakao at Mashable.com.

Studios experimenting with earlier release of movie and TV content online

December 28th, 2009

In attempts to optimize returns on movie and television productions, some studios are experimenting with the timing of online releases. This even includes the release of content online prior to its availability on DVD as Sony, Showtime, and AMC have done with the film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and shows Weeds and Mad Men. ArsTechnica reports:

Along the same lines, the hit AMC series Mad Men has been releasing its episodes online the day after airing, like many broadcast network shows—this has kept fans happy and buzz on the Internet strong. Similarly, other movie studios have spent this year closing the release window between DVD and video on demand (VOD) availability through certain VOD services.

Still, this doesn’t mean that everyone’s getting on board, or that those who are experimenting are doing it in a way that most of us would like. Weeds fans would have undoubtedly preferred to get those episodes a bit earlier, like when the season was still airing. Other Showtime shows, such as the latest season of Dexter, have also been infuriatingly missing from the Internet world (except on P2P networks, of course) and will probably remain so until the DVDs come out. By that time, many who would have paid for the episodes online or watched ads for them will have already pirated the entire season just to get their fix.

Studios continue to experiment with online releases in order to maximize profit as the digital content landscape continues to transform. It is an evolving market, with distributors that have demonstrated incredible resistance to accommodating customers’ demands as the old models of content distribution have been replaced with new ones. You can read more at ArsTechnica.com.

Kindle Ebooks Outsell Physical Books on Amazon for First Time on Christmas Day

December 27th, 2009

In a recent announcement, Amazon revealed that more Kindle ebooks were sold on Christmas day than physical books as new Kindle owners opened their gifts and immediately stocked the hard drives. While no doubt impressive, there is more to the smoke and mirrors of the numbers-free announcement than may be apparent at first. Mashable’s Ben Parr explains:

Did digital books finally defeat pen and paper this Christmas, though? Let’s think about this logically:

  • While not releasing any numbers, Amazon announced that more Kindle books were sold than real books through Amazon on Christmas day.
  • It would make sense that there would be elevated Kindle purchases on Christmas; people getting new Kindles as gifts would certainly want to make them useful by adding their favorite books.
  • It also makes sense that real book sales would be down. The Christmas shopping season would have passed and most people were concentrating on their families, not shopping, that day.

If we follow the logic trail, then Amazon’s announcement that the “Kindle is the most gifted item ever” makes perfect sense. Its announcement is also mostly PR smoke and mirrors. More people may have Kindles now than ever, but ebook sales still pale in comparison to the countless paper books that were sold this Christmas season.

You can read more on Mashable.com.

Trends in micro-targeted location-based mobile advertising

December 26th, 2009

The hype surrounding micro-targeted location-based mobile advertising has been building for some time now. Now it looks like it is ready to really take off in the near future as a result of continued advances in mobile technologies. TechCrunch reports:

[R]esearch firm Kelsey Group see[s] the market grow[ing] from just $160 million in 2008 to $3.1 billion in 2013. eMarketer projects mobile advertising spending in the US will balloon from $648 million in 2008 to over $3.3 billion in 2013.

While some believe search will account for the biggest chunk of the market, others expect geo-aware advertising, another way of bringing “relevant” ads to users, to have a bright future, too. This is where AdLocal, a location-based, self-service mobile ad platform that (re-)launched yesterday, comes in.

Offered by Sunnyvale-based Cirius Technologies USA, the platform has been around in Japan since 2006, currently commanding the largest share of location-based advertising in Japan’s $1 billion [PDF] mobile ad space. And now Cirius is ready to utilize the years of experience the company gained in the world’s most competitive mobile market in the US (AdLocal isn’t available outside America and Japan at this point).

AdLocal allows advertisers to manage their campaigns and publishers to add their mobile sites or applications by themselves through a Web-based dashboard. By locating a mobile user’s physical location via GPS, cell identification and other methods, the mobile ad network can tell when a consumer is close to a specific business address and then serves up tailor-made ads for that business in real-time.

EMarketer sees the increase in mobile advertising a result of better mobile devices, improved wireless networks, as well as richer content being accessible online. You can read more at TechCrunch.

Location-based social networks: Gowalla and Foursquare

December 25th, 2009

Rumors are flying about the potential growth of location-based social networking services this coming year. If you are still in the dark about these services, Mashable has provided a great overview:

Just when you thought you had enough social networks in your life, two hot new ones are vying for your attention. Combine the benefits of sites like Yelp, Twitter, and Google Latitude, add in social gaming and some privacy measures, and you have the recipe that Foursquare, the app that’s been called “next year’s Twitter,” by Mashable’s own Pete Cashmore, and its chief competitor, Gowalla, are cooking. Each has attracted a rapidly growing user base in 2009, and each is rushing madly to beat the other to your smartphone in 2010.

In the chart below, Mashable breaks down the features, and pros and cons of two of the leading services, Gowalla and Foursquare:

Cells shaded in orange indicate a feature that favors Gowalla, those in blue favor Foursquare, while crosshatching indicates a toss-up. However, opinions will vary on this, so please tell us what you think in the comments.

As you can see, Gowalla trumps Foursquare in design and availability, but Foursquare takes the cake when it comes to check-in location accuracy, device support, friend management, and value added features like a city guide, and to-do list. Both apps are equally impressive in the way they dole out in-game and real-life perks and rewards.

You can read more at Mashable.com.

The possibilities of location based services: NORAD tracks Santa

December 24th, 2009

Wondering when Santa will be heading your way this year? Well, thanks to recent innovations in location based services, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and Google Maps, this year you can follow Santa as he makes the rounds on Christmas Eve.

Tracking Santa has been a NORAD tradition since 1955 when a Sears Roebuck & Co. store accidentally printed the Continental Air Defense Command’s (CONAD) operations “hotline” phone number in its catalog in the place of its usual Santa Hotline. Since then CONAD has become NORAD, but the Santa tracking service continues and has been improved.

This year you can follow updates from NORAD on Santa’s location via Twitter and Facebook:

NoradSanta: Breaking news! #Santa just flew over the Great Wall of China. See for yourself @ http://bit.ly/4Uesqe.

Norad is also featuring the Santa Cam:

Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras pre-positioned at many locations around the world only on Christmas Eve. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.

With some impressive reconnaissance work, NORAD just caught Santa on their Santa Cam flying over the Great Wall of China:

With so many ways to keep track of Kris Kringle, it should be an exciting Christmas Eve.