The web app that made information free

[ This article was written for a general audience, and originally appeared in the OpEd pages of The Hindu, dated 03 April 2015 ]

In 1990, Encyclopaedia Britannica recorded its largest annual sales. A mere 2 decades later, the brand had decided to stop printing copies of its eponymous product. Its audience had not only moved online, but moved to other sources altogether. It was an astonishingly rapid decline for a brand that held pride of place in intellectual traditions of the English-speaking world for nearly 250 years. Behind this change in consumer preference were the usual suspects: affordable PCs and broadband Internet access in homes. There was also an additional, if much less celebrated, technology that did Britannica in — the humble Wiki, which is the technology that powers Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia that anyone with an Internet connection can edit and improve.

Read the full article on The Hindu’s site


Learn from Bezos how to acquire customers while you announce a price hike

There are many things to be said about the recently announced price hike for Amazon Prime . Not least of them is the brilliant messaging on their homepage. Jeff Bezos, take a bow.

Announcing the hike in Amazon Prime membership fee.

Announcing the hike in Amazon Prime membership fee.

The truth about Google’s “open” Android ecosystem

Here’s the truth about Android’s so-called “open-ness”. If a phone manufacturer using Android wants to pre-install say, Google Play, as the app store (or any other Google app) on their devices, they have to:

  • pre-install all Google applications on each device.
  • agree to give prominent placement to all Google applications in the phone’s user interface.
  • set Google Search “as the default search provider for all Web search access points.”

These are all listed as explicit requirements in the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) that manufacturers have to sign if they want access to even a single Google app for Android. For a full explanation of MADA’s requirements and how it hurts consumers, read this brilliant piece by Benjamin Edelman.
Continue reading

Protecting Net Neutrality – should the internet be regulated like electricity?

In mid-January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned two of the three provisions of the Open Internet Order passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December 2010. The two provisions that have been struck down were meant to promote net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data on the internet equally, and not treat data of any particular type or from any source differently from the rest (for details on the ruling, see this excellent article by The Economist).

This ruling paves the way for ISPs to charge differentially for services that they think are using a disproportionate amount of bandwidth on their networks, such as music and video streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. So in theory, ISPs could tell customers that a basic broadband pack costs $25 per month, but if they want unlimited streaming from Netflix, they’ll have to pay $10 per month extra. For customers who don’t, ISPs could restrict access to such services, or, more likely, throttle the speeds customers get while accessing such services. Alternatively, ISPs can charge companies that use large amounts of bandwidth in order to provide unfettered access to their services to customers. There’s some evidence that a few such backroom deals are already in place – with this ruling we’ll start to see many more of them.
Continue reading

Google’s acquisition of Nest – be afraid

Nilay Patel of The Verge asks an interesting question.

Co-founder Matt Rogers wrote that the company “takes privacy seriously,” and that its privacy policy limits the use of customer data to “providing and improving Nest’s products and services.” But those services could arguably be improved by integration with other Google products, and the implications are unclear — give Google the chance to acquire more data, and it usually will. Fadell wouldn’t rule out future changes yesterday. “At this point, there are no changes to our terms of service, and that’s it. That’s all I can say.”

We have a search and web services giant that gets almost all of its revenues from targeted advertising. It is arguably the world’s largest private collector of online user data, which it uses to successfully target that advertising. It is continually on the lookout for more avenues to collect such data, not just online but also in the physical world. It is also looking for ways to show you more ads, and coming up with new ways to charge for those ads. It has shown repeatedly that it is not above shoving its products down users’ throats, whether they want to use them or not. And it has now acquired a company that makes devices that help you control the environment in your home.

Hmm. I wonder what all the fuss is about.

Of course, you can’t fault Google for ruthlessly implementing a sound business strategy. Google makes money when you’re connected to the internet – so it wants to be everywhere you are on the internet. It started with search, and moved to e-mail, maps, online storage, photos, social networking. When the internet came to mobile devices, Google came there with Android and the Open Handset Alliance (how open it is now is, of course, a different matter). Now with the coming internet of things, it knows it needs to be there too. Hence the move to cars with the recently launched Open Automotive Alliance. And now, the final frontier–your home.

As a consumer, though, I’m worried.

Hardware commoditization at CES

Interesting post on hardware commoditization on the Digits to Dollars blog:

The hard reality of electronics today is that if you can make a device, it will get copied quickly.

At the same time:

Whatever you want to build, there is probably someone in Shenzhen who already has a circuit board laid out for you, who can help you design your shiny plastic cases and most likely help you get it shipped.

Like most technological progress, the advances in electronics manufacturing are a double edged sword. If you have an original idea for a device that you think can disrupt (or create) an industry, this is bad news. But if you lack original ideas, but want to make money selling devices nonetheless, it’s great news.

As an aside, it’s much harder to replicate software and an ecosystem than it is to copy hardware. The biggest successes of the dot-com era (think Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook) have based their success on building a software ecosystem or platform. This is what’s giving sleepless nights to companies like Samsung, Dell and Sony, whose success was built on their hardware prowess.

RIP Schemer

Schemer LogoLast Saturday Google announced it is shuttering Schemer. Schemer was launched with the aim to “inspire people to do more awesome stuff” – a noble endeavour. So I signed up early with the help of an invite from a friend who works at Google. Even back then it felt weirdly incomplete for a Google product launch . “Prove the continuum hypothesis”, I entered into my Schemes. No surprise I got little help from my friends or Google on that one. But less ambitious schemes like ‘Learn Ruby’ languished similarly.

It felt absurd to keep telling Google what I wanted to do, only to find nothing happened in response! Here was a product that had near zero user gratification.  I only hoped they would do something in time. They eventually added some Google+ integration and text search, but clearly nothing that would rock my world and had already lost me by that time. If only they had taken the next step – actually help users to do those some of the things they expressed a desire for, that would have made this a meaningful webapp. For e.g., it would have been awesome if I were recommended a Ruby beginner’s resource, or was notified of some upcoming free Ruby courses on Coursera, or anything remotely along those lines. But no, nothing of the sort was done.

I am not surprised Schemer went nowhere with that feature set. But I am disappointed they did not try to take it anywhere and threw in the towel.

Of Whatsapp vs telecom operators

So Whatsapp was used for 54 billion messages by their users on December 31.

And while Whatsapp was doing this, Airtel was sending all their subscribers an SMS that read:

Continue reading

Why e-commerce and customer loyalty don’t go together

E-commerce companies are a dime a dozen in India nowadays. Google for any product, and chances are you’ll get multiple links on the first page to buy it online. But as the market matures and new customer acquisition becomes more expensive, the biggest challenge facing e-tailers is how to cultivate customer loyalty.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. E-commerce and customer loyalty aren’t exactly made for each other. There are a number of reasons for this:

Continue reading

The difference between brand loyalty and brand preference

The word “brand” is probably the most abused word in marketing today. You’ll hear it being bandied about in almost every marketing discussion, with everyone assuming that everyone else knows exactly what it means. And it’s taken as accepted wisdom that it is the job of marketing to create brand loyalty. Well, it’s not.

But before we get into why it isn’t, we need to define our terms. I define the term “brand” from the customer’s perspective, as:

A set of experiences with a company that are transformed and codified into an attitude towards the company’s products, services, etc.

Continue reading

« Older posts

Copyright © 2016 3rdKosha

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑