Most of the cloud computing stories we hear about involve major vendors. You know the ones we're talking about: VMware, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Amazon and so on. These are household names. But what you may not realise is that there are other options out there for building cloud computing stacks. And some of them are not based on proprietary technologies and vendor lock-in at all.
The Grammy Award-winning rapper and entrepreneur donated $ 250,000 to the organizing committee for the 2013 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a business contest for kids in low-income communities.
Google is reportedly aiming to create technology that can be used to automate existing logistical systems and supply chains.
I've been fascinated with mobile startups like Uber and Snapchat, among others - but not for the standard reasons. Yes, they're both great products and ideas, but the one aspect I found most interesting with Uber and Snapchat is its users never directly interact with the web. Even Instagram, Twitter, and other fast-growing mobile-focused products can be touched through the web browser. Over the weekend, I tweeted out a thought along these lines which turned out to be slightly inaccurate, and it somehow initiated an incredibly rich discussion and debate about what the proliferation of mobile devices and native applications may hold for the future of the web.
Here's what I tweeted on Friday: "To me, the most amazing thing about Snapchat, Uber, and a few other apps is they all don't need the web." If you click on the link to the tweet and open the thread, what you'll see are many replies and different conversations kicked-off from the original tweet. It's quite awesome and worth scrolling through.
Now, a few days later, some reflections and observations:
First, I was not precise with my use of words in that tweet. Snapchat, Uber, and other apps do in fact "need" the Internet. What I had intended to tweet was that Uber and Snapchat users don't need to interact with a website in any way whatsoever. With Uber, just download an app, register, upload a credit card, and you're on your way. With Snapchat, pictures are not published to other networks or as static website pages (such as Instagram).
Second, based on the thread of replies and conversations from Twitter above, it's worth pointing out again the difference between the Internet and the web - the Internet is a network infrastructure that connects many computers to each other, where information travels over the network through a variety of protocols, while the "web" is a way of accessing and sharing information over the network using the HTTP protocol. This was a good reminder for me to be more careful with these terms, as it's too easy to use both words interchangeably from a consumer point-of-view given how popular they are in our vernacular.
Third, the subject of the tweet turned out be a contentious issue in some unrelated ways. Many participants seemed to welcome a world where they'd never have to interact with a web page again - to never have to type in the letters "HTTP" again. Of course, mobile apps where users don't touch a website themselves still often rely on servers and APIs. Others, as expected, rushed to defend the open nature of the Internet (including the prospect of HTML5), a world where anyone can build on top of the network and not have the life squeezed out of them by gatekeepers such as Apple or Google.
Fourth, speaking of the mobile gatekeepers - how this all shakes out on iOS versus Android presents complex scenarios. For now, Apple has little incentive to move developers away from native apps, and consumers continue to prefer native apps. And, if the "cards" concept takes off from Passbook, that will create another mobile interaction unit which harnesses the Internet yet where a consumer never directly touches a website. The story may be different on Android - for one, Google may have an incentive to keep users interacting with the web on mobile, as their business model and data sets are tied to browser activity and the search paradigm, and two, Android can be and is being altered (or "forked") by other device-makers, where HTML5 could present information in native-like ways or where apps are indexed and deep-linked to one another and users can navigate through a mobile web without friction. (All of this can change, as well, if another device or OEM hits the market and captures consumers' heartstrings.)
So…one tweet turned into an incredible, two-day conversation and learning experience about the Internet, the web, and mobile apps. And while the distant future always remains an unknown, for now and the foreseeable future, I'd have to stand by the spirit of my original tweet - that is, when one steps back to think about the potential for a company like Uber or the sheer growth and scale of a communication tool like Snapchat, it remains a fact that those users are not directly touching a website. Yes, I know, they're using mobile software that communicates with the Internet, but the larger point is that the web - as an interface - may not be used by the next billion people who are set to come online.
Put another way, as mobile devices proliferate exponentially, many new users' first online experience will likely not involve any direct interaction with a website. Yes, I know some apps will have wrappers and other users will search for information and end up in a mobile browser, but the growth of and appetite for services like Uber and products like Snapchat point to clear shift - a shift developers, UX designers, large corporations, PC manufacturers, venture capitalists, and even Wall Street recognizes: mobile is the key touchpoint in the network. In a fierce competition for consumer attention, native experiences - not reincarnations of a website on a mobile device -- is what most consumers prefer. For the majority of today's consumers and for future generations , the world of websites will likely seem a distant planet, something they may learn about in school but one that may never matter in their day-to-day lives.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Firefox Flicks
TechCrunch » Social
The Sydney Morning Herald has published internal NBN Co information purporting to heavily criticise the Coalition's rival FTTN model for the National Broadband Network. However, the information may not reflect the current state of play with the network or the Coalition's plans.
We are all robots. Robots trudging along with our shiny new gadgets that we install stupid things on. Robots discovering something great someone has built and all of a sudden, all of our other robot friends have it. Then, our robot dreams die with our gadgets. This is iDiots: a beautiful short film about our love for gadgets, and the concept of forced redundancy. More »
Apparently working at Google isn't as heavenly as it's cracked up to be.
Pinterest Launches Its First API, And It’s All About Big Brands: Zappos, Walmart, Disney In First User Group
Pinterest is today, at long last, releasing its first API for developers, which will let third-party sites embed Pinterest pins, and make it easier to post content into Pinterest itself. First partners for the service are a list of big brands and retailers - including Zappos, Walmart, Disney, Nestle, Random House and Hearst - underscoring how the site is ramping up for revenue generation with advertising and cross-marketing.
“We're releasing documentation for multiple APIs that will roll out to partners over the coming weeks,” the company notes in its blog. These will include Top Pins API (showcase top clicked pins / top re-pins, launching on partner sites today); Domain search (surface trending results for keywords such as "Men's Boots", "Thanksgiving recipes", or "Fashion Week"); Most Recent (bring a stream of your latest pins to your site); and Related Pins (suggest other pins people may like based on the item or content they're viewing).
More features will be getting added to the API over time, the company says.
Pinterest has already proven itself to be a strong driver of referral traffic on the web - second after Facebook in a list of leading traffic referral sites from Shareaholic, but growing the fastest.
What adding an API will mean is that Pinterest is now laying the groundwork to expand that role. It will make existing pins more useful to sites and brands, and also make it easier for people to post to Pinterest. Both of these will also help Pinterest string its data together in a more actionable way. Just as the recent deal with Getty will provide more metadata to pins that use Getty images, stronger links between pins and the sites/brands from which they come will mean that they can be better tracked by Pinterest, and those brands themselves. That will mean, too, potentially more marketing spend against that.
Pinterest notes also that users can now pin directly from these sites, “so there's no need to interrupt your shopping, reading, or browsing.” The full list of partners for the early roll out are AllRecipes, Better Homes and Garden, BuzzFeed, Disney sites Babble and BabyZone, Elle Magazine, Mashable, ModCloth, NBC News Digital's iVillage, Nestlé, Random House, Snapguide, Target, Walmart, Wayfair, Whole Foods,Zappos, Zulily, with Spoonful and Taste Book coming soon.
TechCrunch » Social
Newsle Lands $1.8M From Media Giant Advance Publications, Bloomberg Beta & More To Be The News Reader For People You Care About
The Web fundamentally changed how people consume the news. On the one hand, it's now easier than ever before to create and distribute content to millions of readers; on the other, the Web has become an ocean of content and information, and it almost goes without saying that it's now more difficult than ever before to locate the signal amidst the noise.
Given the dizzying amount of content and news sources out there, most people now just fall back on their social networks to act as the filtration system that helps them find what they want - Facebook for friend-sourced news, LinkedIn for business-related content, an so on. Going one step further, thanks to Flipboard, Feedly, Circa, Techmeme, Prismatic, Nuzzel and more, there are now a million ways to access filtered news on our phones or based on our relationships, interests and so on.
Axel Hansen and Jonah Varon began building Newsle as undergraduates at Harvard to fill a nagging gap among today's news aggregators. The idea being that, as popular as Google Alerts may be, people want to read news based on who their friends and colleagues are and who they want to know more about. But, from Varon and Hansen's vantage point, the existing options didn't go far enough, so they decided to build one that would.
Today, Newsle's network (and person)-oriented news alert service tracks more than 100 million people and processes more than one million articles each day from over 100,000 sources, serving users filtered, personalized alerts based on their preferences. While that scale is impressive, building a great news aggregator isn't just solving the problem of scale, it requires both scale and awesome filtering mechanisms that work well enough that they can hold a user's attention when there are a million other tools that can be used.
That's why Newsle prides itself on not only processing enough news so that it can bring you stories from sources you actually care about, but the person identification, natural language processing and disambiguation algorithms that help it serve better alerts.
Since launching in 2011 and moving operations from Harvard to San Francisco, Varon and Hansen have managed to keep Newsle afloat with a team of five and $ 650K in seed financing they raised in early 2012 from SV Angel and Lerer Ventures. Newsle has even had its tires kicked by a few recognizable names in the news business, although the startup declined the offers, and naturally Varon also declined to specify which players those offers came from.
Nonetheless, having build what they believe is a solid foundation on which to create the next big news aggregator, the co-founders are eager to stay independent and are looking to expand their natural language processing and data mining efforts with new talent. With its user base now growing 20 percent month-over-month, Varon says, Newsle is adding some coin to its coffers to help it take the next step.
This week the startup finally closed a $ 1.85 million Series A financing round led by Advance Publications, the veteran media company, which owns a sizable fleet of newspapers and magazines, including Conde Nast and a 31 percent stake in Discovery Communications.
Participating alongside the strategic investor were Maveron, DFJ, Transmedia Capital, Launny Steffens and previous investor Rockwell Schnabel. The news of the startup's Series A raise first appeared in May, but the company has brought in additional capital and investors since, including Bloomberg Beta. The investor, as its name would imply, is the new early-stage investment fund and venture capital arm of Bloomberg, which launched this summer and is headed by OUYA chairman and former head of IGN, Roy Bahat. Newsle also happens to be the fund's first investment, Varon says.
In the end, strategic investment from two enormous media companies - or at least their VC affiliate - could be a huge leg up for Newsle, especially with Advance Publication's giant network of news content. This could make tackling seemingly huge problems on the technical side of personalized news discovery, like better disambiguation - in other words, being able to determine which “John Smith” a user wants to hear about - a lot more manageable.
For more, find Newsle at home here.
TechCrunch » Social
Does Schrödinger’s Cat apply to business? Think about it for too long and you may get a headache [VIDEO]
Schrödinger's Cat is a very famous thought experiment based on quantum physics. This two-minute video will give a quick overview of the theory behind it. My thought is, can the thinking behind this experiment apply to business? Kind of. Is your business a success or failure? In theory, at any given time, it can be More Info »