Archive for the ‘trends’ Category

Who Still Uses a Desktop E-mail Client???

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Not me. And I’m guessing not a lot of others…Envelope image

I haven’t personally used one for probably over 8 years. Web-based e-mail has been the application of choice for me. The advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages in almost every category. So why do people still use desktop e-mail? My guess is that it’s either a security concern, a work mandate or the luxury of a more robust feature set.

I don’t even ask the question any more. I assume all Internet users use a web-based client like GMail, Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail. I laugh when someone has to rush home to check an e-mail. Apparently, some people still even uses disks! USB drives aside, I think most people have discovered the miracle of e-mailing stuff to yourself. Very schizophrenic, but highly effective and efficient.

So yet again I ask, why the desktop client?

Now I do understand that some clients integrate with online systems, which is an acceptable explanation.

I think that some people are paranoid of the idea that Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft stores their personal e-mails and information. Furthermore, back-up and protection of this information is not guaranteed. My thought would be to simply chill out, relax, and back-up the important files and information from time to time.

To those employees who are still obligated to use a desktop client, so be it. It’s only at work - unless work ties into your personal life. In that case, you have have larger issues to deal with than the choice of a desktop or web-based client. But in most cases, you can still make use of a web-based client in your own personal time.

Finally, those who choose a desktop client because of robust functionality, watch out… Everything is shifting to the web and soon you will be able to do the same, if not more, from a web-based client than you can from your current desktop app. The future is near (man, you gotta love to hate these cliches).

I think that desktop clients are on their way out and the new world of web-based apps is upon us. Google, Microsoft, and Zoho are all working on web-based office suites, which further solidifies the viability of this notion. This isn’t just a trend - it’s a taste of what’s to come.

Vertical Creep to the MAX

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

As a general rule, search engines are supposed to operate on an unbiased basis. Organic results are displayed in a logical manner and paid listings are clearly marked (in most cases). The concept of ‘vertical creep’ is a grey area that blurs the line between an unbiased search result and an internally-associated link.

Vertical creep is defined as a company-associated search result that appears above the organic results, but below the paid listings. Yahoo calls them ‘Shortcuts’, a seemingly useful yet sly name to make the result appear more user-friendly and less commercial - although we all know the true intention.

Essentially, if Google or Yahoo can display an appropriate, internally-linked result for news, weather, a movie, or an image search, then it is to their benefit as there is a higher chance they will maintain the user within the site. In other words, niche searches that could be performed using other in-house search tools vertically creep within the traditional results of the main engine (if this makes any sense).

Now at first, searchers were a bit out-raged at the idea but have since pulled back a bit. But now I noticed that Yahoo in particular is taking this idea to a whole new level. For any new movie search, such as ‘300‘ or ‘Disturbia‘, a giant movie poster and description are displayed (see screenshot below). In addition, a searcher can also play the movie trailer or check local showtimes. Talk about unbiased. Only further down the page do we find links to the production company, IMDB, or perhaps Wikipedia.



This blatant attempt at keeping searchers within the Yahoo properties is bound to be met with some controvery. I, for one, do not appreciate huge ‘ads’ that appear to be cleverly integrated within the organic results. Obviously this is purely a business move and an attempt at increasing revenues, as old flicks do not receive this treatment or exposure.

My hope is that search engines continue to operate without opinion or manipulation over the search results. Let the user decide where he or she wants to click. May the best result win.

Is The VC World Dead or Just More Selective?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Is it just me or has the VC world slowed down over the past couple months?

Six months ago, TechCrunch or GigaOM would report numerous VC fundings everyday. Now, they seem less frequent and more dispersed. So… is it a case of VC money (and private equity) drying up, or is it that the VC’s are simply picking and choosing their investments more carefully?

My gut says it’s the latter. Why do I say this? Well, a typical A round of financing tends to lie somewhere in the $1-5 million range. Below that it’s usually considered a friends and family round. Above that is usually considered a B round.

We are seeing less and less rounds falling within these boundaries. Perhaps, some are carefully placing smaller amounts of money in more start-ups to hedge their bets. This would explain the ‘under-the-radar’ financings that don’t get much press or media attention.

But interestingly enough, we have witnessed a few unusually large A rounds of financing take place. Forget the typical $1-5 million dollar range. Take a look at these recent investments: just raised $25 million in their A round and Spock raised $7 million in an A round (with no BETA product even). Now obviously these are special cases, but it should be noted that these types of Internet-related start-up fundings are rare. Or at least they used to be.

It should also be noted that Aggregate Knowledge, another prominent new-comer, just raised a whooping $20 million after their initial (and substantial) $5 A round.

So is VC money really dead? I doubt it. We are definitely not seeing the same bubble warning signs as the late 90’s. The days of a good domain name and a slick Powerpoint presentation are gone. Nowadays, it takes a business model, and perhaps… just perhaps… a revenue model to convince a VC your company is a worthy investment.

Internet Brands as Verbs

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

You know your Internet brand has made it big when:

  • Your user base is in the millions.
  • Revenue (and profits) are not only present, but also quite large.
  • Your company brand name becomes a household VERB.

Who are some companies that have managed to pull off this feat:

  • Google logoGoogle (i.e. Why don’t you just google “doggy raincoats” to find the nearest dealer?)
  • Digg (i.e. I just dugg that article on gorilla mating habits.)
  • Skype (i.e. I’ll skype you after I get back from my yoga class.)

Honourable mention goes out to:

  • Twitter (i.e. I am going to twitter that thought.)
  • MSN (i.e. Just MSN me later when you get home from your banjo lesson.)

As an avid Internet user, I use these terms/brands synonymously. But every once in awhile, I come across someone who doesn’t understand what I am talking about. They are unaware of the brand. This is usually a striking moment for me - perhaps a wake-up call - as I consider these terms as part of my daily lingo.

Though naive and assuming, the ability to incorporate these ‘branded verbs’ into our dialect goes a long way in terms of increased productivity and effectiveness. No further explanations are needed. For example, a large percentage of Internet users use Google or know of the brand. So, to save time and hassle, we say, “Why don’t you google this?” rather than, “Why don’t you go to, type in ‘Asian singing snake’, and hit enter?”.

Likewise, I can tell someone to ‘skype me’, rather than log on to Skype and start a voice conversation.

These Internet-branded speech shortcuts are not likely to be a fad. My guess is that they will continue to pop up as the Internet produces more household names and services. Another thing to keep in mind is that some Internet brands will never become a verb - either because their name is too long, has too many syllables, or is just plain hard to pronounce, OR because they are not known for one specific function or use (i.e. portals).

Interestingly enough, once a brand reaches this ultimate platform of fame, it tries to protect against it. When brands become verbs, most companies try to protect their valuable trademark and brand equity. Allowing your trademarked name to be used as a word not only erodes brand value, but also corporate credibility. This pitfall has occurred to many offline brands over the years including Xerox, Rollerblade, Kleenex, and Band-Aid.  

Essentially, when your brand goes mainstream, people will speak casually about your company. Protective measures must be taken. An eroding brand may be right around the corner. There is a very fine line.

Please be sure to mention any other Internet companies that I may have missed (and I know there are some out there.)

The Future of the Internet is Offline

Friday, March 30th, 2007

A true leap in the evolution of the Internet will occur when the line between online and offline is blurred. As we stand, there is a gaping void between the two worlds. A business usually classifies itself as an Internet company or an offline business. Having said that, I do not know how this transformation will take place, but it will be a magical moment and a step forward in the history of technology.

When online actions begins to have offline consequences, we will be moving in the right direction.

Some organizations with an online presence, such as charities and non-profits, benefit not only from the added exposure and awareness, but also via a more streamlined fundraising effort. These groups are a good example as they essentially do not ‘exist’ offline (offices aside). Therefore, online and offline collaboration are very important to them. This may be one of the few examples where the void is starting to be filled.

Shopping is a totally different story. Research has shown time and time again that consumers research products online, then purchase offline. Tracking this discrepancy is nearly impossible. How is a company to know that an offline purchaser performed research and due diligence online before making the ultimate purchasing decision? Without some sort of questioning or survey, it is impossible. I expect big changes to occur in this industry. Offline conversion tracking will be the Holy Grail.

Once the integration and interaction between these two seemingly separate worlds can occur, expect behavioural changes to be next. Just like any action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Opposition to the new changes may result. Furthermore, adaption and education around new systems will be necessary. But in the end, offline may very well be the last piece of the online puzzle.