BitTorrent getting into the CDN game

Interesting news today. BitTorrent (P2P file sharing service) is looking to commercialize its technology. After building a broad user base for their software for file sharing (media, images, software), BitTorrent is now looking to take advantage of that footprint and offer it to media companies for distributed content delivery. Also, they’re trying to incorporate their software into consumer devices and set-top boxes.

Essentially, they’re looking at their network of P2P enabled private desktops as a Content Delivery Network like Akamai – which has thousands of caching/application servers in hundreds of ISP locations and networks. Sounds pretty logical, but will corporations pay for that type of service? It’s very hard to establish/control acceptable service levels, since BitTorrent doesn’t have control over this distributed personal computer network. A CDN on the other hand guarantees SLAs around availability and quality. Anybody who’s ever used a P2P service like BitTorrent or Limewire knows that reliability and throughput varies quite a bit. So, would Disney pay good money for putting their new movie trailers on a P2P network and then cross their fingers that the user experience will be good? I don’t think so! Other thoughts or comments?

 Here’s the link to the story.

March 14, 2008 at 9:41 am Leave a comment

Live from MIX08 – Day 2

Attending a panel discussion around the businss value of design. General consensus is that it’s important but it can’t be lip service. There’s a fine line between business drivers and creating the perfect user experience. Also, too many times companies spend a lot of time and money to research users and how they might use a product/service and then none of that is being implemented. Too often research results end up collecting dust on someone’s desk without being analyzed and implemented. It takes commitment to stay focused on the right design. Rapid prototyping can be a good methodology for bridgning the gap between user experience design and time-to-market.

One of the panelist is mentioning the importance of sharing resources (i.e. playlists/watchlists) across devices or services. Very similar to Ray Ozzie’s concept of ‘Connected Experiences’.

Another panelist is mentioning metrics as being an important driver for design. This is interesting, as experience design can have a direct impact on the business. I agree with that, as we’ve seen direct impact of design changes on trial conversions in the Office trial program. Today, we’re focusing too much on the infrastructure and we need to put experience design more at the center of our thinking/investment, as it does have a direct impact on sales.

People in the real worls shop in different ways. I can touch and feel things. Products are layed out for me, I can try things. On the web, I shop much different. I search by category, put something into the shopping cart, etc. There’s an opportunity for rich interface design to bring the online shopping experience closer to the brick & morter experience.

 HBR did a study on how much better something needs to be for someone to change the way they do something/why they buy something. the result was that something has to be at least 30% better for people to change their behavior.

So, what does that mean to online shopping?  Should an online shopping experience be similar/close to the most popular ecommerce sites (i.e. Amazon) to take advantage of the ‘familiarity’ of the experience? Or should it push the envelope and be different, closer to the offline experience (and take advantage of richer user interfaces)?  Interesting questions and much food for thought and perhaps prototypes… 🙂

Is Web 2.0 sustainable?

Panel with Robert Scoble, Kimbal Musk (CEO Me.dium), Dave McClure (500 Hats), Ryan McIntyre (Foundry Group), Kevin Rose (Founder Digg).

How does Digg make money? Through advertising (MS ad platform). Digg is designed as a tool to share and organize information. They want to create new tools and engage the user community to invent new things and grow. At the end though, it’s a business, so advertising is the way to generate revenue. sounds very similar to Google, which started by building a broad user base and then introduce simple text advertising and grow into other ad areas from there.

Interesting thoughts around VC funding for new startups. It will be increasingly hard for startups to get $2-5M in VC funding (at $20M or so valuation), when the VCs are looking for 5x return ($100M+). At that level, it gets harder and harder to find acquirers.

Question for Scoble as to what it takes to really get video into the mainstream. Scoble is focusing on adding video to niche channels and grow from there, rather than taking large, mainstream TV programs online. I tend to agree with that. During the dot.com boom streaming media was THE big thing. I was part of a $2B acquisition of InterVU (streaming media company) by Akamai. I don’t think that investment has paid off yet. Adoption of video takes a while and is highly dependent on bandwidth and how it integrates into the popular user experiences. YouTube is big, but it’s stand-alone and integration with ‘normal’ sites is jsut starting. It will be interesting to see how the NBC broadcast of the 2008 Olympics will be adopted by users (see yesterday’s post). Another thing to watch is HDTV on the net as piloted by Akamai.

Question from a German audience member to the panel as to what their plans are to expand products/services to Europe (or other markets). Not surprisingly, the panel asnwers are around focus and resource availability. Particularly with offerings that require high bandwidth (i.e. streaming media, large file downloads), infrastructure investments become a big factor. Legal hurdles and localization challenges (not just content localization, but also UX localization) are another big factor.

CEO of M.edio sees Web 2.0 as a “huge loss leaser for something”. He isn’t sure yet what that “something” is, but Web 2.0 applications/services will get us there. Gotta check out M.edio service. It’s “social browsing”. They’re building a “user connection” layer on top of the web, which would for example make it possible to “see who’s browsing close to you and what they’re looking for”. This can have huge implications to search and advertising, as it will introduce a whole new layer of user information and targeting possibility. Interestingly, M.edio hasn’t had any issues with user concerns over privacy. Digg will be offering Clickstream data back to the user, which is interesting. Another sample of user/communication engagement.

So, what is Web 2.0? Interestingly enough, all panelists think about it as ‘putting your business online’ and ‘engaging with users’ and the majority of Web 2.0 models seem to be advertising based. I haven’t heard anybody mention other business models (besides ecommerce sites, obviously). Is this all? If I have a good idea for a service that could be useful to a large user group and make it available for free initially and then introduce advertising when the user base reaches a critical mass? Is that a Web 2.0 business? It doesn’t seem so much different than Web 1.0 besides the fact that it’s ad based. Nobody is talking about Web 2.0 services as being AJAX based and all that. So, why are people saying MS is not a player in the Web 2.0 world? Office Live in my view is definitely a Web 2.0 business. Live Spaces would be one too, based on the above definitions. I think it’s mainly a matter of other companies being pure play Internet companies and MS ‘struggling’ with its client software ‘legacy’. Watching yesterday’s keynote, MS definitely is an ‘enabler’ of Web 2.0 businesses. We provide the tools and platform to develop the experiences and we provide the infrastructure services and ad platform to run these businesses.

On Demand Sessions from MIX08

Anyone interested in watching some of the MIX sessions, can go here.

Afternoon keynote with Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer

Great session with SteveB. Guy Kawasaki asking lots of pointed/controversial questions. See Steve making fun of the Apple Air and pupmping up web developers. Steve in rare form. Check out the VOD for this session – it’s worth it!

March 6, 2008 at 9:46 am 2 comments

Live from MIX08 – Day 1

OK. MIX08 just started. Over 2,000 attendees. So many people that MS employees have to be in an overflow room to make sure customers/partners are able to see the Ray Ozzie keynote in the main room.

If you’re interested in watching the keynote, click here.

Ray is talking about the evolution of the web over the past years and how user engagement has increased through things like social networking, blogging, tagging, etc. With that, the importance of advertising is increasing and MS has an important role in providing a great search and advertising platform.

3 core pricinples for how MS is looking at the web as a S+S platform:

  1. the web as a hub for all kinds of social and device interaction
  2. providing the power of choice to businesses in terms of embracing the web as an extension of the data center
  3. a fabric of software and services that are loosely coupled through standard interfaces

The ability to mesh devices and applications will enable new way of developing applications, manage applications, and administer systems.

‘Connected Entertainment’ will enable individuals to only license a media file once and be able to consume it on different systems. More and more of M&E services will be progressively transformed by ‘connected entertainment’.

‘Conentected Productivity’ will allow individuals to use Office applications wherever, whenever, however they want. Through the integration of Office Live Workspaces with Office client, it will become more and more of a hub for an individuals’ productivity needs.

‘Connected Business’ benefits will come from the enterprise embracing utility computing in the data center (Win Server 2008) as well as in the cloud (MS Online). Building block services (BizTalk Services, SQL Services) as well as enterprise applications (Exchange Online etc.) are available to extend/shift enterprise computing from the data center to the cloud.

 ‘Connected Development’ through powerful tools and building block services.

IE8 Beta 1

Some really cool new features in IE8. I can visit a web site, mark something like an address, right click and a variety of ‘activities’ show up. Such an activity could be LiveMaps, which when selected brings up a small window with the map for the address. These activities can easily created through small weight XML code.

Silverlight

1.5 million Silverlight downloads per day! Silverlight 2 Beta 1 available for download now. Silverlight 2 will have adaptive streaming to adapt to varying bandwidth available. No end-user action required, bit rate for the media is automatically adjusted – up and down. Strategic partnership between MS and Move Networks for tighter integration between Silverlight and Move Networks.

Very seemless integration between Silverlight, VisualStudio, Expression Blend and Atlas AdManager to quickly design/build multimedia ads with integrated tracking via templates and wizards.

DoubleClick announcing support for Silverlight 2 for in-stream advertising.

2008 Olympics on NBC. NBC providing a preview of the 2008 Olympics site. 2,200 hours of Olympics will be available online live and via VOD through Silverlight. NBC will be adding data about the teams and the players to the video stream and allow the viewer to get more information. The video stream can be extended to 16×9 HDTV format. Infividual clips can be shared with other users and create a ‘connected experience’. Pitcure in Picture capabilities and multiple feeds within the same window, which lets the user switch between different events. Lots of applause from the audience…!

AOL showing off a mail application written in Silverlight. Incredible performance in terms of data pulling and interactivity. Ability to easily reskin and personalize the UI. Didn’t look like a web application at all, rather like a rich client app. To see this application for yourself, click here.

Blazing Fast AOL Mail with Silverlight

Hard Rock showing their memorabilia collection on the web, implemented with Silverlight. Incredible navigation, zooming in/out, being able to ‘move’ around within a Hard Rock cafe and zooming into individual collection pieces. This will be live this week at http://www.hardrock.com/ in the Memorabilia section.

Cirque de Soleil showing a casting database application (built in WPF) that can be used in the field or anywhere. Casting director taking video of Scott Guthrie juggling to record his talents in the database. She then categorizes his talents. This offline database is then synched with their main datbase in Canada. This application helps their 65 talent scouts all over the world to organize the casting progress. She can look-up openings for the different CdS shows and map those openings to potential talents recorded in the database.

Silverlight Mobile. Mobile social networking application (Mixer) shown on a mobile phone. Application was developed once and can then run on a desktop of mobile device. Scott Guthrie announcing that MS and Nokia partnered to integrate Silverlight on Nokia platform. Weatherbug showing a new Silverlight application running on a Nokia device. Also available here.

Here are more links to keynote details on the MIX web site.

Search Engine Optimization

Session VOD here

68% of all people coming to an ecommerce site started at a seach engine.

Crawling (what is the search engine looking for?):

  • what does the Robot.txt file say?
  • Can I download this page?
  • Can I process this page?
  • What is this page about?
  • What are all the links?
  • How does this compare to past versions?

Ranking:

  • Inbound links
  • Quality of content on the page

Searching:

  • is it spelled right?
  • is the user looking to buy/navigate/etc.?
  • what content can best fulfill the neews
  • how should the results be ordered?

Best Practices:

  • Proper use of HTML tags –> use them semantically
  • Anchor text really important <a>
  • Heading tag very impotant (only 1 per page) <h1>
  • Title <t>: include a desciptive title
  • Don’t lock navigation behind JavaScript –> whatever is within JS can’t be seen by a search engine

URLs:

  • Structure/Semantic of URL is important too.
  • Describe what’s on the page in the URL (i.e. store.com/Microsoft-Zune-G2-Black/sku_1234.htm)
  • Don’t use underscore ‘_’ to separate words, as search engines look at it as 1 word, not as separate words. Better to separate the words with dashes ‘-‘.
  • Pay attention to HTTP status codes

Microsoft Surface

I just had my first hands-on experience with Microsoft Surface and man is it cool!!! I want one at home. No more messes with kids working with fingerpaint, sharing/organizing photos by simply moving them around with your hands and such is just super cool. It’s super intuitive and very fast. Quite frankly, I was suprised how responsive the surface interface is and how fast the applications respond to objects, such as membership cards, phones, digital cameras or such being placed on it. This UI proves that less is more.

March 5, 2008 at 9:56 am 1 comment

First blog entry

This is my first blog entry. I’ll be going to Mix’08 next week and will try to blog as much as I can about the stuff I see and hear there.

February 28, 2008 at 10:34 pm 4 comments

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