Destination Web Sites: Beware of iGoogle Gadgets, Alternative = Netvibes.com Modules

Google is an advertising firm, not a technology company. At this point, all of Google’s technology is subsidized VIA advertising revenue. They state this in their Annual Report (99% of revenue in 2005 was ad revenue) as a risk. Anyone who argues this point doesn’t understand the nature of business.

Google has announced Google Gadget Ventures, a Google pilot program dedicated to helping developers create richer, more useful Google Gadgets. But the catch is they are shelling out cash to developers who want to make their iGoogle site better. It actually makes a lot of sense: pay developers to enhance the functionality of their site. Enhance the functionality of your site, increase user value.

My major tech problem with Google Gadgets is simple: there are plenty of other Gadget platforms out there. Rather than building on the strengths of these competitive platforms and embracing their inherit “open nature”, Google decided to build their own and clutter an already mature technology vertical by bribing developers in order to promote their web properties. This quam takes a back seat to my real world problem with this Google bribe.

I’m a NetVibes.com user and will never use iGoogle ever. And if you see me building an iGoogle gadget it will be because someone is paying me to do so. Did you know you can build a NetVibes.com module and it’s basically the same as an iGoogle gadget? On top of that if you use NetVibes.com as your news reader, Google will not be stashing all your secret reading habits to later apply in pushing more tailored advertisements to you!

Alexa gives NetVibes.com a traffic ranking of 801 of all sites they rank. In comparison iGoogle, is ranked 1,261,393. So it is no shock they are literally paying developers to get them more traffic. They need it to build up their ad revenue as the information you consume does indicate the information you will consume.

Once again Google is trying to create a community effect – similar to Google 3D warehouse where they managed to have users contribute millions of 3D models to their repository. But in the 3D world, they didn’t pay people to provide these contributions – is this because they didn’t know how to monetize the 3D stuff on any large scale? Who knows.

Anyway, this venture is a significant step for Google as they realize that the number of available iGoogle gadgets will directly relate to the popularity of their iGoogle site and greatly enhance the granularity of data they can collect on you VIA the information you consume through their portal. They are trying to become a destination site, and no doubt will be knocking on your ISP’s door to be the default.

They are not doing this to get closer to any desktop – they are doing it to get closer to your pocket book VIA tailored advertising.

This is a direct response to a threat identified in the Google annual report:

“We also compete with destination web sites that seek to increase their search-related traffic. These destination web sites may include those operated by Internet access providers, such as cable and DSL service providers .…. If an access provider or a computer or computing device manufacturer offers online services that compete with ours, the user may find it more convenient to use the services of the access provider or manufacturer. In addition, the access provider or manufacturer may make it hard to access our services by not listing them in the access provider’s or manufacturer’s own menu of offerings, or may charge users to access our websites or the websites of our Google Network members. Also, because the access provider gathers information from the user in connection with the establishment of a billing relationship, the access provider may be more effective than we are in tailoring services and advertisements to the specific tastes of the user.”

iGoogle is bad.

Over and Out

Top Web Apps in Canada

This is a very blatant repost of a ReadWriteWeb article which may be found here.

By Heri Rakotomalala of Montreal Tech Watch

flag canadaCanadians use the Internet more than anyone in the world. According to comScore, Canadians spend on average 39.6 hours per month on the Internet, followed by Israel at 37.4 and South Korea at 34, while the USA is in 8th position with 29.4. Canada also leads in online reach with 70% of households having Internet access. The average pages viewed per visitor is 3800 in Canada, while the U.K. is second at 3300. And at 67%, Canada has one of the highest broadband penetrations in the world, 21 points higher than the US. Finally, while Canada still lags in online advertising, with $28.05 per Internet user and the US with $71.43, ad spending is expected to grow 32% this year (Ernst&Young LLP). So Canada is a sophisticated, and growing, market for Web apps.

As in any other country, Canadians heavily use Google, Yahoo and other global services like ebay and craiglist; each of which has their own english and french canadian localized versions. In social networking, Facebook is the star app of the moment. For instance, Toronto has more than 650.000 facebook users, more than the combined facebook users in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

Top Web Apps

Canada has a lot of startups that are reaching the global market...


Shopify is a simple, affordable and stylish service that lets you create your own online store. It is targeted at inviduals who want to sell online, without any programming.


Freshbooks handles time tracking and invoicing. The service is used by freelancers and consultants in over 100 countries. Mike McDerment, an active canadian web entrepreneur, runs the company.


Stikipad lets you create a personal or a group wiki for free, with an easy-to-use user interface.


Librivox publishes on the public domain audio books, as read by users. The digital library ranges from contemporary to classics, philosophy to novels. Last finished project: James Joyce's Ulysses, with 32 hours of audio.


DabbleDB lets you create and share a database, and then build an application on top of it, without requiring programming skills. The platform is innovative, with a simple point-and-click interface.


Nowpublic.com is the largest user-written news site in the world, according to the Globe and Mail, thanks to a thriving community. It is based in Vancouver, BC.


Sxipper manages your online identity via a firefox extension and OpenID. It tracks usernames and passwords; and fills in online forms. Sxipper comes from Sxip, which is working on new identity models for the digital world.


wikitravel, which this year won a Webby Award for Best Travel Website, is a free travellers guide. It also is aiming to produce print travel guides. This wiki project was started in Montreal, Quebec, and advises a "fair" (not "neutral") point of view from its contributors.


Cambrian House is an online community where users "crowdsource" an idea. Participants then share the profits if the software is successful. Robhinhood Fund, a "web2.0 charity" website, started at Cambrian House.


ClubPenguin is a virtual word for kids, where they can play and interact. The self-funded company is already profitable via monthly subscriptions, with $60 million projected revenues this year.


GiveMeaning is an online community about news and projects that change the world for good.


ConceptShare is an online collaboration tool for designers and creatives, where they can annotate and discuss current work.

ajax whois

AjaxWhois.com is a DNS lookup service.


ilovetoplay.com is a sports social network where you can find additional players for your team.


YubNub.org is an online command line.

Innovation and startup culture in Canada




Canada has a long history of innovation and success. The most well known is Flickr, which started in Vancouver, BC, and then became one of the key applications in the web 2.0 landscape. StumbleUpon, which was acquired by ebay for $75M in March, was started in Calgary, Alberta. iStockphoto was a pioneer in micropayments in stock photography, and was bought by GettyImages.




The future is promising for Canadian startups. In Montréal, for instance, barcamps, democamps, monthly Tech Entrepreneur breakfasts, and early investors like montrealstartup, have revived the local tech community. We now have promising startups like Standoutjobs which aims to reinvent the recruiting process, by using video and social networking to promote the company's brand; or Kakiloc, a location-based social network which integrates with mobile phones. These are just two examples of the promising web apps being built in Canada and being presented to the world. Let us know what other web apps you know of from Canada, that we may've missed.


The Most Pimp: Stark Family Mafia

Talk about one technology oriented family:

Greg (at left) works for Research in Motion as a Co-Op Business Analyst, Dan (left center) is in the Microsoft MACH program, Myself (right center) works for Navantis as a Senior Software Developer / Application Architect, and my dad Bob AKA Poparazzi is the CEO of Service Ontario.

Our moms' forced us to take some family photo's. Rather than making moms' all upset and complaining and stuff we decided to have fun with it. And boom - The Stark Family Mafia was born.

Over and Out.

How To Set EventLog Permissions

Yo Sup.

I wanted to share a very quick and convenient way to update permissions in the event log.

1) Run Regedit.exe

2) Navigate to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Eventlog

3) Right click on the Eventlog folder and select Permissions.

4) I wanted to allow ASP.Net to write to the event log so I added the ASPNET account and gave it full control.

Over and Out


My Sister's Care Page

Been a tough week all around for my family. My sister is in the Toronto Western Hospital recovering from a craniotomy. Sadly she was cursed with a birth defect resulting in a benign brain tumor being impossible to completely remove. She’s been in many hospitals for much of her life and this is probably the last time they will operate to attempt to remove the growth.

In large, communicating medical status to family, friends and loved ones is a tough laborious process. I don’t know if you can imagine repeating over and over again that your sister has had serious complication during surgery or recovery. It’s hard enough to accept it oneself, let alone, communicate the bad news over and over again. I’m sorry to all the friends who fall into this bucket, but I just don’t reply to people’s emails regarding her status anymore. It’s just a bit worse than signing those stupid yearbooks at the end of each year of high school.

Which brings me to Care Pages. Care pages are basically blogs which allow friends and family to post patient status updates. They provide for the right level of disclosure in mass - we can post any status update we want. They especially eliminate those kind hearted yet pesky one liner emails: “I hope your sister is doing well, let me know”. While I appreciate those comments, I’ve been replying with the location of my sisters care page and asking them to consult it for updates (www.carepages.com – if you want the name of the care page please leave your email in a comment on this post or email me directly).

Further, there is a message board section on the website allowing caring friends and relatives to leave encouraging comments for my sister and my family alike. I'd encourage everyone to leave a message. I know many of these comments have put a big smile on my sisters face (as well as on mine)! But just a quick note, if you don’t use computers and can’t figure out how to post a message on a care page, don’t explain that you are not good with computers in the first sentence of your message. My 21 year old sister has the mental capacity of a 14 year old, is blind in both eyes, and still she can figure out how to put a comment on her care page.

Additionally, families may setup charitable organizations such that in the event of the worst, donations may be channeled through the website. Visitors may even purchase presents on the site to be sent to my sister (Note: no flowers as my sister can’t see / nor smell and it pisses her off people think to send flowers to someone like her – sometimes it’s just insulting).

There is a Guest Book and unknown to the care page visitors we can actually track, and block people from being able to visit the care page. I thought it was funny that a few of me and my brother’s ex girlfriends had somehow found out about the site (note, not the ex’s that I purposely invited). And I think it’s even funnier that one of my Uncle’s has signed in over 30 times to check her status (in 4 days) – sorry not funny ironic – you really appreciate who cares and who doesn’t. The next time I see my best friend I’m going to ask him how he liked the care page and when he says he liked it I’m busting him for having not visited (as only real friends can do).

Anyway, that’s about all. For some stupid reason, I decided to try to continue working while she was in the hospital. I originally had the week booked off to spend time with the family - simply because I didn’t know if I could deal with the stress of the office, life, and the hospital. UNFORTUNATELY MY CONSULTING FIRM, strong armed me into working this week – something I should have never agreed to do. But now that I’m here, I have Firefox open with ReloadEvery constantly refreshing my sisters care page. Almost makes me feel like I’m in the hospital.

If you are sick, or someone in your family is sick, setup a care page. It will help you AND your family answer all those kind hearted yet pesky and annoying questions.

Over and Out


eBay Stares Down Google And Wins

This is a repost from the original TechCrunch article (more information available on the TechCrunch site). Microsoft did it's share of pissing corp's off, but Google as of late seems to be taking the cake. eBay is to internet commerce, as Google is to internet search. Seemingly, the two should be able to play nice (eBay hasn't entered search but possibly they should buy Ask.com):

"Not much commentary is needed on this one. Here’s what happened:

  1. eBay doesn’t allow merchants to use Google Checkout to settle eBay transactions. Google invited eBay online sellers attending eBay Live! in Boston this week to a party that they called the Google Checkout Freedom Party.
  2. eBay decides to pull all U.S. advertising on Google.
  3. Google backs down, cancels the party.

  4. Google looks like a complete wimp; eBay looks like a bully.

The party appeared to be nothing more than Google poking a little fun at eBay’s restrictive policies. eBay hit back with the biggest weapon they had, suggesting that tension between the companies goes very deep."

Over and Out


Amp'd Bankrupt - Carriers hold the key to mobile $$!

So Amp'd is bankrupt. They officially filed their papers on June 1st and according to their press release:
"As a result of our rapid growth, our back-end infrastructure was unable to keep up with customer demand. We are taking this step as a necessary and responsible action to sustain and strengthen our momentum in the market place."
This has to be one of the first times I've seen a company file Chapter 11 for reasons including rapid growth and demand exceeding supply.

My ignorant opinion into their situation is that this is a technology problem. My bet is cost didn't scale to revenue as it applied to licensing carrier network bandwidth. This should send a ping of caution out to other "closed shop" long tail mobile entertainment vendors: Carriers hold the key to Unlimited Mobile Entertainment and companies like AMP'd cannot compete.

No matter how you look at this technology, AMP'd must effectively build their delivery platform on the back of carrier networks. They are hostage to regional discrepancies in wireless bandwidth costs, which again is in the hands of the carrier. Their product offerings are constrained to the carriers network capabilities. Further, they compete against a plethora of mobile application vendors who will put in the technical effort to build applications and provide carriers with a white labelable solution to split revenue on. These companies will automatically gain a customer with every carrier subscription and hence could very easily grow AMP'dish sized user bases in a relative time.

I don't want to jump back into advertising but the truth is entertainment content (EX// TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines) is largely subsidized by advertising which AMP'd doesn't do well. This has and probably always will be the key to distributing entertainment content and until AMP'd can balance ad revenue and subscription revenue against human and network costs - I seriously doubt they will ever be a big player.

Simply put, digital entertainment consumption is increasing so quickly that even the Carriers do not have the hardware to supply demand - so how is a company like AMP'd going to do it? And in mobile, 10 million users isn't much - plus mobile advertising just doesn't have the payout like on the web.

I think this is a sign of bigger problems with the AMP'd model. Another discrepancy of their press release stated:
"Amp'd Mobile's senior management team remains largely intact as we continue to focus on improving and scaling our backend infrastructure."
Yet this statement was followed by the announcement that (by mocoNews.net):
"Peter Adderton, the embattled CEO of the now-in-Chapter-11 MVNO Amp’d Mobile, has left the firm as CEO. He is still on the board and is still the largest individual shareholder. The company is going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the management overhaul is to be expected."
Somebody somewhere needs to get their story straight. In this case I have to think its AMP'd that isn't fully disclosing the truth.

The big question is: What Carrier will Buy Them?, or is it What Carrier would buy them!??

I'm just glad that I'm not their big investor.

Over and Out

P.S., I wonder how many Canadians didn't appreciate the way Amp'd directed users to it's Canadian site (see below). I personally don't appreciate the words they used. I'd like it if the Canadian site had a link to the American site using some stereotypical Americanism like Fat Capitalist Pig, War-Mongers etc. If you are a business and you are going regional with your web properties, at least respect the region you are doing business in - don't see pig meat to the Taliban. I'd say this is a fundamental, and the CEO should get fired for this oversight. It's such a simple business procedure: don't piss your customers off. Nice Work AMP'D, Nice Work


Joost gets new CEO and eyes SetTop future

After gaining 45 million in funding from a bunch of companies Joost has hired a big name hardware industry hot shot to pave a gold brick road for the future of IPTV.

The Joost blog announced earlier this week that they had signed a new CEO: Mike Volpi has been appointed chief executive officer. Volpi succeeds the company's founding CEO, Fredrik de Wahl, who remains at Joost as chief strategy officer.

"Volpi joins Joost from Cisco Systems, Inc., where he spent 13 years in a variety of strategic management roles. Most recently, he managed a US$11 billion business as senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's Routing and Service Provider Technology Group, which included Scientific Atlanta."

At first thought I was curious how a hardware guy would be a good fit for a web based new media start-up. Is it possible Joost is trying to build a strategic alliance with the hardware guys to ensure their technology is supported at the lowest possible level? We all know they've had some technical hicups that left them red in the face (bandwidth, server issues etc.). Is building these strategic partnerships an upmost necessity for Joost's success? Volpi is certainly connected in the industry selling Cisco switches to the big media giants like Comcast and Time Warner and people often say it is not about what you know, but who you know!

In his first interview at Joost Volpi stated to a New York Times reporter that:

"Joost is a piece of software and it can reside on a variety of platforms,”
he said. “It could be on a television set-top box. Or potentially it could be
imbedded in a TV set with an Ethernet connection, or on a mobile phone, or in
some alternative device that might come out in the future. The flexibility is
really high.”

It wouldn't be the first time I've suggested that IPTV will take over the traditional television market. It's just hard to predict when that would be. Apple is there with their AppleTV SetTop box (which I hate) many other companies are either already in the market (HP/Microsoft) or looking to enter (Joost).

It only makes sense to eliminate the PC from the Television delivery channel. I've blogged about this too many times to count so I won't do it again.

Can't wait for the Joost SetTop!

Over And Out