Sir Tim Berners-Lee : Privacy and Social Cohesion on the Internet

The Interwebs 1 Comment »

Here on The Shelf I don’t usually make a point of linking to video elsewhere on the interwebs, but today, on topic of something that I will be looking more closely at over the next coupled of weeks, I thought it worth pointing out this interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Dubbed the ‘creator of the web’ Sir Tim gives his opinions on systems which track user activity such as Phorm, with the intention of using the information gained through user tracking to target personalised adverts.

The interview on the BBC news site is available here.

In the video he explains that that he does not want such systems to track the websites that he has visited, using an example of health insurance companies putting up premiums on the basis of visiting caner related sites.

“I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that’s not going to get to my insurance company and I’m going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5% because they’ve figured I’m looking at those books,”

He also makes explain his ideas of a truly collaborative web when it was first invented which we are now beginning to see the tip of with blogging sites, wikiepedia type collaboration and the sudden growth of social networking on the web.

He goes on to say that although we need a greater understanding in the fact that any content we display is displayed in a public space, we also as consumers should be protected as essentially any given persons we history belong to them. Why should ISP have free access to our personal trends in order to sell this information off to advertisers?

On a persons web history he says “It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I’m getting in return.”

The Phorm system that is being discussed in the video has responded stating that it actually makes the web a safer place, offering increased protection against phishing sites.

“We believe Phorm makes the internet a more vibrant and interesting place. Phorm protects personal privacy and unlike the hundreds of other cookies on your PC, it comes with an on/off switch.”

Talk Talk are one ISP to adopt the service although customers will have to opt in to it, meaning by default the average user who may not understand the repercussions such a system could have will be protected. BT a Virgin are also signed up to the service but will put these users at risk by offering an opt out only service.

AOL buys Bebo for £425 million

Social Networking, The Interwebs No Comments »

In even more social networking news, it was announced today that internet portal AOL has bought social networking site Bebo for £425 million.

Bebo was launched three years ago and has a membership of over 40 million worldwide users, combining “community, self-expression and entertainment to enable its users to consume, create, discover and share content.”

Bebo is one of the leading social networking sites in the UK and the US trailing rivals Myspace and Facebook. Bebo also leads the market in New Zealand and Ireland, and is run by only 100 employees spread across three global office locations.

At first this seems a lot of money for a company with such few resources, but when you consider News Corp bought MySpace for $580m in 2005 which is now estimated to be worth more than $15bn, and Microsoft bought only 1.6% of Facebook last year for $240m, the price doesn’t seem so high.

A quote from AOL chairman Randy Falco says: “Bebo is the perfect complement to AOL’s personal communication network and puts us in a leading position in social media. This positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers.”

With its acquisition of Bebo it is clear that AOL see the social networking site as an advertising goldmine which will allow them to offer advertisers access to user targeted adverts based on comprehensive user profiles and trends.

The average Bebo user views on average 78 pages a day with a daily average of 33 minutes a day being spent on the site.

“Bebo has an incredibly strong brand identity, particularly with the teenage and young adult market, so it will be very interesting to see how AOL makes best use of their new youthful Trojan horse.” – Alex Burmaster, European Internet Analyst

Research outfit eMarketer recently released a report stating that by 2011 $4.1 billion will be spent worldwide on social network advertising, up from $480 million in 2006. It is clear the struggling internet portal is looking for a significant chunk of this to turn its fortunes around.

Facebook Recruits Google’s Sandberg

Social Networking, The Interwebs No Comments »

In relation to The Shelf’s popular social networking themed posts, news broke last week that Facebook has raided Google in order to fulfil the position of chief operating officer. The position was filled in order to provide Facebook, who last month saw their first ever dip in visitors, with a more experienced management and advertising figure as the company tries to make more money out of targeted advertising without alienating users.

The defection by Sheryl Sandberg from internet search giant Google was first announced last Tuesday marks a period of adjustment for Facebook who only three months ago suffered huge setbacks in efforts to inject more commercialism into is social site.

In her time at Google Sandberg has helped the search giant build up one of the most rivalled advertising models in the world in the position of vice president of global online sales and operations.

No doubt 23 year old founder Mark Zuckerberg will use the opportunity as somewhat of a mentoring scheme in how to future direct Facebook’s expansion, who Sandberg will report directly to.

Of the capture of Sandberg Mark Zuckerberg stated that she is “a great manager who will help scale Facebook’s operations globally,”

In the past eleven months Facebook has seen its user base triple to 66 million users, becoming the second largest social networking site behind Myspce. But Facebook remains dwarfed even further by Sandberg’s former employers who make more than $16 billion to Facebook’s $100 million in annual revenue.

There have also been recent mistakes by the Facebook owner that have led to questions about Zuckerberg’s judgement after marketing tool Beacon was allowed to track users’ purchasing patterns across dozens of sites and display the information on pages of listed friends within the Facebook network.

But although mistakes have been made and the social networking site has plateaued of late, many still expect great things in the future. Planning to go public in 2009/10 Facebook could still turn out to be the biggest internet success story since Google went public in 2004.

iPlayer Launched on iPhone and iPod Touch

Mobile, Technology, TV & Film 1 Comment »

Following a post on The Shelf about the BBC’s new free on demand TV service being delivered through iPlayer in January, the BBC has today announced that a version of its iPlayer on demand service will be available for both the Apple iPhone and iPod touch.

Marking the first time the BBC’s on demand service will be available of portable media devices, the iPhone and iPod touch will stream shows from the iPlayer website over wi-fi networks.

“We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available.” – Anthony Rose wrote on the BBC blog

Currently the iPlayer software is available in two versions, one which will download content from the BBC archive to a Windows PC, the other a streaming service available to all users over the internet.

The iPlayer version used for both the iPhone and iPod touch will allow streaming over a wi-fi connection, however the EDGE mobile network that the iPhone utilises is to slow to support a video streaming service.

Wi-fi firm The Cloud has recently secured a contract to provide all the BBC’s online services for free in 7,500 wi-fi hotspots across the country.

7digital to offer DRM free music from Warner

Music, Piracy 2 Comments »

After news broke last week that Play.com had launched PlayDigital, offering DRM free music to its customers in direct competition with iTunes, Warner has now increased pressure on Apple by striking a deal to sell its own catalogue DRM free to customers of 7digital.

7digital is one of the biggest online music retailers and has now started selling more than 150 of the most popular albums from Warner, £3 cheaper than iTunes offers the same music for. The deal will allow customers who do not own an iPod and don’t use iTunes to get access to Warner’s offerings.

The DRM protection Apple uses on tracks sold through its iTUnes service has been a frustration for many music lovers for a long time, as in essence it is meant to prevent customers transferring music to portable music devices that are not iPods.

By offering tracks in a DRM free format Warner’s albums are available to customers of 7digital in Britain, Spain, Ireland, France and Germany and playable on almost all digital music players. Material owned by Warner includes that from artists such as Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

With the deal 7 Digital becomes the first major European download sevice offering Warner Music and EMI tracks in the MP3 file format. PlayDigital itself is yet to strike a deal to sell the Warner music catalogue. 7digital are also said to be in talks with Sony BMG and Universal to sell DRM titles from the catalogues of these big industry players.

“The addition of Warner Music’s MP3 catalogue means that over 80 per cent of 7digital.com’s 3.5 million track catalogue is now DRM-free.” - Ben Drury, 7digital’s CEO

7digital hope to make their entire catalogue DRM free by 2008.

This deal is just one example of how, due to a decline in CD sales and increased illegal music downloads, the record industry is being forced to find new ways to appeal to music fans.

“Hopefully this will lead to a price war, as I think Apple have had things their own way for too long and are simply too expensive.” - Tim Wiggins of Stuff Magazine

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