Everybody Hates Chris on Google Video

Post ImageI wonder how long it will be until we talk about search engines/web portals like television channels. Lots of them are streaming TV shows now, including Google Video which is streaming the premiere of Everybody Hates Chris (Via John Battelle):

Google is joining AOL and Yahoo in making new television programming available via their video search service. Today, UPN and Google have announced that Google Video now offers access (free) to the premiere episode of “Everybody Hates Chris” which aired last week on the network and is “inspired” by comedian Chris Rock’s life as a kid.

Check out the first episode on Google Video. You can read my review of the show here.

Read: Google Video

Google Wifi

Post ImageThe latest “confirmed” Google rumor is the infamous “wifi service” that has long been predicted. Not entirely certain why Google would want to get into the wireless business, but who knows, it probably falls into The Master Plan somehow. From John Battelle:

In any case, I think folks really want to believe that Google is about to offer something totally game changing here, and honestly, it’s hard not to want to believe this – it fits exactly our collective expectations for the company. But there are so many dots to connect in this idea, that I find a massive, one step roll out hard to fathom. On the one hand, if Google does pull this off, it’d be a coup. On the other, maybe this is just a speculative test, and it’s teaching us the power of the the Google Rorshach effect in real time….

For now, all we’ve got is this page, which is basically just a bunch of “scratching the surface” questions. If it were really a FAQ page, it would have something like “Are you planning to use Wifi as a tool for taking over the world?” That’s what I want to know anyway.

Read: John Battelle

Google's Defense on AOL

Post ImageYou might recall that last week I mentioned there were rumors of Microsoft talking with Time Warner about AOL. At the time, I said it would likely be a play for access to the content that AOL controls, but it’s pretty clear now that Microsoft talking to AOL is more a business tactic – they want to eliminate the revenue Google gets from AOL. So news of a possible Google takeover of AOL should be no surprise:

Google could try to bid for America Online to preempt a Microsoft takeover and protect the $380 million in revenue Google gets from its biggest partner, according to an analyst.

“We believe it is entirely possible that Google could consider making a bid for AOL as well,” Lauren Rich Fine, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, wrote in a Friday report on the implications of an AOL-Microsoft Network deal. “This would certainly protect Google’s revenues from AOL as well as enable Google to keep 100 percent of the search advertising revenues as well as gain a significant amount of content.”

This is so much more exciting than Microsoft versus Netscape or any of the battles of the past, because Google has tons of cash too. Not as much as Microsoft, but enough to make things interesting.

Read: CNET News.com

Google launches Blog Search

Post ImageGoogle today unveiled Blog Search, which as you might expect searches blogs and is in beta:

While Google web search has allowed you to limit results to popular blog file types such as RSS and XML in web search results for some time, and its news search includes some blogs as sources, Google hasn’t had a specialized tool to surface purely blog postings. In fact, while all of the major search engines have been dabbling with blog and feed search, none has done much with blog search until now.

Google’s new service (in beta, naturally) is available both at google.com/blogsearch and search.blogger.com. Google blog search scans content posted to blogs and feeds in virtually real-time, according to Jason Goldman, Google product manager for blog search. “We look for sites that update pinging services, and then we crawl in real-time so that we can serve up search results that are as fresh as we can,” said Goldman.

Google defines blogs as sites that use RSS and other structured feeds and update content on a regular basis.

Yet another entry into the growing list of blog search engines. Unfortunately, Google’s new Blog Search doesn’t seem to do anything special. It looks and acts like Google though, which make it attractive for a quick search. Can’t help but wonder when the MSN and Yahoo versions will come out now.

Read: SearchEngineWatch

eBay+Skype – What about Amazon?

Post ImageThe big story today in the world of technology (or M&A, depending on how you look at it), originally reported in the Wall Street Journal, is that eBay is in talks to buy Skype for, get this, $3 to $5 billion (yes billion). Seems like anything but a match made in heaven to me. Mark Evans agrees:

eBay purchasing online auctions houses overseas makes sense as do moves into new areas such as online rental listings. But spending $3-billion to buy Skype puzzles me. If anyone can explain eBay’s strategic thinking, I’m open to be educated. For investors, eBay’s interest in Skype could be an alarming indication management is concerned about the growth prospects for the auction business, which may explain why eBay shares have fallen today.

Skhype!

Skype has become quite the media whore as of late, with rumored suitors in the last couple months including Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, News Corporation, and InterActive. Yahoo, Microsoft and Google balked at the purchase price, no doubt because they could build their own competitor for far less. Talks with the other two didn’t amount to anything.

Skype is horribly over-priced:

Om Malik has a post citing a Swedish newspaper that suggests Skype has annual sales of about $70 million. Doing a little quick math suggests a $2-billion to $3-billion purchase would give Skype a price to revenue multiple of 30 to 45 times.

And even more importantly, I can’t see how Skype and eBay result in any synergies. They are completely different businesses, and I don’t think eBay needs a communication network to grow. Furthermore, adding Skype to it’s portfolio may only create new headaches for eBay, who had to jump through hoops at times to get PayPal where it is today. Dealing with financial regulators is one thing; dealing with communications regulators is quite another.

What about Amazon.com?

So the question then, is what does Amazon.com do if the rumored eBay-Skype marriage turns out to be true? Surely there’d be some pressure on them to make a move, as their primary competitor these days is most definitely eBay.

One scenario: partner up with Google in a real hurry. eBay would have both PayPal and Skype under it’s wing, so it might make sense for Amazon.com to try and get in bed with Google and it’s Google Talk and Google Wallet (rumored) services. The other advantage for Amazon in this scenario is that it could happen very quickly, as opposed to building their own systems. On the other hand, Google is a competitor of Amazon’s already with Froogle and Amazon’s A9.

Another scenario would have Amazon build their own communications system, perhaps using Jabber. I don’t think Amazon sees itself as a development company so it would be a bit out of character, but if Google can do it, why not Amazon right? This scenario would depend very heavily on whether Amazon sees any advantage to having such a communications system. I would imagine they are scratching their heads a little right now about eBay and Skype too.

Any other ideas? It will be interesting to watch this one unfold!

Google Wallet?

Post ImageThis is another one of those rumors that just will not die. I wonder if it’s going to turn out to be true, just like Google Talk was. Here’s the latest evidence to suggest that Google might be entering the online payment business:

Gary spotted a job opening (and here) for a “Fraud Operations Director, Merchant Payment Solutions” position at Google. Google already has people that look into click fraud issues with ads, so this seems like something different. We know that Google’s working on some type of payment system that’s apparently been dubbed Google Wallet. Perhaps this job is related to that? And is the system a rival to PayPal? No, said Google earlier this year.

Unlike Google Talk, I am eagerly awaiting Google’s payment system (if it really does exist). PayPal is far and away the best service available, and is incredibly entrenched, so I’d be interested to see what Google can bring to the table. And no, I don’t think anyone who currently supports PayPal would jump ship to Google Wallet – more likely, they’d support both.

Read: John Battelle

Why the WebOS won't happen!

Post ImageInteresting post by Jason Kottke on a so-called “WebOS”. Speculation about such an operating system, that is powered over the web, has always been around but seems to pick up whenever Google releases something new, like Google Desktop 2 last week. Granted, Jason does talk about having local applications too, but then I question how things are really different than what we currently have.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it’s not going to happen! So, whenever you feel the urge to dream about an operating system powered completely over the web, just refer to this handy list of realities:

  • We don’t have “wireless everywhere”, so sometimes you need to be able to take content offline.
  • Games need horsepower – processors, memory, graphics, etc.
  • I can do a lot with photos on Flickr, but it’s not even close to replacing Photoshop. Applications like Photoshop need (extensive) local resources!
  • One interface is dumb! What about viewing my content on a mobile device? Or on a device with a tiny screen? Or in my kitchen? Or in my car? Accessing everything through a browser is absurd. Web services solve this problem by allowing many rich interfaces to use the same data, with a high level of code re-use.
  • Security, security, security! It’s a lot harder to secure everything when it’s all online!
  • Privacy, privacy, privacy! How can you really be sure no one else is looking? If the OS is on the Web, there’s no longer a power switch.

There are probably more reasons! Have any you’d like to add?

Read: Jason Kottke

When should you release software?

Post ImageWhen Dickson and I saw Google Talk the other day, an old discussion about when software should be released was renewed. The application was so basic and underwhelming that we couldn’t help but think they should have waited longer to release it. Usually Dickson thinks that software should be released when it’s more complete, whereas I think it’s okay to release sooner. So how do you determine when software is ready to release? Should you release very early, or just wait until the software is almost ready? What does the word “beta” really mean, anyway? Lots of good questions, and I don’t have answers for all of them. I do have some opinions though, and hopefully you’ll share yours too. Keep in mind that when I talk about “software” in this post, I don’t mean only things like Microsoft Outlook. Websites are software too.

It seems to me that the word “beta” has taken on new meaning in the world of software. In the past, releasing software as beta meant that you wanted it to have some real world use, to iron out the bugs that all software has. Lately though, I think that has changed, thanks in large part to Google. Take Google Talk, for example. The software “just works”. So why release it as beta? Well, for one thing, it has almost no features. And look at the discussion the release has generated in the blogosphere. It’s almost as if Google deliberately released software into the wild as “beta” to get some feedback on where to take it, feature-wise.

The meaning has changed in another way too. In the past, releasing something as “beta” meant essentially, “this is free because in exchange for you using the software, we’re going to get valuable feedback to improve it for eventual sale.” Now however, again thanks in large part to Google, that has changed to “we have no idea how to make money from this, so we’re calling it a beta.” Hence, why Google News has never gotten past it’s beta state. Lots of focus on Google, I know, but they are the new villain after all.

So what does “beta” really mean then? And more importantly, when has your software reached “beta”? Well, I think it depends in large part on what kind of software you have. Consider Microsoft Windows, for example. As we all found out the hard way with Longhorn, releasing an operating system too soon can be extremely detrimental. An operating system is too important a piece of software to release before most of the features are set in place. The Windows Vista beta that was released a couple weeks ago is a much better release – pretty stable, and very much focused on ironing out the bugs. Software like Google Talk however, is probably okay to release very early on, whether or not you call it “beta”, because at the end of the day it doesn’t affect nearly as many people.

Maybe what we have is not a question of what makes a release “beta” but instead, what kind of beta release is it? Consider tip #12 from Joel Spolsky’s Top Twelve Tips for Running a Beta Test:

Don’t confuse a technical beta with a marketing beta. I’ve been talking about technical betas, here, in which the goal is to find bugs and get last-minute feedback. Marketing betas are prerelease versions of the software given to the press, to big customers, and to the guy who is going to write the Dummies book that has to appear on the same day as the product.

Armed with that knowledge, maybe Google Talk and other applications like it are just different types of beta releases. Perhaps we should called Google Talk a “feature beta”, where the goal is to gather information on what sort of features the software should eventually have. I think that’s an interesting way of looking at software, as a series of different types of beta releases. Indeed a software application is never really finished, so maybe a “final release” is more like a “money beta”, where you start charging for the software. Of course, I could go on forever, creating endless types of betas. And there will always be anomolies, like Google News or even Flickr, which is in “beta” but costs money.

So let me try to answer the question, when should you release software? I think part of the answer is a question; what do you want to accomplish by releasing the software? If you want to gather information on what sort of features the application should have, release it early! The danger though is that you may create a negative image for yourself by releasing software that doesn’t really do anything, or which doesn’t meet expectations. If you want to iron out bugs, release the software later in what I would consider a “traditional beta”. And if you have software that you don’t know how to make money from, just release it as “free”. No need to confuse things by calling it a “beta”.

I also think releasing software is a very situational decision, in that no two pieces of software have the same set of circumstances surrounding them. While it may be okay to release one early, it might not be a good idea to release another so early. Deciding when to release software then, requires careful consideration of a number of variables, including what the goal of the release is, does the software work, who is it being released to, what other applications like this exist, etc. Once you’ve come up with a clear idea of all the variables, you can then decide to whether or not the time is right to release your software.

Google Talk

Post ImageGoogle has certainly been busy as of late. They launched another new program recently, this one called Google Talk:

They say talk is cheap. Google thinks it should be free. Google Talk enables you to call or send instant messages to your friends for free-anytime, anywhere in the world. Google Talk is in beta and requires a Gmail username and password.

Another instant messaging client? Last thing I need, let me tell you. But curious as I am, I downloaded it tonight and tried it out (Dickson did too, so I’d have someone to chat with). Interesting enough, and simple to install, but largely a waste of my time. Here’s why:

  • This has got to be the most basic IM client in the world! Dickson created a better one for his class project last year.
  • You can’t change anything. Not your display name, not your font, not your font color, nothing.
  • No emoticons! Just colored text instead.
  • The application looks and feels like a web page – no doubt by design.

The program also has voice chat, and that feature appeared to work quite well. Essentially what it boils down to though is that it’s not good enough for me to replace my main IM client. I use MSN Messenger (feel free to add me, mastermaq@hotmail.com, just don’t email me there). Google Talk is an interesting experiment, but it doesn’t come close to being good enough to replace MSN, nor does it look like it will anytime soon. Heck, Skype and Yahoo Messenger are both light years beyond Google Talk. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that all of my contacts would need to have Google Talk too.

I suspect the only reason this program was created is so that Google staff can talk to one another using their own network, nothing more. Unless the second beta looks amazing, you won’t find me on Google Talk anytime soon.

Read: Google Talk

Google Desktop 2

Post ImageLooks like Google isn’t slowing down their efforts to become a software company! Today the company released Google Desktop 2:

Google has rolled out a beta version of its desktop software, adding such features as “Sidebar,” which offers a personalized panel of information such as e-mail, stock quotes and news.

The software, unveiled on Monday, also includes a scratch pad style tool for taking notes and tools for searching one’s desktop and Microsoft Outlook inbox.

Looks pretty interesting, though I haven’t downloaded it yet. The sidebar is a very thought-provoking feature. Longhorn once included a sidebar, but it is no where to be found in Vista Beta 1. Perhaps the Google Desktop release will force Microsoft to rethink the sidebar feature?

Read: CNET News.com