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Thursday, February 26, 2009

My new find "Twitter search"

What makes Silicon Valley so much fun? Nothing is invincible there forever.

The motto posted on Twitter’s search page is intriguing “See what's happening — right now." And many people do exactly that. During a live event or amid breaking news, a growing number of people are turning to Twitter search to follow the conversations among its users.Very quietly, one of Twitter's most powerful applications has become its ability to allow people to conduct real-time searches. But the fact that Twitter's potential to disrupt the search market is being seriously discussed shows just how quickly the sands can shift under the feet of even a colossus like Google.

Typically, when such goliaths are slain, it's because they failed to recognize the threat and make the necessary changes until it was too late. So, it'll be interesting to see how Google — or even if Google — feels the need to throw some kind of counterpunch. In theory, Google has created a culture to keep it flexible and innovative. On the other hand, its track record of new products has been a bit lackluster.

There's always the chance, of course, that Google will quickly deploy real-time search and simply crush Twitter. But that's harder than it sounds. Twitter already has an estimated 6 million users and is growing rapidly. It would be hard to convince someone to switch to a new microblogging service at this point, and it might be just as tough to get users to search Twitter through Google when they can just do it through Twitter itself.

It might be tempting for Google to try to take some of those billions of dollars stuffed in its mattress and overwhelm Twitter and its investors with an offer that dwarfs the reported $500 million Facebook offered for the company. But such a move could also attract a healthy once-over from antitrust regulators. “Then again, I wonder how buying a zero-revenue company factors into antitrust rules” – exclaims Chris O’ Brien.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

On Screen Protectionism?

When devices and apps talk to each other, content owners balk even at the screen format. Or so it seems from the recent pullout of Hulu from Boxee application. The advance of The Great Media Convergence — the content you want, at the time you want, on the device you want — would seem to be inexorable, based on its universal appeal to the consuming audience and the evolution of the enabling technology. But getting past all the entrenched powers is going to be a long struggle, and the early adopters on the front lines will have the wounds to show for it. To see how this disruption is driving the entertainment overlords into defensive positions based on arbitrary distinctions, just look at the current contretemps between Hulu and Boxee.

What happened? Boxee is media center software that makes it easy to watch online content on your television via a connected computer or device like AppleTV. Hulu beams TV directly to your portable computing devices, giving you more of the cerebral-gelatinizing shows you want, any time, anywhere, for free. That, is how Hollywood wants to see online video — as a supplement to "real" TV, not, heaven forbid, as a free living-room alternative to paying for cable or satellite service. To Portable Computing Devices or FROM your TV and not TO your TV. To your dumb-ass laptop, you smelly, hairy, friendless, gamer-freak nerd. (Sorry, I hate to talk about you that way, but that's how they think of the Internet. I think you smell great.) To Your TV is something completely different, and from the content providers' point of view, completely wrong. ... I'd guess Hulu had a deal to show 'content' on computers, and the 'content providers' balked when those computers started talking to their precious televisions.

Of course, media-center computer owners can still watch Hulu's shows on the big screen — they just have to do it through a conventional Web browser instead of Boxee's cleaner interface. It's difficult to see how there's even a claim by the content providers at all. They put the content on Hulu so that anyone watching the content via the Internet on a computer within the geographic restrictions should be fine. Boxee is just an application on a computer. It's functionally identical to watching the content on your computer screen. The only real difference is that the 'screen' is a television instead of a monitor. But the mechanism is identical. It's difficult to see how the content providers can claim any right whatsoever to say that you can watch the content that they purposely put online only on a specific type of screen.

Convergence may indeed be inevitable, but this is just the type of annoying and arbitrary turf protection we'll continue to see until the entertainment industry figures out a way to make the future its friend.

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