Earlier this week Mark Zuckerberg held a press conference to announce a new messaging service. I say service because it’s not the email program that everyone was expecting. That’s part of the package, but it’s a small part and an optional one.
This new system is actually about conglomerating all of your message services – email, SMS, chat – in one place. The big issue, as Facebook sees it, is that we have too many places to look for our text-based communication with one another. By building the system into Facebook, Zuckerberg hopes Facebook can become your complete social hub for the web.
It’s more than that, though. While working on this project, Zuckerberg talked to high school students about the way they’re using email. Turns out, they aren’t. It’s too formal, which I can totally understand. I can get upwards of a hundred emails a day, and that’s a far cry from the deluge that other tech professionals will see. I don’t need to see, “Hi Jeff,” or “Hello Jeff,” or “Jeff, how are you today?” from promoters and marketers or even my coworkers. I need information, and I prefer that it’s short and to the point.
Zuckerberg is obviously pointing at the end of email, or at least the kind of formal, subject-line message system we understand as email today. He can’t say that, though, if only because he’s Mark Zuckerberg.
I’ve been writing here a lot about the development of online TV services and my desire to be able to truly cut the cord and fully rely on the internet for my media consumption. I don’t currently have a cable subscription of any kind, which makes me really really happy, but my system isn’t perfect and could definitely stand to get a lot better.
The biggest thing standing in my way are the paid subscription services. They show up every few weeks to say stupid shit like this about Hulu and similar services: “If I can watch Glee tomorrow morning and I don’t have to pay a pay TV service –- I think that’s bad.” That’s Dish Network’s VP of Online Content Development and Strategy, Bruce Eisen. Sorry, Bruce, but you’re a moron. For starters, Fox – you know, the company that broadcasts Glee – allows me to do this. Why do they do this? Because customers want it. That’s what being in any sort of delivery service is all about – catering to your customers.
Somewhere along the road to present day, guys like Bruce Eisen forgot that their companies exist to deliver a product that customers want, not to dictate those wants by delivering a mediocre product at a ridiculous price. Not to limit consumer access to content but to provide it. Every time a cable or satellite exec says something like this, I can hear PR firms squealing in dismay. “Bruce! You just told the customers you don’t want them to have what they want! You want to bleed them dry before they can have it! These people aren’t stupid!”
And there’s the other problem. All these execs like to talk as though we don’t understand their business, like we can’t possibly understand the position Hulu has put them in. Sorry for asking you to think, Bruce. Sorry for asking you to adapt. Sorry for asking that American business men do what they were born to do. Make things. We’ve stopped making and become a country of consumers. Well I, for one, am done consuming and I’m ready to make.
Yeah, Bruce, that’s from 30 Rock. I loaded it up on Netflix just now, scrubbed forward to the part I wanted and transcribed it. Why can’t you make things like this:
And less like…wait…hold on a sec. Just have to fire up the old satellite and dig through the DV-ah, fuck it. Nevermind.
Here’s some big news. Twitter started running in-stream ads at some point this week. It’s a big deal because it’s so insanely intrusive. I’m not a Twitter user, but I do check a few accounts here and there, and I would hate to see this kind of crap show up on a regular basis.
As you can see from the photo (which comes from Allen Stern at Center Networks), Twitter inserted an ad in between actual tweets from users, calling it a “promoted tweet.” I don’t really have a problem with these things showing up in search results, but in my own feed? How often will I have to see them? Can I opt out? Will that be a ‘Twitter Pro’ feature?
I read this article over at TechCrunch the other day about the eventual demise of the optical drive. It rung home, not because I haven’t used my optical drive, but because I just used it this past weekend.
I had traveled back to Ohio for a friend’s wedding reception but ended up staying for more than two weeks as my girlfriend lost her grandmother. In the part of Ohio that she’s from there isn’t much to be had in the way of reliable internet. That meant no Netflix and no access to video I have stored on my network drive. I had to…watch DvDs. It was awful.
Seriously, though, using an optical drive can be kinda brutal. It’s hot, loud, and drains your battery much faster than spinning a hard drive does. It can’t be too long before we’ll see widespread adoption of driveless laptops like the Macbook Air. There is still something about that specific machine that makes me a little nervous, but I treat my current laptop with such care I don’t think a change would be too scary.
Late last week, news broke that PS3 users could finally do what Xbox 360 users had been doing for some time: stream movies without the help of a pesky disc. Now the same is true for Wii users. So long as you have an $8.99 or higher Netflix plan, you can enjoy unlimited streaming without a disc in the drive.
From the Wii press release:
Beginning today, Netflix members in the United States and Canada can stream content through their Wii™ consoles with Netflix installed on their Wii Menu. The Netflix disc that was used for instant streaming on the Wii console will no longer be required. Netflix members who have a plan starting at $8.99 a month ($7.99 in Canada), a Wii console and a broadband Internet connection can now instantly watch movies and TV shows streamed directly to their TVs by simply downloading Netflix from the Wii Shop Channel. This new channel is available at no extra cost. The new disc-free option installs Netflix on the Wii Menu, making it convenient for Wii owners to quickly access streaming movies and TV shows.
I don’t really know why this took so long, or why PS3 and Wii users needed a disc in the first place, but it’s nice to see that it has finally been fixed.
Yesterday Amazon announced a new category of products for its Kindle store. Dubbed Amazon Singles, the new category is aimed at getting consumers to pay for written works that fall somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or 30 to 90 pages.
There are a few problems with this strategy. First, there’s no market for that kind of content. That sounds like a good thing, but in my mind there is no market for a reason. Works of that length tend to be either too much or too little, rarely just right. More importantly, though, is that they aren’t published anywhere else. Though Amazon wants you to believe that great ideas will surface as a part of the Singles program, the reality is that the fairly small Kindle-using population will have access to these things and only a percentage of those users will actually read what’s inside.
More likely is that Amazon will see a surge of submissions to its digital publications service, submissions that are, as we should expect, too much or too little on a given subject. Plenty of would-be authors have a 60 to 90-page project attracting silverfish on a floor somewhere, but how many of them would we actually want to read through?
The one thing Amazon got right is lower prices. There will be people attracted to those lower prices, but it will be solely for price. Several authors have already set a precedent for free content on the Kindle, a practice that has yielded some decent exposure. Will the same be true for shorter works that come with a fee? I doubt it.
I hate them. Hate them hate them hate them. News broke this week that Hulu would be launching on Roku streaming devices, as well as TiVo premiere. It’s only Hulu Plus, for now, but the whole world is crying out against AppleTV as a result.
I think they’re right, too. AppleTV doesn’t have nearly enough options to merit spending money on. It’s a gamble right now, and unless you’re confident in your cracking skills and have a lot of your own video to stream, AppleTV just doesn’t make sense. EXCEPT…
That it’s the best looking software out there and the growth potential is huge. Unfortunately, Apple could pull together the support for launch, mostly because networks didn’t want to go down to $.99 rentals (but most networks show for free online – seriously, just give me free streaming already). Apple launched, thinking success would change some opinions, but with the market the way it is, there might not be massive support behind Apple, which means we get to watch the streaming marketplace splinter, just like Blu-ray/HD-DVD, and hope that whoever we picked wins out in the end. I realize this is kinda the point of capitalism, but I want to make my choice based on how good the product is, not who managed to buddy up with the owner of Hulu over the weekend.
If you’ve ever seen a Photoshop tutorial video, you know the program can often look a lot like magic. Well, this video offers you a different kind of magic. The magic that allows you to photobomb your friends and family with ease. If you don’t know, photobombing is the practice of ruining a photo by appearing in the background, typically doing something distracting. As you can guess, that often means something crude, so this video isn’t quite safe for work, unless, like me, you work from home.
About a month and a hlaf ago I decided it was time to give a streaming music service a shot. Rdio had just launched with a nifty little free trial so I jumped in there right away, but the selection was severely limited. I went to MOG, which started out okay, until I realized just how much better the Rdio service is.
For starters, Rdio has a vastly superior interface. Every god damn time I open MOG I have to sign in, which is bad enough, but then I can’t just open the player from that sign in page. Yes, I can point my browser to the player location, but I do not want to. I also do not want another browser window open. Seriously, what decade is this? For all the goodness that MOG brings – a nice library, good quality, sturdy streaming, the ability to download and play stuff later – they are way behind the times with regard to design.
The saddest part, much like the current TV streaming, is that MOG just might be the best around. From what I’ve seen of the other services, they’re just as bad, maybe worse, and that just isn’t going to cut it for a service I will use every single day.
I want to love AppleTV, I really do. But Apple refuses to make it into a truly compelling peripheral. This week’s update was much needed – prior to this point the little TV box was completely forgettable. By adding Netflix support and focusing on rentals vs. purchases, I think Apple’s done a smart thing, but it’s only halfway there.
The biggest news is the new access to content. Streaming movie rentals is great, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see Netflix offer this as part of a premium service over the course of the next year. TV rentals is great, but it’s only Fox and ABC for now (granted, others will probably get on board quickly) and there’s no mention of how soon after air we’ll get these. It’s likely a short window, but imagine what Apple could have if these were available the instant they aired. That would be something to get excited about, something that would take a lot of money away from cable providers and put it directly in Apple’s pocket.
Ever since I first used a streaming service, I’ve wanted Big Cable to die. I don’t use my TV because I have so many more options when I watch on my computer. I would love it if someone could provide all of those options, all in one place, all for one reasonable price. Would I pay $1 an episode if I could watch the shows I care about live? Of course I would. Cable companies seem to operate under the idea, though, that you should charge one customer for as many things as he might possibly be willing to pay for, instead of providing a service that’s so good that your one customer tells every single person he knows.