November 2009 Archives

The War for the Web

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Tim O'Reilly:

On Friday, my latest tweet was automatically posted to my Facebook news feed, as always. But this time, Tom Scoville noticed a difference: the link in the posting was no longer active.

It turns out that a lot of other people had noticed this too. Mashable wrote about the problem on Saturday morning: Facebook Unlinks Your Twitter Links.

if you're posting web links (, TinyURL) to your Twitter feed and using the Twitter Facebook app to share those updates on Facebook too, none of those links are hyperlinked. Your friends will need to copy and paste the links into a browser to make them work.

If this is a design decision on Facebook's part, it's an extremely odd one: we'd like to think it's an inconvenient bug, and we have a mail in to Facebook to check. Suffice to say, the issue is site-wide: it's not just you.

As it turns out, it wasn't just links imported from Twitter. All outbound links were temporarily disabled, unless users explicitly added them as links via an "attach" dialogue. I went to Facebook, and tried posting a link to this blog directly in my status feed, and saw the same behavior: links were no longer automatically made clickable. You can see that in the image that is the destination of the first link in this piece.

The problem was quickly fixed, with URLs in status updates automatically now linkified again. The consensus was that it was in fact a bug, but it's little surprise that people suspected otherwise, given the increasing amount of effort Facebook puts into warning people that they are leaving Facebook for the big bad unsafe Internet:

Don Sull:

Leaders recognize the value of agility in turbulent markets, but are often less clear on how they can enhance their own organization's ability to identify and seize opportunities more effectively than rivals. Over the past decade, I have analyzed more and less successful firms in some of the world's most turbulent markets, including China, Brazil, European fast fashion, and financial services. My research revealed three distinct forms of agility-operational, portfolio, and strategic agility.

Operational agility is a company's capacity, within a focused business model, to consistently identify and exploit opportunities more quickly than rivals. Toyota, Soutwest, and Zara exemplify this form of agility at the corporate level. In diversified groups, operational agility occurs (or doesn't) within discrete business units. Opportunities create economic value either by raising a customer's willingness to pay (which translates into higher price or volume) or by reducing costs. The best firms exploit both types of opportunity with equal fervor. Toyota, for example, has consistently anticipated consumers' shifting preferences-for quality, fuel-efficiency, and environmental impact-and introduced vehicles to meet emerging needs. At the same time, Toyota's production system weeds out activities that do not add value for customers.

Main Street provides one real time location for your information.

Tony Fernandes on Starting and Growing Air Asia

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The Economist:

Jean-Louis Gassee:

With this in mind, unlike most opining individuals above, I went to a Verizon store and paid my own money to get a Droid. I did this on the very Droid-day, Friday November 6th, at the University Avenue Verizon store in Palo Alto, around 11:30 am. No line, I waited two minutes for a salesperson, a simple transaction as I already have a Verizon account. The activation turned out to be just a bit more problematic: 'Too much traffic' said the sales gent. I left the phone with him, went back to my office one block away. When I returned by lunchtime, everything was in order. Easy enough.

I've used the Droid for a week now and my own take doesn't deviate much from what early reviews led me to expect.

As happens time and again, I hit the difference between a feature set, a check-list, and the user experience. For example, the keyboard and the camera.

The Droid's camera sports more pixels, 5 million, vs. the iPhone's 3.2 million. But, as reviewers pointed out, and as I can confirm, the Droid's pictures are mediocre. As discussed here, megapixel numbers are often misleading. And it looks like the iPhone's firmware also provides better selective focus and image processing.

As for the slide-out keyboard, I find it hard to use. Actually, it feels harder to use that the one on the original T-Mobile Gphone, the G1 I bought a year ago. The two phones are clearly related, similar keyboard arrangement, similar UI (User Interface); the Droid is more refined, thinner, it runs a newer, better Android release.

Steve Rubel:

Satisfied with your Google ranking? It just may change before the day is out. Marissa Mayer on Google's race against spammers...
"We have two, three, five changes every week that are visible to the end-user in the user interface. We don't [publicize] the ranking changes. We are making changes to our ranking algorithm at the rate of two per day. Interestingly, some of our competitors haven't made any changes to their ranking function for quite some time. Search needs to evolve: the user interface, the ranking function. It's a process of making lots of small changes all the time and to constantly make things better."
Now factor in personalization and that people are using more words per query and you get the sense that SEO as we know it really could one day be extinct.

Redfin Raises another $10M in VC

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Mike Arrington:

eattle based Redfin, an online real estate startup, has raised another $10 million in a venture capital round led by Greylock Partners. Existing investors Madrona Venture Group, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Vulcan Capital and The HIllman Company all participated in the round, and Greylock's James Slavet joins the Redfin board of directors.

This was a safety round, as Redfin announced profitability over the summer and have now exceeded a $20 million in revenue run rate (it was just $15 million last summer). They've roughly quadrupled in size since 2008, even in a down real estate market.

I used Redfin as a buyer over the summer when I was looking for a house. Here's how it works, and why it's so attractive compared to normal real estate broker deals: As a buyer you spend a lot of time on the Redfin site, looking at available houses and a rich set of data on previous sales, comps in the neighborhood, other homes listed in the same price range, etc. (or you can use their iPhone app, which the company says is the highest rated real estate app).

RrealtyTrac company's pitch leads to unexpected bill

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David Lazarus:

Maria Casanova, an assistant professor of economics at UCLA, toyed with the idea earlier this year of buying a foreclosed property near the Westwood campus. She signed up for a prominent listing service called RealtyTrac.

Casanova, 31, canceled her subscription not long after. Yet a few days ago she discovered that some other real estate company she'd never heard of has been billing her almost $45 a month for the last eight months.

Consumer advocates say it's an all-too-common problem: People signing up for one thing online and inadvertently signing up for something else that comes with recurring monthly charges.

"It's a practice we're seeing more and more online," said John Breyault, vice president of public policy for the National Consumers League. "People need to be very wary any time they sign up for a service."

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