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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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August 2007 Archives

August 1, 2007 3:50 PM

Dear Mr. Cuban: The Internet is NOT dead

Writing from the San Francisco Airport on my way to speaking at a Granicus user conference tomorrow. Going to also be meeting with a handful of applications developers while in town, which I’ll be sure to recount in posts later this week.

But for now I wanted to take a moment to respond to remarks made by Mark Cuban last week to a group of cable operators that, and I quote, “The Internet is dead.”

The intent behind this statement was to express his frustration over what he saw as a lack of sufficient bandwidth to drive innovation on the Internet.

His solution to this problem is to focus more attention on leveraging the in-network capacity of cable systems, touting their fiber optic network as being capable of delivering massive bandwidth to the home.

Hmmm…where have we heard about the potential of in-network applications before? Seems like Mark must be reading AppRising in his spare time!

But on a more serious note, while Mark makes a good point, in my opinion he’s missing the more exciting opportunity: moving applications into full-fiber networks.

Another comment to come out of his remarks was his belief that we haven’t seen any great innovations in applications since the rise of YouTube.

I take great exception to this statement.

True, we have not necessarily seen any single application rise to the level of adoption and awareness as YouTube in the last year, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been incredible innovation.

Every week I come into contact with amazing new applications that leverage broadband to enable all sorts of new ways to communicate, share, learn, and more.

The issue isn’t the lack of innovation, it’s the lack of adoption.

What made YouTube great was its ease of use. It made uploading, sharing, and watching online video incredibly simple. It provided a platform that was accessible by everyone. And it made it easy for large groups of people to come together, even if much of the attention it’s drawn has been on the backs of illegal content.

The challenge facing all the other broadband applications already out there--like videocalling, webcasting, remote security cameras, and more—is how can they make more people aware of them, how can they make them easier to use, and how can they get people to actually start using them.

The availability and capacity of “broadband” connections is certainly still a major issue, but to go so far as saying “The Internet is dead” seems to overstep the reality of this situation by quite a bit.

August 2, 2007 6:46 PM

Meeting Zimbra in San Francisco

On my first day in San Francisco yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Greg Armanini, director of marketing for a company called Zimbra.

Zimbra's offering to the world is an online email/collaboration suite accessible through your browser. In a single interface, Zimbra combines email, calendar, contacts, tasks, instant messaging, RSS, and a document repository (some of these features are currently in beta, but will officially launch in the fall).

Rather than trying to compete directly with the GMail and Yahoo! Mails of the world, Zimbra focuses on licensing its open source server software to entities that want to deploy their own mail solutions.

These include small businesses, major corporations, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and service providers, which can reskin and resell Zimbra to their customers.

In about a year's time, they've grown to more than 8 million paid mailboxes, with the 9 million threshhold on the horizon. They're also a truly global company, with deployments in over 50 countries.

As I sat and chatted with Greg, he walked me through the product, giving a sense for what they're all about, and I have to admit, I walked away fairly impressed.

Nowhere else have I seen all these different applications tied together into one, straightforward interface. And many of them are attuned for collaboration.

For example, if you're trying to schedule a meeting, you can access a stripped down version of your coworker's calendar that shows whether they're busy or not. Also, the document repository can almost act like a wiki, allowing groups of people to collaborate on the creation and editing of documents.

Zimbra's strong emphasis on integration is noteworthy as it means they integrate with everything from Outlook to the iPhone, providing multiple touchpoints through which users can access their information.

And their search capabilities were highly impressive, allowing you to set a variety of parameters to hone in on the message you're looking for, including keywords, sender, date, attachments, and more.

What I found especially novel was their concept of a virtual folder, which lets you save a search you've created as if it were a folder. Basically the way it works is you set up the parameters of a search and save them, then when you want to access that refined group of emails, you click on the virtual folder which recreates the search without you having to reenter all the parameters.

All this being said, at the same time I didn't necessarily find anything they were doing to be revolutionary, until we started discussing their use of what they call "zimlets".

Zimlets are essentially little applications that build onto Zimbra's core functionality. These include turning package and flight tracking numbers into dynamic links that point to status indicators, allowing one-click access to Google's translator tools to translate emails from one language to another, facilitating drag-and-drop integration with Salesforce.com when an email comes in from a potential client, making a mailing address into a link you can scroll over and pop up an image from Yahoo! maps, and more.

What's even more interesting than what these Zimlets enable is the fact that most of them weren't built by Zimbra. As Zimbra is built on open-source technology, they've created a platform where their users can pretty easily create their own zimlets to address their individual business needs. Combine that openness and flexibility with a highly engaged user base, and the result is a rapidly evolving library of zimlets. In fact, Greg admitted to me that Zimbra has a hard time even staying aware of all the innovation going on, often hearing about new zimlets through their active discussion forums.

Zimbra is also a tremendous example of the hosted applications space I mentioned earlier this week. They are developing a desktop client for those users who want access to their email when they can't get connectivity, but to date they've been solely available online through a browser.

When asked about their concerns regarding end user bandwidth, Greg shared that while they haven't run into too many problems as most of their customers have fast connections at their offices or in their schools, having faster, more readily available broadband is still a very important issue to their company. As he puts it, "If everyone has a big pipe, they'll love our application."

I've walked away from this meeting very impressed with both the company and their application, and I'm looking forward to tracking them moving forward as they continue to expand their user base and build out new features for their product.

August 8, 2007 9:50 AM

What's Right About Broadband Deployment in the US

I’m back in the saddle following my trip out West and am working on a series of writeups based on my experiences, but I’ve put those aside for now in order to comment on a speech FCC Commissioner Michael Copps gave at the YearlyKos convention.

While his words covered a wide range of topics, one quote in particular that I picked up from this Ars Technica article pushed me over the edge:

“In his speech, Copps…did claim that broadband in the US is ‘so poor that every citizen in the country ought to be outraged.’”

For the most part I’ve stayed out of commenting on the current state of broadband deployment other than sharing my fundamental belief that more bandwidth is a good thing, no matter who’s deploying it. I don’t consider myself enough of an expert on global broadband deployment trends to speak authoritatively on if and by how much we’re falling behind other countries.

But there is one thing that I can say with complete confidence: there are communities across the country who should be and are ecstatic at the state of broadband deployment in their areas.

I’m talking about municipal FTTH projects like UTOPIA where today you can get a symmetrical 15Mbps connection for $40 a month, with the potential for 100Mbps already in place.

I’m talking about in AT&T; UVerse and Verizon FiOS communities where the deployment of advanced fiber networks have introduced new competition, resulting in declining prices and rising speeds.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that in vast swathes of the country “broadband” is slow, expensive, and sometimes unavailable. And I recognize the urgent need to formulate comprehensive strategies for fostering the continued deployment of broadband in order to maintain America’s position as a global leader in the use of the Internet.

But before we malign the entirety of US broadband deployment, let’s not allow overblown rhetoric to hog the entire spotlight without at least acknowledging the tremendous effort and investment being made in areas across the country to deploy advanced fiber networks.

By focusing on what’s going right instead of only lamenting over everything that’s wrong, perhaps we can more effectively identify what’s already working in order to formulate a better plan of attack to guide the growth of America’s broadband infrastructure.

August 9, 2007 1:37 PM

Introducing...the Granicus Hug

My primary reason for heading out to San Francisco last week was to attend and present a keynote address at the Granicus User Conference.

Truth be told, even a cynic like myself found the whole experience of watching Granicus and its customers interact to be quite inspirational.

was started in 1999 by three guys with the goal of streaming video from nightclubs.

With that market not providing much traction and the bubble bursting for all Internet companies, they refocused themselves on a niche market, namely providing webcasting services for city and county government meetings.

So with this customer base in mind, they changed course and began developing tools to specifically address the needs of this market. (For a more in-depth look into what those needs are, check out this KillerApp.com profile.)

Over time the three founders toiled away, bootstrapping their company and pounding the pavement, until the market began to turn and business started picking up.

Two years ago the company had eight employees. Last year they grew to 35, this year they’re already at 55, and to support their continued growth they’re pushing to expand their ranks to 80 in the near future.

From only a handful of customers, they now boast almost 300 spread across the country with a strong concentration in their home state of California.

And they’re poised to continue their meteoric rise as none of their competitors have tailored their products so tightly to the needs of city and country clerks, and more and more government entities are coming to understand the benefits of using broadband to enable new efficiencies and extend the reach of their messaging.

But beyond this growth in demand and the continuing maturation of their products, what inspired me most was the dynamic I witnessed between company and customer.

Everyone I talked to loved the product, citing how it integrates seamlessly into their existing workflows at a pricepoint that makes it hard to resist.

Everyone I talked to loved the people, with one noting Granicus’s ratio of employees to customers as being less than 5, which is unheard of in most all Internet companies.

By the end, I was searching for a complaint, any complaint, about Granicus, and all I got was an introduction to the “Granicus Hug”, which could be seen throughout the conference as employees and customers embraced as if they were long lost friends.

Granicus is a perfect example of the possibilities of the Digital Economy to enable the development of companies that can deliver valuable services to its customers and generate jobs at a rapid clip.

Also noteworthy is the company’s reliance on young people to hold key positions, like their inestimable PR director Lauren Alexander, who their CEO, Tom Spengler, hired straight out of college, relying more on his belief in her ability than on her having an extensive resume.

While most of the attention related to Internet-based companies focuses on the astronomical growth of giants like Google and eBay, we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of the many small to medium-sized businesses, like Granicus, that are proving the vitality of the space in between Google and the garage.

These are real businesses, doing great things, and we should be sure to do whatever we can to support their continued growth, as they provide one of our greatest hopes for supporting the continued vitality of the American economy.

August 10, 2007 1:06 PM

Blockbuster Makes Move Online; Big Investment in Internet TV

The tail end of this week bore witness to two significant announcements in the online video entertainment space.

Blockbuster announced its purchase of MovieLink, a joint venture between major movie studios to sell/rent downloadable movies online.

The partnership between NBC Universal and News Corp to develop a website that would offer up legal TV content from each company announced a $100 million investment from Providence Equity Partners.

These happenings highlight a number of interesting trends in the online entertainment space.

On the Movielink deal, Blockbuster had to get into the online delivery game as its primary DVD rental competitor, Netflix, has been realizing some success with its instant watching feature that was introduced in January.

Movielink has been one of the leaders in this space for years, but it’s a space that has not yet proven big enough to support any significant business, at least when looked at relative to the dollars of traditional DVD or the usage numbers of other online video entities like YouTube.

Yet at the same time, there’s a ton of competition, with Apple, Amazon, CinemaNow, and others all offering ways for consumers to buy/rent downloadable movies. This has been driven in large part not by consumer demand but instead the increasing willingness by movie studios to license their content to online distributors.

A big part of what’s arguably holding back demand for this content is the still-prevalent attitude among studios that less is more when it comes to allowing users to do what they want with their content.

A prime example of this can be found in Movielink, who more than a year ago partnered up with Sonic Solutions to allow downloaded movies to be burned to DVD. While that functionality has been enabled, it only allows users to create DVDs that can be viewed on computers, not on plain-old DVD players.

With movies in particular, getting onto the TV is vitally important to the user experience, so until someone comes up with a solution that works for the mass market and that consumers feel like is providing them a fair value for their money, this space will continue to be nothing more than a bunch of media giants fighting over a pie that has yet to get all that much bigger.

With regards to the NBC/NewsCorp announcement, what’s most surprising to me is both the valuation and the time it’s taking for them to get anything off the ground.

$100mill for 10% of this venture implies a valuation of a billion dollars, yet they have no site, no name, and no clear answers for how all this is going to come together.

Plus, it’s not like they could ever really sell the site as there’s no way either media giant gives up rights to its content in a potential sale, likely leaving the site without much else of value unless they are able to develop some kind of revolutionary platform.

Don’t get me wrong, this endeavor could have huge implications, and this investment points to the continually accelerating excitement over the Internet as a distribution platform for premium content.

But at this point, there are many more questions than answers.

August 13, 2007 11:38 AM

Demise of Google Video Sets Dangerous Precedent

On Friday I wrote up a brief analysis of Blockbuster's move to purchase online movie retailer Movielink, highlighting how this space has more competition than it does demand.

The download-to-own/rent space bore witness to another major announcement last week, namely Google's plans to disband it's paid-download online video service.

, Google revealed its intentions to shut down Google Video, citing "in an effort to improve all Google services, we will no longer offer the ability to buy or rent videos for download from Google Video."

Admittedly, this announcement isn't hugely significant as Google Video never really gained a lot of traction among content owners or users, but what I did find both noteworthy and somewhat troubling is the precedent Google has set for when services like Google Video fold.

First off, on August 15th, any video that you've downloaded from Google Video will stop working. Doesn't matter how loyal a customer or avid a viewer you may be, on August 15th if you want to keep watching that favorite video of yours, you're going to have to go find another copy of it someplace else.

The second piece of this is an effort by Google to assuage disgruntled users, offering them a $5 bonus through Google Checkout to be used at a select number of online stores. Not only are you limited as to where you can use that bonus, but it expires in 60 days, disappearing into the digital ether if left unclaimed.

These practices raise a number of questions about the download-to-own/rent space.

What is it I'm actually buying when I purchase a video online? (Apparently not the rights to watch the video indefinitely, like when I buy a DVD.)

Why is a company able to take away the rights I thought I purchased and not replace the full value of what I originally bought? (Some Google Videos cost more than the $5 bonus users can claim per video.)

How is it I can only use my bonus credit through a tangential Google property? (All I want is to buy back rights to watch my video, not use that money to purchase soap or dog food or whatever through Google Checkout.)

I've been racking my brains to come up with a real-world equivalent to what Google's doing, but I could only come up with an analogy that's, thankfully, pure fantasy.

Imagine you buy a DVD from Best Buy. For whatever reason, Best Buy decides to stop selling DVDs. They then start a campaign to destroy the DVDs they're already sold, offering customers a gift certificate for less than the value of the original purchase price. Sure the gift certificate may enable you to use it at stores other than Best Buy, but in the end there's no way to redeem it to buy back what you really want: the DVD you initially purchased.

I have to admit, I'm somewhat flabbergasted at this tact Google's taking. They're basically confirming consumers' fears that when they purchase video online they may not be getting what they think they're getting.

There's a chance this news will pass with only a slight uproar among the early adopters who will likely continue to purchase video online anyway, but it also points to some serious problems with the current online media paradigm.

And at least from my perspective, it's officially dissuaded me from investing too heavily in any online media until something changes to improve, and more importantly guarantee, the value proposition of buying/renting downloadable videos over the Internet.

August 20, 2007 10:04 AM

Introducing the New AppRising at KillerApp.com

Good morning everyone, and welcome to the start of a new day for AppRising and KillerApp.com!

We’ve received a number of requests for more insight and analysis of the use, implications, and potential of broadband and applications, and we’re delivering it through an enhanced and expanded AppRising at KillerApp.com.

Here you’ll find something new every day, including:

- Commentary on the latest news stories
- Stories from my travels to fiber communities
- Analysis on the most pressing broadband policy issues of our day
- Explanations of complex Internet concepts and terminology
- Thoughts on how to encourage the adoption of broadband and use of applications
- First-hand recountings of my experiences using applications
- Interviews with thought leaders
- And video, lots of video

I’m going to be tramping up to Capitol Hill and across the country in search of answers to the question of, What can we do with all this bandwidth?

And I look forward to all of you joining me on this journey.

Do take note, though, that the old KillerApp.com archives are still accessible at your convenience. Just click on the “KillerApp.com Archives” button above and you can access more than a year’s worth of informative and entertaining articles about the impact broadband has had on people’s lives.

August 20, 2007 1:36 PM

How Has Broadband Changed Your Life?

Last month I attended a brown bag luncheon about the impact of broadband on people with disabilities and the elderly that was a part of the Alliance for Public Technology's "Broadband Changed My Life" campaign.

Today I wanted to point out another facet to their ongoing efforts: a contest through which individuals can submit stories about how and why broadband is indispensable to their lives and have a chance to win up to $1000.

I'd encourage everyone who believes in the transformative power of broadband to share your perspective on this and submit a story. It'll only take a minute and not only might you win some money for your troubles, your story could also help inspire others to better understand how broadband can have a positive impact on their lives.

To help encourage the creative juices of my readers to start flowing, here's the story I submitted earlier today:

As a work-from-home journalist/consultant/entrepreneur/activist, the availability of broadband is a key enabler for my career, allowing for speedy emailing and web browsing, robust VoIP services, and a host of other notable applications.

But broadband has also changed my life on a deeper, more personal level, especially through the use of videocalling applications like Skype and SightSpeed.

Back in December, I was home for the holidays, enjoying a big meal with friends and family. The conversation turned to focus on who was missing from that table: our family friend's daughter who'd recently given birth in New Zealand, where she was based for school.

Most of my family had not yet seen the newborn, but that all changed when we set up a webcam, called her through Skype, and a minute later were enjoying the sight of a beautiful baby, squirming half a world away on her mother's lap.

Back in March, broadband enabled me to share a special moment on the opposite end of the spectrum of life. My folks had made the difficult decision to put our cancer-riddled family dog to sleep. But despite being hundreds of miles away, my sister and I were able to see him one last time, sitting on my Mom’s lap, to say our goodbyes.

Today, I'm eagerly awaiting connecting with my Dad, who's helping my grandparents complete their move into a retirement facility.

I hope to set up a videocall with them soon to see how they're doing and so they can show off their new surroundings.

All of these communications were of profound significance to me personally and were only possible through the availability of broadband.

I will never forget any of these moments, and I hope that through broadband I will never have to miss out on staying in close touch with those people—and animals—who are special to me.

August 21, 2007 9:06 AM

According to New Numbers: Online Gaming Still Most Popular App; Internet Video Catching Up

Last week, Parks Associates released new numbers surrounding usage trends for US adult Internet users, in particular related to the use of online gaming, online video, and social networking sites.

Here’s a brief rundown of the numbers, which represent growth from Q2 ’06 to Q2 ’07 in the percentage of users who use a category of application in a given week:

- Video games went from 19% to 34%
- Short video clips went from 13% to 29%
- Social networking went from 13% to 19%

I see a number of interesting trends within these simple stats.

First off, I’ll continue beating my drum about how far we still have to go. The thing to remember is that this is a survey of US adult Internet users, not all US adults. Per earlier reports that only half of US households have broadband, I take these numbers to mean that less than 15% of US adults are watching short video clips online, for example.

But instead of lamenting our current state, instead I want to point out the incredible amount of room to grow these spaces still have, contrasting that against the massive demand for bandwidth that has already been created.

Think of it this way: YouTube is often cited as delivering as much traffic today as was being delivering by the entire Internet in 2000.

So what does that mean once 20% of US adults start watching online video? Or 30%? Or 50%? What that says to me is despite the meteoric growth of YouTube and online video, we’ve still got the opportunity for demand for bandwidth to increase exponentially from this one, relatively mature area of Internet applications alone.

Secondly, I think it’s worth noting that while social networking still lags somewhat behind gaming and online video, that it’s increasingly not an either/or situation when it comes to what people are doing with their time.

Social networking sites like MySpace are credited with generating a ton of traffic for sites like YouTube; they’re increasingly incorporating video delivery capabilities of their own; and online games have become so engrossing that social networks are popping up around popular games, plus one could argue that many of these games are social networks in and to themselves.

From a purely gaming perspective, bandwidth demands are on the rise as graphics continue getting richer and users spend more and more time in these virtual worlds. Also worth noting is the sense that online gaming must compete for attention with short video sites, which should lead to an even more ferocious pace of innovation than we’ve already seen.

Long story short, this report confirms the obvious: demand for bandwidth is going up, up, and up, with no end in sight.

August 21, 2007 5:27 PM

Wow, I guess everything moves faster in the Digital Age, even corporate apologies.

Less than two weeks after sending an email to Google Video users about Google's plan to stop the service, render all purchased videos unwatchable, and provide a credit only usable through Google Checkout to users (which you can read my post about here), Google essentially apologized for making the wrong decision in .

While somewhat cheeky in tone, it's still remarkable how quickly a multibillion dollar international corporation can gain feedback from its customers and respond with action aimed at assuaging any concerns.

Just another example of how the Digital Economy is shifting the paradigm of what it means to be a nimble corporation and how we, the people, can influence companies by making our voices heard.

August 22, 2007 7:50 AM

Look At Where I've Been, Look At Where I'm Going

Back in July I wrote up a post about the fantastical, rapidly evolving world of online map-making tools, highlighting a handful of innovative applications and musing over their demand for bandwidth.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon news that Google had expanded its My Maps capabilities to include the ability to not only easily create custom maps but also embed them on your webpage or blog, ala the YouTube video player.

I wanted to give this a try, so here's a map I threw together in about ten minutes that highlight my travels starting in May at the Killer App Expo in Fort Wayne, IN, and running through October and the FTTH Conference show.

To make this, all I had to do is log in to my Gmail account, open up a map to the location I wanted to tag (in this case, the entire US), click on the My Maps tag, and then start adding markers, complete with brief titles and descriptions about what I did at each location.

I highly recommend anyone trying to find a way to help people visualize anything regarding geography, distance, travel, etc. to give this a try. For example, after seeing what I'd done, my wife has decided to use this technology to create a map of where all the women in her district that work for her company are located as a part of their ongoing efforts to build bonds between these women in the decidedly un-feminine industry of construction and general contracting.

How might you use something like this?

August 23, 2007 7:38 AM

Servers Go Home; The Bandwidth Beast Grows Hungrier

Saw an article go up on ars technica reporting on details that have been leaked about the first products hitting the market equipped with Windows Home Server software.

While not news as the Windows Home Server initiative was announced some time ago and these leaked details aren't an official release, I still wanted to take a moment to consider what this product is and could mean in the marketplace.

Windows Home Server is software developed by Microsoft intended for the consumer market. When it launches you won't necessarily be buying just the software, but instead you'll purchase a product like the MediaSmart Home Server from HP alluded to in the ars technica article.

To take a step much further back, a server is essentially a computer, often with much more storage, accessible over the network dedicated to one or a handful of specific applications or tasks. Any time you're accessing a web page or watching a video on YouTube, you're pulling information from a server somewhere out in the cloud of the Internet.

In this case, what they're doing is moving the server into your home. On this personal server, consumers will be able to load all of their movies, music, photos, and other media in order to make it instantly accessible in their house and around the world.

I see two notable things in all this:

1 - With this product, Microsoft has demonstrated its belief that at least some sub-segment of Internet power users are maxing out their media storage at home and that it's no longer enough for them to simply store, they want ready access to that content as well. (Whether the market's mature enough for any sort of mass adoption of this product, is very much up in the air, though.)

2 - For the consumers that do adopt this new class of products, they're likely going to start putting a lot more pressure on the upload capacity of their broadband networks. Whenever they want to pull content from these at-home servers when they're not at home, the server will have to upload that information in order for the user to download it elsewhere.

Of course, the upward pressure content is placing on consumer uploading is not new; Slingbox and BitTorrent are two popular examples of applications that rely heavily on upload capacity to deliver content.

But it seems likely that some day we will all have at least one at-home server, brimming with media, and especially video, of all sorts. And as we step closer to that day, the demands placed on broadband networks will only continue to increase.

August 27, 2007 9:09 AM

Cutting Edge Application as Cable TV Advertising Vehicle

Was watching a show called "Human Weapon" on the History Channel last night and noticed an ad at the end that pointed to an online initiative they've started called the Greatest Hits Mashup Maker.

If you go to that site, what you'll find is a pretty slick interface that allows anyone to take short clips from the show and mash them together to create a new video.

Drag and drop clips from the library on the bottom up onto the timeline above, move them around, add in fx that help transition from one clip to another as well as music that sets whatever mood you're going for.

Then when you think it's ready, submit your masterpiece for the world to see. By doing so, you'll enter yourself into a contest where you the grand prize is a plasma TV, a Nintendo Wii, and Human Weapon paraphernalia.

You can also share your new video with others by embedding it into a webpage, as you can see I've done after the jump...

Continue reading "Cutting Edge Application as Cable TV Advertising Vehicle" »

August 27, 2007 2:56 PM

Cuban Expounds Upon How Internet is "Dead and Boring"...

Came across a post on Blog Maverick, aka Mark Cuban's soapbox, from last week where Mr. Cuban defends his critique of the Internet as being "dead and boring."

Earlier this month, I refuted Cuban's initial remarks along these lines by commenting on how the issue with the Internet isn't a lack of innovation, it's a lack of adoption.

But in his latest writings, he responded to criticisms of his remarks, expounding further on his belief that the stabilization of the Internet as a platform for content, commerce, and applications, and the lack of sufficient growth in broadband speeds have retarded innovation online.

In his words: "Some of you may not want to admit it, but that's exactly what the net has become. A utility. It has stopped evolving. Your Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago."

While on the surface stating that the Internet of today is largely the same as the Internet of 2002 might sound preposterous, this isn't the first time I've heard this sentiment expressed.

Continue reading "Cuban Expounds Upon How Internet is "Dead and Boring"..." »

August 28, 2007 10:18 AM

Comcast's Troublesome Attitude Towards Its Heaviest Users

Wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts on the ongoing saga surrounding Comcast’s mysterious bandwidth caps.

To set the stage, over the last few months on more than one occasion I’ve encountered stories about how Comcast treats its heaviest Internet users. (Here’s a whole blog devoted to one person’s experiences.)

To summarize: Comcast has a strict bandwidth cap that they enforce by cutting off access to people who exceed it. So if you’re downloading movies all day long via BitTorrent, Comcast may stop you from using their service with little to no notice.

The two more troubling aspects of this practice are:

- There’s usually no easy way for these “abusers” to get their service reactivated. The response I most often hear Comcast giving is that these people need to upgrade to business accounts, which cost more than $1000 a month. So even if the user is willing to pay for additional bandwidth, there’s no reasonable mechanism that enables them to do so.

- Comcast won’t confirm the exact number of their cap. There’s literally no way to know how much is too much and to make sure you’re not getting too close to the limit.

Continue reading "Comcast's Troublesome Attitude Towards Its Heaviest Users" »

August 29, 2007 8:41 AM

Interfacing the Future

While tracking the coolest new applications is always fun, sometimes what garners my interest even more is the introduction of new ways to look at old things. In particular I find the limitless mutability of online interfaces to be a fertile area to consider.

Take, for example, this "game" I came across yesterday called Human Brain Cloud.

Human Brain Cloud is described loosely as a massively multiplayer word association "game" or experiment.

I've put "game" in quotation marks twice now as this implementation of Flash doesn't have a specific goal users must shoot for, nor is there any real way to win or lose. Instead, there are two main things for users to do:

1 - Play the "game"
When playing, a word appears with a text box underneath it. All you have to do is type in the first word that comes to mind upon reading it. Hit enter, and the site will tell you how many other people submitted the same word or connection.

2 - View the cloud
What I found more fun (and more relevant to the topic of this post) is playing around with the actual Human Brain Cloud itself. Essentially what it is is a representation of all the words and connections that have been submitted by users, shown as black circles with white lettering connected by black lines of varying thickness to represent the number of connections that have been made between the two words.

Enter a word in the search box or click on one that's already on screen and the whole thing changes, shifts, and morphs, allowing you to navigate through a string of associated words.

For example, I searched for "internet" and was able to connect through broadband to bandwidth to leecher to seeder, which refers to someone using BitTorrent.

As a warning, not all of the connections are pleasant; for example, I found a few racial slurs while searching through.

Also, many of the words are either nonsensical or misspelled.

Even still, I find things like this to be fascinating as they introduce new ways of accessing information that are only possible through the use of a computer and the Internet.

August 30, 2007 10:43 AM

Visiting Hiawatha Broadband Company: A Great Success Story for the Business of Deploying Fiber

I’m back in my home state of Minnesota and had the great fortune yesterday of taking a mini-roadtrip to visit with Gary Evans and Dan Pecorina of Hiawatha Broadband Company in the southeast corner of the state.

HBC deployed an advanced HFC network in Winona in the late 90s, and have since built FTTH in Wabasha, a community of 2500. They’re currently working on completing three more FTTH networks in their area.

While this is far from my first encounter with them, it was my first opportunity to understand the full scope of their business, and I couldn’t help but come away impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit.

To start, as I mentioned, HBC’s building out its own fiber network based on the successes they’ve realized in Wabasha.

They’re also working as consultants/contractors with municipalities who want to deploy their own network.

They offer wholesale services, especially TV, that ride other companies’ networks.

They provide co-lo services to a number of companies, including other ISPs and fiber providers.

They’ve initiated a vertically integrated advertising unit, which produces commercials, sells airtime, and delivers it into local TV streams.

They also use their video production capabilities to create local news and special interest programming.

They’ve got a full production van, which allows them to setup on site, especially at local sporting events, and provide live coverage. Because of this tech, they’ve had the opportunity to produce events that have appeared on ESPN.

And if this all weren’t enough, they’re preparing to launch a mobile phone product, which includes them partnering with T-Mobile and AT&T;, as well as deploying additional towers across their community to get read of any deadspots in coverage.

All of this, and how many customers do you think they have? Would you believe 10,000? I almost couldn’t.

It’s mind-boggling how a small company in southeastern Minnesota can support such a multi-faceted, dynamic business, but support they do as they’re proudly profitable.

I’m willing to admit America has some significant issues regarding the deployment and operation of broadband, but as I’ve written previously, there are examples of what’s right with broadband in this country and I believe HBC is a poster child for the successes that are being realized through the deployment of fiber.

August 31, 2007 10:17 AM

The Viability of Rural Broadband

One thing that's stuck with me from my trip to visit Hiawatha Broadband Company on Wednesday is my continuing awe over how diverse and seemingly successful this small telecom company in rural Minnesota has been.

It's odd, though: I thought rural communities were not lucrative enough to support the deployment of fiber.

I thought rural communities didn't have enough Internet-savvy customers to turn a profit.

I thought big cities and their white collar suburbs were the most viable areas to support fiber deployment.

But I'm realizing, that's just not the case.

The key factor in this equation that's often missed, it seems, is the potential for unbelievable take rates in smaller communities.

Continue reading "The Viability of Rural Broadband" »