Thursday, August 09, 2007

Screencasts: Play the web with Songbird

Popout Free Firefox-based media player Songbird makes playing local and online music a whole new experience. View web pages, play music linked on them and drag and drop the files to your own local library right in Songbird. We've mentioned Songbird before, but the screencast above demonstrates how cool the bird really is. If you're an MP3 blog lover, music searcher, or podcast subscriber, hit the play button.


GMail Plus - A Smart Trick to Find & Block the Source of Email Spam

GMail Plus Addressing is not new but still very relevant and useful trick to help save your GMail mailbox from spam. And if you get spammed, you know exactly which website / online service leaked your email address to spammers.

gmail plus spam newsletter

[Was reminded of the GMail plus trick after an email subscriber actually used it today while subscribing to the DI newsletter - see screenshot above]

What is GMail Plus addressing? Say you have an email address like If you append a "plus" sign to your email username, gmail will ignore anything written between the + and @ sign.

So any email address sent to or or will still reach your inbox though technically, they are three different email aliases.

When you share your email with some non familiar service, like a newsletter, you can supply your existing email with a plus sign. If you ever receive spam addressed to that email alias, you know the exact source that's sending the spam and can easily block all emails using a GMail filter.

[type the alias in the To: fiedd and redirect all incoming message to Trash or apply a new label]

More GMail Easter Eggs [including the dot trick].


T-Mobile bringing HotSpot @Home to your landlines

T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home already brings WiFi VoIP to compatible cell phones, and the latest FCC filing from T-Mo and Linksys indicates that soon all the phones in your pad will be able to get in on the action: say hello to the WRTU54G. Apart from the T-Mobile branding and the two phone jacks on the back, the router features two user-accessible SIM card slots, which appear to be used to configure up to two phone lines -- we're not sure if they're VoIP or cell, however. [Via TG Daily]


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Scrybe Closes Series A

Scrybe, the online/offline calendar and organizer, has closed their series A round of financing from Adobe Systems Incorporated and LMKR. In what is becoming an annoying trend, the company is not disclosing the size of the round.

You’ll probably recognize the company from the somewhat viral product demo that swept the blogosphere last October. Since then they’ve been through a private and public beta.

Scrybe is a Flash-based organizational and productivity tool that works both online and offline. It consists of multiple calendar management, to do lists, web clip bookmarklet, contact list (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or Outlook importing), and The system operates offline by caching your changes and then uploading when the system reconnects. Zimbra and Google Gears provide similar online/offline products.

The driving principle behind the application is usability. Scrybe’s main selling point is that the application retains the context of the data that you’re working with by “zooming” instead of flipping to the data. One example is the calendar. The cells of the calendar expand and contract as you edit a week, day, or hour more closely while still showing the details of the surrounding days. See the extended video below for more details.


Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0


The Future Of Copyright Protection Is Here And It Costs $11 An Hour

It’s no secret that video sites like YouTube benefited from added traffic generated by hosting copyrighted content. But as these sites get acquired, integrate advertising, or just want to avoid a billion dollar lawsuit, they seek to shed their seedy past to stay kosher with the big media giants they hope will feed them content and advertising dollars.

There are a lot of startups offering technological means of keeping their noses clean. Most of the solutions function as digital detectives, comparing the video fingerprints of copyrighted content with uploaded content for a match. Some of these companies include Audible Magic, Advestigo, Gracenote, MotionDSP, Philips, and iPharo. YouTube has implemented Audible Magic, although I haven’t noticed a difference. MySpace also incorporated Audible Magic but took the added step of banning re-uploading content violating copyright (“Take Down Stay Down” initiative).


However, while computers are great for solving well defined problems at a dizzying pace, they don’t always do that well when the rules become murkier. Judgments need to be made about whether playing a song or video constitutes “fair use” and simply changing a few characters of the title can fool more basic filters. That’s why 5-year-old BayTSP has decided to keep humans in the loop. The WSJ takes an in depth look at the company.

The Journal reports that BayTSP has hired more than 20 “Video Analysts” to watch videos and report copyrighted content starting at $11 an hour. Their searches are helped by BayTSP’s software, which most likely gives them a head start on what to look for. The company’s most notable client is Viacom, which it supplied with the data for their 100,000 video DMCA takedown request last year. Viacom says it pays BayTSP more than $100,000 each month for the service. The takedown requests have resulted in over 230,000 clips being removed from YouTube for Viacom. BayTSP says its error rate on Web videos is only around 0.1%.

Despite these efforts, video piracy remains rampant both on Google video search and many other social video sites. Once content is taken down, some users simply re-upload them to the site. MySpace is apparently countering this behavior through a file blacklist, but other video providers are certainly concerned with pushing away potentially valuable content and users. Content providers have continually leaned on the heavily manual DMCA safe harbor clause, while copyright holders clamor for embedded filtering. Google has recieved a long list of take down notices. AT&T has expressed an interest in filtering their network directly.

One thing’s for sure, there’s still a lot more debate needed amongst us humans before the computers chime in.


Big Media Is Buying, Hearst goes Kaboodle

Updated: First it was News Corp., then CondeNast and CBS Interactive. Now Hearst Corp. and Forbes have joined the Web 2.0 party, snapping up tiny start-ups, and trying to capture the ongoing online shift of both audiences and advertising dollars.

Earlier today, Venturebeat reported that Forbes was buying Clipmarks, a social bookmarking and clipping service based in New York. Now The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Hearst has snapped up Kaboodle, another bookmarking service that allows online shoppers to clip and save information, for an undisclosed amount.

According to our sources went for somewhere around $40 million. Manish Chandra, founder and CEO of the 18-month old start-up based in Santa Clara, Calif., declined to comment on specific terms of the deal.

When I asked him why he decided to sell the company, he candidly replied, that “the stakes are getting higher, and others [competitors] are raising a ton of money.” What do that say, any exit is a good exit.

The company had about 2.2 million unique visitors in June 2007, having grown 20 fold since its launch. It had raised about $5 million in venture capital, and was in the process of raising another round when the exit opportunity emerged.

Chandra said that since a large percentage of Kaboodle users are women, and the site has an e-commerce/shopping component, it fit nicely with the larger goals of Hearst. He also added that the deal doesn’t impact its deals with Conde Nast properties.

There is an interesting pattern in some of the buys by big media corporations. They are not just buying pure-content, but instead seem to be interested in content-enhancing tools that rely on communities than individual content creators. Newroo, Photobucket, Reddit,, Clipmarks and now Kaboodle fit that profile.

This is a strategy not without risk. Big media companies have to leave the acquired-and-their communities alone. Back in June 2007, Liz wrote about this trend of big media companies leaving the “kids” alone.

Acquirers, despite their enormous and asymmetrical audience, money, and power compared to their purchases, seem like awkward first-time parents afraid of hurting a baby. They are more than conscious of their status as old farts swooping in and quickly turning cool to lame.

From a Silicon Valley perspective, emergence of buyers outside of the G-Y-M (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) triumvirate is a good thing. Sure it rules out billion dollar exits, but it ensures that there are more buyers with cash.


Scripps Networks Acquires a Pickle; Explains Future

I remember when Hearst and Scripps fought for my business during my corporate America days. Now they are fighting with Internet acquisitions. Hearst acquired Kaboodle this morning, now Scripps has announced their acquisition of Incando who is known for its personal media sharing service and the user-generated content management platform Powered by Pickle. Scripps acquired Recipezaar last month.

A clip from the official release:

"We are committed to our strategy of owning the food, shelter and lifestyle categories online as well as on air,” said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks. "With the acquisition of Incando, we now have the back-end tools to engage consumers, viewers, and marketers in a multi-branded, multimedia online universe with compelling, personalized experiences.”

If you are curious as to where Scripps is heading, here is some clues from their release.

Within the next few years, Scripps Networks expects as much as 50 percent of its online content to be co-created by its users.

I love this statement from the release - love the "Web 2.0 Technology" usage!

Based on proprietary software, Incando's Web2.0 technology enables speedy uploads of photos and videos from computers, mobile phones or digital cameras to any Web site and will enhance the user-centric, social media and personalization functionality around Scripps Networks' lifestyle content.

Om Malik has a great summary of big media's recent tech purchases.

read more


NVIDIA stuffs four Quadro FX 5600 GPUs into 1U server

Yeah, we all agreed that the Quadro Plex 1000 was hot stuff in its heyday, but NVIDIA's latest GPU server blows away prior iterations by cramming four Quadro FX 5600s into a 1U enclosure. The Quadro Plex VCS Server packs a "record number" of GPUs into a 1U form factor, and its 6GB frame buffer (1.5GB per GPU) and mind-boggling computational abilities should please those interested in remote graphics / offline rendering. Additionally, it's built to "dynamically allocate compute, geometry, shading, and pixel processing power for optimized GPU performance," and while there's no mention of a price, those actually in the market for this beast probably aren't concerned.

[Via MacsimumNews]


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Leveraging Facebook To Compete With eBay Won’t Work made a splash tonight with their announcement of a new Facebook application called Garage Sale.

Facebook users can use the application to sell thing directly to others via their Facebook profile. charges a flat 5% commission on completed sales (the seller will also have to pay Paypal or other payment fees. The application says “thanks to Garage Sale, Facebook users don’t have to leave their profile page to advertise and sell personal goods.”

There are other Facebook applications doing nearly the exact same thing. Mosoma, for example, is one that I tested a couple of weeks ago. It also allows users to sell items on their Facebook profile.

There is an argument that a closed network is a better way to sell items because the people who view the listing know you and, presumably, trust you. That gets you over a big hurdle - eBay’s feedback system provides information on the buyer and seller which helps them get comfortable transacting. Without that feedback system to encourage sales, it’s important that something else takes its place. In the case of Garage Sale and Mosoma, user familiarity is the key.

But in practice this doesn’t work so well. Sellers are looking for a big base of buyers to sell into to leverage the network effect. eBay obviously does an excellent job of this. Otherwise there is no reason they would command a long term leadership position with their high fees. Buyers and sellers put up with the fees because it is the place to go to conduct p2p transactions. The network effect perpetuates their success and newcomers have a very difficult time gaining market share.

With Garage Sale and Mosoma, sellers can’t access this large pool of buyers because only their friends will see the listings. And sellers who are looking for a specific item are still likely to hop on over to eBay and do a quick search. They’ll only buy from friends if they serendipitously happen to catch site of an item in a friend’s news feed that they were already looking for.

Microsoft experimented in this area in late 2005/early 2006 with their Live Expo product. Originally Expo was a way to buy and sell items to your MSN IM buddies, or coworkers at a company, which is very similar to the Facebook experiments now being conducted. But over time they seem to have expanded Expo to become a more generic listing service. People want deep listings when they are looking for something.

Closed networks work for some things, but they don’t seem to work for trading physical goods. My bet is that Garage Sale and Mosoma fall short of expectations, and that eBay is looking on with, at best, bemused interest.


Legend Marketing

Your BRAND is what you tell your customers you are.

Your LEGEND is what your customers tell others you are.

Legend Marketing is a strategy, product development, and marketing consulting firm that helps you articulate your legend so your customers can pass it on for you.


Experiential Marketing - IKEA Hotels

Excerpted from March 21, 2003. Experiential Marketing™ (by Augustine Fou)

IKEA hotels. Given the commoditized status and lack of differentiation of many hotel chains like Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, Red Roof Inn, Motel 6, Comfort Inn, etc., imagine if a particular chain partnered with IKEA to decorate their rooms with simple, clean and comfortable bedroom furniture. This fact alone would give that hotel chain a significant point of differentiation. The hotel chain also gets the economic benefit of furniture at prices that are even better than wholesale prices on generic furniture. IKEA gets significant "consumption-experience level" exposure to target customers at a fraction of the expense of TV ads or building vast new retail stores.

Consumers get to experience IKEA furniture "in action" which undoubtedly would give them enough first-hand experience information to make future purchase decisions. Finally, some creative "consumer insights research" opportunities can even be built in, such as allowing visitors to select from among differently decorated IKEA hotel rooms and tracking such decisions to gather which items are most popular or even how to make IKEA's in-store bedroom sets more appealing.

In summary, both the hotel and IKEA achieve "experiential marketing" which drives greater marketing effectiveness (i.e. hotel chain differentiates themselves from others; IKEA lets customers actually experience their products prior to going to a store), delivers a more impactful experience to customers, and even reduces costs for both parties.


How to lose a billion? The impact of the Internet on industries

The theme throughout is the shift of power to the consumer and away from the seller, who used to control supply, distribution, and "marcom" (marketing message).

Getty Images (GYI) -- minus 33% ($1 billion) in 10 days

- supply replacement - vast online collections of photos and microstock collections serve as alternatives to traditional stock agency offerings (given a choice of thousands of rose pictures, a $1 rose picture will probably be perfectly sufficient for a buyer's needs, versus a rose picture that comes with much more complex license terms or is more costly.

- demand displacement - new use cases, better findability, greater ease of use, more flexible license terms, and lower cost shift demand away from traditional stock agency offerings; so while the number of photos that are licensed and used may skyrocket (everyone can add photos to blog posts), the dollar value of the overall market "pie" will shrink when the average price per photo approaches $0.00 (free). And market share will also scatter away from traditional dominant players to the multitude of smaller alternative players.

Blockbuster (BBI) -- minus 42% ($0.7 billion) in about 4 months

- demand displacement -- the same supply of "entertainment content" made easier to access and view by online rental services (e.g. NetFlix), on-demand cable, bite-sized downloads (e.g. Apple iTunes), and distributed sharing technology (e.g. BitTorrent).

Newspapers (Classifieds industry)

- better timeliness of Craigslist postings mean users could get their apartment rented even before the listing hits print

Telecom (Long distance charges)

- calling over the internet has been around for years, but now practically every instant-message program has "voice" features and voice-over-IP providers are routing voice data over internet pipes and avoiding the tolls charged by traditional telecom companies

Music (distribution of plastic discs and promotion of selected artists)

- the world did not fill up overnight with music-pirating grandmas or cats (RIAA sued someone's cat); rather, the shift of power towards the consumer is manifesting itself in the evaporation of demand of plastic discs -- consumers don't want to buy a CD with 16 tracks on it when they only want 1 track; consumers want to use the music they did purchase on the devices of their choice; consumers balk at the mental "cost" of DRM; and consumers want music that is actually good and original, not music that has been heavily promoted and in heavy rotation on radio because of such promotion.


Jonathan Klein on Getty Audio and User Generated Music Content


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Don´t worry. We are not going be selling music at 99 cents a song for the iPod market.

We are not going to try and discover the next hot or not so hot Ecto band.

We are focussing on licensing. What we want to do is to revolutionize the way music is licensed for commercial use.

The music industry today is much like the imagery business once was. It´s highly fragmented, it´s complex".

Augustine: diversification to other types of digital content MAY help Getty survive a bit longer, but there are already other alternatives to music licensing which is more "user and artist friendly."

PodSafe Music - original music contributed by artists themselves for use in podcasts FOR FREE, with attribution

Creative Commons music (use FOR FREE with attribution)


Monday, August 06, 2007

How to Sell Documents, Web Templates, Videos or Pictures Online

Torsten is looking for a convenient system to sell his PDF eBooks on the internet - as soon as the user makes the payment via Credit Card or PayPal or Google Checkout, he should get a link to download the file in his email inbox and the link should expire after a given time.

sell documents online PDF eBooks - or for that matter any downloadable product including blog templates, Flash presentations, MP3 music, podcasts, video clips, digital photographs, ringtones, software utilities,.. can be sold on the web very easily through a service called PayLoadz Express.

All you have to do is upload the file (that you want to sell) to PayLoadz and they'll immediately give you a link where your site visitors can click and buy the document through PayPal or Google Checkout. It's an extremely smooth transaction.

PayLoadz will also expire the download link after a limited time and also monitors downloading IP addresses to prevent excessive downloading of the file. There's no transaction fee if the monthly limit is $100 and the size of the uploaded files is less than 50 MB.

This Google Video shows a sample transaction - customer makes a purchase and downloads the document:

Popout [Upload and Sell Documents in a Click, PayPal Only]

Payloadz [More options, supports both Paypal and Google Checkout]


Prototype display adjusts pixels for your viewing (angle) pleasure

We've certainly seen displays that look right back at you for interactive purposes, but a new system developed by Wayne Cheng and Chih-Nan Wu at the Photonics and Display Institute, National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan could enable the LCD to alter itself based on your viewing location. The researchers have devised a solution in which a camera tracks the eyes of the onlooker and subsequently uses software to adjust the "orientation of liquid crystals in the display and the power fed to light-emitting diodes behind each." The result is an image that remains clear and sharp regardless of how you're looking at the screen, and while the developers admit that it can only respond to one set of eyes at a time, they're hoping that "doctors and surgeons who use LCDs to view scans or X-rays" would be among the first to benefit.



Thomas Hawk's excellent side-by-side comparison of photo collections

Source: - Getty Images vs Flickr

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thomas Hawk: "Below are three searches that I selected at random. Las Vegas, candle and clouds. Now click through to the search pages for these terms at Flickr and at Getty Images. Which one is better? Is it clearly better? If you were a marketer would it make a difference to you which one you pulled your images from?

Las Vegas Getty
Las Vegas Flickr

Candle Getty
Candle Flickr

Clouds Getty
Clouds Flickr

Now let's take this a step further and enter into the long tail of stock photography let's do a search for Tujunga (a small town in the San Fernando Valley where I grew up) and Mount Tam (a local mountain in Marin here in the Bay Area).

Tujunga Getty
Tujunga Flickr

Mount Tam Getty
Mount Tam Flickr

Interesting what you get here isn't it? You see with 400 million images in their library Flickr is the better stock agency for long tail stuff for sure. The problem just is that Flickr hasn't figured out how to turn this on yet."


GYI: The Internet transforming yet another industry

Minus a third (nearly $1 billion) of its market cap in 5 days, Getty Images (GYI) is seeing the tangible effects of ...

1) supply replacement -- vast collections of photos online serve as alternative supply for people searching for photos to use/license.

2) demand displacement -- new use cases such as use of photos on blogs require new licenses such as royalty free or Creative Commons -- the terms of traditional rights managed licenses simply don't work for such use-cases, regardless of the price.

While more and more photos will be licensed and used (e.g. to decorate blog entries etc.) this additional demand will likely be satisfied by photos which are $1 or less, photos which are taken by eye-witnesses and immediately available (e.g. directly uploaded from cameraphones), and photos which are more readily found (e.g. users do image searches online from their favorite search engine).


Gulf Ethanol Advances Production Plans Based on Texas A&M Sorghum Plant

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Gulf Ethanol Corporation, (OTC:GFET), has advanced its plans for an enhanced ethanol production facility along the Texas Gulf coast that could use the new sorghum plant developed by Texas A&M as its primary feed stock, Texas A&M University and Chevron Corp (NYSE CVX) recently announced the major new alternative fuels initiative.

The development of "freakishly tall sorghum plants" was designed as an ideal feedstock for Ethanol production by Texas A&M. "Standing nearly 20 feet tall, these plants are more than twice the height of regular sorghum and yield double the crop per acre. They can survive on little water. They have been bred not to flower, thus trapping more energy within." (Source: Brett Clanton, Houston Chronicle)

"This is a new paradigm for bioenergy production," said Bill McCutchen, deputy associate director at Texas A&M's Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

The Department of Energy has announced nearly $400 million in funding for the establishment of three bio-energy research centers, "while oil companies including BP (NYSE BP), Exxon Mobil (NYSE XOM), and Chevron (NYSE CVX) have given money to universities for biofuels research."

"Because we see sorghum as the ideal non-food feed stock for ethanol production in Texas, we embrace the Texas A&M initiative as a key step forward in providing economical feed stocks for our Texas ethanol plants," JT Cloud, Gulf Ethanol's President explained, "The long term success of ethanol as an alternative fuel must be based on the development of efficient non-food sources for ethanol production."

Last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry outlined a new bioenergy strategy that will encourage more research at state universities on noncorn ethanol and other renewables, with an eye toward getting them to market faster. As part of the effort, he pledged $5 million to Texas A&M for research.

About Gulf Ethanol Corporation

Gulf Ethanol is focused on developing ethanol production along the Gulf Coast. Gulf Ethanol is committed to using non-food feed stocks for the production of ethanol rather than corn or sugar cane, which have now been shown to be expensive fuel sources that negatively impact food prices. For more information please visit our homepage at:


Panasonic's Oxyride vehicle breaks 65mph on AA batteries

Filed under:

Sure, watching a wee remote controlled, all electric vehicle hit nearly 200 miles-per-hour is quite impressive, but moving a vehicle large enough to stuff a moderately sized human into with just AA cells is, well, world record worthy. Reportedly, the newly revamped Oxyride managed to maintain an average speed of just over 65mph and hit a top speed of 75.8mph, all while being powered by 192 AA batteries. Unsurprisingly, the promotional stunt rocketed Panasonic into the Guinness Book of World Records for speed attained with a vehicle solely driven by dry-cell AA batteries, but we still wouldn't look at purchasing 192 batteries (each way) as an efficient method of powering your commuter car.

[Via AkihabaraNews]


Google Maps add YouTube Videos

Google MapsAlright so you read the title and said, "WTF" out loud. Why would anyone want to tie YouTube videos with a Google map? Unlike the absolutely stupid and useless street viewer option, this one makes sense.

Imagine you are planning a trip to Los Angeles and want to see what the clubs are like that Paris Hilton goes to. Now you can. Or if you are heading to Paris, check out which bistro has the best steak before you get there! In all seriousness, I could see this as a huge plus for travelers. But see below for the negative, videos must be geotagged and not everyone will do this.

Check out some additional release information on Mike Abundo's Blog. For the mashup to work effectively, videos must be geotagged when uploaded and then you need to install the mashup. Took four seconds to install.

read more


Firefox Tip: Override disabled username and password autocomplete

Does your online banking or company intranet never remember your username and password? If you save your passwords in Firefox but still have to type 'em in by hand on certain sites, they probably disable login credential autocomplete. The How-To Geek says that the right Greasemonkey user script can re-enable that handy functionality on some sites. (Sadly it didn't on my bank's login page, but on others it will.) If a site disables password-saving, it's probably doing that for good reason, so use this tip at your own risk. And remember: if you are saving passwords in Firefox, lock 'em down with a single master password .

Why Doesn't AutoComplete Always Work in Firefox? [The How-To Geek]


Lanner rolls out four-bay NS04-3100 NAS server

Filed under: ,

While there's not a great deal to distinguish it from the multitude of other NAS servers out there, Lanner's new NS04-3100 looks like it should easily satisfy those with hefty storage appetites, offering four bays for some SATA drives of your choosing. Otherwise, you'll get just about all the features you'd expect from a high-end NAS, including built-in WiFi, UPnP AV media server capabilities, iTunes server and DLNA support, and support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and JBOD configurations. Lanner is also promising "ultra-quiet operation" and minimal power draw from the server's Marvel 88F5281 processor. No word on price, but it's apparently available immediately for "sampling." [Via Akihabara News]


Tesla announces its first dealership

Filed under:

We knew Tesla had plans to open up dealerships in some of the, how should we say, more affluent markets in the US, and according to the company its first dealership and service center will be opened in one of the richest neighborhoods in the States, Menlo Park (just an electric hop, skip, and jump away from its San Carlos-based HQ).

[Via AutoblogGreen]



Amazon vs. Paypal vs. Google Checkout

Amazon, in its bid to become the underlying utility of the new web world, today confirmed what had been rumored earlier: a payment service that will compete with PayPal and to some extent, the nascent Google Checkout services.

Just to be clear, Google Checkout and Amazon FPS are not building their own payment service, where PayPal has a clear lead. Instead they are using the credit card infrastructure to enable payments and online transactions.

As a discrete offering, Amazon Flexible Payment Services (still in beta) may seem like a me-too service. However, when juxtaposed against the whole gamut of web services being offered by the company, it is a Trojan horse like strategy, one that can start to eat away at PayPal’s business.

It is not a surprise, that both Google and Amazon want a slice of PayPal’s cake. In the most recent quarter, PayPal had net revenues of $454 million, up 34% over the $339 million reported in Q2-06. More importantly, PayPal Merchant Services transactions jumped 57% to $4.92 billion globally from the $3.13 billion reported in Q2-06.

PayPal has become a defacto standard in the online transactions and payment services, and for anyone to have a chance to beat them there are two options: use money (and price) to lure the eCommerce players, as Google is doing with its Checkout Service. The second option is to offer a developer friendly service, that can allow developers to embed a payment solution into their offerings. Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon explains it best:

Using a capability called “Payment Instructions” developers can easily create the charging model that works best for them. For example, they can charge customers in small increments until their accumulated balance reaches a limit, pay a percentage of a digital transaction as a royalty, earn a commission on a marketplace transaction, or allow one customer to pay for another customer and limit their usage to a specific amount.

As developers who are already using Amazon’s EC2 and S3 web services start to embed FPS, what they are doing is slowly shifting the momentum away from using PayPal and other rivals. Allowing the buyers to use their Amazon credentials to buy the goods (or services) from these developers, they are also increasing their economic opportunity.

A small web-app developer can now build, host, process and get paid for his efforts right over the Amazon infrastructure, without having to spend money upfront. As Amazon Web Servies team notes on its blog:

Seriously, the 69 million active customers can now use FPS to pay for the applications that you’ll undoubtedly want to build. On the other end, the first wave of FPS applications will be available very soon.

While I can’t put it as eloquently as uncov does, but I do agree with their thesis that this is going to cause major headaches for PayPal.


Remember Webvan? So Does Amazon

Check out Amazon Fresh - a new invite only service from Amazon that looks eerily similar to the quintessential 90’s Internet flameout, Webvan.

The new service promises speedy at-home delivery of groceries, including fresh produce, at “competitive everyday prices.” It’s available only in Seattle currently, and has not been officially announced. But at least one person caught a glimpse of an Amazon Fresh truck driving around downtown Seattle.

Users select and pay for groceries on the site. They can then choose to pick up the items themselves locally, or, with a minimum order size, have them delivered next day within a one hour time slot. Groceries will also be delivered to doorsteps pre-dawn in a temperature-controlled container.

A year ago Amazon began experimenting with sales of non-perishable food and household items, but did not deliver them directly and perishable goods were not available.

If you are a Seattle reader, keep your cameras handy. We want a picture of the delivery truck.

Webvan, which had a spectacular IPO and quickly expanded to 26 cities, went bankrupt in 2001. Before closing down, Webvan had acquired competior HomeGrocer. Coincidentally, Amazon was an investor in HomeGrocer.


Listen To Your iTunes Library On The Web With Anywhere.FM

anywherefmlogo.png has launched a new online music player that looks and feels a lot like a web based version of the iTunes player, sans the music marketplace. Like iTunes, you can load maintain a music library, reorganize your songs into play lists, and veg out to visualizations.'s iTunes bulk uploader makes it easy to get up and running with your existing library.

The company leverages the web to add portability and a social layer to their music player. There is currently no cap on the number of songs you can upload to the player, so you can create a potentially unlimited music library you can listen to anywhere. Streampad is a nearly identical product with less polish.

Like a host of other social music startups, has also added music discovery features. While not as robust a discovery engine as a and company, users can find new songs by listening to their friends' play lists and will soon be able to find new friends based on a music compatibility score. However, due to copyright concerns, playlists from other users can only be streamed as radio stations. Playlists must be a couple songs long and played in a random order. Although, isn't following official online radio play guidelines like Lala, which require station play lists to be at least three hours long before publishing.

The company competes in the increasingly crowded online music locker services like Mp3tunes, Maestro, imeem, Streampad, Songbird, and MediaMasters. The service does benefit from being simple, free, and social, but incumbents have a steady head start. Hype Machine, RadioBlogClub, and Blogmusik are also other low hassle ways to listen to music at work. is looking to make money outside of charging users for their service. They are considering the obvious step of affiliate music sales for songs you don't own, inserting audio ads in radio streams, and selling music directly. Currently the player lists indie music from Garage, which could turn into a direct point of sale. is a Y Combinator startup.

Update: Good video review is here.


Amazon Flexible Payments Service Launches

As predicted, Amazon launched a new payments web service today called Amazon Flexible Payments Service, or FPS. It will compete with Paypal and Google Checkout.

FPS, Amazon says, "is the first payments service designed from the ground up specifically for developers" and "unmatched flexibility in how they can structure payment instructions." Payments can be made by credit cards, bank account debits, and Amazon Payments balance transfers.

The most important feature: people can pay using the same login credentials and payment information they already have on file with Amazon. That means people don't need to have their credit card and other personal information stored at yet more ecommerce sites. For payments over $10, Amazon will charge 2.9% + $0.30. This matches PayPal but is higher than Google, which is eating fees to gain market share (Google charges 2% + $0.20).

This may quickly become Amazon's most popular, and most profitable, web service. Anyone can now leverage their tens of millions of customers and provide a very simple payment option.


Use GMail or Yahoo! Mail? Change Bookmarks for Better Security

This is Robert Graham posing with the GMail website open on his laptop.

Rob demonstrated to a live audience how he can successfully hack into web based email programs like GMail, Yahoo Mail! or Hotmail using the IP Address and user name (login) without requiring any password.

Let's not go in the very technical details but he used some sniffing tools called Ferret (to copy the GMail cookies to his computers) and Hamster (to use the cookies in his browser). [Details at ZDNet, TG Daily]

What can you do to prevent someone else from reading your GMail or Yahoo Mail ?

Rob's method works when you are using the HTTP mode to access your email ( Therefore the trick is to always use Secure Login.

Here's what you can do to safeguard your email in public wi-fi hotspots - use https:// instead of http:// - the entire session will be encrypted and the cloning cookies method will fail:

For GMail:

For iGoogle:

For basic HTML version of GMail -

yahoo mail secure website Alternatively, you can install the CustomizeGoogle extension of Firefox that will always force the SSL mode in GMail incase you forget to manually type the https:// GMail URLs.

Highly recommended also because Customize Google will also encrypt your Google Docs, Google Reader, Google Web History and Google Calendar session incase these Google services share the same cookie with GMail.

For Yahoo! Mail - Check the Secure Mode link that's available just beneath the "Sign In" button.

Related: Recover Yahoo! or GMail Passwords