Our new weekly column from the world of the Web.
Facebook gets a new look. Facebook announced at a press conference Wednesday (Thursday our time) yet another change to profile pages set to roll out next week. Described by some as Facebook’s response to Twitter, the new look sees the popular social networking service embrace “activity streams” (that is, “what you are doing?”) even more than the last revision.
Included in the update will be improved management features, such as the ability to group friends, so you can watch what your real (or perceived) friends are doing in near real time. The advantage here is you can view a stream which doesn’t include those school friends you haven’t seen in 15 years who you inevitably connect with on Facebook.
Hidden in the fine print, though, is a big change to how Facebook works with advertisers. The changes include a more user profile-like appearance for ad pages and these pages gain a greater presence in Facebook news feeds. And for those of you who are exceptionally popular, they’ve dropped the 5000 friend limit. This will mostly benefit advertisers, who can now have far more friends than before.
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According to Nielsen Netview, Facebook has 5.07 million Australian users as of January 2009, and was adding 300,000 new Australian users a month.
Claytons censorship victory. The Australian tech community nearly universally cheered last week when a report from Fairfax’s Asher Moses claimed that the push by the Rudd Government to implement draconian Internet censorship was over. The report noted that any legislation supporting the Great Firewall of Australia wouldn’t pass the Senate after “pokies are evil” Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon withdrew support. This was supported by Nick Minchin, who claimed that “legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required.”
But will it? Conroy hasn’t said boo (presuming boo is a concept that would pass the proposed filter) on the news, and the trials continue. Already the Government blacklists sites ranging from p-rn through to abortion, as was discussed in Senate estimates on 22 February. The Government may not be able to implement the full censorship regime it has promised without legislation (or it might, do we trust Minchin that much?), but could it introduce a lighter version within existing laws. With the anti-censorship campaign backing off, Conroy could be poised for the kill.
Musictube? YouTube and Universal are said to be in advanced discussions for a new music video site.
YouTube has had a difficult time dealing with the music industry, who tends to see user generated mashups as pure theft, when they often vary between fair use (fair dealing under Australian law) and decent promotional material, with rarely a pirate to be seen.
Rumors of a YouTube-style site that shows just music videos from the big four have been circulating for 12 months, but YouTube’s involvement is completely new. The deal would involve the Google-owned YouTube supplying the back end, and offering sales support. For Google, the deal makes sense, but it does raise the question: why reinvent the wheel? YouTube is the number one video destination by a bigger gap than Google dominates Yahoo in search.
Protecting Google Maps from terrorists. A California State Representative has put forward a bill that would force Google to blur “soft targets” such as schools, hospitals, churches and Government buildings, as such images could be used by terrorists.
The New York Times noted that the bill, if enacted, could face legal challenges as the right to publish images taken in public places has generally been protected by American Courts.
WebMediaBrands cuts 25% of workforce. WebMediaBrands, the company formerly known as JupiterMedia, has cut a neat 25% of its workforce. The company owns web properties including Internet.com, Mediabistro.com, JustTechJobs and Graphics.com. The cut was credited to a decline in Internet advertising, and job advertising, the latter being a key revenue driver for the company.
And so the heritage media slides. News.com.au out-did itself this week with a headline story on its front page titled “Best Fails Ever”:
The post consisted entirely of “Fail” pics, a popular Internet meme, with most shots lifted from The Fail Blog. As an attempt to tap into social media and maximise traffic, I commend News Ltd for the post. But, like most of News Ltd, and even Fairfax of late, it’s one of those great comebacks to the line that the heritage media is the last vestige of serious journalism. News Ltd has a strong future, but without its print editions, which drag down their superb online meme cut and paste efforts.
There is some irony in the fail post. News Ltd has republished, presumably without permission, a range of pictures from a third party site. They don’t even try to hide the watermark on the pictures. I was threatened with legal action by News Ltd for a post one of my writers put up last year that republished far fewer pictures from one of their sites. You’ve always got to love the hypocrisy of big media.
Even free dating sites need to pay the bills. PlentyofFish.com, the most successful free online dating site, has introduced a paid, premium membership level. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that CEO Markus Frind has bee the most vocal critic of the paid dating industry for years, regularly repeating the mantra that he would kill them all. If you can’t beat them….