YouTube blocked in China. The world’s most popular video sharing site, YouTube, has been blocked in China, although the specific reason why isn’t known. China previously blocked YouTube in March 2008 during the riots in Tibet, but later lifted the ban. Speculation suggests that Chinese authorities wanted to block access to footage released by a Tibetan group that shows Tibetans allegedly being beaten by Chinese police.
Miracles do happen. Some three years after launching, Twitter introduced advertising this week. In a tie-in with FM Publishing and Microsoft, Twitter is promoting ExecTweets, a service that lists (as the name suggests) Tweets from Executives. Twitter, though, claims that these aren’t ads, but “interesting topical experience” referrals.
But in fine Tim Shaw style, there’s always more: Twitter announced Thursday that it would introduce “pro” accounts. The accounts would offer users more features in exchange for a fee, but neither a launch date, nor what the additional features will be has been disclosed.
Why Blacklists matter. As noted in Crikey comments throughout the week (both email and on site), some readers are tired of the coverage of ACMA blacklists and the censorship issue in general. In an unscientific poll, 100% of people I could find on short notice who don’t use Twitter (five people, excluding immediate family) all agreed that stories about Wikileaks and ACMA blacklists don’t interest them. Conversely, when asked whether they would be concerned if internet access costs increased, and their internet speeds dropped by up to 70% at the same time due to Government’s proposed censorship regime, 100% of people said that they were deeply concerned.
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An alternative to FeedBurner. Google acquired the market leading RSS management tool Feedburner in 2007, and the complaints about reliability and service provision have streamed in since. Feedburner offers tracking and ads for RSS feeds; that is, those things you subscribe to if you want to follow a site but not by email (Wikipedia explains it here). The problem for website owners is that there has been no credible alternative until now.
FeedBlitz, an existing RSS to email service have announced an expansion into Feedburner territory, which they bill as offering “Greater choice in the RSS management service market.”
Silicon Valley 2.0 guru Louis Gray notes though that there is a catch: it’s not free, but rates start at a reasonable US$1.49 a month.
Skype on the iPhone. An unconfirmed report has popular P2P voice and chat service Skype launching an iPhone application next week. While the move will be welcomed by Skype users, Skype isn’t loved by telcos, who see the service undercutting their return on calls. Skype offers free calls between users, and cheap calls to fixed lines and mobiles. Telstra has previously removed Skype for mobile phones it sells and Optus cut off access to cheap calling services in December.
Nobody expects the Great Recession. Google has announced that it is laying off 200 employees in its sales and marketing divisions. The new round follows a cut of 100 engineering jobs through office consolidation in January.
Unlike competitors who have slashed thousands of jobs, Google has been mostly immune to downsizing, at least on paper. Instead, the search giant is believed to have purged thousands of contractors, cuts they are not obliged to publicly disclose.
No word from ACMA. A follow up from last week’s column where I lodged a complaint with ACMA over Google linking to the prohibited links list on Wikileaks (as opposed to Google Cache, which republishes the lists in full). I’ve received no response from ACMA yet, and I may never do.
In an interesting dressing down, Kim Holburn on an ANU Usenet list (they still have these) noted that my claims were an exaggeration, because under the Broadcasting Services Act, Google is an “exempt internet directory or search engine service”. On that count, she may well have me beat. Despite ACMA publicly stating that people linking to the list could be liable for a $11,000 per day per link fine, apparently “people” was meant quite literally, because Google isn’t a person.
The Act itself appears to be written by Johnathan Lynn doing his best recitation of Sir Humphrey Appleby. The section of the Act referring to links deals with a “links service”. A links service is defined as a content service that (a) provides one or more links to content; and (b) is provided to the public. But the definition of a “content service” exempts (l) an exempt internet directory service, or (m) an exempt internet search engine service.
How you can be a links service and not be a directory or search engine is beyond my mere mortal understanding, unless of course any site that links to another site is a links service, unless that site is a site that primarily provides links. Perfectly clear.
It should be noted that while the Rudd Government and Senator Conroy are taking much of the blame over the issue in general, this legislation was passed by the Howard Government.