Saturday, January 21, 2012

SOPA & PIPA - How Much Real The Voice of the Virtual World Is Today

Location: Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Earlier this week, several prominent Web sites, including Wikipedia and Google, staged a protest of both SOPA and PIPA. The bills, supported by Hollywood and the recording industry, are designed to stop online piracy, but critics say they go too far. In its original form, SOPA would have allowed the U.S. government to order Internet service providers to all but eliminate Web sites that allegedly contain pirated material.

If you are unfamiliar with SOPA, please take a few minutes to watch this video:

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting "creativity". The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites-- they just have to convince a judge that the site is "dedicated to copyright infringement."

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that's for a fix that won't work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

Internet companies have been complaining that the bills put them in the untenable position of having to be online police. They say they worry that the two bills could hold them responsible if users of their sites link to pirated content.

The companies said the bills could require your Internet provider to block websites that are involved in digital file sharing. And search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing could be stopped from linking to them — antithetical, they argue, to the ideal of an open Internet.

Internet companies have been complaining that the bills put them in the untenable position of having to be online police. They say they worry that the two bills could hold them responsible if users of their sites link to pirated content.

The companies said the bills could require your Internet provider to block websites that are involved in digital file sharing. And search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing could be stopped from linking to them — antithetical, they argue, to the ideal of an open Internet.

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced today that the House Judiciary Committee, which he heads, "will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution." Smith added that he has taken critics' concerns "seriously." The decision to wave the white flag on SOPA comes just hours after U.S. Senate leaders announced they had postponed their vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) scheduled for Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the recent criticism on both SOPA and PIPA forced his hand.

Over the last several weeks, the number of people and groups opposing the bill soared, making it politically untenable for Washington lawmakers to support the measure, especially in an election year. At the last Republican presidential debate, all four candidates--Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney--distanced themselves from the bills, saying that SOPA and PIPA go too far.

Google Inc. announced yesterday it collected more than 7 million signatures (an insane 4.5 million in the first day itself!) from the U.S. for its online petition to Congress during an Internet protest against anti- piracy legislation backed by Hollywood. Google participated in the protests yesterday by placing a giant black censor bar over their logo on the homepage. Users who clicked on the logo (or the link below the search box) were taken to a landing page that said “End Piracy, Not Liberty.” Along with informational resources on the two bills, users could also sign a petition to tell Congress not to censor the web.

Click Here to View the PDF version
As thousands of sites, big and small, went dark or altered themselves to protest the Protect IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, the protest also brought to light several creative approaches - through design and copy - irrelevant of whether the posting was on an individual or corporate level.


Google participated in the protests by placing a giant black censor bar over their logo on the homepage

John McWade, the founder and creative director of BA Magazine, describes the Wikipedia protest page design perfectly. "You’re standing in the dark. No photos, no color. Simple text on a dimly backlit screen casts forward a long, low-in-the-sky shadow that fades into the blackness and conveys the impending, almost-here darkness of “a World Without Free Knowledge.” ran a headline that read, “Why We’re Censoring Wired Today” — if you could read it before most of the words on the page were symbolically redacted. (If you moved your cursor over the black bars the words would reappear.)

The one headline that wasn’t blocked read: “Don’t Censor the Web. Tell Congress No on SOPA and PIPA.”

Huffington Post followed a similar pattern on the Google+ posts that spread virally through comments.

After Wikipedia shut down at midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 18, students everywhere began to panic about how they were going to do their homework. Just when students everywhere were about to throw in the towel, the Twitterverse decided that, if they couldn't have actual facts, they would be forced to make up their own. Below are a few choice tweets that were tagged with "#FactsWithoutWikipedia" presenting some interesting and hilarious takes on the world without Wikipedia.

There were attempts by some including the RIAA Vice President to make their voice heard. Though thought provoking, it had few takers to RT.

Then there were interesting articles by the likes of BBC, providing the obvious alternative, which did sound like voices from another century altogether with suggestions including going to the library, using the phone and visiting sites like

An intesting infographic was posted at deliberating the scenario in a world without Wikipedia.

YouTube creators +Shay Carl, +Nice Peter, Totally Sketch and Traphik put together a video that explores a striking consequence if Congress passed a bill that would censor the Internet.

TED has posted an “emergency” TED Talk called “Defend Our Freedom To Share (Or Why SOPA is a Bad Idea)” by Internet writer and NYU professor Clay Shirky. Shirky gave his address at the New York offices of TED, the company that produces a popular series of conferences and lectures about “ideas worth spreading.”

Shirky begins the 14-minute video with a story about a bakery that printed children’s drawings on sugar plates for their birthday cakes. This became a problem because kids like to draw cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse.

“It turns out to be illegal to print a child’s drawing of Mickey Mouse onto a plate of sugar,” he says.

Although Facebook has been public about its opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been personally silent on the matter. Until now. Zuckerberg came out against SOPA and PIPA with postings on both Facebook and Twitter. In the case of Twitter, it appeared to be Zuckerberg's first tweet in nearly three years.

On Facebook, Zuckerberg was very clear about his position:

"The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can't let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet's development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.

The world today needs political leaders who are pro-internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-internet."

For starters, you might not ever see again. As I write this, news has immerged of the arrest of the site's founders in New Zealand. Federal prosecutors have accused it of costing copyright holders more than $500m (£320m) in lost revenue. The firm says it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.


CNET has posted a detailed FAQ to help you understand SOPA and how it affects you. And if you do feel that you missed out being a part of it, you can still visit the Google Petition Page and make your voice heard.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 - The Year for Mobile Websites & Location Based Services

Location: Dubai - United Arab Emirates
The outlook for 2012 sure looks the same for Microsoft when compared to what it was in the beginning of 2011 - with the weak computer sales eating into their business while it slowly tries catch up with the faster growning mobile phone and tablet markets.

"(It is) clear that investors will continue to need to be patient," Barclays Capital analyst Raimo Lenschow said in a research note on Friday. "There could be positive short-term momentum ... but we first need to see proper evidence of mobile/tablet success rather than just signs of hope."

Apple has previously told analysts to expect bumper revenues from the fourth quarter, driven by strong sales of its iPhone and iPad over Christmas. Retail data seems to have supported that. The PC sales slowdown, the second quarter in which sales shrank during 2011, shows Microsoft's weakness due to its lack of tablets to compete with Apple's iPad or devices running Google's Android software.

IDC reckons that about 23.6m tablets of all sorts – equal to a quarter of PC sales – will have been sold in the fourth quarter, principally in the markets such as North America and Europe where PC sales are shrinking and consumers are deciding not to replace their PC but instead getting a tablet, which costs less.

But Microsoft will not have a response there until it releases Windows 8, the newest version of Windows, later this year, which will be available on tablets as well as standard PCs.

While 2011 was the year brands warmed up to the idea of Social Media Presence and building brand value through conversations, the year 2012 will favour those brands that adopt mobile devices as an integral part of their media plan and PR strategy.

If you have a website, then you have a site that can be accessed by any mobile device with a browser. However, chances are, that site looks pretty crappy on said mobile device. Just as companies realized, around 1996, that they needed to create a website to remain relevant to consumers, history is repeating itself in mobile. By 2013, more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online, according to Gartner. In mid-2011, we also reached the point at which consumers were spending more time on their mobile devices than on their PCs.

In such an environment, a site designed to be viewed on a desktop PC comes across as woefully lacking. Say you’re accessing such a site from the Safari browser on your iPhone. The first thing you’re likely to notice is that it takes a relatively long time to load. The second thing is that the type on the page is pretty small. It might take a lot of zooming and pinching to navigate the site as well. If you have Flash on your site, it’s not going to come across at all on an iPhone.

At that point, your potential customer may start looking around. According to a recent survey from Compuware, 40% of users have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience.

46 percent of mobile web users are unlikely to return to a website that they had trouble accessing from their phone and 57 percent are unlikely to recommend the site.
Both PacSun and 1-800 Flowers have mobile website that render very well and are both thumb friendly and intuitive.
Incidentally, if you’re considering a mobile app rather than a mobile website, Jesse Haines, group marketing manager for Google Mobile Ads, says go for the website. “It really depends on the brand,” she says. “We think a mobile website is a must-have.” Haines says that for some brands, like news sites for instance, a mobile app makes sense, but otherwise, most users are going to look for you via their browser.

Native apps can take advantage of more hardware capabilities of a device and have tighter integration with some of the key components of a mobile OS, but web apps can be more easily ported to other types of devices and can really be beneficial in areas like iterative updates and user testing.

With HTML5 however, many of the system-level and device specific features can still be harnessed by a web app. Moreover, developers can build a base application in HTML5, yet still put it in a native wrapper so that it can take advantage of some native device capabilities.

However, as a general working figure, you can reach nearly five times as many people per dollar invested with a mobile website rather than a native mobile app.

IT'S BECOMING A MOBILE FIRST WORLD, which just launched in June and pushed out its first mobile apps for iOS and Android in October. In just three months, it said that 30 percent of its traffic is now on mobile. MyYearbook, a social networking site that was bought by Quepasa last year, said, thanks to a big holiday push, it now has 54 percent of its traffic coming in on mobile.

Online shopping destinations like eBay are seeing more and more sales via mobile devices. IBM said that 18.3 percent of all online sessions on retailers’ sites on Christmas were initiated from a mobile device, compared to 8.4 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, Google is increasingly capitalizing on the growth of mobile searches by encouraging businesses to think mobile first. It has said that 44 percent of last minute holiday shopping searches was expected to be by mobile and 79 percent of smartphone users currently utilize their phones to help with price comparison, product searches and locating a retailer.

The fact is, thanks to smartphones and tablets, the way people are going to services and destinations is changing. People are accessing stuff all the time on the go and that requires developers and publishers to think mobile first.

There is still an obvious need for a traditional website but the shifting habits of consumption mean you can’t make mobile an afterthought. People notice if you’re not optimizing for mobile and ignoring mobile users and their experiences can cost publishers.

The term “2D code” is used to describe the category in general, not any specific type of code. Some of the most common types of 2D codes include Datamatrix, EZ Code, Microsoft Tag, QR Code, SPARQCode and ScanLife, among others.

Companies ranging from American Airlines to Sports Illustrated have used 2D codes to promote their products or services.

  • American Airlines placed 2D codes on outdoor boards in major airports to provide an immediate link to information for travelers on the go. Consumers who scanned the codes got real-time flight status, gate information and access to a reservation portal.
  • BestBuy has added QR codes to their in-store fact tags to give consumers the opportunity to review information about their products. Consumers can also save the information to review at home later or to buy the product instantly via smartphone and have it delivered to their homes later.
  • Sports Illustrated used a JAGTAG 2D code to allow readers of their annual swimsuit issue to watch bonus videos of some of their models directly on their smartphones.
  • Fox Broadcasting Company used QR codes to promote their TV show called Fringe. People who scanned the code were given a top-secret message that was available only to people who engaged with the show using their smartphones.
In virtually all of these cases, the 2D codes did something more than just drive people through to a standard mobile webpage. Instead, they gave the user a reason to interact with the mobile site and, in many cases, come back for more.

We’re already seeing more mobile apps and start-ups that are beginning on mobile and then looking toward online. But there’s still a long way to go for traditional websites, businesses and services to embrace mobile. With smartphone penetration expected to cross over 50 percent soon in the U.S. and adoption unlikely to slow down, it’s going to mean people going online through the small screen. Those who prepare for a mobile first world are going have the jump when it comes to attracting those consumers.

Market Share of Smartphones in the Middle East & Africa, compared with Global Figures
Click here to see the features and market share of the rival smartphones (pdf) or read the complete article at here:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Has the Next Big Thing Arrived?

Who would have thought it would be Samsung that would have the flair to take on Apple? First it was a product coup and now the commercials. The commercials - they have an eerie resemblance to chapters from Apple's past. Only that it was between a different opponent and amazingly, the winner is not the same anymore.

Samsung first started by ripping the iconic Apple commercial into a million shreds. While Apple glorified the crazy ones, the misfits who later came to be regarded as geniuses who changed the world, they did end up knowingly or unkowingly writing an ode only for the geniuses - a fact probably not resonated among the rest of the 'not so intelligent' lot - until Samsung came out with this S2 commercial:

The copy is not only crisp but extremely intense. "Nobody ever set their site on second place! Who aspires to be almost remembered? There is a reason why there are no giant foam figures that say 'We are Number 3!'. No one wants to tell an average joke, make an underwhelming entrance, go out with a whimper. No one ever stood in front of the mirror with a hair brush pretending to be the tamborine player and there are definitely more kids dressed as Batman than Robin. WE ALL ASPIRE"

That's a potent emotion Samsung is injecting into the nerves of their audience.

If that was it, we could have called it a brilliant commercial by a really creative agency. It seems though, this is just the start. Somehow, it makes you sit back and wonder, has the next big thing really arrived? Isn't this what Apple did to the IBMs and the Microsofts before it became the symbol of 'cool'?

Have a look at this series where Samsung Ads mercilessly mock Apple Fans:

THE NEXT BIG THING - 90 Sec TVC (You get the drift with this one)







Maybe the next thing has actually arrived!