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Facebook Risks Becoming Myspace

Facebook Risks Becoming Myspace

Facebook is one of the most popular websites in internet history. Hundreds of millions visit the site daily, and spend hours browsing. The social network has grown far larger than the previous kingpin in the field, Myspace, and has lasted longer on top. Internet users are a fickle bunch though, and todays phenomenon can easily become tomorrows afterthought. Now, Facebook is planning to implement a feature that could bring just such a fate to the company.

The latest rumor is that Facebook plans to implement 15 second video ads into users feeds. While more ads are almost always frowned upon by users, video ads could end up being a deal breaker. Most people now browse Facebook through their phone. Many of these consumers are doing so through wireless broadband provided by their cell phone carrier. Wireless broadband typically has small bandwidth limits that are quickly eaten by by video.

The rumored plan calls for 15 second videos that would play automatically. According to Bloomberg, the 15 second ads would cost companies between $1 and $2.5 million per day. Users would not see a certain ad more than three times in a day. Apparently, Facebook has pushed back the launch of this new program because they too are worried it will degrade the user experience.

The idea is completely understandable from a business perspective. Video ads are the future of internet advertising. Now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, they face the constant task of increasing revenue and profits. Their last report showed very promising growth in mobile revenue, which most experts agree is critical towards the companys future. Placing video ads is the next logical step.

One need only to look to the downfall of Myspace to see why this may be a bad idea. One of the reasons Facebook was able to topple Myspace is because it had a much cleaner, simpler look. The Myspace homepage was always dominated by flashy, invasive advertisements. User profiles were contorted by poorly sized images and auto playing audio that lagged page loading time. It was a mess, and switching to Facebook was like moving into a nicer neighborhood.

Implementing video ads is a risky move at this point in the game. The social networking market has exploded in the past few years. Users, particularly young users, are branching out into many different networks. Google+ remains a significant threat, especially if Google Glass takes off once it is launched. Facebook could drive their users right into their competitors hands.

Google Fiber

Google Fiber Set To Launch

In 2010, Google announced its Google Fiber project. This project would deliver a gigabit network to a chosen community. Kansas City was ultimately chosen for the tech companys test run. Next week, Google Fiber finally goes lives.

A gigabit network is one that runs on fiber optics, and reaches download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. The average American only has download speeds of up to 4 megabits per second. This network will offer speeds over 100 times faster than the average speed, and it will be bi-directional.

Why is Google launching a fiber network? Experts see two possible reasons. Google itself has stated that it wants to see what people would do with a gigabit network connection. Given the companys plethora of online content, particularly at video sharing website Youtube, this seems like a logical enough reason. Youtube has begun streaming movies and TV shows in the past few years, and faster network speeds would help the company grow this business.

Others speculate that the move is Googles answer to attacks on network neutrality by the big internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and ATT. These companies complain about the price of upgrading and maintaining their network, and want to charge websites like Google extra money to allow customers fast access to its sites. This practice would violate the long held spirit of the internet, where all data traffic is treated equally. Google may be out to prove that fast networks can be built and maintained at reasonable prices.

If the latter is true, then Google is to be commended. The attacks on network neutrality by the big service providers threatens not just the internet, but the economy as a whole. Our economy is deeply connected to the internet now, and we can not afford to have internet service providers picking the winners and losers online. Discrimination of network traffic can not be allowed, or the open and free internet we have grown to love will be destroyed.



The Danger In Exempting Wireless From Net Neutrality

Nearly two years ago, the FCC outlined its rules for net neutrality. Notably absent were rules for wireless networks. There are several legitimate reasons that the same rules applied to wired networks can not apply to wireless networks. However, the same danger lies in leaving wireless networks unguarded against the whims of its administrators. As we move more and more towards a wireless dominated internet, those dangers will become more pronounced.

The importance of wireless data can not be understated. Facebooks plummeting stock is a primary example. One of the reasons Facebook is taking a beating is because investors do not believe the company can properly monetize its mobile product. Investors are already punishing large companies that fail to monetize on the mobile front. When money talks, it is wise to listen.

Smartphones would have changed the internet landscape by themselves, but with tablets joining them on the mobile front there is no doubt that it will become at least on par with wired access. The quick emergence of products like the iPad and the Kindle Fire have many harking the end of the desktop era. While that may be premature, there is no doubt that these new platforms are going to command a large portion of the market place.

It is perfectly understandable that wireless networks can not be managed the same way that wired networks are. The technology is not quite good enough for wireless networks to run as smoothly and efficiently as wired networks do. A massive amount of infrastructure is needed if this goal is ever to be accomplished, and that is not an easy task to undertake.

Improving wireless internet infrastructure means building more towers. People are generally not happy with the number of towers that dot the landscape now. Red tape is also a factor, as it can take years to get approval to put up new towers. That will not suffice when wireless data traffic is growing at over 100% a year for the last several years.

We are going to need a massive investment in infrastructure in this country regardless of net neutrality rules. Demand for wireless is going to continue to grow for many years to come, and providers are not going to be able to let up. Data caps and throttling are understandable now as demand is far outpacing infrastructure growth. Eventually, demand will slow, and these practices will have to be addressed.

This is where allowing internet providers to regulate themselves becomes an issue. Self regulation usually does not end well for the consumer. Imagine allowing power plants and oil refineries to determine what chemicals they could pour into the air. Would they have the populations best interest at heart when making that determination?

In the future when the infrastructure can match the demand, what will stop internet providers from picking winners and losers over their wireless networks? As conglomerates like Comcast gobble up content providers like NBC, a conflict of interest begins to emerge. There would be nothing from stopping one of the big wireless providers like ATT or Verizon from scooping up a content provider and prioritizing its data speed over the network.

The internet community has had a good year in terms of influence in 2012. The wireless issue is one the community must keep a watchful eye on in the future. It is not a matter of if the service providers will abuse the system, but when. As wireless internet becomes the dominant or even default medium, the problem will become more pronounced.

net neutrality

Where the Candidates Stand on Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is one of the biggest issues with regards to the internet today. At the heart of the issues is how much control ISPs will be allowed to have over their networks. Each candidate has come out with a strong position on the matter, and whoever wins will have a drastic affect on the future of the internet.

Companies like ATT, Verizon, and Comcast want the power to determine the bandwidth speed of websites on their networks. As of now most data is treated equally in terms of bandwidth speed. The companies wish to be able to charge websites money for faster speeds, creating a new revenue stream. This would allow bigger websites to have a crucial advantage over start ups, and it would kill the level playing field we have today.

Net neutrality at its core is about treating all data equally. It essentially means that data discrimination should not be tolerated. The beauty of the internet is that anyone could start up a website that could become the next Google, or Amazon. If the big telecoms are able to pick winners and losers based on who has more money, then the internet will lose that competitive nature.

Barack Obama has been a propenent of Net Neutrality. Under his watch, the FCC has implemented Net Neutrality rules. These restrictions did not apply to wireless networks, though, a gaping loophole that in the future will be problematic as mobile internet is exploding in popularity. The issue is one that needs to be addressed in the future. Until it is, Obama can only be given a barely passing grade in regards to net neutrality.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come down on the other side of the issue. The former Massachusetts governor strongly opposes net neutrality. According to Politico, Romney believes net neutrality will restrict ISPs, and that they alone should govern their networks. The governor has stated that he wants as little regulation of the internet as possible.

Romneys position falls into the general stereotype that Republicans are pro-business. This is a stance he states outright, as he sides with ATT and Verizon on the issues, and is in fact working with lobbyists from both companies on the issue.

In general it is a good idea to give businesses freedom to innovate and expand as much as possible. However, regulation also has a place in the market. We have the FDA to make sure the medicine made by drug companies does not harm us, and the EPA to make sure factories are not pumping toxic chemicals into the environment.

While the internet needs to be left as free as possible, it too is in need of some regulation, particularly when it comes to the principle of net neutrality. In this rare case, it is the industry itself that will be the cause of stifled innovation if data discrimination is not stopped. The important thing to remember is that net neutrality has been the way the internet has operated since the beginning, it is not a new concept. The big telecoms are only now trying to change that. Net neutrality aims to keep things as they are, and that should be something every internet user pushes for.