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Microsoft Has Come a Long Way, But We've All Come With Them

Not a few computer users see Microsoft as monopolistic giant out to stifle creativity and competition in the digital world in the name of profit. There is not denying the incredible success of the boys in Redmond;  since the company went public in March 1986 employee stock options have created at least 4 billionaires and 26,000 millionaires.

Whether you see Microsoft as computer pioneers or simply an example of corporate greed, it is educational to review Microsoft products to see just how far the personal computer has come.

Perhaps the most miraculous use of the personal computer is the world wide connectivity of the Internet.

In May 1995 Bill Gates sent the "Internet Tidal Wave" memo to Microsoft executives. The memo basically stated that Microsoft was in danger of "missing the boat" of the upcoming Internet boom. When Windows 95 was released in August of 1995 one of the features bundled into it was Internet Explorer 1.0 and access to MSN, the Microsoft Network.

MSN was a dial-up Internet Service Provider as well as a source of content. MSN.com was set up as a collection of "channels" after the TV model. The Channels included 'Channel 5', described as "media, 'zines, and attitude" directed at College age users. Also included was a news service that was the result of a partnership between Microsoft and NBC TV; msnbc.com. Features that would become extremely popular with MSN users were the Hotmail email service and Messenger, an instant messengering service.

The early MSN.com proved to be ahead of its time in 1996-97. The content and features were great, but many users were not able to access them. This was before high-speed Internet Connections were popular, and dial-up just couldn't keep up with the features of MSN.com. (MSN is still the second largest dial-up ISP in the US after AOL.)

Although the MSN.com began primarily as a user interface for the ISP, in 1998 it reinvented itself as a primary web portal. It is the default homepage for the Internet Explorer series of web browsers. Throught eh late 90s other services were added such as MSN Shopping and MSN Encarta, an on-line encyclopedia.

In 2005 several MSN services wee rebranded under the banner "Windows Live". These included Hotmail, WindowsLive Messenger, MSN Search, LiveSearch Maps, and others.

MSN.com is the 11th most visited site on the Internet.


If You Saw It on the Net, You Probably Saw It On YouTube

A bunch of things came together to make it work.

Probably the first were cheap video recorders. You slide down the ice covered sidewalk could be immortalized forever on your buddy's camcorder, or even his cell-phone. The question was how to easily show it to enough friends to guarantee maximum embarrassment?

This may not have been the exact question that three friends who were working at PayPal asked themselves. Legend has it that two of the friends were at a dinner party together and someone took video of the event. The question arose, how to share this footage?

The three friends were Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. Karim wasn't at the party, and denies that it happened, but it is a good story!

The friend came together through their work at PayPal. Hurley had been a design student while Chen and Karim had been computer science students together. Their employer, PayPal, was experiencing dizzying growth after being bought by eBay in 2002, so the friends had some taste of the potential of the Internet, and would have understood the importance of capital to realize that potential.

The YouTube.com domain was registered on Valentines Day, 2005, and the first video of Karim at the San Diego Zoo was uploaded on Apr 23.

YouTube is a very expensive site to run because of the large amount of bandwidth required for its services. It required an $11.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital between Nov 2005 and Apr 2006. To attract traffic to the site the company announced that it would give away an iPod Nano to a random user through its first year in business. However in Jul 2006 YouTube announced that 64,000 new videos were being uploaded and 100 were being viewed on a daily basis.

Controversy over content and copyrights have been with YouTube from the beginning. In 2007 reached an agreement with several networks and film distribution companies to show full length features and shows. YouTube claims that 48 hours of content is uploaded every minute. Three quarters of that comes from outside the US. YouTube is the third most visited site on the Internet after Google and Facebook.

Google purchased YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion in Google Stock.


Perhaps You’ll Stumble Upon the Best Search Results for You at StumbleUpon.com

The Internet is an incredibly huge place, and it is difficult to find your way around. It is hard to imagine a topic that there is no information on in the Internet, which makes it an incredible tool for research and learning. The problem is how do you find the information that you want?

 

The two basic ways of finding information on the Web are with Web Directories and Search Engines. Web Directories are lists of pages or sites that have been collected by a real human being. The information in a web directory is very useful, if your interests and the information you need are the same as the interests of whoever put the directory together. The other disadvantage of a web directory has to do with the ever-expanding nature of the Internet: there are new sites and new information on a daily, almost hourly basis. It can be very easy for a web directory to fall behind and become irrelevant.

 

Search engines depend on two things. First are Web-Crawlers, or Spiders. These are computer programs that survey as many pages as it can on a constant basis. The results of these searches are collected and indexed by the search engine. When a search inquiry is made, the search engine will deliver the results in accordance with an algorithm which ranks the results of the Spider's search. The problem is that these results are based on mathematical or mechanical formulations, and may or may not be of use to a breathing human being.

StumbleUpon.com uses the best of both systems. StumbleUpon uses the features of an algorithmic search engine but the results are filtered using Social Networking Strategies. Social Networks work in favor of StumbleUpon, with feed from Facebook and other social sites. The use of Collaborative Filtering and Machine Learning help to insure that StumbleUpon will find the search results that are most useful for you.


Find Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Movies on the Internet

Find Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Movies on the Internet Movie Database IMDb.com

 

Some of the most fun Popular websites began as a hobby or labor of love by their creators. Craigslist began as a way for its creator to help his friends when he was a new resident of the Bay Area, and grew to become an internationally recognized classified ad service. Another hobby that grew into a major website in IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.

 

Part of the reason that IMDb is a labor of love is that the project started before there was any commercial uses developed for the 'web. Founder Col Needham, a Hewlett Packard engineer and film buff in Manchester, UK, began a list called “Those Eyes”, listing actresses with notably beautiful eyes. In 1990 Needham posted his list on USENET, and soon friends began contributing to the list and adding lists of their own; “Actors”, “Directors”, “Actresses”. At first the list was restricted to those actually working, but soon retired actors and directors began to be added. This was followed by a formal “Dead Actors and Actresses” list. By the end of 1990, there were nearly 10,000 movies and television listed.

By 1992 the lists included several categories of film makers as well as trivia, biographies, and film summaries; users began to rate movies, and a search function for the list was created. By the end of the year the list was moved to the World Wide Web under the name “Cardiff Internet Movie Database”, named for the servers at Cardiff University where the lists were stored. Features were added to make the list easier to reference and contribute to.

The big break came when Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, struck a deal with Needham to buy IMDb.com outright and make it an independent subsidiary of Amazon. Bezos felt that IMDb would be a good tool to help Amazon to sell VHS Tapes and DVDs. While this is certainly true, IMDb.com remains very subtle in sending its users to Amazon.

In addition to its affiliation with Amazon, IMDb makes money by selling movie photos, advertising and licensing, selling movie tickets, and offering a premium IMDbPro service that is valuable to scholars and Movie Industry Professionals.


Simple Classified Ads and Web Presence Still Put People before Profits, Craigslist.org

Simple Classified Ads and Web Presence Still Put People before Profits, Craigslist.org

 

Most of the biggest sites on the Internet, especially which began prior to the “Dot Com Boom follow a similar pattern.

In most cases, we see a Masters Degree holder with a Good Idea. With his understanding of the growing Internet Market Place, he is able to reach an incredibly huge customer base, and the profits roll in. Think of the many spots on the Forbes list held by Internet Millionaires. Consider the wealth associated with Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or PayPal.

But sometimes it isn't about the money.

Craig Newmark came from Morristown, NJ, and earned his BS and MS from Case Western Reserve University in 1975 and 77. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area while working for Schwab in the 90's he felt the isolation that anyone feels when they come to a new place. One of the ways he found to deal with the isolation was to create an email distribution list for his friends in early 1995. The list included local Bay Area events, and was based on the communal attitudes found on USENET, WELL, and MindVox. Newmark noticed that many of the listings showing up on his list were events that held interest to the computer programming and Internet hobbyists and professionals in the Bay Area. By June of 95 the List had grown the point that a software upgrade was needed, and Majordomo was installed.

Even though the only advertising was word of mouth, listings and subscriptions grew rapidly. Newmark gave the list very little moderation, and was surprised when a number of non-event listings began to appear. One early trend was listings of jobs for Computer professionals. Actually it shouldn't have been a big surprise; the people using a service like Newmark's list in the mid-90s would have the computer skills employers were looking for. Users began to ask for a Web interface, and the domain CraigsList.org was registered and went live in 1996.

For a long time Newmark considered himself a professional software engineer and CraigsList an interesting hobby, but by 1999 he realized that the site had become popular and profitable enough to allow him to leave his engineering behind and devote himself full time to CraigsList. The site incorporated as a non-profit and began to hire employees. In 2000 new lead programmer and eventual CEO Jim Buckmaster came on board. 2000 also saw CraigsList’s expansion into other cities, eventually internationally.

In 2006 Buckmaster explained that CraigsList wasn’t interested in maximizing profits, instead it would stick to its mission of helping users find jobs, cars, and apartments. In 2004 Internet giant eBay had purchased a 25% share in CraigsList, and in 2008 sued, claiming the company  "unfairly diluted eBay's economic interest by more than 10%." CraigsList counter-sued "to remedy the substantial and ongoing harm to fair competition".

CraigsList.org maintains a rather simple appearing page on the ‘net. It has resisted Banner Ads. Although the site’s openess has lead to controversy involving the sex trade and internet stalkers, CraigsList remains strong, according to Newmark, largely because it gives people a voice, a sense of community trust and even intimacy.


If the Internet is a Community, Then Its Bank Must Be PayPal.com

In the beginning there was the Personal Computer. The PC was a nifty tool for students and business men. Because it was fun and relatively simple to use, it became incredibly popular. The PC is a device for storing and displaying information. When the Internet age arrived, it became simple to share information between PCs, and the people operating them. Sharing information is a basic definition of communication, and communication is a basic requirement for a community.

One of the first things that happens when people come together in a community is that they begin to trade.

We can imagine back through the depths of time a goat herder bringing his best goat into the village, and offering it for sale. Soon a crowd draws: "I'll give you ten shiny rocks for your goat." "I need a goat, and I have 15 shiny rocks!" Take my seventeen shiny rocks and a pair of leather sandals!" This may have been the first auction.

Jumping ahead through the eons we see the dawn of the Internet auction service, eBay. eBay's humble beginnings as a way to trade Pez dispensers is a story for another time, but the astonishing fact is that eBay grew into a giant of trade on the Internet. More than a few non-computer users became attracted to the Internet thanks to reports of the bargains on eBay. But the problem developed; with so many people buying and selling things, sometimes across international borders, how do they exchange money?

Old style paper methods such as checks and money orders were slow and expensive in and of them selves. Most electronic means, notably sending credit card information through an unencrypted Internet connection, was dangerously open to abuse.

In March, 2000, to web entities came together to form a solution: Confinity, which was designed to make payments using Palm Pilots, and X.com, which specialized in financial services and payments through email. Because of the new company's association with Stanford University, some of the best soft-ware and computer developers were attracted to the project, which renamed itself PayPal.

Ebay had purchased its own payment service which it named "eBay Payments" in 1999, but it couldn't compete with the convenience and security offered by PayPal. By Feb, 2000, there were an average of 200,000 auctions on eBay daily using PayPal, compared to only 4,000 using eBay's own service. In Oct, 2002, eBay acquired PayPal.com for $1.5billion.

Today PayPal operates in 190 markets with 24 different currencies. There are over 232 million PayPal accounts, more than 100 million of which are active.


Bing.com continues to gain power and market share

One of the most curious things about the Internet is how quickly it has gone from being a play-thing for scruffy, geeky, college kids to being an indispensable industry that is dominated by industrial giants.

Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, and Amazon all have an enormous impact on our lives; the way we work, the way we play, and the way we shop. Individual people, companies, and families being so dependent on the whims of corporate structure remind us of the monopoly of Ma Bell, when the phone company owned not just the switchboards and wires, but the very phones in our homes and offices.

The biggest difference between Ma Bell and the Internet Giants is that there is still a good deal of competition on the Web. And consumers benefit from this healthy competition between giants.

The king of search remains Google. However Microsoft is hoping that in the future, rather than "Googling" when you have an inquiry, you'll "Bing" instead. Things are looking good, as Bing.com is capturing more and more of Google's market share.

Bing.com advertises itself as a "Decision Engine" rather than a mere search engine. When a term is placed in a search engine, supposedly everyone will get the same result based on Key Words and phrases, as well as site popularity and "relevance". A Decision Engine takes these factors into account, but also factors in user input.

Bing uses information from past searches as well as information from Facebook accounts (and Facebook Friends accounts) to match the results to the user.

Microsoft has been involved in web-search for a long time. In the third quarter of 1998 MSN Search was launched. It used results from Inktomi and AltaVista, as well as Picsearch image search. In 2006 MSN Search was replaced by Windows Live Search, which featured tabs for Web, News, Images, Music, Desktop, Local and Microsoft Encarta. In 2007 the Microsoft Live Family was integrated into the Microsoft adCenter. Microsoft reconized there could be branding issues with "Live", so when their new search engine was launched in June, 2009, they choose the name "Bing", which is supposed to remind people of the eureka moment whena discovery is made.

Soon after the launch of Bing, Microsoft and Yahoo! signed a ten year deal that Yahoo!'s search engine would be replaced by Bing. Both services are web portals, and Yahoo! will maintain most of its features and appearance. However it is planned that a "Powered by Bing" search branding will appear.

As mentioned earlier, Bing.com continues to gain power and market share. PC Magazine articles have claimed that Bing searches are more effective than Google. In Sept 2010 Google had 72.5% of the search market, while Bing had only 23.64%.

By Mar 2011, Bing has grown to 30% while Google has dropped to 64.42%.


If Knowledge is Power, Then Find and Read Books on Bartleby.com

If Knowledge is Power, Then Find and Read Books on Bartleby.com

 

One of the niftiest Tech Toys to come on the scene recently is the eBook Reader. Whether your favorite is the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iRiver, or if you read your books on an iPad or Android Tablet, there is no denying the wonder of eBooks.

 

If you area a serious fan of books, nothing can compare to the sensations of picking up a real book; the smell of the pages, the weight, the feel of the pages as you turn them. As pleasurable as all these sensations may be, at the bottom line, what we love about books is the words that are in them. The pleasurable sensations of reading a real book also need to be weighed against the inconvenience of books. Books are heavy and they take up a lot of room. Which make them a pain in the neck if you want to enjoy one on a long trip, or if you want to take several on a trip. Ebooks take up little physical space, and if your Reader is connected to the Cloud, there is no limit to the number of books available to you.

 

Have you ever wondered where eBooks came from?

 

In 1993, Steven H. van Leeuwen was the web master for the Columbia University website.  He founded "Project Bartleby", a collection of classic literature, on the University website. In 1994 he published Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, the first classic book in HTML. In '97 the project moved to it's own domain, Bartleby.com. As part of the "Dot Com" boom, Bartleby.com incorporated in 1999, and began to focus on reference works.

 

Bartleby.com strives for highly accurate transcriptions of classic literature and reference material. Most of the works listed are in fact public domain material, including works of Melville, Victor Hugo, Aeschylus, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and others.

 

There are of course other sources for eBooks, including commercial outlets publishing the latest best sellers. However, Bartleby.com is worth looking at, if for no other reason than it was the first!


Two Young Guys making Lots of Money on the Internet

Yahoo.com, Two Young Guys making Lots of Money on the Internet or Disgusting Creatures?

 

When you begin to look at the real power houses of the Internet, you begin to get the impression that if there was no Leland Stanford Junior University, there would be no such thing as a Tech Industry.

 

In Jan 1994, a pair of Electrical Engineering graduate students from Stanford, Jerry Yang and David Filo, launched a site they called "David and Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web". What made David and Jerry's guide unique was that the sites listed were organized in a hierarchy as opposed to simply being a list of searchable sites. This proved to be incredibly popular with Internet users, and by April of 94 the pair realized the name was just too long, so they came up with a new one:

 

Yahoo! (Always with the exclamation point.)

 

Contrary to Internet Folklore, Yahoo does not stand for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle." The name is a reference to a creature from Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels. The Yahoos were disgusting little creatures, vile and savage, filthy and with unpleasant habits, and all too close to resembling humans for many people's comfort. 

 

By the end of 1994 Yahoo! had received more than a million hits, and the yahoo.com domain was registered on Jan 18, 1995. Filo and Yang were quick to recognize the commercial potential of their site, which was growing into a web portal. Yahoo! has diversified into a number of different services, some of which have lasted while others succumbed to competition.

 

In 2000 Yahoo! was using Google Search results, but soon after developed their own search engine. The Yahoo! portal links to other services such as Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Groups, Yahoo! Finance, and Yahoo! Messenger. Yahoo! Partners with a number of content providers to fill Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Music, Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo! News, and Yahoo! Answers.

 

Why the exclamation point? When Yahoo! incorporated there were a number of products on the market named Yahoo, including a canoe and a set of kitchen knives. In order to avoid conflict, Filo and Yang simply added the punctuation.


Google Empire

Every day more and more people are realizing that Google is running the world. Whether or not that is a good thing is a debate for another time. Today we are going to briefly discuss the basis of the Google Empire: Search.

It is almost hard to believe that there was a time before Web Search, but the World Wide Web is only 20 years old (Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist for CERN, unveiled a project for organizing and sharing information in Aug 1991 which would be known as the World Wide Web). The original PC, the IBM 5051, on which nearly every computer in the world today is based upon, is only 30 years old (first put on sale in Aug 1981). The explosion of these two technologies created an unimaginable amount of data that could be easily accessed. Of course the problem is that much information, there has to be a way to find the information that you are looking for.

From the very beginning there were search engines. Many of the early search engines are still in use, such as Lycos, InfoSeek, AltaVista, and of course Yahoo! All of these search engines made money for their creators, usually through advertising on the web page, although many were caught up in the "Dot Com Bubble" of the late 1990's. All of them were lacking in the ability to accurately find the information the user was after. In 1997 a pair of Computer Science students from Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, launched a search engine they named Google.

The heart of the Google Search Engine is the Google Algorithm. Google sends out "Spiders" or "Web Crawlers" that read every web page they can find, and index the information they find. One of the things that the Spiders are looking for are the links on each page. Even more important to the Algorithm are the links back to the page. The more links back to a certain page there are, the more important, or "relevant" that page becomes.

When a user types a term into the search box at Google.com (or where ever you find the search box) he will be presented with all the pages that match that term. The magic of the Google Algorithm is that the results will be presented in order of relevance.

This has opened up a brand new world for advertisers. If you are selling Acme Thing-a-mabobs, whenever someone searches for "Thing-a-mabob", you will naturally want Acme's page to be at the top of the results. So now there is a growing industry of Optimizing websites for Google, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO).