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Fads and Internet Services

Richard Glover has written a polemic about fads on the net [1]. His points are essentially good, but he does over-reach them a bit (which is part of the polemic style) and he also seems a little unimaginative about the future of technology. He starts by suggesting that Twitter [2] is a fad. Twitter has grown in popularity very rapidly, and I believe that the company is not guaranteed to last forever (the business model could fail or a better implementation of the concept could take the users). But the basic premise of Twitter (SMS length messages being published on the net in a similar manner to blog posts) is something that has been proven to work well. So even though I have not felt inclined to use Twitter (either as a reader or a writer) I don’t think that the class of service will ever go away.

He also cites an example of watching TV news on a mobile phone. While I believe he is right about that not being a viable business, it’s because TV news itself isn’t a great thing. Before the Internet was commonly used the only ways of getting news of something that happened in the last few hours was via TV or radio, if you want pictures with that then TV was the only option. If you wanted quality news (in-depth coverage, insightful analysis, and a depth of detail) then you were probably out of luck, but the best option available to you was the the newspaper. Watching a TV news segment on a mobile phone (or on a PC connected to the net) is not effective. What I want is a newspaper that is updated as soon as events happen and which contains full color pictures and video. There are a number of web sites which provide this service, The Sydney Morning Herald (which employs Richard Glover) [3] is one example.

I think that the current fad for mobile phone TV is like the fad for WAP [4]. Many years ago I worked for an ISP that installed a WAP server, one of my duties was to keep the WAP server running. Everyone who knew anything about technology knew that the project was going to fail, WAP phones were horribly expensive (you could expect to spend an extra 200 guilders or more to buy such a phone) and the features of WAP were not particularly exciting. Also requiring that everything be re-written for WAP was just insanity. The problem with the WAP fad was managers who knew nothing about technology making technical decisions. I’m sure that the TV on mobile phone fad is driven by managers in TV companies that are greedy for more revenue opportunities and don’t stop to think about the implications. I might watch a news show on free TV, but I’m certainly not going to pay by the minute to watch it on my mobile phone. Instead I can just go to a web site such as the SMH and read news items, see pictures, and even watch the occasional video (most TV news doesn’t really require any video – they just re-enact scenes or use stock footage to have something on screen).

Finally he makes a sarcastic reference to chocolate fondue. That reminds me, someone gave me a fondue set years ago that I haven’t used yet. I’ll have to make a chocolate fondue! For those of you who live in Melbourne, the restaurant of the Melbourne Swiss Club [5] offers cheese fondue for the main course and chocolate fondue for dessert. Fondue is still with us!

5 comments to Fads and Internet Services

  • > But the basic premise of Twitter (SMS length messages being published on the net in a similar manner to blog posts) is something that has been proven to work well. So even though I have not felt inclined to use Twitter (either as a reader or a writer) I don’t think that the class of service will ever go away.

    Yes. Now that we have identi.ca, built on free software and using OpenID for authentication, I also see no reason why the class of service will necessarily fade.

    Twitter itself, though, is yet another proprietary walled garden and I’d be happy to see it disappear now we have better alternatives.

  • etbe

    Ben: Interesting note about identi.ca. I had heard of them before but didn’t realise that they were a replacement for Twitter. It’s good to know, I prefer to promote open alternatives.

    It’s probably worth considering the history of social networking. There were about 10 different social networking sites that each had their turn in the lime-light. Now we have only Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn taking the majority of the market (with Advogato still being significant amoung geeks). I don’t like the entire scope of social networking (although I acknowledge the benefits of Advogato), but it seems that possibly the majority of people who use the Internet disagree with me on this.

    The micro-blogging industry may end up following the same pattern as the social-networking industry.

  • Cellular mobile TV is insanely popular in Japan and South Korea. Like now ubiquitous camera phones, it’s difficult to get a phone that can’t watch TV over there.

    I don’t know any more details, but presumably they have both business model and technical infrastructure (e.g. not wasting precious mobile bandwidth delivering individual, different TV streams) working successfully.

  • etbe

    Samat: I think that all the better phones available in Australia support TV, I believe that my LG ViewTY does. Not that I have ever wanted to test it.

    I’ll ask my Japanese friends for information on what really happens. Whether mobile TV is actually used or whether it’s one of those features that hardly anyone uses.

  • Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important marketing factor?