‘ Internet Industry ’ category archive

Time Warner’s Internet Monopoly

March 07, 11 by kenrich

There is a problem with the cable TV industry here in America.  These companies have a virtual monopoly when it comes to high-speed Internet in many of the big cities.  For the consumer there are no other options when you are stuck with poor cable Internet service and lousy customer service.  They know they have a monopoly and they use this to their advantage to charge outrageous fees, increase them every year without providing anything additional in return.

In most cities you don’t have any other choice for high-speed internet unless you count DSL.  DSL or Digital Subscriber Line is a technology that utilizes phone lines to transfer Internet.  This is a system that is inherently flawed.  For one thing, they use the same connection that your phone uses.  This means that voice and Internet communication are all shared on the same line.  Another issue is that speed varies based on your distance from the ISP hub.

The typical speed of DSL is 256Kb to 40Mbit/s for downloads and even slower for uploads.  Compare this to 15Mbit/s download speed for cable Internet and you see how huge the gap is.  In worst cases, using DSL is not much better than using dial-up Internet that we used to have in the old days.

Let me get back to what Internet companies have been taking away.  One example is Usenet newsgroups which were one of the original applications written for the Internet.  Imagine a massive collection of message boards shared throughout the Internet (if you don’t know what I’m referring to here).  This service was taken away from Time Warner high-speed Internet customers at the same time they raised their fees.

Another thing that Time Warner is horrible at is customer service.  They often keep customers waiting for 45 minutes by placing them on hold.  I’m sure this keeps their call volume down when 90% of their customers hang up the phone in disgust so they only have to deal with about 10% of all customer service calls.  For the amount of money we all pay for cable TV and Internet services, you would think companies like Time Warner could provide a modicum of quality customer service to their customers.  But then again, they have a monopoly so why bother!

Google’s New Page Rank Algorithm

March 03, 11 by admin

Google Search (How I Hate Thee)One of the things I really find discouraging is the page ranking algorithm created by Google.  I’ve been hosting web sites for well over ten years now and I have a handful of sites that have been continuously hosted during that period.  During the early years, I saw my page rank grow to a respectable number along with the number of backlinks. Business was good and I was relatively happy during that period.

I did a little bit of work on SEO for my sites to help improve my rankings a bit in those early years.  I made some mistakes along the way venturing into schemes that are known today as black hat SEO.  However, some of the things considered black hat today weren’t deemed that just five years ago.  Another error I made was migrating sites to another host and scripting language.  This is an operation fraught with many perils in itself.

The net result of these actions is that when the new page algorithms were launched, my sites started going downhill.  It didn’t happen all at once either.  My site rankings gradually decreased over time as each new algorithm was launched.  The purpose of the Google changes was to eliminate irrelevant results from their search results.  The problem was that my sites are very content rich so they deserved a little bit of page rank.

So today my main business site is doing okay with a page rank of three.  This is not a very good ranking for a website that has been around since 2000 and has had hundreds of valid backlinks.  As of today, my website has backlinks of zero, yes that’s right, zero!  Just a few weeks ago, my backlinks stood at five which is still an insult.

I’ve taken a few steps to rectify the situation.  After studying good white hat and black hat SEO techniques, I took steps to clean up my website and make it more search engine friendly.  I have all of the correct title and meta tags on all of the different pages.  I eliminated a lot of the duplicate content that appears on the site.  I also removed any links on the site that were part of a paid linking scheme as well as any links that may be considered irrelevant (unrelated) to my core business.  After doing all this, I then petitioned Google to reconsider my site for inclusion in the search engine.

Actually, my site already does show up in the search engine, its just that I felt I was being penalized due to my black hat SEO techniques.  It has been less than a month since I submitted this petition.  I haven’t seen any positive effects of doing this.  Hopefully, there will be some positive changes coming in the future.  Otherwise, I think I should consider exiting this business and getting into something else.

The major change launched by the latest page rank algorithms was to mark down the page rank of content farms which just scrape (steal) content from other sites and then republish that content on their own site.  Sometimes, this content is manipulated to change the grammar and structure.  The purpose is to score big points for having lots of content and keyword-rich content that search engines love.  The downside of this approach (for searchers), is that non-authoritative content is given to searchers when it would have been more appropriate to show them the original article.

Using Google Voice to Make Phone Calls

September 15, 10 by admin

Recently, I’ve been using the Google Voice product to place free phone calls within the United States and Canada to a land-based phone from your computer. I have been very impressed with the quality of the service and the convenience of making phone calls right from your computer.  Using a headset, I can easily talk to someone while working on my computer.  The voices sound so clear it seems to even rival my land-based phone.

Google has said that calls will be free to U.S. and Canada until the end of this year.  I hope that they decide to keep it free a while longer so I can continue enjoying their service.  It is also great for international calls.  Other popular countries like the U.K., Mexico, France and China only cost $0.02 per minute which I consider very reasonable.  Google seems to give you a $0.10 credit the first time you use their service.  So go out there and try it out!

http://www.google.com/voice/

E-bay Checkout Totally Broken

November 09, 07 by kenrich

Just like much of the rest of the E-bay auction site, the checkout system is totally broken and noone is doing anything to fix it. E-bay has just recently launched a new checkout system which works with PayPal (also owned by E-bay) to process payments. By default the system asks you to deduct money directly from your bank account. After you enter your PayPal login, you will see a little box on the right of the screen (during step #3) where you confirm your payment:

E-bay checkout screen

You will see there are two options on this page. One for “More Options” that allows you to change to a different payment option and another to use your “PayPal Credit Card” to do this payment. First, lets try to click the “More Options” to change the funding source for our payment. When you click this, the following PayPal screen comes up:

PayPal “More Options” Page

Of course, this page is totally useless, clicking on “Click Here to Retry” doesn’t help at all either. It jus brings up the same page over-and-over. You would think that E-bay would have tested this feature before they launched their new checkout process. Of course, they probably don’t care, and probably prefer to only get money direct from your banking account so they don’t have to pay any fees. Remember, this feature has been broken for several days now, and nothing has been done to correct it.

Now, lets revisit the original E-bay checkout screen and this time try to change to “PayPal Buyer Credit”. This should use my PayPal credit card which I received over a year ago and I’ve already used to make purchases in the past. This should work right? Just click the link that reads: “Switch Now to Use Your PayPal Plus Card”. So when I clicked this button (and I have tried this around 20 times so far already on different days with different browsers and different computers), I get:

E-bay Payment by PayPal Plus Card

Okay, great, it looks like this is working, should be smooth sailing now right? So, I click continue to finalize my payment and up comes:

E-bay Checkout Totally Broken

Thanks a lot E-bay. Once again, you’ve proved your incompetence. I’ve always been dissatisfied with your service, because of your wreckless price gouging of your customers and endless fees and upsells. It turns out your service is not worth my time, and I have vowed never to use your services ever again. Your multi-billion corporate greed, has finally destroyed you and you will rapidly decline over the coming years just as Yahoo has fallen to Google.

I encourage everyone to flee from this sinking ship before it screws you over and steals all of your money like it did mine (that’s a topic for another day). I am developing a free auction site available at www.goswap.com which provides a free auction service for everyone. What E-bay has done is appalling and an insult to the world.

Microsoft Pays $240 Million for 1.6% of Facebook

October 25, 07 by kenrich

FacebookYesterday, Microsoft paid $240 dollars for a 1.6% stake of the social networking site Facebook. Ever since the success of MySpace, social networking sites have been the new investment darlings. The estimated company value is derived from companies such as Google, whose value is largely based on the large audience of web surfers it draws.

Social networking has been growing at an exponential rate. Initially made popular by teens in high school and students in college, it has grown to encompass all demographics. It has also been helped by the popularity of blogging, and to a lesser extend, Wikipedia. Many schools have configured their Internet filters to block these social networking sites because their systems are intended for educational purposes and not socializing.

Given the price paid by Microsoft, the total estimated worth of Facebook would be around $15 billion dollars. Not bad for a company started by a 23 year-old only 3 years ago. The application that Facebook has built is simple and easy-to-learn. It makes it easy for anyone to create a profile and connect with their friends. Although instant messaging and e-mails also accomplish the same goals, there is something special about putting yourself out there for the whole world to see.

Part of the deal that Microsoft made with Facebook allows them to partner on advertising displayed on the site. Microsoft will manage the ads and split the profits 50/50 with Facebook. This is a pretty sweet deal for Facebook, since the Microsoft advertising machine can get some high paying clients and allow Facebook to focus on serving their community. Only time will tell if Facebook can stay on top – if the history between Yahoo and Google is any indication, being the first to market is not the most important criteria for success.

Google Notebook is Another Winner

May 18, 06 by kenrich

Google Labs has just released their newest tool: Google Notebook. I’ve installed and been using this tool over the past 24 hours and am happy with it’s performance. It provides an excellent resource for all types of applications. What is particularly useful, is that you can share your notes among all your computers. Since the notes are stored on Google servers (just like Gmail), you can access your notebooks from anywhere on the Internet.

The application installs as a plugin to the Mozilla Firefox browser. Once installed, it provides a link to your notebook in the status bar of your browser. Clicking on this will give you a veiw of your notebooks and notes. If you keep large size notes, you will need to maximize the window which will basically show the notebook in your browser window. You can add, edit or delete notes from your browser without having to load the Google Notebook web page. This is definitely useful for maintaining a contact list with addresses and phone numbers.

As a programmer and web developer, this is a handy tool to store commonly used code and algorithms. The systems allows you to setup multiple notebooks. Within each notebook, you can define multiple headings. Unfortunately, they do not let you define nested headings. I’m sure that Google will fix this shortcoming very soon.

The Ajax interface is pretty slick. “Edit” and “Delete” buttons appear over a note when you move your cursor over it. As you move out of the note, they disappear again. There is also a handle that appears to the left of the note which allows you to move the note to a different position within the notebook. The edit controls allow you to change font family, color and size. You can also do bold or italicized text. I’ve noticed they also allow you to indent text using the tab key (in a basic textarea input, the tab key moves you to the next input on the form).

One bug that I did manage to find was when I went to color a section of text within a note. It worked the first three times or so, but when I went to change the color again, the application notified me that I need to select a section before setting the color. This despite the fact that I had already selected the section. I tried reloading and repeated these steps a number of times before finally giving up.