Categories
Business

Amazon – destruction and revival

Amazon's LogoAmazon. A great big, greedy multinational company. Destroying countless companies and even eradicating whole industries in a matter of years.

France has recently taken measures to protect book shops, as it understands the devastating impact Amazon’s operations can have on a country. Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s founder) argues that “Amazon is not happening to book selling, the future is happening to book selling” suggesting that people want to buy books online now, and that virtual books would be rising in popularity without Amazon’s help.

In the UK, Amazon have come under scrutiny for not paying their fair share of tax.

BBC research suggests that the way in which Amazon treat their employees, means that their employees face a higher risk of mental illness.

There are numerous other scandals surrounding this online retail giant, but is it all bad? Believe it or not, Amazon is also proving a critical element in the survival of some industries and communities.

Royal Mail

Royal Mail and AmazonThe Royal Mail has had a turbulent decade. The internet has started to reduce the number of letters sent. Why pay to send a letter when you can send an email for free? Why fill your house with bank statements and insurance documents, when you can now access them all online? There are of course reasons why you might want to send a letter or receive a hard copy of something, however ultimately, the rise of the internet has significantly impacted the demand for postal services.

Amazon has actually played a critical role in the success of Royal Mail over the last few years. Yes if someone shops online, shops loose out on purchases, however online orders have to be delivered somehow, and the organisation with by far the biggest distribution network in the UK, is the Royal Mail. As a result, Amazon currently work closely with Royal Mail and provide the organisation with a massive amount of business.

So am I saying Amazon is actually good for Royal Mail? Well until Amazon opens up its own distribution network, and fills the skies with drones, yes, I think it is.

Rural Communities

Remote communities are often cut off from the rest of society in many ways. They often have very few local shops, which do not stock a wide range of goods, meaning local residents often have to travel miles to shop, or just go without. If you want to buy a new radio alarm clock (costing £20) do you take a 30 mile round trip to the nearest town to buy it, or do you order it on Amazon – probably for £15 – and have it delivered to your door the next day?

Without Amazon (and other online retailers) such communities would be cut off, leading to people either having to leave, or them feeling isolated and outdated.

Small Retailers

Like eBay, Amazon lets anyone buy and sell their goods through the site. Customers have the assurance that they will get good customer service, and if something goes wrong, Amazon will deal with the problem.

Many individuals now make a living from selling goods through Amazon. Some manufacturers sell directly through Amazon. Some people buy goods somewhere else and then sell them on Amazon for a profit. So Amazon is creating more jobs than just those who work for the company.

Authors

Amazing, J.K. Rowling struggled to get the first book of her Harry Potter series published. She was turned down several times, before she eventually managed to persuade Bloomsbury to publish her book. Amazon lets anyone publish a book. Nobody reviews it to see if it is any good, it just gets ran through a copyright checker, which determines whether it is original or not, and therefore how much of any profits the author is able to take home.

Our in-house expert on this is Mr Hankins, so if you want any more info, check out his article on the book he wrote and published on Amazon, and feel free to ask him question there.

Are Amazon another Google? Do they want to own everything, and destroy all their competition. Probably yes. But need everything they do be negative? No, almost everything they do will have some good related to it.

Categories
Charity Internet

Blog Action Day 2013

Blogs all across the world are talking about human rights today. For the fourth year in a row I am taking part in Blog Action Day.

Blog Action Day's logoThis year the topic is human rights.

I am going to share with you might thoughts on the relationship between the Internet and human rights.

Imagine what it would be like if every day, a cloaked figure followed you around, observing your every action and taking notes. It would be a bit creepy wouldn’t it, not to mention the privacy issues.

Back in 2011, I wrote a post asking whether everyone should be entitled to use the Internet and whether in fact it should be a human right. Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg believes that it should be; make your own decision as to whether this is only because he wants more business for his site.

So, imagine what it would be like with Mark Zuckerberg following you around all day, taking notes on what you do, invading your privacy… hold on, if you are on Facebook, he kind of does.

See how I linked that. 😉

I am no stranger to complaining about Facebook, but it isn’t the only culprit, Google is also a huge threat to online privacy. It stores all information it collects about you for at least 18 months. Why? In the words of Hungry Beast, because “Google wants to know who you are, where you are and what you like, so it can target ads at you.Check out Hungry Beast’s video to scare yourself.

So to get to the point, I don’t believe access to the Internet need be a human right, (not yet anyway) however I do believe that the right to privacy online should be. The United Nations logoArticle 12 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

Why does this not cover our online lives too? Should Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple (and others) be allowed to monitor us so much?

I shall keep this short and sweet and leave you with those thoughts.

Categories
Business Internet

PayPal – is the internet giant a force for good?

PayPal, its an internet giant – you can’t really argue with that. 110 million active users worldwide and counting.

Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google+, PayPal, Instagram and eBay ranked by active number of users
The number of active users top internet sites have – PayPal ranks among them with 110 million.

PayPal claims that 59% of purchases are completed using its service, however on average in the US, 88% of users abandon their virtual cart before the checkout.

The debate is still open as to whether people user PayPal because it offers the best service, or because it has a market monopoly – so like with Windows and Facebook, it is hard for people to choose another company, as everyone seems to be using it.

One cannot argue that PayPal offers a useful service. Users can exchange funds, send gifts and purchase goods from an account which gives additional security and guarantees, and doesn’t hold the key to an individuals personal life savings – as a bank account does. PayPal will also convert [many] foreign currencies into your local one, taking a small commission.

PayPal is easy to use, just get someone’s email address, and you can send money to them, or request funds from them. PayPal is also integrated with eBay (well, eBay owns PayPal) and many other sites, making buying online very easy. That said, Amazon still refuse to support it – maybe because eBay is one of its major competitors? Who knows.

Charges

One of the [major] downsides of PayPal are the charges. If one individual transfers money to another individual via a bank transfer, then there are usually no charges. PayPal however does charge.

PayPal's logoIf you use sterling, 3.4% of your transaction and an additional 20 pence will go to the folks at PayPal. So if you get a payment of £150, after fees you will have £144.70; so you lose £5.30. If you trade in US dollars, then the fee is 2.9% and $0.30 – slightly more reasonable. All the Scandinavian countries are charged 3.9% in addition to a fixed fee, as is Japan.

If every month you have a large inflow of money into your PayPal account, your fees do get reduced, and in the UK your fees can drop as low as 1.4% if you receive over £55,000 a month.

You could argue that these charges are fair, as PayPal is a business and needs to make a profit. However you could also argue that users are a little overcharged for the service PayPal provide.

PayPal Here

You can do almost anything on your mobile these days. In terms of business, there are mobile payroll apps, contact managers, and even mobile trading apps, so is it any surprise that PayPal has a mobile application? Probably not. It has several in fact, one for Android, one for iPhone and another for Windows mobiles. As the firm boasts:

“You don’t have to be at a computer to use PayPal – you can shop or send money securely wherever you are.”

But the PayPal app is no longer the only connection between your smartphone and the internet giant.

Last month, PayPal announced that it had developed and was launching a chip and PIN device, called PayPal Here, which (as they put it) provides “a simple, secure way, to accept payments on your mobile device“.

The PayPal Here device wirelessly connects to the sellers smartphone, which hosts a PayPal app, and gives the user the security of a wired chip and PIN, via the phone. So, the seller inputs the amount they want to charge, links their phone to the device, gives it to the customer, who inserts their card, enters their PIN, and the sale is complete.

This could potentially allow anyone to take a payment from virtually everywhere. Industries which were previously solely reliant on cash like taxi services and market stalls, can now potentially take payments by card.

Debit Card

Late last year, PayPal launched its own debit card, so users can directly access their funds via a card. Users can also earn 1% cash back when enrolled in PayPal’s Preferred Rewards Program.

These recent changes are leading me to wonder whether PayPal might choose to move into the banking industry soon? A debit card and an easy access ‘current’ account are both features of most high street banks.

Do you think PayPal will (in the near future) be launching a savings account? Could it start to offer users an overdraft facility, or even short-term loans? I believe it is a possibility – and not an unlikely one either.

Categories
Apps Reviews Smartphones

There’s an app for that

On June the 26th 2007, smartphones didn’t exist. Mobile phones, and computers were two very different things. A day later (27/06/2007) Apple launched the iPhone.

You could argue that there were ‘smartphones’ pre-iPhone, but many in the technology industry view the iPhone as the tipping point and birth-date of the modern smartphone – no inverted commas.

With the launch of the iPhone, came the launch of apps. A few years later along came tablets – and what would a tablet be without apps?

In this post I want to explore some of those apps. Not the apps like Angry Birds, Rayman Jungle Run, Skype and Fruit Ninja though, they are what you expect from applications – games and communication. In this post I am going to explore some of the more innovative uses for apps.

Mirror

Ever desperately needed a mirror just when there are none in sight? Mirror by mmapps mobile, is a free app for Android which turns your phone into a usable mirror! The app even lets you zoom in and out and freeze the mirror, something that no mirror I have ever used does.

The app is available in many different languages, and similar apps are available for iDevices, however mmapps mobile don’t make an ‘i’ version.

Square Wallet

Square Wallet is an application which lets you fully embrace mobile payment. With Square Wallet, you can link your credit card to your phone, and then, in a surprisingly large number of retailers, pay for goods, using your phone! The app also lets you track transactions, so you can keep track of what you are buying.

Square Wallet is available for iDevices with iOS 5.0 or later, and Androids via Google Play.

Inflora Flower App

Interflora smartphone appTen years ago, who would have thought that you could be out and about, and on a device which fits in your hand, and order a bouquet of flowers? Probably not many people!

The flower delivery company Interflora has an app where you can do just that. Naturally its called Interflora, and can be download for free for iDevices – any iPod, iPhone or iPad with iOS 3.0 or later. Interflora is also available to download for Android devices. The app gives you access to a wide range of flowers, information (such as delivery details and a description) and prices; you can even order your gift using the app!

Zite Personalised Magazine

If you like to keep up to date with the latest news, and you like the news your way, then Zite is the perfect app for you.

Zite trawls through your Facebook and Twitter feeds to work out what you like to read. The application then created you your very own personalised magazine to read, and the more you use it, the cleverer it gets, and the more tailored your content become – to a point where it should only be displaying content you really want to read.

Zite is available for free for all iDevices with iOS 6.0 or later, although the developers state that is is specifically designed for the iPhone, as opposed to tablets. Zite is also available on Android.

Flow Powered

Flow Powered - NutellaAmazon have recently released an augmented reality app called Flow Power, which can identify millions of real life products (using your phones camera), and can then tell you more information about them.

The app ‘knows’ thousands of books, games and CDs, and is able to tell you about almost anything, if you scan the barcode.

Be it a novel, or a box of chocolates, the app can tell you how much it costs and what other people think of it – pretty clever huh?

Flow Powered is available for Android via Google Play and iOS 4.2 and more recent iDevices through iTunes.

It seems like there is an app for almost everything these days, be it an app to help you apply make-up, order flowers or tell you the price of a video game. There’s an app for that!

Smartphones really are smart.

Categories
Blogging Media

Why not Write a Book?

Why not publish a book? I had been thinking about self publishing for some time, and so decided to have a try. In January of this year I took my Technology Bloggers “Health of the Planet” series, made it into a booklet and put it on Issuu, so the obvious next step was a book on Amazon.

On 24th October I sent an outline to my boss at the Bassetti Foundation for a book. My aim was to prepare it and get it out for download on Amazon by 27th November to coincide with my trip to Italy and participation in the nanotechnology lecture at the university that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

Rather a tall order we might think, but not an opportunity to miss, and I think that many bloggers could and possibly should do the same, after all a book is a book, and it looks good on the CV.

I started to look at what I had already written about nanotechnology, synthetic biology and the other topics that might come up in the discussion. I had a simple strategy, find all of the relevant pieces, put together a coherent collection in groups, write an introduction and conclusion and put it out.

I decided to write the introduction last, once I had a better idea of what the book would look like.

I had to think of a title though, a grand title that would make people want to read it, and also a price. Because I was publishing works that were already in the public domain I could only ask for the 30% royalties option from Amazon. There are 2 options for self publishing, 70% for original works and 30% if they have already appeared, so I had to go for 30. This lead me on to thinking about the price. Amazon are going to take the vast majority of the income, so I should accept the fact that I am not retiring to the Bahamas on the money this book will make. So I should give it away. You can’t give it away though through Amazon, or at least I could not find an option to do it, so I chose the cheapest option, 99 US cents a download.

So back to the title. I wanted to get Responsible Innovation into the title, but that in itself wasn’t a puller. I want students and people interested in innovation and technology to buy it, an overview of a complex scenario. A handbook? Yes A handbook. The Handbook of Responsible innovation? Well that is too grand a title even for me, so “A Handbook For Responsible Innovation” it is.

Cover to the Handbook
Handbook Cover

My boss at the Bassetti Foundation agreed to put the book out through the Foundation series, so I sent the title details etc to our man in Milan and he produced a cover as you see above, so now all I had to do was put the contents together.

Chapter 1, an overview. I found some pieces I had written for the Innovation Excellence blog, 3 quite formal posts about responsible innovation. If you decide to do this you have to read them and re-write and delete sections, because in my case they repeated themselves. There was also a lot of updating and putting the correct dates in. For example “last Monday I…” is no good. On (date and year) I….. is better. Also if referring to something that was in the future at the time of writing you should renew the research, so a report that was for publication will now be out, so you have to read it and put something in about the contents. A little bit of cut and paste here and there and a few new pieces and you are done.

I carried on to nanotechnology and did the same, moved on to a section that I titled Bioethics, about DNA testing and medical decision making. Then on to Information and Knowledge, about citizen science and where and how to participate in science and find reliable information, I have written about all of these matters here and in fact there are references to Technology Blogger posts both by myself and Christopher, but I decided not to put in any of my blog posts from Technology Bloggers as articles, only as references. This was a stylistic choice, and something to think about if you follow this idea. A book needs to be coherent, so pitch and register of the arguments should be consistent. This choice also cut out the issue of comments as the articles that I chose either were not set up for comments or had few, so i was not cutting the argument short.

If you were thinking of putting comments in as in the Health of the Planet booklet mentioned earlier it might be an idea to try and weave them into the argument instead of making them look like comments. This would not be easy but I think would give more of a book feel to a finished publication.

The last chapter in the Handbook is a collection of interview transcriptions. I cut out 2 more chapters that had been in the outline about design, as the book was already 150 pages long. In a process such as this I think flexibility is a must.

Then I had to go and put references in instead of links. Fortunately most of these essays had been posted on the Bassetti Foundation website and they have fantastic technicians. They designed the site so that when you download an article in PDF the links automatically come up as references. So I used the same format for all the other articles and in a few hours they were all done. I sent it back to Milan and asked the Scientific Director to write a preface. The preface idea was not my own but it certainly gives a formal feel to the publication, so again well worth thinking about.

So all that was left to write was the introduction and conclusion. The introduction turned out to be just an outline of the book, a page and a half. I feel that in a case like this all that is required is a few lines about the purpose of the book, where the articles are taken from and what is in each chapter. The conclusion is the only thing I had to write from scratch, I included as much as I could of the comments that my fellow workers had made about the book as some of their ideas were difficult to weave into already finished articles. Once I had started to cut and paste articles to insert sections I realized that insertion changes the flow of the writing, so adopted this solution instead.

I translated the preface into English and placed it in, Formatted everything, made a PDF and we were finished with a week to go.

The Foundation opened an account with Amazon and we uploaded the book with cover, all far too easy! A day later I got an email stating that as the material was already available online I had to provide links to each article in every place it was published so that Amazon were sure that my copyright was being respected. This took some time, and once submitted Amazon took a couple of days to come back again.

On the 26th they responded and we were good to go. But looking at the book online and ready to download we saw that the formatting had all changed, centering was gone, blank pages etc. PDF is not the way to do it! Also you need a full Word 2010 to do the summary aspect of it, something I have not got. A Filtered web page in HTML in a zip file is the way to do it. So back to Milan, new upload and wait and see. All of this is explained in a free Kindle download. Oh the beauty of hindsight!

We had 10 copies spiral bound for the lecture so that we could present it. I think a few hard copies are a good investment, people can see a product and thumb through it so it somehow becomes concrete.

A couple of days later we got the OK from Kindle, the status changed from “in revision” to “in publication” and notification of an ASIN number.

On 3rd December it was out, Hurray, a 5 week turnaround! I ordered 5oo business cards from an online printer with the name of the book and reference number to give out at every occasion and started thinking about generating some publicity.

So my thought on this matter is that if I can do it then many other bloggers can do it too. A little organization and filtering is all that is required. I made mistakes and wasted time, I spent ages writing a contents page with page numbers etc to find out that the pages did not correspond after formatting and anyway numbers are a thing of the past. A link takes the reader directly from contents to the section they require.

Everybody gains something from the process though, the author, Amazon, the blogs that host the original articles, and it didn’t cost anything, completely free. If you choose the KDP Select option Amazon have sole distribution rights for 90 days so you cannot put it out on Barnes and Noble or any other platform, but Amazon offer a free lend to their prime members and a free preview to anyone, and it is readable on any computer so Kindle not required.

However many people download the book (feel free, it is here) it is a good result, and you should see my CV now! The next stage will be to put it up in paperback.

Categories
Internet

How to find impartial reviews

One of the first things I do before I spend significant money on any product is search the internet for reviews of that product. It might be a physical product such as a computer monitor or a digital product such as a file storage service. One thing I’ve found over the years is that not all product reviews are truthful.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few product review websites that give positive reviews to sub-par products. The root of the problem is that almost every product in the world has an affiliate program that backs it. Webmasters join these affiliate programs and receive compensation for every customer that clicks through and purchases a product.

Whenever there is a financial incentive to sell products, webmasters will be tempted to write positive reviews no matter what. The more sales these webmasters generate, the more money they make. This can make it difficult for us searchers that are in need of legitimate, unbiased product reviews.

EDITOR NOTE: Please note that Technology Bloggers admin team will never give a good review of a bad product, it is unethical and against what we stand for. We will also never enter affiliate schemes which require us to promote a product we don’t believe is value for money – note by Christopher

1. Search For Discussions

The most unbiased product reviews are written by people that have no incentive to sell those products. Two of the most reliable places to find reliable product reviews are discussion forums and the comments section of major websites.

Discussions:

Let’s take online file storage for example. You can search the internet for “online file storage reviews” and find dozens of websites that review online storage services. Some of these websites are dependable, others… not so much.

What you can do instead is run a Google search for reviews, but then narrow the search down to discussions. You can narrow down the results by first running the search and then clicking on the “more” link on the left side of the Google and then the “discussions” link beneath that. See below:

Google search for discussions about online file storage reviews

Clicking on this link will change the results to only include discussions related to your term. These tend to be real discussions between real people and are therefore pretty reliable.

Note: Remember that you are likely to see more negative reviews than positive reviews when you search for discussions. People who are happy with their products post fewer comments than people who are angry. Keep this in mind as you read through various discussions.

Comments:

If you’re looking for a physical product, you can often find a good number of comments by visiting large websites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. Visit those websites and search for the exact product model that you’re considering. The chances are you’ll find unbiased comments related to that product.

2. Find Trustworthy Websites

Not all review websites are bad. In fact, some are awesome. They will break down the product in its entirety and give you both the pros and cons. The key is knowing how to identify these websites.

For the most part, you can tell if a website is trustworthy or not by reading through a few reviews. The writing style will tell you a lot. Trustworthy review websites tend to stick to the facts. They will tell you both the pros and cons of any product. They will also give you hard numbers that you can use to compare various products.

Low quality review websites tend to offer more generalities than facts. For example, bad review sites will tell you that a product is “amazing” or “life changing” but they won’t back those claims up with hard numbers or legitimate reasons to like the product.

However, it is worth noting that some websites make it a point to only review products that they deem to be of high quality. They don’t even waste your time writing reviews of products that are inferior. But even in this case, the reviews include hard numbers and are willing to note both the strengths and weaknesses of each product.

Categories
Internet

Is there really that much diversity on the internet?

The internet is big right? Okay it is massive. With that massiveness one naturally associates extreme diversity. Don’t get me wrong, across the entire internet, there is amazing variation, with billions of people adding their spin to the net.

What I am going to investigate in this post though is how diverse the ‘main’ internet is. What I mean by that is the internet that we use every day. How diverse is the most regularly used/visited content? Is there really as much choice as we think, or is the majority of the internet dominated by a few firms?


In order to go about this research I am going to use Alexa, who gather statistics on websites traffic. For most sites, the data isn’t that accurate, however for really busy sites, the numbers are so great, the reliability of the data is much higher, hence why I can use it.

Alexa's Logo

Google

According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited site on the web. How could it not be? Alexa estimates that 50% of all internet users visited Google.com in the last three months. Second on the list for most visited sites is Facebook, which is trailing with just 45% of internet users visiting the site.

Remember however that is just Google.com, Google has a massive monopoly over the internet. In the 100 most visited sites on the web, 18 of the sites are owned by Google – 16 localised sites, Google.com and GoogleUserContent.com (the site you see when there is an error finding/displaying a page).

Google undoubtedly has reduced diversity on the internet, having such a monopoly on the sites we all visit. The thing is, it isn’t just 18 sites. Google also owns YouTube and (the third most visited site on the net) Blogspot which is ranked 10th, Blogger at 47 (Blogger and Blogspot are now one) and Blogspot.in (India) ranked 73. That means 21 of the most visited sites on the net belong to Google, meaning it owns more than one fifth of the ‘main’ internet.

Googlite Logo
Google’s dominance on the web suggests that a lot of us are Googlites!

Can you call the internet diverse, when in the top one hundred sites, one firm owns more than a fifth of all sites? Maybe, what does the rest of the field look like?

Microsoft

Unsurprisingly, the company that is arguable Google’s main rival is in second place. Yahoo and Microsoft are currently in a ‘Search Alliance’ therefore restricting competition, so I am going to count them in the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences. Here is the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences which are top 100 websites:

  • Yahoo.com – Ranked 3rd
  • Live.com – Ranked 7th
  • Yahoo.co.jp – Ranked 16th
  • MSN.com – Ranked 17th
  • Bing.com – Ranked 29th
  • Microsoft.com – Ranked 30th – ironic how it is lower many of the other sites it owns!
  • Flickr.com – Ranked 53rd and Yahoo owned

Therefore Microsoft own/influence 7 of the top 100 sites. Add that to Google’s 21, and 28 of the top sites on the net are owned by two firms. More than a quarter.

I am starting to think the ‘main’ internet is not as diverse as one may first assume.

Amazon

Next on the list of internet giants comes Amazon. Amazon.com is ranked 10th, whilst Amazon Germany (Amazon.de) is ranked 91st and Amazon Japan (Amazon.co.jp) is 95th. Amazon also owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) which is the 50th most visited site. Amazon owns 4 of the top 100 sites.

Amazon's Logo32 sites gone.

Alibaba Group

The Alibaba Group is a privately owned Chinese business, which owns Alibaba.com, Tmall (tmall.com), Taobao (Taobao.com) and Sogou.com. The group therefore account for four of the sites that make up what I am calling the ‘main internet’.

36 sites taken by just 4 companies. How diverse is our internet?

eBay

Next we come to eBay.com which sits 23rd on the list of top 100 sites. eBay International AG (ebay.de) is in 80th place, followed by eBay UK (ebay.co.uk) in 86th. eBay also owns PayPal (paypal.com) which is ranked 46th.

eBay steals another 4 sites, leaving just 60 of our hundred left, and so far only 5 firms are involved.

Time Warner

CNN (cnn.com) AOL (aol.co.uk) and The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) are all sites owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the sixth business involved now, leaving just 57 sites.

WordPress

The blogging platform WordPress (wordpress.com) is ranked 19th, and its brother, which allows users to host the content management system on their own site (wordpress.org) is ranked 83rd.

The Official WordPress LogoThere goes another two sites, meaning just 55 left, and only seven players so far.

Twitter

Ranked number 8 on the list is Twitter, however its URL shortener (t.co) is ranked 31st, meaning Twitter is also one of the big players in the top 100 sites, arguably with some form of domination over the internet.

Twitter's Logo47 sites of the top 100 accounted for and a mere eight organisations involved.

The Rest

Of the final 53 sites, 5 are adult only sites leaving 48 sites – although many of these either are a part of, or are a much bigger group.

Some familiar faces appear in the other 48 sites, Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (6th), LinkedIn (11th), Apple (34th), Tumblr (37th),  Pinterest (47th), BBC Online (48th), Ask (54th), AVG (62nd),  Adobe Systems Incorporated (67th), About.com (81st), ESPN (82nd),  Go Daddy (85th), Netflix (89th),  The Pirate Bay (92nd) and CNET (97th).

Remove these very well known, well established, and massive brands, and we are left with 32 sites – less than a third. Of the remaining sites, around half are Chinese, showing the growing influence and usage of the internet in China.

My Verdict

In this post I have established that of the sites we visit most regularly, 47 are owned by just eight organisations. Does that really represent the freedom that we all believe the internet offers?

I was surprised by the type of content, and the limited number of different sites that there are in the global top 100. It would seem that the most visited sites consist of search engines, social media sites and news websites. Interesting statistics.

So, what is your verdict on how diverse the internet we use everyday is? I personally am not quite as convinced as I was before writing this article that the internet is quite as free and diverse as we all believe.

Please note these rankings are changing all the time, and all content was correct according to Alexa.com at the time of writing – the 6th of July 2012.

Categories
Internet

5 ideas that have become online money makers

Hobbies have always been an inspiration for many successful people. While most of us attempt to pursue “safe careers” by going for occupations that may bring us monetary benefits, pretty often we lose sight of our hobbies in our busy lives.

A light bulb momentHowever, with the internet boom many people can now change that. There are many success stories, from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates who ruthlessly pursued their goals and didn’t follow the bandwagon. But in this article I am going to explore a few more down to earth examples.

What is to follow is a list of five e-businesses that started as a hobby or a small idea that brought immense success to their owners. While the below examples might not contain websites as famous as YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, they are examples that we can all relate to, and maybe borrow a few ideas from!

The Million Dollar Homepage

I still remember watching a report about the guy who set up The Million Dollar Homepage on the news (can’t remember if it was BBC or CNN). The founder of The Million Dollar Homepage (Alex Tew) sold pixels of his website for $1, to raise money for his University expense. The site was such a success that it turned out to become a website that is nothing more than several pixels of small ads. I hope by now you would understand what I meant when I said, “examples that we can all relate to”.

The Million Dollar Homepage

FindAGrave.Com

When it comes to novel ideas that made people money, this website takes the cake. It provides a service that I wouldn’t have comprehended, had I not learned about this website.

Unknown GraveFind A Grave is a website that helps people locate the graves of a famous people. It turns out that Jim Tipton liked to visit the graves of famous personalities and used this idea to create a kind of search engine that helps people locate graves of famous people.

So if you have a hobby of visiting famous places or areas that can help, say vacationers, then you might be the next big success story.

PickyDomains

PickyDomains is another idea that got me scratching my head. The founder of the site was good at coming up with interesting names, so he started a crowdsourcing service that allowed people to seek help in finding interesting domain names and slogans.

The idea was to let a community of people provide novel names and not to rely on bots, which arguably lack imagination. If you have been looking for vacant domain names in a domain search engine, then you will know what I mean.

Picky Domains - Risk-Free Naming Service

So if your friends, family and bots have failed you, then it might be time to seek advice from a community of people, who just like coming up with cool names and slogans.

Gawker Media

While the Gawker Media website itself is successful enough, it is worth pointing out that this media groups is perhaps the world’s most famous blogging network.

The reason I have included the Gawker example is because one thing that most of us can do easily is blogging (something I’m doing right now).

Gawker — Today's gossip is tomorrow's news

Gawker Media has the world’s most successful blogs ranging from Lifehacker, Gizmodo to many others. The Gawker network was started by Nick Denton who is a journalist and an entrepreneur. While he claims that blogging isn’t that profitable, he has still made millions from his successful line of blogs.

Amazon

I know I said there will be down to earth examples in this post, but I have to add this one. I have been following Amazon since I was a child and have seen the company grow beyond belief.

What started as an online book store was soon to become one of the first e-stores in the world. But it was not just a good idea that made Jeff Bezos the world most successful e-retailer, but the fact that he took risks when it mattered.

It is said that the company did not expect any profit for five years, which also made shareholders a bit edgy. Nonetheless, the internet gold rush paid off and Amazon, which diversified, became one of the most successful companies in the world.

Amazon's Logo

The above mentioned examples are just a few of many success stories that made people successful because they dared to use their ideas to materialize them into something successful (even if someone enjoyed visiting graves).

The point is that it might not be too late for any of you try out something that may allow you to turn your abilities into something successful, and to let you in on a secret, I’m already trying out something myself, guess I don’t want to regret not trying my hands at the internet gold rush either.

Categories
How To Guides Internet

Shopping online – tips and advice

When shopping online, there are loads of things to look out for, and loads of ways to get a better deal. In this article I hope to share some of the experience I have got from shopping online, and some of my tech knowledge in order to help you get a better deal – what you want, at a reasonable price.

The first thing to say is that what you are shopping for, is crucial to how to go about buying it.

Virtual Goods

If you are buying an online or ‘virtual’ good/service, then the key thing to check is that you are buying from a reputable firm. Checking the firm is reputable and reliable is key for all online shopping, but especially so if you are buying something virtual – e.g. a website, anti-virus software, access to a game, music etc.

There are a few ways you can go about checking if online firms are reputable. The first is to see if the firm exists in reality, do they have shops in the real world, or are they totally online? Firms with physical property are less likely to be fraudulent, as they are easy to find and locate. Totally online firms can be just as reputable, look at the likes of Play.com and Amazon.

Play.com's LogoThe second way to get an idea of whether a firm is reputable or not is to check their stats. Does the site have a good Alexa rank – top 500,000? If not, people may not be visiting the site for a reason: it has just been set up, and after a few quick cons will be gone. You can check the history of the site using the Way Back Machine for more info on its past.

The third way is a much less reliable way, but can be useful to back up your decision. Try looking at the websites PageRank. If they have say a PageRank 3+ homepage, they are more likely to be legitimate than a site with all PageRank 0’s. People link to shop websites when they buy things and then review them, so shops should acquire PageRank. If they have no PageRank, they may still be legitimate, but check, as that may mean they have not been trading for long, therefore have just set up to scam, and will be shut down soon.

Finally are they a big name. Say you are buying anti-virus direct from the supplier. Most people have heard of the likes of Kaspersky, Sophos and Norton, but if the company is called something like ‘SpywareBeGoneSolutions’ then they are a lot less likely to sell you a good product, if any product at all.

Kaspersky's LogoFinally, when checking that the firm you are going to buy from is going to give you the product(s) you want, watch the news, or research them on news sites! Is the firm about to go bust or being run by administrators? If so, buying from them may lead to you loosing your money!

Services

If you are buying a service, such as a holiday, insurance or a meal at a restaurant, then there are loads of really useful sites that can help you, by giving you an incite into what others thought of that service.

Say for example you are buying a holiday, you can use websites like TripAdvisor.com to see if the place you are looking at staying at has positive reviews. If not, you can maybe choose somewhere else. Be careful though, as sometimes these sites can be misleading, as Jonny recently wrote about.

There are other websites too like MoneySavingExpert.com and Yelp, which can offer similar services for other things like insurance, banking, restaurants, shopping etc. MoneySavingExpert.com is especially worth a look, as aside from reviews, they can give really good advice, to help you save money when buying all sorts of things.

Products

The key to ensuring you get value for money and what you want when buying products online is to make sure you read what other people think about it. Reviews are really useful, and can help you determine which product is right for you.

Don’t be afraid to venture out of the companies website itself, and look for more reviews elsewhere online. Some firms will only publish the positive reviews they receive on their own site, in order to try to persuade more people to buy that product, from them.

A really important bit of advice is not to discount the high street, it can still be a very good place to buy things. Often things are cheaper online, however you can usually see and sometimes try products when in a shop, whereas online, all you have is pictures and possibly video.

Once you know the product is for you, make sure that you shop around. Find the best deal using price comparison sites like MoneySupermarket.com and PriceRunner.co.uk.

Once you have your product and the shop, don’t forget to go to coupon sites to see if you can get an even better deal. Sites like MyVoucherCodes usually have some great discount offers, you just need to look.

To conclude

In summary, when shopping online, make sure that you are buying from someone reputable. Make sure the product or service is what you want. Check out other peoples reviews. Look for the best deal, and then finally don’t forget to check if there are any vouchers that could further slash the cost.

Hopefully these tips have been useful, good luck shopping online!

Categories
News Technology

New Samsung Devices – Announced and Rumoured

Samsung have certainly had a busy few months. In 2011 they saw huge success with their Galaxy S2 Smart Phone, which is still continuing to thrive even today. They also saw the success of their largest tablet on the market – the Galaxy Tab 10.1 – and rolled out similar high quality devices with the Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy Tab 8.9.

At the end of 2011, Samsung snook another two tablets into the market, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 – almost without anyone realising. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is only available in small quantities currently, but due to its initial success, it is expected to be made more widely available in the near future.

Samsung's LogoHowever, for a company that seems to have the best products currently in the market, they certainly haven’t held fire when it comes to announcing and releasing even more devices.

Just recently, Samsung announced their newest tablet (although it may not be their newest for long, but we’ll get to that) the Galaxy Tab 2 – a more entry level tablet similar in spec to the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus but with a slightly slower processor, a 1 GHz dual-core processor compared to the 1.2GHz dual-core processor in its 7.0 Plus counterpart, with Samsung trying to succeed in the market of cheaper electronic goods which has seen Amazon compete so successfully in recently.

Not to rest on their laurels, Samsung are also rumoured to be announcing a 10.1 inch version of their Galaxy Note (one of the biggest smart phones currently in the market, often referred to as a ‘phablet’ due to its similarities to a tablet rather than a phone) which has been reported from several sources due to Samsung accidentally releasing details about the Galaxy Note 10.1 being announced at this month’s MWC and also advertising for a young male to be seen using a ‘Galaxy Note 10.1’ device.

So, will Samsung’s new devices do as well as their previous releases? Only time will tell, but my guess is that they will.