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NextCrash
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Online Music Websites Play any Song, Instantly

admin | Uncategorized | Friday, August 10th, 2007

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Blogmusik Screenshot

Blogmusik.net is a Flash web site that lets you type in the title of any song and play it almost instantly. The search engine finds the song on the internet and then streams it to your computer. The player loads very quickly, and it is a great way to preview songs before you purchase them. If you create an account on Blogmusik, you can create and save your playlists for later.

RadioBlogClub Screenshot

Radioblogclub.com is very similar to Blogmusik, but it is worth checking out because it sometimes finds songs that Blogmusik doesn’t.

Both services are simply amazing. They let you play music at decent sound quality, quickly and efficiently, and for free.

AnywhereFM Screenshot

AnywhereFM.com differs from Blogmusik and Radioblogclub in that you have to upload music to the site to be able to play it. This is an added burden, and makes the site more of a hassle to use than the other two.

Still, the Flash interface allows you to quickly play music as well, and this site would be very appealing for users who want to access their music from anywhere.

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Web Scraping Irks Some Bloggers

admin | Uncategorized | Friday, August 10th, 2007

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The New York Times is running a story about how awful web scraping is and how search engines like Google are doing little to stop it. Web scraping, for those who haven’t heard of it, is the reproduction of content from one web site to another without permission of the original author.

The story specifically mentions Lorelle VanFossen, who runs a blog on blogging dos and don’ts. She is vehemently opposed to web scraping and has had her content reproduced on other web sites in the past, much to her dismay.

It is somewhat ironic that Google is being asked to do more to stop web scraping when that is, in fact, their core business.

What more is a search engine than a giant web scraper? Google’s cache stores copies of web sites on Google’s servers, and their search engine indexes the titles and metadata associated with every web site Google’s crawler can search. Google News is a giant web scraper that scrapes news from all sorts of news agencies.

But just like internet piracy, web scraping is unstoppable, and is here to stay. Especially as more and more users manipulate blog data, create mashups, or find new ways to remix the content as they see fit.

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Universal Music Group is Testing DRM-Free Music Downloads

admin | Uncategorized | Friday, August 10th, 2007

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Universal Music Group LogoArs Technica is reporting that Universal is going to be testing DRM-free music downloads. The songs will be sold in MP3 format, and will cost 99¢ each.

It seems like the music industry is finally starting to realize that DRM is aggravating for consumers because it restricts the ability of the consumer to use their media freely and on any device of their choosing.

As Ars Technica points out, every copy-protected music file that uses DRM is already available on the file-sharing networks anyway. DRM is useless at preventing piracy.

Even so, Universal says that this is just a test because they want to see how DRM-free files will affect piracy rates. Which is another way of saying that they still don’t quite get it. Their music will be pirated whether they sell protected files or not.

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Hotswap.com Full of Hot Air?

admin | Uncategorized | Thursday, August 9th, 2007

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Hotswap ScreenshotReuters is running a story about Hotswap.com. Apparently the company is getting help from some pretty big names. Co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, and Red McCombs, co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, are both backing the company.

The Reuters article goes on and on about how Hotswap’s founders Luke Thomas, Ryan Waliany and Ken Elkabany have developed some new compression technology that mimics HD video. Furthermore, the article claims that Hotswap’s technology can transform fuzzy looking YouTube videos into high-quality clips.

At one point, Hotswap founder Luke Thomas claims “We’re going to be a billion-dollar company.”

There’s just one problem with all of these claims. If you actually visit Hotswap.com, you’ll find that their videos are the same poor quality as you would find on YouTube. The Flash technology they use to play the videos is the same technology you can license here for 15 Euros.

They do offer a high quality video option. When I clicked it, it took over 2 minutes to for the video to buffer before it started streaming, which is simply unacceptable. It also uses the DivX web player to play these “high quality” videos, which is certainly not technology that was developed by Hotswap.

I suppose it is still possible that Hotswap has developed some sort of video compression technology that they are keeping under wraps that will revolutionize online video, but I don’t see it.

What is more likely is that they’re puffing up the company in hopes they’ll attract more interest. All that has to happen for this company to become irrelevant is for Ebay’s motors section to add video capability, if they haven’t already.

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How to Fix the Video Rental Industry

admin | Uncategorized | Thursday, August 9th, 2007

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Blockbuster StorefrontBlockbuster just charges too much for video rentals. The last time I was there they were charging something like $4 for new rentals, and older movies were around $2. In my opinion, a video rental should never be more than $2, even for a new release.

$1 for any movie rental (even a new release) seems like the most attractive price-point, and that’s about what I pay at the Family Video by my house. Many people are unlucky in that Blockbuster has a monopoly in their town, so they are kind of trapped. Unless they get Netflix, they have to pay Blockbuster’s outrageous rates.

Netflix exploited the fact that people are lazy, and don’t like having to go to the video store. You have to drive, and even when you get there, the movie you want might not be there. The problem with Netflix is you have to mail the videos back, and you have to wait for videos to arrive. There’s no instant gratification.

Family Video LogoThe other day I went to Family Video trying to rent Bourne Identity, and they didn’t have it. So I ended up leaving the video store empty handed, and they lost a sale.

So how could this have been fixed? One answer that I would like to see implemented is to have DVDs created on-demand. There should be no reason why any movie should ever be out of stock. Just create the DVD and hand it to me. When I return it, reuse it or throw it away.

Of course, that would create a lot of waste, so why not put the movie on a reusable memory stick or something? Sure there are piracy concerns, but any movie on DVD is already being shared illegally anyway.

Ultimately, online delivery of movies is inevitable, and that will negate the need for the video store once and for all. But the movie industry needs to forget about DRM. Make the movie as easy to use and transport to any device that I wish. Don’t make a pirated movie, which is available for free and without DRM, more attractive than something I’m paying for. Movielink would be a lot better if it didn’t have DRM, if it had better quality, if it was cheaper, and if it had the selection of every movie ever made.

Blockbuster Acquires Movielink - Video Rental Industry Yawns

admin | Uncategorized | Thursday, August 9th, 2007

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Blockbuster LogoBlockbuster has just acquired Movielink.com, a web site that allows you to download and watch movies.

When Movielink was reviewed by the Washington Post, it was called “Hardly worth the effort.”

Supposedly, this is a good acquisition for Blockbuster, because on-demand downloads of movies through the internet is obviously where the video rental industry is heading.  If we had cheap access to movies piped directly into our TVs, we wouldn’t need to step outside the house and head to the video store at all.

Blockbuster and Movielink are just such awful companies that the acquisition just isn’t interesting.  Blockbuster charges too much for rentals, and Movielink has such poor selection and pricing, combined with DRM protections that make it a pain for the consumer to deal with.

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Vimeo’s Redesign Looks Great

admin | Uncategorized | Thursday, August 9th, 2007

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Vimeo LogoVimeo.com, which was started by Zach Klein and Jakob Lodwick, is a video-sharing web site similar to YouTube. Vimeo went through a substantial redesign earlier this summer. You can see from the screenshot below that the site is clean and beautifully designed.

From browsing Vimeo, it is clear that it is visually and functionally superior to YouTube. The videos on Vimeo load quickly and seem to be of higher quality than YouTube.

One thing I don’t like about Vimeo’s design is that it took me forever to find the search button. You have to click a grayed out magnifying glass for the search feature to appear. The fact that the search engine wasn’t integrated into the design as a prominent feature struck me as odd.

What sets the two sites apart is that Vimeo stresses the importance of community. Really, Vimeo is a site for sharing small movies that you have made with your friends. The comments on the videos at Vimeo seem to be much more friendly and insightful than YouTube comments, and that again goes back to how Vimeo is so focused on their community.

YouTube’s popularity, by contrast, results from the fact that it contains so much content that is unavailable elsewhere. A large percentage of YouTube’s growth can be traced back, at least in some way, to copyrighted videos.

I think of Vimeo as the Flickr of video, and YouTube is more like Photobucket. Vimeo is charming, easy to use, and elegant, whereas YouTube is just meant to slap videos on there and get a lot of views. You would use Vimeo for uploading private home videos and sharing them with family, and you would use YouTube to upload something you want everyone to see.

Regardless, the existence of Vimeo makes Flickr’s entry into video even more irrelevant, because Vimeo brings the simplicity and ease of use to video-sharing that Flickr brought to photo-sharing.
Vimeo Screenshot

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CreateSpace - Mainstream On-Demand Publishing is Here

admin | Uncategorized | Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

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CreateSpace LogoCreatespace.com is a very new and very exciting company owned by Amazon.com. It allows you to sell your own books, movies, or CDs, which are created on demand and then sold.

Amazon is a great company to venture into on-demand publishing because as they have proved consistently through their main retail website, they excel at efficiency and scaling their services to meet high demand quickly.

What is really exciting people about their book publishing service is that they automatically assign the book an ISBN number, and offer the book for purchase through Amazon.com right away. The opportunity to bypass publishers altogether is becoming very real. Expect this to become more and more of a concern for conventional publishers, especially as the quality of print-on-demand material increases.

On-demand publishing exploits The Long Tail of publishing, and as such, could prove to be quite lucrative. Amazon has particular expertise in handling the logistics involved in shipping thousands of published materials to different places quickly and efficiently, which is why this new company is a good fit for them.

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Do One Thing Well

admin | Uncategorized | Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

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Flickr LogoFred Oliveira has an excellent post up on his blog about how Flickr is venturing into incorporating video into their website. Fred very persuasively argues that Flickr is making a terrible mistake by venturing into online video, and that they should stick to the simplicity of dealing exclusively with photos.

This re-emphasizes what we’ve been saying over here at NextCrash for the past few days. Web services should do one thing, and do that one thing well. Over-extending your brand into areas you’re not good at is risky, and can hurt your company’s reputation.

If Flickr wants to create a video-sharing web site and spin that off under a separate name, that would be great. Bringing Flickr’s simplicity of managing photos to a new service for managing video would be a valuable and interesting alternative to YouTube.

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Meetro Should be Acquired

admin | Uncategorized | Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

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Meetro Logo Meetro is a location-aware instant messenger. It lets you find people near you to talk to. The service never gained a critical mass of users, and so Meetro has been forced to work on a new forum-related product, that is currently still under wraps.

Location-aware instant messaging is a very tantalizing idea, but it only works when you have a service that has gained critical mass. If Meetro became popular, you would have the ability to find people you know who live close by, or you could break the ice with a stranger you just met.

So how can Meetro’s idea succeed? The best solution would be for it to be acquired and have its technology integrated into an existing network that has already gained critical mass.

The perfect company to acquire Meetro would be a cellular company that could integrate the program throughout its entire cellular network, or a company like AOL, who has control of AOL Instant Messenger, which has 52% of the instant messaging market (as of 2006).

NextCrash is giving Meetro a take off rating, not because we believe Meetro will take off, but because location-aware instant messaging is a great idea that should be incorporated into a pre-existing service.

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