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This week: Thoughts on what News Corp will do with MySpace, New RSS Aggregator stats from Feedburner and Pheedo, Greasemonkey and Firefox under security spotlight, Microsoft eyes new horizons, political post of the week.
MySpace and Big Media
You've all heard the news by now - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp bought MySpace (and whatever else Intermix Media Inc. owns). For those of you not familiar with MySpace, here's Reuters' description:
"MySpace.com is the most popular of the once-trendy social networking sites, which allow people with common interests to seek dates, friendship and professional relationships."
Once-trendy? Ouch! In any case, over the past year or so MySpace has been the peoples choice in social networking applications, ahead of Friendster and Orkut. So what does the purchase mean for social media and the Web as platform?
Danah Boyd at Many-to-Many sees some Big Brotherish overtones to the deal:
"Unlike the other YASNS, the value of MySpace comes from the data on media trends that is the core of what people share on that service. [...] Marketers who want to understand the constantly shifting youth trends are often looking for a perch from which to be the ideal voyeur. And with MySpace, they found it."
Those concerns are echoed in Trent Lapinski's detailed post about the background of MySpace owners Intermix:
"Now all of this user information is in the hands of News Corp. and they can pretty much do whatever they want with it."
But it's not all 1984 and 'sticking it to The Man'. From the content producer's point of view, MySpace is known to be a very popular site for music and it's hard to see how News Corp's purchase will adversely affect that. For example, take this comment from Blogcritics.org:
'In fact, MySpace has eclipsed MTV has a music destination. Former Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan says, "now that MySpace is here, bands don't necessarily need a label to be heard."'
According to this mp3.com article, a Geffen Records honcho called MySpace "an incredibly compelling and organic content distribution platform". There are a lot of mainstream rock stars who use MySpace - e.g. Billy Corgan (here's his MySpace homepage), Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Green Day. But more importantly there's a Long Tail of non-mainstream artists and wannabes who use MySpace to promote their music.
So despite the valid concerns over users personal data in the hands of a big media company, from a content creation p.o.v. things look good. It'll continue to be a platform for up-and-coming artists and mainstream musicians alike. Also the News Corp-backed MySpace may spin off a music selling business, to take on market leaders iTunes and Rhapsody. More competition in that space will mean better deals for music buyers.
RSS Aggregator Stats Update
Online advertising company Pheedo published some RSS stats this week. They revealed that Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days for publishing; and early morning and late night are when people most often read their feeds. In terms of the RSS Aggregator market, which I have been following for quite some time now, Pheedo said:
"Consistent with other RSS aggregator market share reports on the Internet, Pheedo is seeing Bloglines atop our feed reader statistics, followed by Firefox, Thunderbird, NewsGator and Sharpreader. In aggregate, these readers are used by almost 70 percent of people subscribing to Pheedo managed RSS content."
Not dissimilar to Feedburner's latest stats published by Brian Livingston, except NetNewsWire doesn't make Pheedo's top 5 (it's number 2 in Feedburner).
Also I noticed that the latest Feedburner stats included podcasting clients, so I asked the Feedburner guys if they would filter those out for me. They kindly did that and so here now is the Top 10 RSS Readers (excluding the 10 most popular feeds AND excluding podcasting aggregators):
1. Bloglines (25.73%)
2. NetNewsWire (10.63%)
3. Firefox Live Bookmarks (8.86%)
4. My Yahoo (8.58%)
5. NewsGator Online (5.03%)
6. FeedDemon (4.70%)
7. (not identified) (3.56%)
8. Pluck (2.75%)
9. SharpReader (2.37%)
The top 5 in this list makes up 59% of the total, compared to 69% in Feedburner's previous survey in January. So between Feedburner and Pheedo, it seems that the top 5 Aggregators are still dominant - although Feedburner's latest stats suggest the market is fragmenting a bit (which Brian wrote about in his article).
Overall though, I'm not sure there's a whole lot we can read into these stats. For example MyYahoo doesn't make Pheedo's top 5, yet from an RSS take-up point of view they're arguably the most important RSS Aggregator on the market (see these posts I've written in the past for context). Nevertheless we can glean/guess some high-level trends from these stats, so thanks to Feedburner and Pheedo for sharing their numbers with us.
Greasemonkey and Firefox Under Security Spotlight
Mark Pilgrim set off alarm bells in the developer world this past week when he revealed a serious security flaw in Greasemonkey. For people not familiar with Greasemonkey, it's a program that enables users of the Mozilla Firefox web browser to install "user scripts" which modify specific web pages [paraphrasing the Wikipedia definition]. Greasemonkey basically allows users who have it installed to enhance and customize webpages - for example embedding price comparisons in amazon.com webpages. It's a very powerful tool, albeit one that only seriously geeky people are likely to be using at this point in time.
The security issue makes it more of a challenge to roll out Greasemonkey to the masses - and also unintentionally makes it harder for the Firefox browser to be be accepted by mainstream users. Security is probably the number 1 concern for most corporate IT honchos and anything which makes Firefox seem like more of a security risk is going to delay its uptake. This CNet article from March 2005 does a good job of summarizing the issues.
Let's hope the Greasemonkey developers fix up the current security holes and begin to build in more safety measures. I would love to see both Greasemonkey and Firefox used by more than just techies in the future.
A View To A Kill
Web 2.0 in The Real World
Normally the final spot in my Weekly Wrap-Up is reserved for a geeky post that caught my attention during the week. But I feel the need to turn down the Geek-o-meter for a bit and highlight a post about Web 2.0 in The Real World. I came across this fascinating post by Waldo Jaquith, describing a fundraising event featuring Senator Barack Obama. OK so I admit I'm a Barack fan (now you know my politics!), but even so I really enjoyed reading this post. Waldo both described the speech...
"When Sen. Obama was introduced, to the strains of U2’s “Elevation,” the audience went nuts. It was as if Dave Matthews (or, more appropriately, Bono) had just walked onto stage. The admiration and awe was palpable. Obama is an excellent speaker, and he played the audience like a drum."
...and wrote about what it felt like to be a blogger at such an event:
"What made our invitation to the event noteworthy is not that we were treated like journalists. That’s an increasingly-common trend, although this would be a first in Virginia politics, I believe. The title of “journalist” was more of a fig leaf — the Kaine campaign was providing us with an opportunity to talk with Tim Kaine and Barack Obama."
I want to read more posts like that, from all parts of the political spectrum.
That's a wrap for another week!