The State Of The Social Web

>> Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rewind. It's the 1990s. The Internet is still a novelty commodity in most parts of the world. People still read paperbacks, hardbacks, newspapers and journals. They still turn to their trusted radio sets, and TVs. Most importantly, the still hang out with their friends. In the real world.

Fast Forward to the present. The amount of information entering and exiting our lives each day is phenomenal. People no longer know each other by their names. Instead, people are known by their avatars, their call-signs, their screen-names, and their chat handles. Each year sees a new breed of services spring up that claim to help one socialize better. It all started with MySpace. Then came Hi5, Orkut and slew of others. Today, you are laughed at if you aren't on Facebook, or don't know how to share your thoughts using a keyboard, mouse, or your PDA. The real-world has been molded into the real-time world, where face-to-face conversations are not even half as important as that cool status message, or that cute pic, or that amusing video.

The growth of the Internet has unleashed upon us, a myriad of Web Apps, each promising to reinvent your web experience. The forerunners amongst these apps are the Social Networks. It's getting increasingly crowded out there with every network boasting of a unique user experience. Google, as recently as earlier this month, got into the fray with Buzz, and if early statistics are any indication, it'll either be a runaway success or a privacy headache.

Here's the low-down on 5 of the most popular social networks out there today:

Facebook: Founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is now the the largest social network on the internet. With almost 400 million active users, it is by far the grand-daddy of all social networks. What makes Facebook so popular is its clean interface, constant feature upgrades, design changes, and a development team that listens to users. More importantly, Facebook has a strict monitoring and banning policy and more often than not, miscreants are penalized for their actions (spammers beware!).

MySpace: MySpace was one of the first websites to hop onto the social bandwagon and provided for an online meeting place for friends. As it evolved, it spun of into dedicated sections for Music and Videos. More and more upcoming artists are using MySpace to market themselves and build a fan-base. The USP of MySpace was the amount of customization that it provided it users. Users could take almost any part of their profile and slash and hack it into something they identified with. Suddenly, the Internet was no longer dull static, text-only webpages.

Orkut: The original Google social network. Named after its creator, Orkut Büyükkökten (I still can't pronounce that name!), Orkut went viral very quickly. Although not immensely popular in the USA, Orkut rose to dizzying heights in other regions. However, plagued by tons of spamming and privacy problems, it started drawing flak from all quarters. Towards the end of 2009, Google gave Orkut a face-lift to maintain its fledgling rank as a social network. However, the redesign didn't go down too well with most users and many thought that Google were merely trying to imitate the Facebook interface.

Twitter: Created by Jack Dorsey, Twitter rose to fame very quickly and was touted as the "SMS of the Internet". Taking a whole new view on social networking, Twitter encourages its members to micro-blog (i.e. post 140 character tidbits about something interesting). A typical twitter post consists of a link to an interesting page along with a short description. The rise and rise of Twitter also gave birth to a flurry of URL-shortening services (, etc.), so that people could share links in lesser characters. On the upside, Twitter can be used to effectively market businesses. On the downside, there is incessant spamming on Twitter.

Google Buzz!: The second social network from Google's stables. Launched as recently as February 2009, Google Buzz created a lot of excitement amongst netizens. Buzz provides a totally new social experience by integrating with Email (GMail). This integration also provided Google with a means to boast of a large subscriber base. Buzz seems to have borrowed from the link-sharing aspect of networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The idea is to post links, photos, videos, etc. all from the convenience of your Inbox. Despite all its revolutionary ideas, Buzz was dealt a lot of criticism because of severe privacy oversights on the part of Google.

With each passing day, the battle between social networks is heating up to new and previously impossible levels. There's cutthroat competition between networks, and the end-user is benefiting from this in the form of innovative features. Over the next few years, this arena is going to fill up with more and more players as newer networks try to lure users away from established ones.

Image Credit: stock:xchng

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iPad Madness: [Part 2] 5 Reasons To Loathe The iPad

>> Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Part 1 of my series about the iPad, I told you about 5 features that could make it a killer device. However, even the best devices have their own set of cons. Who doesn't remember the first iPhone, which came under a lot of fire because of its inability to handle simple things like copy/pasting, etc. In this article, we take a look at what isn't good about the iPad.

It's a big iPhone really!
That's was the reaction a few of my friends had on first setting eyes on the iPad. And truth be told, they are not that far away. If you put the initial excitement at bay (something that is tough to do whenever Apple announces a product), you start seeing what I mean. It's got pretty much everything that the iPhone was made of. Do we really need another device when we have our iPhones in our pockets?

No Multitasking.
Apple clearly hasn't been listening to what users want. The iPad, which apparently is here to compete with netbooks in a big way, does not support multitasking. What that basically means is that you won't be able to listen to your favorite Beatles tune while working on that all important presentation.

Lack Of Flash
The world can cry itself hoarse about how Flash is a a dying platform and HTML5 will take over, but you can't deny the fact that till the time that happens, Flash will be a major component of interactive websites. So unless Apple is working on some standard that will magically render all Flash videos on the iPad, you can kiss the streaming media that you are used to goodbye.

The App Store
In recent times, the App Store for the iPhone has drawn a lot of flack because of its weird regulations. Unless Apple clearly specifies the criteria by which an app is admitted into the App Store, I don't see how the detractors will shut up.

Too Much Of The "i"
This isn't something that's specifically wrong with the iPad, but I just feel that Apple is stretching the "i" revolution a tad too far. Sure we had the awesome iMacs, the quintessential iTunes, the game-changing iPod, etc., but isn't Apple just getting irritating with the "i" branding? Don't get me wrong. I still love Apple for what they do with gadgets, but first the iPad, and then the iBooks within the iPad are simply a bit too much for me to digest.

Regardless of how the iPad performs, I intend to stay away from it. It's just that the feature set being offered does not justify the investment. I would definitely settle for a less "bling-ed out" netbook in its place. Apple had its game-changing moments with its previous devices, but it hasn't pulled out anything game-changing this time around. Whether or not I'll be proved wrong, only time will tell.

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iPad Madness: [Part 1] 5 Reasons To Love The iPad

>> Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hello readers! Greatest apologies for not having posted for a month. I was busy giving my exams. A lot of geeky, techie stuff has occurred over the past month and I am dying to get cracking. And first up, we have the iPad. I mean... what better way is there of ending a hiatus than by talking about the latest Apple gizmo on the scene.

The Apple iPad was introduced on the 27th January amongst much fanfare. For those who missed it, scroll down to get the You Tube links for the keynote. It has been received with much enthusiasm and quite a bit of skepticism. To give you the dirt on the iPad, I am going to post a Two Part series on the iPad. This, here, is the first part.

There are somethings that Apple does in style. Their keynotes, their designs, etc., their interface can spell out only one word. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!! Here are the best features of the iPad.

It's Sleek As Hell
At just 1.5 pounds and 0.5 pounds thick, you will be hard pressed to find any smaller tablets. At these specs, it kind of gets impossible to believe that the tiny case is host to a computer.

App Store Compatibility
The Apple iPhone App Store recently crossed it's one billionth download. And Apple has full plans to make this fact work to it's advantage. The iPad will support the App Store out of the box and these applications will do wonders to increase the functionality of the iPad.

1GHz Processing Power
Yes. You heard right. 1 GHz. It's not one of those lame, slow power-drained tablets. It's got enough to get you going with your favorite apps, book, email, and then some.

Everyone knows that the Amazon Kindle took the world by storm when it offered electronic versions of its books through a convenient  digital reader. Apple is hoping to exploit some of the same market by introducing iBooks and tying up with Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette for content.

Battery Life
The iPad has a claimed battery life of 10 hours. That's pretty freakin' amazing considering the kind of application that it's going to support. Hopefully, it will live up to its claims.

The aforementioned features sure make the iPad look like a killer device. But will it live upto the expections? Lately, Apple has been in the news for all the wrong reasons and their image has taken a bit of a beating. Come back for Part 2 of this series, where I talk about why the iPad is loathe-worthy.

Keynote Part 1
Keynote Part 2
Keynote Part 3
Keynote Part 4

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This blog was created out of my passionate following for technology. After spending most of my life behind a monitor, and bent over a keyboard, I decided that it would be wonderful if I could pass on a bit of my knowledge to fellow netizens. And with that, I realized that it's time to start my first Blog. I hope that I will be able to keep posting quality content regularly. Please drop your comments about the blog on the Feedback page. I will do my best to respond.

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I am a final year Engineering student. This blog is my attempt to provide perspective on technological developments (computers and the Internet) from around the world. This is my first attempt at blogging and any feedback (good or bad) is welcome.

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