Category Archives: Google

Why SOPA Will Stifle Innovation

What has always made America great is its ability to lead the world in innovation. That innovation may be at risk of being censored as Congress considers legislation titled the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The legislation is meant to help protect American innovation by punishing off-shore copyright infringers, but unfortunately this legislation will ultimately punish the very innovation it’s intended to protect.

I try to avoid taking political stances (it tends to be bad business), but if SOPA is passed, it would stifle free enterprise in an industry that is leading American innovation. I was surprised to see that this legislation is supported largely by pro-business legislators and organizations; groups I might normally endorse. As an entrepreneur, I fail to understand supporters’ shortsightedness on this issue. Don’t misunderstand me, websites that knowingly pirate content should be punished, but the current SOPA bill is so broad that innocent websites could get swept into the fray.

The legislation is structured in such a way that if a copyright infringement claim is submitted on a piece of content, the entire website will be investigated. During this investigation the entire website in question would be blocked. For example, if a pirated video makes its way onto YouTube and an infringement claim is submitted, YouTube.com will shutdown in its entirety during the investigation. Additionally, YouTube could be held liable for hosting that illegal content. This increased risk of liability litigation would lead to the destruction of the user-generated content movement that has been so important to the Internet’s growth over the past few years.

Moreover, the FBI’s servers need to be able to access and shutdown any suspected websites of infringement. This means that security standards that been implemented in recent years to protect consumers’ privacy would have to be rolled back, leaving millions of consumers at risk.

Big companies like YouTube, Google and Facebook may have the financial wherewithal to endure a piracy infringement claim, but smaller tech startups wouldn’t be able to afford an investigation, even if the claim turns out to be false. A website shutdown means lost revenue and expensive legal fees, a deadly combination for startups. How can legislation like this promote economic growth? At such an important time in our economy, we cannot afford to stifle innovation and free enterprise. The rest of the Internet largely agrees.

Today, the Internet united to protest SOPA. In an act of solidarity, dozens of high-profile websites have expressed their opposition to the bill. Each website took a stand in their own unique way, but the message was always the same: SOPA would kill the Internet and the innovation that fuels it. Turntable.fm’s anti-SOPA statement was subtle but strong. Google dedicated its iconic Doodle to state its opposition to the bill. In a more bold statement, Wikipedia actually shut down their entire website, dramatically demonstrating how SOPA might affect the Web.

 

 

 

 

 

Content pirates will always find ways to circumvent the system; they’ve been doing it for decades. The only accomplishment of this bill would be to punish the companies that are growing our economy. There has to be a better way to investigate and punish these pirates; SOPA is definitely not the answer. What do you think?

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Is Google+ a Facebook-Killer?

Is Google+ a Facebook-Killer?

If you haven’t heard, Google announced its latest attempt at a social network a few weeks ago. Google’s tried several times to take make its products more social (ie the recent fails of Google Buzz and Google Wave) and to steal some of Facebook’s limelight, but to no avail. Google hopes that Google+ is the goose that lays the social egg.


I claimed my Google+ account the other night and started playing around on the site. Because Google+ is still in beta testing and not everyone can join yet (you need an invite from other Google+ users), I could only add a handful of folks into my “circles.”

Google+’s circles are groups that you put all of your connections into. There is a “family” circle, “friends” circle, “acquaintances” circle, “enter group name here” circle, etc. It’s kind of a neat idea. These circles act as completely separate mini social networks. If I want to share a great article with my Industry Connections circle, I don’t have to worry about my relatives referring me to Geeks Anonymous meetings (again…). Similarly, if I wish my Grandma a happy birthday and share it with my Family circle, I don’t have to worry about my Industry Connections “uncircling” me for sharing disinteresting posts (imagine those useless/annoying tweets about waking up, putting on socks and eating a bowl of Cheerios).

Another neat feature is group video chat (called Hangouts). Hangouts allow you to setup a video chat with up to 10 other people from your circles. The video chat window lines up all of the Hangout attendees along the bottom of the screen and automatically recognizes which participant is talking and shows their video feed enlarged in the middle of the screen. Pretty sweet functionality.

With Google+ being so new, I feel like I’m on a tiny island and really unable to make these connections that Google hopes that I will make. Now, it’s a matter of testing out the tools, completing my profile and twiddling my thumbs until (or more likely, if) Google+ is more widely adopted (if you’re on this island with me, you can find me at http://gplus.to/pwocken).

At this point, there is a lot of exciting buzz about Google+. There always is with these sites, especially when it comes from Google. New sites always have a lot of bells and whistles, but once the Geekerati (present company included) find a new and different shiny object, these once brilliant services quickly become dulled and unused.

When Facebook and Twitter started, they started small and organically grew to be the behemoths that they are today. Google seems to be taking a different approach (mostly because they’re already a behemoth in their own right) by heavily marketing the product to an already large Google membership base. Facebook waited 30 months before it was openly available to the general public and not just college kids. Can Google just ignore the industry-standard incubation period and step right into being a major industry player?

So is Google+ a Facebook-killer? It’s still too early to tell. We won’t know the impact of Google+ until it leaves the beta stage and has some time in the marketplace. My gut tells me that Google+ might stick around as a service used by other Google loyalists, but I don’t think they become the preferred social network. My money’s on Facebook taking some of the features that make Google+ unique and building them into the Facebook platform so that there’s really no incentive for Facebookers to abandon ship for Google+.

The true test will be once Google+ is more widely available. Really, it doesn’t matter how many millions of users the service has. All that matters is if your closest 50 friends are using the service. Only then might you consider switching from Facebook to Google+. It’s these small groups of friends that will make the service successful, not a well-publicized and over-hyped marketing campaign.

What do you think? Have you tried Google+ yet? Do you think it’s going to take a chunk out of Facebook’s market share? Please share your comments below. Also, if you’re out on Google+, feel free to add a link to your profile in the Comments so that other Google+ers can find you.