Browse Category: internet

Data Caps – Bad, Ugly or Evil?

That’s right, there is no way in the world the data caps imposed by ISPs are in any way good. They are either bad, ugly or evil – or, most likely, all of the above. Here’s why.

By limiting (in any way) our consumption of internet as a resource, ISPs are essentially setting up a mental model that “your internets may run out“. Imagine the next iteration of home routers that, in addition to bandwidth metering will have an off-switch, once you hit 99.9% of your monthly allowance it will switch your connection off to prevent an outage. Your car has ran out of gas. With astronomically high overage fees it’s obvious no one would want to pay for it. Households will – consciously or subconsciously – limit their use of internet. Which means – a lot less online video, online games, in fact – a lot less of our usual online activity as a whole. Your Facebook updates don’t take much, but any video streaming (YouTube/Hulu/Netflix), Skype/Oovoo video chat or games downloading goes out the window. Those cute baby videos you’ve uploaded for your grandma in Michigan – bye bye. If you’re just checking e-mail or working on some documents – you may still fit into your limit, but if your job requires some massive data movement or exchanging large files (think – video editing or backups or database dumps to your local development environment) – goodbye working from home.

Who is going to win? In a short term – ISPs, of course, that will keep profiting until their customers will adjust to new usage patterns. After that (I’ll give it a few months, two – three quarters tops) their cash inflow will significantly drop. In addition to that – they’ll keep spending a fortune on army of lawyers battling class action suits where they will have to explain our computer-illiterate judges why 100kb picture takes 120kb of bandwidth (HTTP headers overhead? Good luck with that mumbo-jumbo). That is – instead of investing money in upgrading the infrastructure.

Who is going to loose? Everyone else. Consumers will suffer the most, since there is no real way we can vote against that, thanks to government supported monopolies (try finding an alternative to a high-speed ISP in your area). We may actually go back to REAL human interaction, exchanging movies and TV programs via removable flash drives and hard drives (Arrgh, those damn pirates would never stop, would they!). Content providers will see a decrease in demand which, in turn, will result in a lot less money available to be invested in the whole online content business model. They will have to spend another fortune on lobbying laws and regulations in their favor – instead of spending that money on acquiring better content or improving their own infrastructure (CDNs and such).

Most likely in a few years we’ll see giants like Google, Apple and, maybe even some movie studios, if they hire CEOs that can see a bit further their noses and expensive suits, will lobby for some kind of solution that will neutralize the negative effects of caps, at least to a satisfactory level. However, the time we will lose will inevitably put us so far behind our main technology competitors that we may never be able to catch up. It’ll be like cell phone market – we’re still paying around $5 for 200 SMS (while they are totally free to phone company) and are capped to measly 2GB of cell data plans while in some other “not-so great” countries people already using their cell phones for video streaming and full blown video conferencing. Try that on your 2GB plan of “fastest some-G network” that drops regular voice calls like crazy in the middle of the largest US cities.

Three Web Site Decisions – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Having not posted for quite awhile I have accumulated a number of stories to tell. Today is one of them – or rather three similar stories about some decisions that web site owners are making and how it affects their business.

Three Web Site Decisions - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Small Business BlogThe Good
Imagine an online store that doesn’t sell anything. Yep, there are certain niches that – no matter how hard you try – will not sell as good as you think. This business owner is in one of them, provided he has a show room full of merchandise. The web site is a mere catalog with pricing. However, if you just take out the online checkout option – you suddenly don’t seem credible enough. It reads like “I’ve got all this great stuff from all over the web, but in real life I’ve got one dusty shelf“. So you have to make it look like you’ve got stuff ready to go – only to lure customers to the show room.

The good decision – figuring this stuff out and presenting the customers with the choice to buy stuff online, even though almost no one is really buying.

The Bad
Three Web Site Decisions - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Small Business BlogThis is a diverse category because you can drop pretty much every single major issue with your web site – from non-working contact form to eye-scratching design from 1980s to web sites that never finish to load because your friend’s son who put it together didn’t realize that cute kitten picture on a front page is 15MB BMP file. But rather than talk about these, easily addressable issues, I’d point to a really major one – not having any kind of web site. Imagine – there are businesses out there who decidedly go without web site at all. There are usually two main justifications – “we don’t need one” and “we don’t have money for it”. It’s almost like wishing for a win in a lotto without buying a single ticket. Aside from the fact that people prefer to shop from the convenience of their homes (less clients for you), there are more choices online that you will ever have in your inventory (again – less clients for you), you are also limiting yourself by not pitching to those who actually are interested in what you want to sell to them. With the average rent on any decent store around tens of thousands of dollars per month a budget web site would cost you a lot less than that. And, of course, there is the rationale that you can only save as much as the web site costs, but your earnings are really not limited.

The bad decision – not having a web site for your business. In fact – its the worst decision you can ever make.

The Ugly
Three Web Site Decisions - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Small Business BlogOne of the worst things you can do to your web site is keep relaunching it every few months on a new domain names. It’s not a secret anymore that your domain name equals your brand – twice true for small businesses. Of course, you can launch a new web site on a new domain name if you used to be GreatWidgetsOnline.com and you have just bought GreatWidgets.com – it’s not a major major change, but rather a welcome convenience. However, if you keep relaunching the site from GreatWidgetsWeSellHere.com to ThingamabobsOnlineRightHere.com to WhatchamacallitSalesForYou.com – it’s not really clear how you are going to attract the customers and keep them around. Even if there were some issues associated with your domain before – it’s easier to fix them than rebuild the whole thing from the scratch. Besides, even if there was some bad press – you can always use it to your advantage.

The ugly decision – keep relaunching business web site on different domain names in order to avoid issues associated with previous domain.

But This Is A Brand New Computer?!

While doing various demos with clients I can’t help but notice one scary trend. Client usually checks the demo page from his or hers computer, prepares a list of issues and then we meet to go over them. A lot of clients complain right off the start that their web site doesn’t look exactly like it should or behaves strangely. The reason, of course is not the fact that the web sites we designed aren’t compatible with their browsers, but their browsers being dramatically out of date.

There were so many times when this had happened, it actually became one of the internal internet memes. The phrase “but this is a brand new computer, we only bought it year and a half ago” isn’t that funny anymore. People are becoming increasingly overprotective of their computers, calling them their “friends” and “babies” – “my baby is sick, can you fix it”, “my dear friend have been acting strange lately, maybe he’d caught a virus or something”.

Worse yet, when you point to those issues you face further complaints that you are trying to avoid your responsibilities and you should make web site work with any browser on Earth. While in general it is true, the task is all but impossible – try stuffing that intro flash movie down the throat of Lynx and you will get the idea :). Or, more realistic scenario – the famous Internet Explorer 6.0, that some people still think is good enough browser. In fact, according to statistics on my most traffic-heavy clients’ web sites the IE 6 is 4th most popular browser, after IE 7, IE 8 and Firefox (all versions).

Unfortunately, quite a few things are simply impossible to achieve in this world. One of them is the browser compatibility. However, there’s a pretty good chance that if you make something look critical and urgent and very important overall – people would listen, look and take action.

So from now on if you venture to this web site using one of the older browsers (Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox are supported at the moment) you will see a bright yellow bar on the top of the page saying that your browser is old and needs to be updated with a link to a page where you can choose what to do as well as a link to page where I explain why it is important to keep the browser up to date. If you are using the latest and greatest but just anxious to to see what the page looks like – feel free to look here: http://www.istudioweb.com/browser-information/.