Sadler, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., makes a living wearing T-shirts. For a fee, Sadler will wear a sponsored T-shirt featuring a company’s logo for a full day or an entire week. He calls his company IWearYourShirt and, of course, uses social media to get the word out about his latest clients.
But like any small-business person, he needs capital.
Which leads to his latest idea: He is holding an online auction and will legally change his last name to the name of any company that makes the highest bid.
Sadler will adopt that company’s name for all of 2013, starting on Jan. 1. He’ll use the money he raises to invest in his startup.
He launched the auction on buymylastname.com on Nov. 1. Within 24 hours, he had 19 bids. The auction ends on Wednesday.
The current highest bid on the site is for $34,500 from JLabAudio, a maker of headphones and earbuds.
“Sadler presented a unique opportunity to us that we felt could also generate a lot of buzz for our brand,” said Win Cramer, general manager of JLabAudio.
Sadler (his name for now at least) launched his original business in 2009 and leveraged Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr to spread the word. That year, he wore a different sponsored T-shirt every day, Sadler said.
“I’d make online videos wearing the T-shirts, just going about my daily life,” he said. He also tweeted about the brands, wrote posts on Facebook and created a one-hour live video show on Ustream talking about his clients.
“I wore a different T-shirt for 800 days straight. No day off,” he said.
By 2011, Sadler had hired five people and was logging $250,000 a year in revenue. His client roster included brands such as Starbucks , Angry Birds, Nissan, Zappos and Pepperidge Farm.
What do his social media followers think about his latest gimmick?
“Some folks say that I’m selling out,” Sadler said. “Look, I’ve sold the shirt off my back, literally. So this won’t affect my life at all.”
Just to be sure, Sadler did consult with a lawyer and put some restrictions in place: “No pornographic name, religious names, political names allowed,” he said.
After all, his new name will appear on his driver’s license, passport and other forms of ID for all of 2013.
But even if consumers are not so sure what Web browsers are (programs like Internet Explorer and Firefox), they have become a crucial business for tech companies like Google and Microsoft. That is because they are now the entry point not just to the Web but to everything stored online, like Web apps, documents and photos.
And as the cloud grows more integral, both for businesses and people, the browser companies are engaged in a new battle to win our allegiance that will affect how we use the Internet.
It’s an echo of the so-called browser wars of the 1990s, when Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator fought for dominance on the personal computer. This time, though, the struggle is shaping up to be over which company will control the mobile world — with browsers on smartphones and tablets. Entrenched businesses are at stake. Google’s browser-based business apps, for instance, threaten Microsoft’s desktop software, and mobile Web apps threaten Apple’s App Store.
“Twenty years ago, we didn’t know how the Internet was going to get used by people, and we for sure didn’t know about mobile or tablets,” said Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the first major browser, Netscape Navigator, and an investor in Rockmelt, a browser start-up. “Mobile is a whole new level of reinvention, so it feels like we’re in the most fertile time of invention since the early ’90s.”
Browsers give Web companies more control over how people use their products, and data about how people use the Web, which they can use to improve their products and inform advertisers. Faster browsing leads to more Web activity, which in turn leads to more revenue for Web companies — whether searching on Google or shopping on Amazon.com, which built a Kindle browser, Silk.
As Mr. Andreessen put it, “Why let something be between us and our users? Let’s have as much control of the user experience as we can have; make sure our services are wired in.”
Google’s Chrome browser, for example, makes Google searches faster and simpler because people can enter search queries directly into the address bar. And its apps — like Gmail, Drive for file storage and Docs for word processing — are all accessible through any browser.
“Chrome makes it much easier for you to search, browse the Web and use Drive, Docs and apps, and we are fortunate to be in a position where when people do those things, we do better,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google. “Chrome is a platform, the underlying layer on which all our cloud operations run.”
Most people use either Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox or Apple’s Safari. In the biggest disruption to the market in 15 years, Chrome last spring toppled Internet Explorer as the most popular browser in the world, despite the fact that it does not come loaded on computers as Explorer and Safari do. It now has 36 percent of the global market, while Internet Explorer’s share has dived to 31 percent, according to StatCounter, which tracks browser market share.
A host of smaller companies, like Rockmelt and Opera, are also trying to grab market share, largely by focusing on mobile devices.
Browsers themselves are not lucrative businesses. Some, like Firefox, earn money from search engines like Google and Microsoft’s Bing that pay when people use the search bar built into the browser.
“No one is doing a browser to make money,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School who was co-author of a book about the first browser wars.
“Suddenly now, the browser has become the interface for the cloud more broadly, not just for traditional Web sites.”
In their search for dollars, browser companies are redesigning their products to follow consumers to mobile devices, social networks and cloud-based apps.
For example, new mobile browsers let people swipe through tabs with their fingers, automatically resize or zoom in on Web pages so they fit a phone’s screen and load pages faster than older mobile browsers. Some also sync with other devices, so things like most-visited Web sites, passwords and credit card numbers are available everywhere.
Nonetheless, browsing the Web on a mobile device is still inferior to using the desktop Web or smartphone apps. Apps, like those downloaded from Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android devices, have more exciting features, are faster to load and are better optimized to small screens.
But technologists say that mobile browsers will improve when HTML5, the new set of tools for designing Web sites that has been in development for years, becomes pervasive. That is because its technologies enable Web sites to be as functional and visually rich as apps are today, with features like advanced video or the ability to read a Web site offline.
“If HTML5 really starts to take off, then it certainly is possible that mobile browsers could become much more significant,” Mr. Yoffie said. “That world is not here today, but it’s one that people are betting on for tomorrow.”
Though few people have so far downloaded Chrome to mobile devices, Mr. Pichai says Google hopes that with a better mobile browser, Internet users will be able to do more complex things, like shopping or playing games, on the mobile Web.
Microsoft is also betting on HTML5. Its latest version of Internet Explorer is designed with tablet-size touch screens in mind. It wants to encourage software developers to build Web sites that are more app-like, such as responding to finger gestures, said Ryan Gavin, general manager for Internet Explorer. On the new browser, for instance, readers of news articles swipe to turn a page instead of touching “next page” with a fingertip.
Firefox is trying to incorporate the social Web in its latest version, with a sidebar that shows updates from services like Facebook and lets users chat without switching between tabs or apps.
Rockmelt, the start-up, has reimagined the browser most noticeably. Its new iPad browser, instead of showing the blank space inside a typical browser, incorporates images, posts and articles from around the Web.
“All the problems with the desktop browser, that it is a big, dumb, empty window, other companies just took and put on mobile,” said Eric Vishria, Rockmelt’s co-founder and chief executive. “But there’s been a shift to a whole new generation of visual interfaces.”
Though more people probably know what a browser is today than when Google interviewed passers-by back in 2009, browser companies nonetheless say their goal is to do their job well enough that people forget about the browser.
“People don’t care that much about browsers,” Mr. Gavin at Microsoft said. “They only care about what’s on the Web.”
Claire Cain Miller, nytimes.com
Pinterest is sending a signal to the multitude of brands and retailers already active on its platform that it’s getting ready to open for business itself by unveiling accounts designated for marketers today.
Pinterest’s new-business accounts — which are free of charge — aren’t brand pages in the tradition of what Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have previously rolled out, since they don’t currently look any different from other pages. They also don’t possess any enhanced functionality, apart from making the new feature of authenticating a website a streamlined part of the sign-up process and directing account owners to a Pinterest how-to for businesses. Another easy-to-grasp difference is that business pages allow brands and merchants to simply enter the name of their businesses when registering instead of having to work around the first name, last name sign-up format on user pages.
But while Pinterest won’t look any different to users, the cues being sent about its intention of becoming a mature business in short order will be apparent to brands. Its readiness to work more closely with them comes as no surprise to those who have tracked the company’s high-profile hires over the past year since consumer adoption started going through the roof. It’s hired numerous Facebook alumni, including head of operations Don Faul and head of product management and partnerships Tim Kendall, who once directed Facebook’s monetization strategy.
Well aware of the connection between Pinterest browsing and purchasing, retailers were among the early-adopter brands on the platform, as well as media brands like Real Simple that started seeing immense referral traffic from it last winter. However, while brands have continued to settle the platform, some may have wondered on what terms their presence was really palatable. Until today, Pinterest’s terms of service read that usage of the platform was licensed on the condition of “your personal, non-commercial use.”
“There’s always been this lingering question in businesses’ mind of whether Pinterest is OK with [them],” said Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate, an analytics platform that mines Pinterest for actionable data for brands.
Pinterest’s goal is to get the thousands of businesses already on the platform to migrate their accounts over to the business type, according to Product Manager Cat Lee, another Facebook alumna. Pinterest also has an incentive for them to make the switch.
“We hope to add more tools and features that are geared toward this audience,” she said.
The company also today announced two new widgets to enable account owners — businesses and individuals alike — to embed pins and boards on third-party sites. In practice, Ms. Lee thinks they’ll mostly be used by businesses to help build up their following. “It helps attract more followers to your board and also to your profile,” she said.
While business accounts are now largely symbolic in terms of what they portend for brands, it’s possible to imagine them as a precursor for a much more robust back-end where brands could pay to promote a pin, according to Mr. Gupta. Or perhaps, he said, they could facilitate another feature that’s high on both brands’ and users’ wish lists: the ability to rearrange pins and boards.
“It does point in the direction of Pinterest becoming incredibly business-friendly,” he said.
Problem 1: Prominent Branding Puts Off Viewers
The solution: Utilize “brand pulsing.”
Problem 2: People Get Bored Right Away
The solution: Create joy or surprise right away.
Problem 3: People Watch for a While but Then Stop
The solution: Build an emotional roller coaster.
Read the full article in the new issue of Harvard Business Review.
One of Facebook’s own former directors encountered the pointy end of the sharp stick that is the social network’s privacy controls, according to BuzzFeed. Randi Zuckerberg is the former marketing director of Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister. She had a private photo of hers reposted to a Twitter feed by a friend of a friend who did not realize the shared photo was, in fact, not for public consumption.
Zuckerberg initially posted the photo to her timeline showing her family’s glowing reaction to Facebook’s new Poke application. The photo was not posted publicly for all to see, but was visible to Callie Schweitzer, director of marketing and special products at Vox Media. Schweitzer was friends with someone tagged in the picture.
Schweitzer mistook the photo as available for public consumption and posted it to her Twitter feed. Zuckerberg responded by calling Schweitzer’s actions “way uncool,” and said the issue was not about privacy settings, but “human decency” (she has since deleted the first tweet).
The social mores attached to a reposted photo from one social service to another are not a concern among regular users. But even though Schweitzer was perfectly aware of her relationship to Zuckerberg, it was still unclear based on Facebook’s display how private the photo was (an icon within each timeline post will show the audience for the post if rolled over, but it’s not immediately obvious).
How we forget the new echelon of etiquette that we never asked for that comes with using services like Facebook! We have a hard time laying the blame with new social rules, though, given that content privacy is increasingly the exception rather than the rule on Facebook.
“You have a secret that can ruin your life.
It’s not a well-kept secret, either. Just a simple string of characters—maybe six of them if you’re careless, 16 if you’re cautious—that can reveal everything about you.
Your email. Your bank account. Your address and credit card number. Photos of your kids or, worse, of yourself, naked. The precise location where you’re sitting right now as you read these words. Since the dawn of the information age, we’ve bought into the idea that a password, so long as it’s elaborate enough, is an adequate means of protecting all this precious data. But in 2012 that’s a fallacy, a fantasy, an outdated sales pitch. And anyone who still mouths it is a sucker—or someone who takes you for one.
No matter how complex, no matter how unique, your passwords can no longer protect you.
Look around. Leaks and dumps—hackers breaking into computer systems and releasing lists of usernames and passwords on the open web—are now regular occurrences. The way we daisy-chain accounts, with our email address doubling as a universal username, creates a single point of failure that can be exploited with devastating results. Thanks to an explosion of personal information being stored in the cloud, tricking customer service agents into resetting passwords has never been easier. All a hacker has to do is use personal information that’s publicly available on one service to gain entry into another.
This summer, hackers destroyed my entire digital life in the span of an hour. My Apple, Twitter, and Gmail passwords were all robust—seven, 10, and 19 characters, respectively, all alphanumeric, some with symbols thrown in as well—but the three accounts were linked, so once the hackers had conned their way into one, they had them all. They really just wanted my Twitter handle: @mat. As a three-letter username, it’s considered prestigious. And to delay me from getting it back, they used my Apple account to wipe every one of my devices, my iPhone and iPad and MacBook, deleting all my messages and documents and every picture I’d ever taken of my 18-month-old daughter.
Since that awful day, I’ve devoted myself to researching the world of online security. And what I have found is utterly terrifying. Our digital lives are simply too easy to crack.”
Read the rest of this fantastic article on Wired.com
This advert for the Guardian’s open journalism, screened for the first time on 29 February 2012, imagines how we might cover the story of the three little pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion
What we are reading: One of our favorite end of year lists discusses online news and how it evolved in 2010. It was the year of the iPad and Wikileaks, and Twitter was as strong as ever. The article also talks about paywalls and experiments in online news, like Today’s Guardian. Read the full article here.