Demand Media: Audience-driven Content Authorship

Demand MediaDemand Media is a company headquartered in Santa Monica, California, which uses algorithms to predict audience measurements for different search queries; it then pays freelancers to write web articles based on these trends with the purpose of attracting web readers and ultimately sell online advertisement based on this audience. As a secondary area of activity, Demand Media owns eNom, a domain name registrar which allows people to buy their desired domain names with the ultimate purpose of having a website at those specific domain name web addresses.

While traditional newspapers find difficulties in moving into the online space due to low advertisement income (and high costs in producing editorial content and attracting an online audience for it), Demand Media uses an algorithmic approach to make sure that it produces editorial content only for specific topics where there is pre-existing demand. In addition, the company produces content written primarily about time-irrelevant areas, which allows it to monetize the content indefinitely (or at least well into the future) via ads, as opposed to the newspaper industry where most articles could be considered obsolete in a couple of days after their publish date.

The main websites operated by the company are eHow, an online repository of human knowledge with more than 1 million articles of specific information about popular search topics, and Cracked.com, the most visited humor website in the world (over 300 million monthly page views).

The company has been criticized for offering low quotes (around $15 per article) to freelance writers and then using dubious accounting practices of amortization in order to recoup this expense across several years, therefore giving the appearance of profitability. A recent Google search quality update called Panda attempted to emphasize webpages containing expert quality knowledge, which caused an impact to Demand Media’s traffic and lead to comments about revenue losses.

ICANN: New top level domain extensions

ICANNICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is the current regulatory authority that governs domain names and numerical addresses on the Internet. The organization has a mandate from the United States department of defense to govern these areas of the Internet.

A major change is about to happen regarding how webapps are addressed: until now, most of the domain names that hosted popular webapps had endings in .com, .net, .org or other less-popular endings, out of a total of 22 possible values. On June 20, 2011, ICANN voted to end those restrictions. As a result, a process was started under which individual corporations can apply to receive and maintain custom domain name endings, such as .google or .bing.

The limiting factor in generating new domain name endings is the cost involved. The one-time application fee is $185,000, and annual charges are, at a minimum, $75,000 per each ending. Nevertheless, for big corporations, these fees represent insignificant monetary levels. The new gTLD application window opened on 12 January 2012 and closed on 30 May 2012. During the application window, 1,930 domain name endings were submitted (and paid) in the ICANN system, with several entries belonging to well-known software and Internet companies.

The process met strong opposition from Internet activists and web technologists around the world. In a famous blog post, Ben Werdmuller argues that specific domain name endings such as .book or .blogs belong to communities around the world, which don’t have the material or legal resources to unite and protect their interests in front of big corporations with large amounts of cash. Others say that it will create more confusion and that the decline of DNS further strengthens the position of a few gatekeepers – Google on the web, Apple on the phone. “If it’s not searchable, it doesn’t exist”.

The application process was affected by a security bug, due to which some applicants were able to see information belonging to others. On 21th of June 2012, ICANN announced that Michael Salazar, New gTLD Program Director, resigned from his position.

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Rotten Tomatoes – Comprehensive Movie Guide

RottenTomatoes.com is a comprehensive movie guide that aims to gather reviews from official critics and the public at large in order to assign a percentage grade for every major movie currently running on the big screens. To reflect the site name’s theme, good movies get red fresh tomatoes while bad ones get rotten green tomatoes.

The website was founded by Senh Duong and launched to the public on August 12, 1999. In June 2004, the site was acquired by IGN Entertainment for an undisclosed sum.

After a series of acquisitions, the site is currently operated by Warner Bros, due to a sale that happened in May 2011. The site is currently visited by approximately 2 million users each month.

In order to compute the actual rating for each movie, the site’s staff determines manually for each review if it is positive (“fresh” – a red tomato icon) or negative (“rotten” – small icon of a green tomato). If the positive reviews are more than 60% of the total number of reviews, then the movie receives a fresh rating.

MacBook Pro Retina Display: Webmasters, get ready

Apple announced the immediate availability of new MacBook Pro models, some of which feature a retina display resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels, for prices starting at 2199 USD.

From a web-app perspective, this will change significantly the life of webmasters and website content creators. When Apple introduced the retina display in its iPad, iOs developers had to create and maintain two sets of images, one for devices with the smaller resolution and one for devices with the increased resolution. Users complained about the sudden increase in apps disk usage despite using an old device, and some ran out of disk space while updating their apps to the latest version.

With the introduction of the Retina display for MacBook Pro, every website owner will have to realize, sooner or later, that he can either adapt or be conquered: viewing a traditional site in 2880 x 1800 will probably be like watching an HDTV trailer on a 1990 TV set. The race is on: fixed, non-fluid, 960px-like layouts are dead, and different versions of graphical icons and logos (at a minimum) will be a must in the post-Retina world.

Despite their high price, the new laptops are expected to conquer significant market share in the near future: they have lower noise due to asymmetrical cooling fan blades, an incredible thinness of just 1.8 centimeters and 2.05 kilograms in weight.

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DomainTools – Information about Domains

DomainTools enables an advanced whois lookup about a specific domain or about the domains owned by a specific person. If you ever wanted to find out who is behind a specific website, who is running it and what other domain names does he have, this is the right tool for the job.

A domain name is a string, usually ending in “.com”, “.net” or “.org”, that appears at the top of the window when people navigate on it via the Internet. Although new Internet users tend to have Google on their homepage, and navigate directly on sites by typing desired keywords in the search box (without ever knowing the actual domain name of a site), a memorable and easy to remember domain name is still an asset nowadays as users tend to remember the brand as they become more advanced in Internet usage and more loyal to their favorite sites.

As opposed to other whois tools, DomainTools has several improvements. First, they provide a shortcut for quickly accessing the whois information: just type “whois.sc/example.com” (without the quotes and with the actual domain instead of example.com) and you’ll be redirected to the DomainTools whois page for that domain. Secondly, in addition to standard whois information, you’ll find out how many other domains does that person have registered, and for a fee, what those other domains are. In the registration tab you’ll also be able to see the registration status for the other extensions (is example.net or example.org available?).

DomainTools has, every month, 2 million unique visitors. According to its Wikipedia page, the site is in the top 200 Internet sites (in Alexa ratings). The company is based in Seattle, United States. They make money via multiple sources: they sell domain reports for a fee (as mentioned above) and they offer domain monitoring services (which are free only up to specific limits). Recently they’ve begun letting you know when a domain is taken but available for sale via a 3rd party provider; those links include the ability to track the referrer and I suspect DomainTools gets a commission in case the sale actually happens.

Bu.mp – Mobile Sync

Bump: Mobile SyncBu.mp is a new mobile app that uses web technologies and location services in order to facilitate a revolutionary new way of sharing contact details, common contacts and photos between two nearby mobile devices that “bump” into each other.

The mobile app can be installed on iPhone and Android phones. It uses the phone’s sensors to literally “feel” the bump, and it sends that info via the web to the Bu.mp servers. A matching algorithm listens to bumps from phones around the world and pairs up the phones that felt the same bump. In order to limit accidental bump matches, the app requires location services to be activated on both phones, to limit the matching possibilities.

The app website only has 4 letters, separated by a dot in the middle, bu.mp, which certainly helps in making it easy to remember for everyone. According to the Compete stats, the site had 5’000 monthly unique visitors on average in the last few months.

The company, Bump Technologies, was funded in 2008 by Jake Mint, David Lieb and Andy Huibers. It is based in Mountain View, California and funded by Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and other angel investors.

FamilyLeaf – Private Family Social Network

FamilyLeaf - Private Family Social NetworkFamilyLeaf is an attempt to provide a private social network to members of the same family or to communities of close friends and acquaintances, small in number.

There have been in the past attempts to create similar sites, such as MyFamily.com, Famento.com or FamilyCrossings.com, but FamilyLeaf makes things very easy to get started and it’s completely free to use, at least for now. The webapp currently displays an invite signup screen, as it wants to prevent growing too fast too soon, but it’s expected to be able to obtain an account relatively fast.

FamilyLeaf was founded by Wesley Zhao and Ajay Mehta, two childhood friends. Compared to other early-stage startups, they took the effort to make the site as friendly as possible to foreign traffic. There are already localized versions in Italian, French or Spanish.

The site is backed by Y! Combinator and has been featured in the media in extensive reviews, such as this one (which appeared in TechCrunch). During their initial launch month, FamilyLeaf had 2’000 unique monthly visitors.

CVMaker.in – Freely Create Professional CVs

CVMaker Create Professional CVs for FreeCVMaker.in is a webapp which allows people to create a professional-looking CV in .pdf format by specifying their info in a easy-to-use web interface.

The site offers several templates under which resumes can be created, including models such as executive, elegant or bold.

The site has been created by Kailash Nadh and launched to the public in October 2010. His portfolio includes an impressive track-record of web projects. He’s also a photographer.

The app’s traffic hasn’t reached yet critical mass, being currently visited by under 1’000 unique monthly visitors, according to Compete. However the app shows potential due to its accessible interface, free-to-use terms and the ability to download at the end the CV as a .pdf file.

Udemy – E-learning Platform

Udemy: Online e-learning platformUdemy.com is an online e-learning platform, launched in 2010, where teachers and students can meet and participate in online classes available for free or for a specific fee on their website.

Unlike competitors such as the recently-launched Coursera, Udemy doesn’t restrict the classes to university-taught courses: anyone is free to sign up as a teacher and create its own content. In order to make money, Udemy charges a commission when someone purchases a membership to a paid class.

Udemy’s traffic has been growing steadily and they are approaching the moment where they’ll have on average 100’000 monthly unique visitors.

Udemy was founded in February 2010 by Eren Bali and Gagan Biyani. It launched to the public in May 2010 and received 1 million dollars in seed funding and 3 million dollars in Series A funding, from partners such as 500 Startups, MHS Capital and Lightbank.

Buffer – Social Media Scheduler

Buffer: Social Media SchedulerBuffer is a social media scheduler application. It allows anyone to write social media posts during the weekend or in the evenings, and have that content distributed in equal periods of time across the week in his Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts. In this way, each post gets the attention it deserves and readers are not suddenly flooded with content.

According to its CrunchBase profile, Buffer was founded by Joel Gascoigne and Leo Widrich and received $400’000 in venture funding at the end of 2011.

After the funding round, the app experienced significant growth. Nowadays, according to Compete.com, Buffer has several hundred thousands unique visitors each month.

Buffer has several pricing plans. The free pricing plan is limited to 1 Twitter, 1 Facebook and 1 LinkedIn account, while the paid subscription plans offer more advanced (or unlimited) benefits.

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