Archive for June, 2006|Monthly archive page

Web 2.0 Insanity

Maybe it’s just me, but it definitely feels like there’s a funding bubble around web 2.0. Not that I’m complaining! Just a few examples:

We now have two companies, Cooliris and Browster that make browser plugins for popup-previewing of search results pages. Ok, so maybe that’s a cool feature that will save people a few clicks to find what they’re looking for. But do we really need two whole free-standing companies to do nothing but build these browser features? Can’t this thing be done by one person as a Firefox plugin? Shouldn’t these smart people be trying to solve some bigger problem? I think Russell Beatie already wrote the classic post about this.

While we’re on the subject of browsers, I just want to vent a little about Flock. Now I don’t dispute that they’ve built a cool product. But I just wish they would stop. Here we are, years after Mark Andreessen predicted that the browser would replace MS Windows as the primary application platform, and it’s finally happening! JotSpot, Writely, Zoho, web mail, Google Spreadsheets and many others are actually realizing the dream of letting me do all my computer work through the browser. I run very few desktop apps today, and I don’t miss hasseling with software installs.

But here comes Flock, trying to bundle applications into the browser itself. This is the classic MS strategy which got them sued by the DOJ, but moved to the browser platform. Guess what? I don’t want it! I don’t want Flock deciding that Flickr, Photobucket and Myspace are now the defacto standards and so they can support those out of the box and screw everybody else. I want my new operating system, the browser, pure and unadulterated and not pre-tied to a bunch of chosen services. “But they support plugins!” you say. Sure, and anyone can download and run FF on their new PC, and yet IE 6 still has 85% plus market share. Forget it. I’m not going to use it. And for those services that are happy about their Flock plugin, just wait till Flock stops activating your plugin by default and picks your competitor’s service instead.

Update: Well, not to say “I told you so”, but here’s the Techcrunch coverage of a special version of Flock which excludes Flickr support in favor of Photobucket.


Google Minesweeper Launches

minesweeper_logo.gifContinuing it’s attack against the entrenched Microsoft application monopolies, Google Labs today launched a new Ajax version of the venerable Minesweeper application. The application is not open to the public yet, but I was able to secure a screenshot which you can see below.

Coming on the heels of the Writely acquisition and launch of Google Spreadsheet, the addition of Minesweeper looks like it may finally end the MS monopoly on the desktop.

Larry Ellison of Oracle lauded the innovation, saying, “Finally, our employees have no more excuses for running Windows on their PC’s! And I can work completely on my new Mac now when I’m at the office.”

Google Minesweeper includes a number of impressive innovations including:

  • Online collaboration – cooperate with co-workers to uncover mines
  • Online game storage. Now you can finish that game at home.
  • Integrated GTalk for real-time trash talking.

Not everyone is so excited about this launch though. Sam Kinelson, CEO at the Sequoia-backed startup Minestrr, complained “This is just another example of Google quashing competition in a new market segment. They’re just sweeping the field to keep out fast moving up-and-comers. What’s next? Google Notepad?!?!” Google is already launching into a crowded field, with established startups including Minestrr,,, minetube, and

The launch is being covered over at Techcrunch (“Google changes the game”) and by Om Malik (“Google sweeping up the competition”).


Video sharing sites – Alexa rankings

Let's check the latest rankings:

Youtube:            23 1,544        1,594 2,171    2,245     4,433
vsocial:         6,718        6,934       7,400      8,645      8,939    14,176   38,571

I'd say the big news here is video sharing continues growing rapidly. YouTube has gone from 58 to 23 since last I checked. Holy crap! 25th on the global ranking. Bigger than AOL, craigslist, facebook and the nytimes.

Other than YT, seems the biggest mover is grouper, going from 17k to 4k. Nice work, I guess they're having success converting the desktop users to the web site. has moved up significantly as well.

And I'm pleased to see that gofish moved up from 12,222 to 8,645, passing revver in the process. Looks like the ad sharing over at revver is not really helping traffic.

Open source transcoding – part 2

Ok, now I've got an even better idea! What the world doesn't need is for me to dribble out bits of ffmpeg/mplayer usage to this blog, forcing you to waste a bunch of time with my ramblings trying to get the info you need.

What we do need is a place to store the collective wisdom on using these open source tools for manipulating video for the web (that is, automated video manipulation at the server, rather than through a client app).

So….I've created a new Wiki to gather this info. Please check it out:

Open source transcoding – mplayer and ffmpeg – part 1

So I've been playing with open source encoding tools as of late. It's tempting to attempt to use these tools for video work because they seem so powerful and flexible, not to mention free.

The biggest problem is just figuring out how to use the tools to accomplish what you want. So, I'll be recording some of my experiences here.

The defacto standards in this area are as follows:

  • ffmpeg – this is the core codec library that provides support for encoding/decoding video in mpeg, wmv, quicktime, flv and many other formats. Basically all the other tools use this library for encode/decode.
  • mplayer/mencoder – these utilities build on ffmpeg, but also include a host of other codecs and filters.
  • vlan – again, I believe this guy relies on ffmpeg for any non-standard codecs.

Generally speaking ffmpeg is a video file manipulation library and app, while mplayer/vlan are end-user video player application, and mencoder is an end-user encoding application.

These tools overlap in their capabilities, and yet have wildly different usage options. Some of the core challenges with these tools are:

  • Getting a build for your platform. Mplayer has some pre-built binaries, but generally these tools expect you to build them from source. Especially on non-Linux platforms this can be an incredible pain in the ass.
  • Figuring out the command line options! These apps are wonderfully powerful, and wolefully documented.

I'll be adding posts on my experiences using these and other tools, with the hope of aggregating some common wisdom on using these tools to produce video for the web.