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Google Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer as the Favored Web Browser

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Google Chrome has overtaken Internet Explorer (IE) to become the world’s most widely used web browserGoogle Chrome was the world’s most popular web browser for a single weekend in March, but according to StatCounter, it is now more popular than Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer and is expected to remain in the top spot for the foreseeable future.

Chrome has beaten a trend that indicated it was going to surpass IE later this summer.  Microsoft dismissed the March figures as inaccurate, but there is a longer-term trend of users choosing Chrome when they can decide for themselves; business IT departments tend to favor IE.  The StatCounter statistics also indicate that Google Android‘s built-in browser is now the most popular mobile phone program.  On desktops, Chrome and IE have been on around 33 percent each, but Chrome is currently taking the lead.

Aodhan Cullen, StatCounter’s chief executive, said “At weekends, when people are free to choose what browser to use, many of them are selecting Chrome in preference to IE.”

Writing for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts says that “Of course, the StatCounter numbers are only one estimate.  And others give IE a far more substantial lead.  According to NetMarketShare, for example, IE held on to a whopping 54 percent of the market, as of April.  And Chrome actually comes in third with 18.85 percent, compared to 20.20 percent held by Firefox in NetMarketShare’s study.  That said, StatCounter’s numbers are a trusted metric in the industry, and are far more recent than NetMarketShare’s latest count.”

According to WebProNews’ Sean Patterson, “When Google launched its Chrome browser in 2008, its focus was on speed.  This aimed right at the weakness of the market’s large, slow browsers.  Chrome’s ease of use, combined with its automatic updating features, gave the browser an edge and propelled it into the browser wars with a fury.  This comes at a time when Microsoft has actually improved Internet Explorer.  Microsoft’s browser now has many of the features that Chrome and Firefox sport, and its newest version is faster than previous ones.  Unfortunately, the company has a hard time getting users to upgrade to newer versions of the browser.  Many IT departments don’t bother with the hassle of upgrading browsers on every employee’s computer.  Also, many Internet Explorer users are less computer-savvy users who simply use the browser because it came with their Windows installation.  Some people still use Internet Explorer 6, an outdated, unsupported browser that doesn’t work with much of the modern web.  In fact, according to StatCounter, more people use Internet Explorer 6 than use Opera or Safari 5.1.”

Is the Timing Right for a Facebook IPO?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Facebook is contemplating the idea raising about $10 billion in an IPO that would value the predominant social-networking website at more than $100 billion.  At $10 billion, the offering would raise significantly more money than any other technology IPO, and Facebook expects investors to be eager to buy into the social-networking company.  The IPO would overshadow that of the previous record holder, Infineon Technologies AG, which generated $5.23 billion in its 1999 debut.  Agere Systems Inc., which raised $4.14 billion in 2000, currently occupies second place.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 27-year-old founder and CEO, will undoubtedly be rewarded by the website’s rise.  A valuation of $100 billion will further increase Zuckerberg’s net worth which had earlier been estimated at $17 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Facebook expects federal regulators to call for the firm to disclose its financial results by April 30, 2012 — if it doesn’t go public sooner.  Facebook chose to wait until next year to launch its IPO to give CEO Mark Zuckerberg extra time to add users and increase sales.  Facebook, which has a staggering 800 million users, is also increasing its focus on mobile technology, aiming to leverage the shift to smart phones and tablets.  The firm expects its next billion users to connect primarily via mobile devices, rather than desktop computers.

Zuckerberg noted that an IPO isn’t something he has spent “a lot of time on a day-to-day basis thinking about.  We’ve made this implicit promise to our investors and to our employees that by compensating them with equity and by giving them equity, that at some point we’re going to make that equity worth something publicly and in a liquid way.  Now, the promise isn’t that we’re going to do it on any kind of short-term time horizon.  The promise is that we’re going to build this company so that it’s great over the long term.  And that we’re always making these decisions for the long term, but at some point we’ll do that.

Writing in the New York Times’ “Deal Book” column, Steven M. Davidoff isn’t certain that this is the correct time for a Facebook IPO.  “Facebook is in a corner.  Another Internet hotshot, Groupon, is trading below its offering price, and the market for internet initial public offerings over all appears to be deflating.  The European sovereign debt crisis isn’t helping the market gloom.  The coming months are shaping up to be a bad time to undertake an IPO.  Still, Facebook will almost certainly have to go public during this time whether it wants to or not — and whether or not it can get a valuation of $100 billion or more in doing so.  And it’s partly Facebook’s fault — it just has too many shareholders.  Securities regulation requires a United States company with 500 or more shareholders of record to begin filing reports, including audited financial information, with the Securities and Exchange Commission four months after the year it exceeds this threshold.  Facebook most likely exceeded 500 shareholders this year.  By the end of April 2012, it will become subject to this heightened regulation and have to disclose a spate of confidential business information.”

What does the prospect of an IPO mean to potential investors? TechCrunch writer Josh Constine wasn’t optimistic in a post bluntly titled “Why Greedy Stockholders and a $100 Billion IPO Could Hurt Facebook.” Constine says that if Facebook becomes subject to the desire of its stockholders, the site will innovate less by making profit a higher priority than user experience.  For example, more ads are likely to pop up on users’ pages.  “Outside stockholders could detract from Facebook’s vision and momentum,” he wrote.  “They could push for faster returns, and pressure the company to display more ads, turn mobile into a direct revenue stream, and play it safe with product.  This might produce short-term gains, but could hamper what CEO Mark Zuckerberg has built into a core communications utility for the world.”

Is the Motorola Mobility-Google Marriage Made in Heaven?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Google’s recently announced $12.5 billion acquisition of Chicago-based mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility could be different if Google CEO Larry Page keeps his promise to run the acquisition as “an independent business.”  “If you believe what they say, they’re going to leave the company alone and let it do what it has been doing,” said Steven Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.  “If anything, maybe they would move resources here because the tech talent is less expensive and our taxes are lower (than California’s).”

There remains the question of the economic impact of the sale on Chicago’s economy, especially in northwest suburban Libertyville, IL, where Motorola Mobility has its sprawling campus.  If Google retains Motorola Mobility’s Illinois workforce, the move will represent a win for the state, giving it the bragging rights that come with being part of one of the world’s wealthiest and most entrepreneurial companies.  If Google moves Motorola Mobility to California, it will be a blow to Chicago’s northwest suburbs, where many of Mobility’s employees live.

Motorola Mobility has deep roots in the Chicago area, which go back to the 1928 founding of Galvin Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago.  The company, which was rechristened Motorola, pioneered early televisions and two-way radios during the World War II years.  Motorola helped lay the foundation for the mobile-phone industry, and demonstrated its original handset in 1973.  “Motorola was a pioneer in this business,” said Will Strauss, an analyst at Tempe, AZ-based Forward Concepts Co.  “They certainly have a lot of intellectual property.  It will certainly level the playing ground quite a bit. It’s going to give them an awful lot to defend Android with.” 

One reason for the purchase is the patents that Google will acquire as part of the acquisition.  Google pointed to patent disputes as important in its agreement to buy Motorola Mobility.  Apple, the iPhone’s manufacturer, and Microsoft, which created Windows Phone software, have targeted phones that run on Google’s Android system.  Lacking its own trove of patents to vie with Apple, Microsoft and other companies, Google and its hardware partners were targeted by suits aimed at slowing the adoption of Android smart phones.  Adding Motorola Mobility, with 17,000 patents, which has been inventing mobile-phone technology since the industry began, may help Google stanch the onslaught.

“The analogy to a nuclear arms race and mutually assured destruction is compelling,” said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy LLC, which counsels companies on purchasing intellectual property.  Google and its rivals “look pretty evenly matched at the moment.  Google may have become a patent superpower.”

Google plans to continue to license its Android system to other smart phone makers, such as HTC, Samsung and LG. ”Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them,” according to Page.  According to analysts, the Motorola deal is likely to help Google expedite its innovation in smart phones and tablets.

Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu believes the acquisition was “solely driven by the ongoing patent war and is an unambiguous positive for the Android ecosystem.  It is in the interest of Google to continue to offer a fully open Android platform with equal access to all manufacturers.  For Google, there is much more value in securing a major market share for Android than favoring Motorola against HTC and Samsung,” Ferragu wrote.

 Writing in The Business Insider, Henry Blodget predicts that the deal will be a “colossal disaster.”  According to Blodget, there are multiple reasons why this venture will fail.  “Google is a massive global software company with huge profit margins, genius engineers, extraordinarily high pay scales, and a near-monopoly on the most amazing advertising business the world has ever seen.  Motorola is a has-been, low-margin, global hardware-manufacturing business that operates at break-even, has 19,000 employees — 19,000!  Motorola, in other words, is a VAST company, one that will increase the size of Google by a staggering 60+ percent.  Mergers of this size rarely work well (or smoothly), even when managed by companies that are very experienced at making huge acquisitions (which Google isn’t).  Motorola does not have dominant share of the key businesses Google is buying: smart phones, tablets, and TV gadgets.  This means it does not have the weight necessary to push anyone around.  For example, Motorola only has a small slice of market share (10 percent) in its key business (smart-phones).   It’s nowhere in tablets.  The only way to make decent money in the hardware business is to have real leverage, and Motorola doesn’t have it.  The only thing that Google and Motorola have in common is that they are loosely considered ‘technology’ businesses.  This is not enough commonality for a massive merger like this to be a success without heroic integration efforts.  (Think AOL-Time Warner).”

Steve Jobs Exits Apple

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The abrupt departure of Steve Jobs from Apple marks the end of an era, although his leaving is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the company’s product line, according to analysts.  Jobs, 56, submitted his resignation to the Cupertino, CA-based Apple board of directors and asked that they name chief operating officer Tim Cook as his successor.  In announcing his resignation, Jobs said he wanted to stay on as chairman and an Apple employee.  “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said.  “Unfortunately, that day has come.  I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.  And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”  Jobs has been on medical leave from the company since early this year. 

Jobs, who has been treated for pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant, rocked Silicon Valley with his decision.  Recently, Hewlett-Packard said it was exploring options to sell or spin off its multi-billion-dollar PC division just as the PC industry was celebrating its 30th anniversary.  Jobs played a key role in creating that industry.  “Hewlett-Packard has given up because of what Apple has done,” said Jay Elliot, a former Apple senior vice president who worked closely with Jobs from 1980 to 1985.  “The reality is this guy was so committed to making the best products in the world.”  Perhaps no tech figure in recent history carries as much power as or has made a greater imprint on his company than Jobs.  Since returning to Apple 14 years ago, he almost single-handedly has resurrected the company from near-extinction to a company worth more than $330 billion. 

Apple is expected to unveil its iPhone 5 over the next few months and a new version of its popular iPad 2 tablet. Nevertheless, a smooth transition is likely.  Cook, 50, has earned praise for his steady leadership at Apple, acting as temporary CEO, while Jobs was on medical leave.  Apple is also renowned for its impressive group of engineers, marketers and other executives.

“The next wave of Apple products are well into the product-development cycle,” said Charles Golvin, analyst at Forrester Research.  “The next iPhone is certainly done.  The next iPad is certainly along the way.” 

Writing in Computerworld, Jason Snell says that “The greatest fallacy in the story of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO, the one you’ll find in endless media reports, is this: In 1985 after Steve Jobs left Apple, the company went on a downhill slide that led it to the brink of bankruptcy.  Therefore, the Apple of 2011 is at risk of doing the same.  But the flaw in the History Repeats Itself storyline being promoted in some corners as Jobs steps down as CEO is that the Apple of today is nothing like the Apple of 1985.  By 1997, Jobs ran Apple with absolute power, the kind of power he had never had during his first go-round at Apple.  Jobs was a co-founder, yes, and his time working with the original Macintosh team is the stuff of legend. But the Apple of 1985 wasn’t Steve Jobs’ company, not hardly.  When he took the interim CEO job more than a decade later, Jobs didn’t make that mistake again.  Older and wiser, and with the complete support of Apples board of directors, Jobs remade the company to his specifications.

“The iMac was a first quick sign of the turnaround.  The original iPod and the decision to open retail stores began the real momentum.  The release of the iPhone and the iPad marked Apple’s ascendance to what it is today:  The most important technology company in the world.  The Apple of today is hugely profitable, with tens of billions of cash, a 90 percent share of the tablet market, a rapidly growing smart phone business around the world, and the only truly profitable personal-computer franchise left.  This is where Steve Jobs leaves Apple as CEO: on top, with momentum to carry it further up.” 

“The Macintosh turned out so well,” once told the New York Times, “because the people working on it were musicians, artists, poets and historians who also happened to be excellent computer scientists.”  The people who bought the first Apple Mac computers tended to be architects, designers and journalists.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who created the Apple Macintosh computers in the 1970s, came up with a line of products that – though initially clunky –appealed to buyers, and continue to excite those engaged in design and the media; those who were optimally placed to sow the Apple seed. 

Bob Boilen of NPR’s “All Songs Considered, offers this perspective. “I find the news of Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple’s CEO particularly sad.  In some ways, I feel something like I felt when The Beatles broke up.  Sure, I’d always have the band’s music, but damn, what a special time.  What special chemistry.  It will never be the same.  We listen to music in the 21st century in a profoundly different way than we did in the 20th century.  And, though Apple didn’t invent the portable music player, the vision of Steve Jobs (a music geek himself) and his company of designers and engineers changed our listening landscape dramatically in 2001 with iTunes and the iPod.  Some of those ways are wonderful: Portability of huge libraries, shuffling, quick access to millions of songs, and custom playlists are a few of the upsides.  For some, shuffling may be a bittersweet downside, like compressed sound files or isolated listening, but I think the good far outweighs the bad.  Of course, Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but they sure made it work.  The creation of iTunes in January 2001, and later that year the release of the iPod, made organizing music, making playlists, and happy random accidents a listening joy.”

Google+ Off to a Good Start – Will It Last?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Just one month into its launch, Google+ has seen extraordinary growth, netting some 20 million unique visitors.  Still, it faces several key challenges before it can become the dominant force in social media.  Online metrics company ComScore said that of the 20 million users, five million of those are from the United States.  “Google+ is on an unprecedented growth trajectory over its first three weeks, reaching 20 million visitors faster than any site in recent memory,” Comscore Vice President Andrew Lipsman said.  The estimate comes a week after Google CEO Larry Page said that the company already had accumulated 10 million registered users. While registered users and unique visitors are not necessarily the same thing, that growth has been nothing short of impressive.

While the rate of growth is unparalleled, the social network is still small when compared with its rivals such as Facebook and Twitter, which have 750 million and 200 million registered users, respectively.  Google+’s success will depend on how Google “converts this strong trial base into regular users,” Lipsman warned.  While competitors Facebook and Twitter have become online destinations in themselves; more than 50 percent of traffic coming to Google+ is initiated by visits to Google or Gmail, according to Experian HitWise.  YouTube is a significant referrer.

Writing on the DVice website, Raymond Wong says that “Google+, the new guy on the social networking scene isn’t doing too bad.  After Google CEO Larry Page announced last week that Google+ had 10 million users in a mere two weeks, it appears they’ve added another 10 million users.  Talk about being the hottest thing in town.  People said that Google couldn’t build a social network that anybody would give two cents about, but somehow they’ve managed to do just that.  According to an independent comScore report, the new Google+ social network has hit 20 million unique visitors in three weeks.  Some have called Google+ a Facebook rip-off.  Some have joined simply to see what the buzz is all about, much like how everybody started Google and for a brief moment in time and then disappeared into oblivion. For now, none of that matters.  Google+ is gaining more users everyday, and Google is sure to be super excited by all the signups.”

So while we have a lot of work still to do, we are really excited about our progress with Google+,” Page said, noting that Google will re-focus on its core products and on new innovations.  “Google+ is also a great example of another focus of mine — beautiful products that are simple and intuitive to use and was actually was one of the first products to contain our new visual redesign.”  Google+ isn’t Google’s first expedition into the world of social media and its excitement over having 20 million Google+ users may be early.  Google introduced Google Buzz in February 2010 and immediately saw user numbers swell; it was later panned.

Reports are that Google will, unlike Facebook, host games on its own servers — this could make them faster and less prone to glitches.  The Google+ code mentions a gaming platform, and the company has reportedly invested as much as $200 million in the leading social gaming company Zynga.  There has been no official announcement about if and when the Google game platform will launch or how it will be designed.

Facebook is still beating Google+ in time spent on a social network.  HitWise research director Heather Dougherty said the average visit time for Google+ is five minutes and 50 seconds, compared with almost 22 minutes on Facebook.  Dougherty also examined how users arrived at Google+. (at 34 percent) and Gmail (at 26 percent) account for 50 percent of all traffic to Google+; another six percent come from YouTube and Google Profiles.  Facebook ranked third among websites visited immediately prior to Google+, an indication that many social-network users have multiple accounts.  Google+ ranks as the 42nd most visited social networking site in the United States, and was the 638th most visited website.  Broken down by region, most of Google+ visitors are from Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco (in descending order).

Facebook Is Worth $50 Billion? Anyone Remember the Dotcom Bubble?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Could social media be the victim of the next bubble? Although Facebook has been valued at $50 billion – more than Yahoo!, eBay, and Time Warner and butting heads with such giants as Amazon and Google, there is some question about what the valuation is based on.  According to Newsweek, “Some media experts have compared Facebook with Disney, valued at about $70 billion.  But Disney has real, tangible assets – parks, hotels, cruise ships, iconic images to market on everything from T-shirts to tableware, and a massive library of classic animated films – to back its assessed value.  Facebook has a virtual network that, according to Time, links one-twelfth of the world’s population.  However, according to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook still has enormous infrastructure costs that include as much as $700 million for two data centers, and its profits have yet to be publicly disclosed.  When an investor buys a piece of Facebook, what exactly does that investor get?  The sudden, meteoric explosion in value of online social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is eerily reminiscent of the rise about 15 years ago of the online businesses that created the ‘dotcom bubble.’”

On the PBS Newshour,  Ray Suarez interviewed Josh Bernoff, a senior vice president of Forrester Research, who has written two books on social media.  According to Bernoff, “I certainly think that there’s no rational way to understand these valuations.  I want to be clear here.  Social is very exciting.  There’s a lot of business perspective, a lot of optimism that goes along with it.  But I think these valuations are based on where people think the next buyer will come from and not on where the actual revenues of these companies are going.”  Earlier this year, Microsoft bought Skype for $6.5 billion, although its revenues are less than $1 billion a year.  When LinkedIn went public, it was valued at $9 billion.  Its profits are just $12 million annually.

According to Experience:  The Blog “The dot-com crash of 2000 was devastating.  Even now, 11 years later, the NASDAQ Composite is just a hair over half of where it stood in March 2000.  The crash caused the loss of $5 trillion in market value, huge numbers of people lost their jobs, and the facade of most of those dot-com millionaires crumbled as their paper wealth evaporated.  (To me, the insanity of the dot-com craze is demonstrated by a single story told to me by a now-successful exec in a social enterprise company.  Back in 2000, he ran a tiny startup that got caught up in the dot-com hysteria; at one point it hit a market cap of $1 billion but was generating just $60,000 of revenue.)  I am taking you on this trip down Memory Lane for a reason:  It’s happening again.  Investors in social media startups are looking to cash in, and valuations are soaring despite modest to no profits.  Recently, Airbnb, a site that allows people to arrange short-term vacation rentals of rooms, homes and apartments, received a round of funding based on a $1 billion valuation.  While the company has not released financials, best guess estimates are that Airbnb only generates around $10 million of revenue.  To put this into perspective, Marriott has $12 billion in revenue and a market cap of $14 billion.”

The Next Web disagrees with predictions of a second dotcom bubble.  “Dotcom 2.0 is much stronger than its predecessor.  People are more technologically savvy and, crucially, broadband and smart phones are approaching ubiquity.  The world is switched-on, tuned-in and can’t get enough Internet.  Technological advances aside, the one thing that will ensure we don’t see another dotcom disaster is social media marketing.  The key to success this time lies in finding ways to monetize the many ventures – it’s understood that driving traffic isn’t enough, which is why Twitter is actively seeking ways to drive its revenue.  In fact, Twitter may make as much as $150 million this year, according to some reports.  There’s no question there are a lot of over-valued companies out there at the moment; some will undoubtedly crumble and some will flourish. But Dotcom 2.0 isn’t a bubble, and it won’t burst.”

Is a Dot.Berlin Internet Domain In Our Future?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

The era is moving on.  Websites will soon be able to end with anything from “.shop” to “.canon” after the group that manages Internet addresses approved the historic change.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which until previously allowed just 22 suffixes including “.com” and “.org,” will accept almost any word in any language.  The move could prevent cybersquatting, the practice of registering domain names and selling them to trademark owners, often for big bucks.  Big business may have to buy addresses to prevent their brands from being hijacked, which costs $500,000 per company, according to an estimate from the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse.

“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors, said in the statement.  “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”  Applications for custom suffixes, which will cost $185,000, are not inexpensive and the first of these “top level domain names” won’t go live until the end of next year, said Adrian Kinderis, a member of Icann’s advisory council.  Canon, Deloitte and Hitachi Ltd., are some of the companies that are interested in company domain names, while generic names will be auctioned to the highest bidders, Kinderis said.

Icann has opened the internet’s addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination,” said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer for ICANN.  “No one can predict where this historic decision will take us.”  There is the possibility that several hundred new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) will be created, which could include such addresses as .google, .coke, or even .BBC.  At present, there are just 22 gTLDs, as well as approximately 250 country-level domain names such as .uk or .de.  According to industry analysts, it’s a price that global giants might be willing to pay to maximize their internet presence.  The money will cover costs incurred by ICANN in developing the new gTLDs and using experts to scrutinize the thousands of expected applications.

Companies and organizations that want one of the new gTLDs will have to meet high technical standards, according to Bruce Tonkin, chief strategy officer at Melbourne IT, a domain registry service.  “You need IT robustness and you need intellectual property protections beyond what is available in the dot com space.  You have to have 24/7 abuse team.  You have to have mechanisms where a trademark holder has first right to get their name,” he said.  The higher standards, Tonkin said, translate to an extremely rigorous application process.  “Using a real estate analogy, it would be roughly the equivalent of getting approval to build a skyscraper.”

Japanese electronics giant, Canon, plans to apply for rights to use domain names ending with dot-canon.  Berlin, Germany, has expressed interest in a suffix.  Other suffixes could organize the Internet by language, geography or industry.  According to Brad White, ICANN’s director of global media affairs, opening the Internet address system will have far-reaching social and commercial impact.  “It will afford a possibility for innovation, creativity, branding and marketing.  We can’t fully predict the impact that this change will have, but we know it will have tremendous impact, in much the same way that nobody could predict social media.  Nobody could predict the popularity of Skype.  No one could predict the popularity of Facebook or Twitter. What we have done is removed a barrier to innovation,” White said.  “One of the biggest changes that this will mean to the Internet is an expansion of the use of non-Latin characters.  So, people who speak Cyrillic, or Arabic or Chinese can now use their own generic top-level domains at the end of an Internet address.  It will vastly, we believe, increase the number of Internet users.”

Brands need to act now if they want to apply for one of these new domain names as it is not as simple as registering a .com address. ICANN’s application fee is $185,000 USD and the application process is complex, requiring a submission which will run into hundreds of pages. Many companies will engage with a specialist to help them apply and manage their new TLD,” said Theo Harakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services.  Sebastian Bachollet, an ICANN board member, expresses confidence with the decision.  “Some people feel that the new gTLDs will cause confusion…I trust we have the tools to ensure the phase of stress will be brief,” Bachollet said.

ICANN’s announcement that it is setting aside $2 million to help developing countries is little consolation for the pay-to-play nature of the process.  According to ICANN, it expects as many as a thousand applications, mostly from recognized companies and brands.  Eric Mack in PC World says that “It appears that the greatest expansion of the domain name system is a big win for big business, amounting to the digital codification of today’s corporate giants.  But won’t it seem a little silly if, in five years, Canon, is part of a merger or undergoes a name change, or disappears from our lexicon for some other reason — and one of the world’s newest domain endings becomes worthless overnight?”

A Fitting Farewell to 25 Years of Oprah

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Twenty-five years in the bat of an eye.  I was fortunate enough to attend the final extravaganza at Chicago’s United Center to bid farewell to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as it concluded its quarter-century run.  Winfrey’s gala farewell as the “Queen of Talk” was attended by more than 20,000 fans and it was the hottest ticket in town.

Aside from the growth of Oprah’s Harpo Studios and her creation of the Oprah Winfrey Network, Chicago has reaped countless economic benefits from her presence. Writing in Illinois Issues, John Carpenter says that “Most seem to agree that the surrounding West Loop neighborhood has developed to the point that the loss of the show won’t hurt too much.  And Harpo Studios will still be in business there, taping other shows.  As for the city as a whole, the loss will be more psychological and hard to define.”  Lee Bey, executive director of the Chicago Area Central Committee and a former deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, agrees.  “The three things people talk about when you travel and tell them you are from Chicago are Michael Jordan, Mayor Daley and Oprah,” he said.

According to Carpenter, “More directly in Chicago, though, Oprah brings people here. There is no definitive study of how much economic activity the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ creates in Chicago.  But even a very simple, decidedly inexpert look at the numbers shows the impact to be significant.  Oprah tapes 140 shows in Chicago every year, with a studio audience of 325 for each one. ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ spokesperson Jamie Goss estimates that about two-thirds of audience members are traveling to Chicago from out of town.  That means about 30,000 tourists every year, coming to see the show. Figure that each one is staying in a hotel — or at least sharing a hotel room — eating a few meals, riding a few cabs and hitting a few stores, and the dollars spent by show attendees quickly passes $15 million.”  Additionally, Harpo Studios currently employs 400 people.

By establishing her Harpo Studios in Chicago’s West Loop, Oprah led the revitalization of a down-on-its-heels section of town that today is home to dozens of Chicago’s hippest clubs, restaurants and art galleries.  University of Chicago economist Charlie Wheelan believes that the yearly impact of Harpo is easily in the millions.  “At bottom, the most significant thing that Oprah did was to produce a show that people wanted to watch more than they wanted to do anything else for that hour that it was on.  So at the end of the day, that’s the supreme accomplishment here and she did it for decades.  That’s an enormous economic value,” Wheelan said.

Additionally. Oprah is a long-time Chicago philanthropist and helped fund downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park, a Michigan Avenue showpiece. Oprah donated $1 million dollars to build the park, but that’s just a fraction of her largesse.  The exact figures for Oprah’s philanthropic impact in Chicago are impossible to pin down, but one person with some insight – is former Mayor Daley, who said “In so many different ways she’s given.  Also quiet ways that no one really knows about.  She doesn’t have to have great accolades about this.  She just does it.”

The gala evening was full of surprise celebrity appearances, musical acts, and moving video montages of the Oprah show through the years.  Hosted by Tom Hanks and Will Smith, Oprah was guided through numerous tributes to her work at the Oprah show as well as her charitable work around the world.  The show was heartfelt and sincere and surprisingly spiritual. Highlights include Stevie Wonder singing “Isn’t She Lovely” and Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routine on the male perspective on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”  Rosie O’Donnell, who will be recording at Oprah’s Harpo Studio, presented a chorus-line song and dance routine along with Dr. Phil, Nate Berkus, Dr. Laura and Dr. Oz.  Oprah was visibly moved by the appearance of 400 Morehouse College graduates who received scholarships from Oprah when they stood on stage to thank her for helping them.  It was announced the Morehouse alums had established a scholarship fund of $300,000 Maya Angelou read a poem she wrote for Oprah while Alicia Keys accompanied her on the piano.  The show ended with Aretha Franklin singing a soul-stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace” and hip-hop artist Usher leading everyone back on-stage for gospel classic “Oh Happy Day”.