In the West, web users have known for years that advertisers drop “cookies” onto their desktops (via their web browsers), and that these little pieces of code tell advertisers what they’re looking at.
In China, however, the state-run TV channel China Central Television just discovered this fact. It aired an investigative, undercover hidden-camera story on the web ad business as a purveyor of secret tracking information on innocent Chinese web users.
It’s a shocking expose. Or it would have been had it aired in the mid-1990s, when cookies first came into use.
Cookies help advertisers target people with ads. If you browse a web site for tennis rackets, you might start seeing ads for shoes on subsequent pages. Cookies don’t, however, identify individual web users. They simply aggregate them into blocks of targetable audiences.
The Star added that executives at Yoyi, Avazu and iPinYou Interactive were secretly filmed in CCTV’s report. One! was cau ght on camera saying:
“You will not be able to see the codes whenever you visit a website. If you can see them, who will be willing to go online?” she said.
Oh, that’s right. Everyone on the rest of the planet.
Msnbc.com renamed itself NBCNews.com after Comcast bought out Microsoft’s share of it for a reported $300 million.
The sale, which had been expected for weeks, ends the partnership of the internet giant and NBC, which stretches back to the mid 1990s. The sale price was not disclosed, but The New York Times reported it was $300 million.
“When msnbc.com launched 16 years ago, it set the standard for how people consume news online — creating trends and leading the marketplace,” said NBC News President Steve Capus. “Today, NBC News enters a new phase of its history better positioned to compete and grow in a digital environment, as well as deliver consumers and clients a multi-platform news experience unlike anything else in the industry.”
Capus also thanked Microsoft “for everything they’ve done for this partnership and for helping us build these properties into what they are today.”
The site’s editor in chief, Jennifer Sizemore, delivered the news in a message to readers.
“While our name is changing, our commitment is not. In fact, in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be bringing you more of what you love today, and NBCNews.com will stay true to its mandate of delivering the news you need with the innovative spirit you’ve come to expect across all of our digital platforms.”
Microsoft relinquished its stake in the cable news channel MSNBC in 2005, and the channel has branded itself as an outlet for left-leaning political coverage and analysis. But because of MSN and NBC’s joint ownership of the website, the online news site has not reflected the voice of the cable channel.
Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal, now becomes the full owner of msnbc.com, and the purchase signals a major investment in the future of the news division. People familiar with the deal told the Times that some of the purchase price came from the joint venture’s past profits.
Visitors who typed in msnbc.com on Monday morning were immediately redirected to the new site.
SEE ALSO: This week’s box-office roundup >
This year marks the 15th birthday of Winamp. During that time it went from being a must-have piece of software to languishing in complete obscurity. But where did it all go wrong?
Prior to Winamp, there wasn’t much available beyond Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. But none of those players could, in the mid-1990s, do something as basic as playlists, much less visualizations and custom skins, nor were they as tightly and efficiently programmed as Winamp. Even today, the Mac version of the Winamp installer is only 4.2MB; by comparison, the iTunes Mac installer comes in at a whopping 170MB.
The Windows Advanced Multimedia Products (WinAMP) player was released to the world on April 21, 1997. The next year, when its parent company Nullsoft formally incorporated, Winamp became $10 shareware. But no one pays for shareware, right? Wrong.
“Nothing ever was broken [if you didn't pay], there was no feature that was unlocked,” Rob Lord told Ars. “In that year before we were acquired, we were bringing in $100,000 a month from $10 checks-paper checks in the mail!”
In fact, Winamp proved to be a huge success, and in many ways was the piece of software that naturalized the use of MP3s, by making it easy to rip, store and manage them, all from one piece of software. So successful was it, in fact, that eventually AOL acquired the company in June 1999 for somewhere in the region of $80-$100 million.
What followed, however, isn’t a pretty story. Through horrendous mismanagement, AOL throttled the creativity of the Winamp team:
“There’s no reason that Winamp couldn’t be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition,” Rob Lord, the first general manager of Winamp, and its first-ever hire, told Ars.
Justin Frankel, Winamp’s primary developer, seems to concur in an interview he gave to BetaNews. (He declined to be interviewed for this article.) “I’m always hoping that they will come around and realize that they’re killing [Winamp] and find a better way, but AOL always seems too bogged down with all of their internal politics to get anything done,” he said.
Later, of course, came iTunes, at a time when Winamp was already beginning to struggle, to further compound the problem. Over time, Winamp’s success dwindled, and its development staff left. Nowadays, Winamp still exists—it just has an incredibly small, stagnated user base.
Image by uzi978 under Creative Commons license
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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