According to a new study by Nielsen-Online, social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular online activity. Collectively referred to as "Member Communities," Nielsen says these are visited by over two-thirds of the online population, putting them "ahead of personal email." It's also the fastest-growing sector out of the top four, which also includes search, portals, and PC software and email.
"Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience," says John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online (PDF). "While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large."
Facebook, which ranks as the most popular social network, draws three out of every 10 people online each month across the nine markets tracked. And it's not limited to any single age group. According to Nielsen, the biggest increase in visitors during 2008 came from the 35-49 demographic.
The report, titled "Global Faces and Networked Places," attributes some of the growth to the prominence of mobile phones, noting a "big increase over last year" in the number of users visiting Member Communities through their handsets.
Surprised by any of this? Hit the jump and sound off.
What Facebook essentially did was grant themselves the right to all user-uploaded content for, well, forever. It no longer mattered if you removed anything from the site, because it would remain in Facebook's archives, giving the site free reign to use the content for as long as it likes.
To justify the decision, Facebook compared the policy change to that of sending an email to a friend. Even if you delete the sent email from your sent box, a copy still remains in the recipient's inbox, so according to Facebook, it was okay for the site to keep and use your content.
Here's one for Facebook: The squeeky wheel gets the grease.
An order by a Texas judge to release the identities of 178 anonymous posters for making inflammatory comments on news site Topix.com may have posters thinking twice in the future before hitting the 'submit' button. The order came after Mark and Rhonda Lesher filed a lawsuit against the anonymous posters for allegedly making "perverted, sick, vile, inhumane accusations" about them.
The online comments were the result of a criminal trial against the Leshers, who were being accused of sexually assaulting a former client in 2008. The Leshers were found not guilty, but that didn't stop the court of public opinion from berating the couple through the course of about 70 threads on Topix.com.
"It just basically made us both feel like common criminals," the Leshers told the Dallas Morning News. "It's like someone had basically raped us of our reputation and our standing in the community over and over and over again."
According to the complaint, comments made by the anonymous posters ran the gamut from insinuating Mark drugs women to calling Rhonda the "Herpies Queen." It was enough to convince the judge to order Topix.com to release the identities of 178 posters, for which the judge has issued a March 6 deadline.
Do you agree with the ruling? Hit the jump and post your (non-inflammatory) thoughts.
The story of Old Yeller is about a dog who wins the heart of teenager Travis Coates tasked with helping manage the family farm while his father is away on a cattle drive. But by the time his father returns, Yeller becomes infected with rabies while fending off a rabid wolf. Travis is left with little recourse but to shoot the dog.
Now imagine the above summary in video form lasting for about 20 minutes. Would you pay $10 to watch it? HarperCollins thinks so, and has kicked off the concept by launching a video edition of Jeff Jarvis' "What Would Google Do?" that it's now selling through Amazon's digital-download store for $9.99.
"We're looking to create new revenue streams," said Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins. "There is a tremendous amount of search and discovery of video on the Web. Some consumers won't spend the money or invest hours in reading a book, but they will watch a 23-minute video."
Depending on the interest the video book concept generates, HarperCollins said it could release up to six more before the end of the year, all of which would be produced in-house. Twenty-five percent of the net revenue would go towards the author.
Hit the jump and tell us what you think about the future of video books, but first a protip: HarperCollins has made available the entire text of "What Would Google Do?" for free right here. We'd summarize it for you, but then we'd have to charge you.
You can already get hitched online, so why not webcast your funeral when you're dead and gone? More and more funeral homes have started offering such a service, making it possible for out-of-towners unable to make the trip to still attend a loved one's funeral, while simultaneously checking the latest sports scores in another tab (just the way Firefox envisioned it).
One such funeral home offering live (dead?) webcasts is Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service. The company first started streaming funeral services to families with relatives serving in the military, and now anyone can sign up at the any of the company's 11 locations. To prevent just anyone from watching the service, viewers must enter a password 15 minutes before it starts.
The Schoedinger funeral home says its webcasts have been popular and expects other funeral homes to follow suit. The practice has also attracted the attention of webcasting companies, who offer packages to funeral homes consisting of tripods, cameras with microphones, cables, and other webcasting necessities.
Hawaii residents can now visit their physician without ever leaving their home. It's not that house calls are making a comeback, but the 50th state becomes the first one to offer online physician visits. Available 24/7, ailing patients and hypochondriacs alike can spend one-on-one time with a doctor over IE7 or Firefox 2 and above, and even load up a webcam to show exactly what that nasty infection looks like.
Hawaiians insured through HMSA (Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state's largest insurer) are charged a flat $10 fee for a 10 minute online visit, while non-members pay $45. In return, doctors are instructed to apply the same standards of care and to address only issues that can adequately be handled over the phone or web. Prescriptions can also be written, if there's a definitive diagnosis during the 10-minute visit. But while this new practice will cut down the number of people cluttering emergency rooms, proponents warn that it's not a replacement for real emergencies.
"I don't think this situation can completely replace one-on-one doctor's visits," said Michelle Shimizu, a family practice doctor who has been helping test the system. "It's an adjunct to that."
For the most part, doctors receive $25 for each session, an amount which "has been received tremendously," according to HMSA marketing VP Michael Stollar.
Would you feel comfortable visiting your doctor online? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
If you're trying to watch a YouTube video and can't get the sound to work, it could be by design. The Google-owned video sharing site has just implemented a new policy which won't remove a user's videos containing copyrighted audio, but it will mute the audio stream, allowing the offending video to play on sans sound.
The new policy comes as a result of YouTube's ongoing dispute with Warner Music Group. Last month, Warner forced YouTube to cut off access to videos containing copyrighted music, following a breakdown in talks over licensing agreements. The video sharing site appears to have found a workaround until those talks come to a conclusion.
"Music licensing can get very complicated, but we try to make your experience as simple as possible," YouTube wrote in a blog post. "We want you to have options when uploading videos with music in them. And if your video is subject to a copyright claim, you should have some choices too."
YouTube recommends that anyone whose videos have been flagged and muted to check out Audioswap, which is a library of pre-cleared music.
"In our world of customized online services, responsible use of data is critical to establishing and maintaining user trust," said Anne Toth, Yahoo!'s Vice President of Policy and Head of Privacy. "We know that our users expect relevant and compelling content and advertising when they visit Yahoo!, but they also want assurances that we are focused on protecting their privacy."
The new limit puts Yahoo well ahead of its competition. Earlier this year, Google reduced its data retention time frame from 18 months to nine months, and Microsoft vowed to cut its data retention policy to six months if its rivals did the same.
Yahoo will begin implementing the new policy next month and says it will be effective across all of the company's services by the middle of 2010.
So Microsoft isn't going to acquire to Yahoo, but it did manage to snag Qi Lu, a former search and advertising executive at Yahoo with 10 years of experience under his belt. Lu, 47, will serve as Microsoft's president of the Online Service Group and will report directly to company CEO Steve Ballmer.
"I am tremendously excited to welcome Qi to Microsoft,” Ballmer said. “Dr. Lu’s deep technical expertise, leadership capabilities and hard-working mentality are well-known in the technology industry, and Microsoft will benefit from his addition to our executive management team."
Lu will clock in for the first time on January 5, 2009 and begin work overseeing several groups, including the Advertiser & Publisher Solutions business. While Lu's experience should be a valuable asset in helping Microsoft become more competitive with Google and Yahoo in online search revenue, it's interesting to note that Microsoft has replaced the leadership role of its online unit about every two to three years since jumping into the internet business a little over a decade ago. And not everyone is convinced Lu will fare any better.
"Does this make Microsoft more competitive in search today? No," said Colin Gillis, an analyst with Click Capital Research in New York.
You can forget about the historic election (politics) or Bill Gates stepping into semi-retirement (tech), because according to Yahoo's search statistics, it's Britney Spears who ranked as the top search subject. The pop singer 'did it again,' topping Yahoo's search results for the fourth year in a row and her seventh time altogether. Other pop-culture celebrities making the top 10 list include Miley Cyrus at No. 4, Jessica Alba at No. 6, Lindsay Lohan at No. 8, and Angelina Jolie at No. 9.
But it wasn't just specific celebrities making the list. Wrestling apparently had a good year with WWE placing No. 2, one spot above President-elect Barack Obama. The rest of the top 10 included RuneScape at No. 5, Naruto at No. 7 ,and American Idol taking up the 10th spot.
Surprisingly, no other political figures were represented in Yahoo's most popular search terms, despite being a historic and hotly contested election year. However, when broken down into subjects, Sarah Palin led the way behind President-elect Barack Obama in people of politics search terms, followed by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Ron Paul, John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mitt Romney.
On the subject of economic searches, surfers were most interested in IRS stimulus checks, followed with oil prices, gold prices, gas prices, Dow Jones, Sallie Mae, stock market, AIG, foreclosures, and debt consolidation.