Tweeting lightweight models and cost effective scalability

Lightweight models and cost-effective scalability have been in the center of the growth of semantic web applications. As web applications and the services they provide grow, the system that support their functions also need to grow to support more users, process more data, or a mix of both. The definition of the word scalability is derived from such factors where performance is enhanced through improving the application system or the architecture. The software architecture is a key factor in determining lightweight models and cost-effective scalability. Web applications which utilizes this model on scalability would have the capability of implementing and releasing new products to the market more efficiently and cost effectively without sacrificing the future growthTwitter is one of the innovative web applications, which utilizes open source software for its social networking and microblogging services creating a lightweight and a cost-effective scalable architecture.

Currently Twitter accommodates to more than 70 million tweets per day with an estimated 800 tweets per second. Also,  1Tb of data is produced every day with over 150million registered twitter users.  To adopt to such high scalability, Twitter employs innovative open source software such as Ruby, Scala, Cassandra, Hadoop and Pig for stability, identifying programming patterns, developing databases, and to apply mass processing power to twitter datasets. This has allowed twitter to improve response time, reduce latency, reduce mean time to detect and the mean time to recovery. The employed open source software has allow Twitter application to be more light weight and cost-effective with efficient performance.

Furthermore, Twitter follows a unique revenue model with sponsorship advertising. Twitter revamped its advertising products with promoted tweets, promoted trends, and promoted accounts. They have utilized their competitive advantage through publishing promotional content in an innovative manner allowing advertisers to push tweets to users even if those users did not follow the advertisers twitter profile. As shown below Twitter Ad revenues are forecasted to reach $260 million in 2012 and 400 million in 2013, by incorporating multiple revenue streams.

It is important for any web technology to improve its architecture model and scalability to meet the demand and supply. Scaling with demand would allow the application to be cost-effective and increase business value in the market. implementing effective revenue models coupled with  smart strategic decision would improve the overall performance of the web application.



The Panoramic Long Tail, leveraging on mobile mashups

Panoramio, a mobile web mashup that enable digital photographers to geolocate, store and organize their photographs–and to view those photographs in Google Earth and Google Maps. The core functionality of Panoramio is to see visually all the users pictures on a map and commonly considered as a web mashup. A Mashup implies rapid prototyping and fast integration of different APIs and data sources with a user-oriented approach.

Mashups align with the Long Tail Theory developed by Chris Anderson in a wired magazine article. The long tail theory is based on selling more for less. This theory described a business strategy based on selling many small volumes of hard-to-find items instead of a few large volumes of popular items. It argues that as a whole, these hard-to-find items can make up a value that equals or exceeds the fewer bestsellers. This is possible when the distribution channel is large enough, such as the Internet, and the marginal cost is low, such as in the Software industry. The following image explores the anatomy and the characteristics of the Long Tail Theory from the perspective of Rhapsody, a Music retailer.

The long tail as seen on the yellow section on the line graph creates a new growth market through obscure or niche market products. Mobile Mashups satisfy  the needs of niches based on the long tail theory and creating extraordinary business values. Such business value has been created by recognizing the niche market in Panoramio. The photographs taken through Panoramio is then uploaded to Google maps and Google Earth, allowing the users to contribute towards the photo mosaics in Google Street View.

Mobile Web Mashups such as Paronamio allows the creation of new application and services thanks to the Long Tail Theory, with the aggressive expansion into new market areas. Additionally, the applications developed are more effective as their tailored to user needs with efficient user interface.



iTunes: tuning to the darkside of Perpetual Beta

Gone are the days that you need a floppy disk or a CD to update your system software or applications on your computer. Since the dawn of Web 2.0, software updates, patches, modules and support have become convenient as a click of a button. Web 2.0 has allowed companies to significantly reduce time consumption in developing major new software releases, extensive testing with beta periods and shift away from the tradition software release cycles. There is a greater interest in “Perpetual Beta” where fewer features/updates are developed with more frequent releases using the web as a platform. Most advanced and popular web application utilize the benefits of the state of perpetual beta for a wide variety of reasons. In which they:

  • Aim to reduce risks and defects of the application
  • Improve relationships with the users or the customers
  • Provide real time support and information
  • Allow quicker reactions to market changes and demands
  • Incrementally create new applications
  • and develop better technologies for continuous service improvements

However, the downside of having frequent updates, patches and constant beta features are the danger of excessiveness and application overload. Similarly, the music application giant iTunes has fallen into its own success. Since its inception in 2001, iTunes had adapted the function of beta development more accurately as it made file management a core competency in the application. It created new products such as Genius, Ping, Match and iTunes U that improve the efficiency and convenience of the application.

But with aggressive update releases, iTunes has reached its bloatware status. iTunes architecture has become unnecessarily complex with additional features and inconsistent layers of patches, that its application management interface is unstable and inefficient. According to Jason Snell,

Apple has packed almost everything involving media (and app) management, purchase, and playback into this single app. It’s bursting at the seams. It’s a complete mess. And it’s time for an overhaul.

With every beta update, iTunes has focused on improving on its features and services rather than structure and architecture. Additionally, these frequent updates force the users to download and re-install the entire program bundled with updates for other software, rather than releasing patches. Thus, turning iTunes into an operating system with a messy file management and a clogged hard drive.

iTunes has reached the point where its a agglomeration of features and functionality with repetitive updates, development and fixes. If iTunes is to continue with frequent release cycles, it should incorporate a discipline built, deployment and support processes.



Layar Augmented Reality, bringing software to life

Layar‘ first came up with the idea of an augmented reality web browser back in 2009 which turns the camera’s in mobile phones into a conceptualised information portal and local business search.  This concept of utilizing mobile devices beyond it’s standard capabilities have been derived with the innovative development of web technologies. Software on mobile devices have extended the power of mobile devices and allowed them to create/share data across devices, servers and networks. Similarly, Layar recognized the demand for innovative uses of augmented reality based applications by enhancing location awareness services.  The Layar application and the technology aims to integrate digital data with live visual data feed, for the convenience of daily activities. Such as:

  • Finding information on ATM’s, public transport while navigating through the streets
  • Search for contact details or reviews of businesses with google local search
  • See Location based status updates made through a variety of social networks
  • Information about building architecture
  • Integration with real estate searches

The Layar technology utilizes a variety of mobile technologies including the camera, GPS, accelerometers, and a mobile internet connection. Layar has leveraged the practicability of smart phone peripherals and devices to harness collective intelligence.  The camera captures the surrounding environment and display it on the screen with digital information retrieved over the internet. This information is based on the location awareness capabilities and other shared data across devices.  While the GPS determines the location, the accelerometer and the compass would determine the view of the field or the reality. A combination of all these technologies would provide the user with an augmented view of the reality with rich information and data.

Currently layar uses the power of networks and the web to:

  • Support for 3D models
  • Support for animated POI’s
  • Interactive sharing to facebook and twitter
  • Layer actions: call, email, share, web access
  • Support of Audio/video
  • Payment platform (PayPal)

Layar incorporates sophisticated level of interactivity with audio, visuals, animation and 3D models to create “layers” in a users field of vision through their mobile device. Currently Layar is compatible with iPhone, Android, Bada and Symbian. Layar is just not an app, but an open source platform aims to provide variety of possibilities and opportunities in the future.



Users StumbleUpon the Rich Internet Applications and Experiences

StumbleUpon, another innovative Rich Internet Application (RIA) to emerge within web 2.0 which helps the internet community to ‘discover the best of web’. It mainly focuses on personalizing the web browsing experience by directing users to information based on their likes, interests and hobbies; hence providing a Rich User Experience. Such innovative experiences are developed through the smart integration of interactive Graphical User Interface and multimedia content. As a result, StumbleUpon reduces the data overload (data vomit), providing the user with content rich information and an enjoyable web surfing experience.  The user experience is also enhanced with the addition of community based web surfing applications which utilize user reviews to display the subsequent stumble site/content. Ultimately, StumbleUpon integrates many of the valuable features of desktop and online user experiences.

So what is StumbleUpon? if you haven’t heard about it before watch this simple video.

StumbleUpon brand and the web application was recently redesigned to emphasize the importance of the user behaviour and experience. It’s CEO, Garett Camp announced that it is just as important to improve the Graphical User Interface with the advance web technologies behind the web application.

We realized we weren’t conveying the experience well enough through our visual appearance. The power of our technology is remarkable, but now we’re finally doing justice to that with a modern, slick front-end. Finally, our front-end is as good as our back-end. – Garett Camp, CEO, StumbleUpon

StumbeUpon website and the mobile apps are aimed at the users to be granular and elusive. Site’s content is more organized, navigational tools are more effective and more user friendly features are included in the new design aimed at increasing the level of user engagement.  It’s recommendation algorithms were improved to provide an extensive personlization service, whereby specific user behavior and preferences are analysed before displaying StumbleUpon content. As a result, accessing rich content on StumbleUpon have become efficient, focusing on the ‘search’ function over ‘structure. 

Furthermore, addressing the issues of desktop and online interactivity, StumbleUpon has replaced software-based browser toolbar with a widget frame, allowing the users the flexibility of not having to install a toolbar while using the application. Also having unified application features across all mobile apps and web interface, provides consistent functionality and convenience of usage. StumbleUpon has enabled such benefits through the effective use of smart web technologies such as AJAX, JQuery and HTML standards, creating more opportunities for a greater user experience.

As with any Rich Internet Application, there are drawbacks of using web as a platform where the applications are run on web browser windows and then communicated with the web/remote servers. Users are usually locked into one platform and applications are usually restricted by a web browser model except for mobile apps. Some RIA’s even require installations depending on the functionality which is often inconvenient and intrusive. Also a major drawback is that the lack of functionality and use when the computer is offline from the web restrict the users from accessing the application; hence providing a negative experience.



API (on)Star in vehicle mobility


Web 2.0 has a great creative history of  acronyms, pseudonyms and synonyms used to provide a greater insight into the processes of the semantic web. Among these lists, the acronym API stands out as one of the most valuable assets to the web, but goes unheard by a standard internet user. API – an Application Programming Interface, is a platform used by an application program to communicate and facilitate with other similar applications or programs. The web as we know has evolved from, links connecting one site to another to sites connecting through data and functionality embedded in API’s.

The dynamic growth of API’s since 2000 has allowed various web applications to create value simply by assembling them in a novel or effective way or as Tim O’reily defines it “Innovation in Assembly“. This creative assembly to increase the value of a service is much more common these days with integrating different applications and services. The basic idea behind this integration is known as ‘mashups’ where services or applications can be ‘mashed-up’ to improve the quality of the service, hence innovation in assembly.

OnStar Corporation

One of the most recent web applications to build an API to its business model, is OnStar Corporation which is a subsidiary of General Motors. OnStar is a subscription based vehicle communication system which also provides in-car security, navigation and remote vehicle diagnostics.

OnStar has been monitoring the mobile web traffic and trends quite closely to understand the use of mobile apps  in vehicle mobility. It was concluded that the number of mobile application will double by 2013, hence the need for an API to improve the value of the application service was highlighted. Consequently, OnStar announced its OnStar API for the creation of vehicle specific and vehicle safe apps for OnStar equipped vehicles.

OnStar is giving selected app developers access to its API for OnStar products and vehicles.
(Credit: OnStar/GM)
Read more

According to the CIO at OnStar, one of the major reasons to release an API to partner applications is to keep their customers connected to the business model in ways beyond their imagination. This platform would allow OnStar to build customer trust and loyalty, creating a vast community. The OnStar API would also help the corporation to understand  customer use and the remix of data services surrounding the applications for vehicle use. Two of the most popular partner applications to develop from the OnStar API are RelayRides and RemoteLink.


RelayRides is the first in line to develop an app that takes advantage of the newly opened API.
(Credit: OnStar/GM) Read more

RelayRides is a peer-to-peer car sharing (renting) service that allows vehicle owners to rent out their vehicles to anyone. RelayRides will utilize OnStar’s location awareness, navigation, in-car security systems and other remote features through the API. The OnStar API’s supporting platform will allow those renting vehicles through the RelayRides app to remotely lock and unlock the vehicle after the rental.


OnStar Remote link allow users to view real time data such as mileage, fuel in the gas tank, oil life and tire pressure of their vehicle, without being physically present. This creative, outside the box thinking has allowed OnStar to utilize it’s wireless services to control and manipulate vehicle data in new and innovative ways.

OnStar desires to further implement the innovation in assembly and provide advance services such as:

  • Automatic Crash Response
  • Stolen Vehicle Tracking
  • Advance Navigation
  • Roadside Assistance

The web has become an intermixed and a complex service provider to its users over the years, increasing the demand for API’s. Big organisations such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have developed more advanced API’s to harness the functionalities of multiple applications together. Although API’s consist of different features and functionality, it is fairly common for developers and business management to evolve business applications into lucrative business services. Consequently, more companies are implementing innovation in assembly to integrate the competition rather than competing with each other.



Data, the Google of Semantic Web

Data, a simple concept of numbers, words, codes, databases and information have become the central layer and the point of control within the internet economy. According to Tim O’Reily ‘Data is an Asset and it is the principal asset of competitive power“; hence coined the phrase ‘Data is the next Intel inside’. The Value of such data on the semantic web grows with its users and the content. As the value of user data increases, services are increased providing with more functionality interactivity, enhancing the core data. Typical examples of such services are Google Services, especially Google Analytics.

Various Web Services utilizing the power of data

Google Analytics is an expert web service that which tracks and stores data of every visitor to an individual specified. The complexity of data collected on Google Analytics range from how a user got to the site,  browsing data, geographical location, duration of the stay and the user browser compatibilities. This data is stored on Google’s own servers for easy access, speed and let users control their own data. Importance of data on Google Analytics is that it helps the website owners to make adjustments to web pages and marketing campaigns as well as analyse the entry points to the website.

Websites new visits benchmarked against similar industry

How does this Google Analytic data help out Web sites/businesses?

  • Tracking website revenue – the E-commerce module will provide the business with data such as revenue by channel, revenue by keyword, conversion rate, average order and other vital financial metrics that would support the revenue of a business
  • Effect on Search Engine Optimization  – Identify the keywords which brings in the most traffic and optimize keywords targeting a specific audience to increase the site traffic.
  • Compare historical data – websites are now able to compare seasonal and historical metrics on the site traffic. Comparisons of seasonal key words and traffic sources would allow a site to evaluate where its traffic come from and how to optimize such traffic sources.
  • Improve content with regards to bounce rate – Bounce rate is the percentage of entrances to a site that would result in visitors immediately leaving the site. A higher bounce rate would signify that the content in a certain page aren’t as effective as it could be; hence, improve the site content to increase the duration of a visit and earn a higher revenue.
  • Locate website errors – With Google Analytics website errors can be easily identified and rectified as a broken link or a page on a website would have a negative effect on the user experience, search engine optimization, and the overall revenue.

Challenges of utilizing large-scale data in Google Analytics

  • No direct control or access – Although Google Analytics provide a comprehensive analysis on the Website performance, it cannot be directly accessed through the site. However, it can be accessed through a user account through Google Analytics itself. Also the lack of control of the Analytics creates problems when the site choose to change to another analytics software. In such cases analytics data cannot be imported from Google but have to start from the beginning.
  • Disparities in statistics – Google Analytics have shown discrepancies between its statistics on traffic sources due to different JavaScript on browsers, robots crawling the sites and proxy servers.

Google VP, expressed that

“having access to large amounts of data is in many instances more important than creating great algorithms.”

Google Analytics is undoubtedly one of the most creative tools utilized by Google to harness the power of data to provide a complex business solution. A great reason behind the immense data collection by Google is that they recognize the principle of “Data is the next intel inside” and implement it into profitable applications. Data will be more valuable in the near future as more web applications are developed and the web businesses with most data will gain the competitive advantage.


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