SitePoint Podcast #106: Don’t Be Kleenex
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SitePoint Podcast #106: Don’t Be Kleenex(MP3, 62.0MB, 1:04:36)
Here are the topics covered in this episode:
- MySpace’s decline
- Dreamhost’s downtime
- MySQL.com hacked
- A plea for baked weblogs
- Apple sues Amazon over “Appstore”
- Amazon Revokes and Restores API Access for Lendle
Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/106.
- Kevin: Don’t Make Me Steal: Digital Media Consumption Manifesto
- Patrick: Epic Rap Battles of History
- Stephan: Vimeo iPhone/iPad App
- Brad: Is HTML5 Ready Yet?
Kevin: And it’s Friday which means it’s podcast time, and we’ve got the whole gang together again, hey Brad, Patrick, Stephan.
Stephan: Howdy, howdy.
Kevin: We’re trying something a little new this week, usually we meticulously plan our stories in advance and we know what order we’re going to discuss them in, but we’ve decided to go blind this week just to see how it works because we’re going to surprise each other with our stories this week and we’ll see how this goes. So who wants to start?
Stephan: Brad, I vote for you.
Kevin: You vote for Brad, what have you got for us, Brad?
Brad: Well, why not. I actually brought a story that highlights MySpace which is probably not something we’ve talked about in a long time on this show.
Kevin: (Laughs) okay, we’re going retro.
Brad: Yeah, we’re definitely going retro, but it’s interesting because it’s a chart as well and everybody loves a good chart, but it was released an article that came out in the Wall Street Journal that showed essentially the advertising revenue on MySpace over the past five years. And I thought it was a really interesting chart in the way it starts in 2006; I actually wish it went back one more year, 2005, which is the year they got purchased, but it starts in 2006 and the ad revenue in 2006 which was just over 200 million looks to be maybe 220, 230 million; it doesn’t have exact numbers. It peaked in 2008 at 600 million, which is quite a bit of money, and for 2011 they’ve actually forecasted it’s going to be under 200 million, so within three short years it’s gone from almost 600 million to under 200 million. And I think what struck me, it’s not a surprise, I mean do any of you guys actively use MySpace anymore, I certainly don’t.
Patrick: No, I don’t, I don’t.
Brad: Yeah, so I don’t think the numbers are that surprising, but what I thought was interesting and kind of piqued my interest is that how can a site that’s so big, you know at one point MySpace was sitting on top of the world and they owned the social networking space, everybody had them, car commercials were advertising their MySpace page; how can you go from that to being something that is not even worth what they paid for from what people are estimating.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. Well, hang on, how much did they pay for it?
Brad: They paid, yeah; in July of 2005 it was purchased for 580 million.
Patrick: Well, if they took some money off the table they could’ve got that back, I mean I assume they were profitable.
Brad: It’s now being valued at around 50 to 200 million.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s hard to decide.
Patrick: Who knows? I was just saying the other day on Twitter that I would love to be given the reigns of MySpace.
Kevin: I remember back in the day with the SitePoint marketplace if you were selling a site on the SitePoint marketplace generally the benchmark was, correct me if I’m wrong here, it was like two years of revenue. So if you said my site is making $10,000 a year you could expect to sell it for roughly $20,000, all else being equal. So by that measure MySpace was sold at a very fair price, but you’re right, Patrick, we don’t know what they’re spending in costs.
Brad: I think so the question is this happened to MySpace, they were on top, do you guys think this could happen to Facebook or Twitter or even Google for that matter?
Kevin: Oh, the wheel turns, I think nothing’s forever on the Internet.
Stephan: I think it just proves that it’s how weak or how fragile this ecommerce online thing is, I mean it really is when you think about it; it took them three years to fall below their previous high, their ultra-high, that’s not that long in a business, you know, I don’t know, I think it proves fragility.
Kevin: When is the last time one of you visited a MySpace page? I have to admit I did it this morning.
Patrick: Yeah, I do it regularly I would say because a lot of — I mean there’s still — I mean people slam MySpace all the time. I was just at a presentation at South by Southwest and I mentioned MySpace and of course it’s like a joke in the tech space, so people giggle or whatever and I make some snarky remark, but then I said, you know what, MySpace gets more traffic than most everyone in this room combined, so as down as they may be there’s still something they can do here, and actually it’s funny that you brought this up because I mentioned on Twitter like a few days ago, I said, you know I wish someone would give me the helm of, or put me at the helm of MySpace, for a day, because it’s an interesting opportunity, I’d love to have the chance to turn them around, so to speak, and get them back to where they were before because I definitely think it’s possible, like you said, nothing is forever and that’s up or down.
Brad: There are actually, it’s sad to say, there are a few businesses around me that I go to that their website is still MySpace, and you go to it, and they’re places to eat, and you go to their MySpace page and they’ve literally scanned their menu and that’s all it is on MySpace, it cringes me to go there but they have such great food.
Patrick: Some clubs, some restaurants, musicians.
Kevin: I definitely still see bands all over MySpace, that’s the only reason I seem to go to MySpace anymore is because I want to — I’m thinking about buying the record, the digital album of a band, and I want to sample their music and I check out where is their website and, yeah, pretty often still indie bands have their website, quote/unquote, on MySpace, and that’s what happened this morning, I was checking out some music from I think it is Memphis which is the side project of the lead singer of Stars from Montreal.
Patrick: And to their credit, MySpace actually has, you know, they have a decent licensing deal in place with the labels so they stream full albums for just a ton of different artists, so if you want to listen to a full album legally there’s a good chance that MySpace can help you out. And I’m not saying they’re the only source of that, but they definitely played the music arena I think at least somewhat well.
Kevin: So what’s the story behind this graph? Obviously it peaks in 2008 and this year is the first year where it’s looking like revenue from advertising, which we can only assume is the bulk of their revenue —
Patrick: And it’s only U.S. also.
Kevin: — is going to be less than what it was when they purchased it, assuming the graph was about the same in 2005 as it is in 2006. So this is the first year where MySpace is not paying off as much as it did when it was purchased, that seems to me a pretty good investment, you know, you buy a site for roughly 500 million you said, Brad?
Brad: 580, yeah.
Kevin: 580, so you buy a site for that and you make, what, five years of consistent advertising revenue, seems to me probably the best you could hope from acquiring a social network these days, am I wrong?
Brad: I wouldn’t complain.
Patrick: No, I think you’re fine. And I mean not to put too much weight in Alexa, but Alexa says they’re the 40th most visited website in the U.S., and they’re also top 100 in various other countries as well like the UK, and like I said, this chart is only U.S. revenue so it’s unclear what maybe they did or are doing with other countries where they receive a substantial amount of traffic and that’s Canada, that’s Australia, they’re 74th most visited site in Australia, Italy, Germany and so on, so there’s more revenue to be made than just what’s on this chart.
Kevin: The stories we’ve heard coming out from behind the scenes of MySpace, the massive layoffs and stuff like that, when I weigh that along with this graph this starts to look like a bit like a pump and dump sort of situation where they acquired it in 2005, they pumped up the ad revenue to its bursting point in 2008, basically wrecked the site and the experience with ads, and since then it’s been on a steady slide into obscurity, is that too harsh?
Stephan: I don’t think they’re obscure I just think that they’re slowly falling by the wayside.
Patrick: I think Facebook entered at a good time, they were different enough, they kind of reigned in the controls that MySpace allowed you, not to say that MySpace gave you tons of control, but people obviously had customized pages a lot more than Facebook for better or for worse. And so Facebook sort of provided this controlled setup I would say, and I guess that’s what people wanted and that’s where they flocked, plus of course it’s not so much the design stuff for me anyway as Facebook just tying the technology in extremely well and just tying all aspects of your life into one relatively simple application, so I think that’s where it went to Facebook.
Kevin: The other brush with MySpace I had in the past week was to do with a DreamHost outage. Do any of you guys still host sites on DreamHost?
Patrick: No, sir.
Kevin: No? Have you ever used DreamHost?
Stephan: I believe I did a long time ago.
Brad: I’ve had a few clients on it but not personally.
Kevin: Yeah, well DreamHost, you know when I say DreamHost what do you think, what’s your impression of DreamHost from the outside?
Patrick: I have no impression really.
Brad: Cheap shared hosting (laughter).
Kevin: Cheap shared hosting, that’s about it. Yeah, SitePoint maintains a DreamHost account just when we need to chuck something up that is not mission critical, and in the past week we realized we mistakenly left the blog for Learnable.com our new site. Learnable.com itself, the site, the application, everything from the store right through to taking courses online, that’s all hosted on a modern Amazon EC2 cloud hosted stack, but the blog which was up during the whole closed beta program of the site, we ran that on DreamHost at the time because we thought you know what we haven’t launched yet, it’s probably not that important uptime and so forth, we can get away with just some cheap hosting and we’ll think about how we host this thing later. Well, that came back to bite us this week because DreamHost had a massive outage, and this is the second in the last month, and I know I expect a lot of our listeners are hosting, if only personal sites and I know a lot of web developers keep a DreamHost account to do their development on, so they develop live on a DreamHost account that only they know the address to, and then when they’re happy with the results they move it over to the proper hosting for their clients. And, yeah, just in the past week this is on the DreamHost Status Blog, DreamHost announced with seven hours to go, so in less than seven hours developers on the DreamHost platform had to prepare for an outage window, a maintenance window, you know, you’re used to these things if you’ve got a web host, they announce a maintenance window. But in this case it wasn’t exactly a window, they were just saying at 10:00p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, March 27th we’re going to do some network maintenance, we’re going to try to minimize the downtime that our customers see, but there may be some spotty performance for users around this time. What that ended up meaning was 50 minutes of complete downtime of the entire DreamHost network, every DreamHost hosted site, including DreamHost.com itself and the panel where you would log in to report support issues, were entirely down; the only thing that was up was this dreamhoststatus.com blog. And this is the long way around back to MySpace, but I mention this because the comment thread for that post about that outage became as you can imagine more and more outraged of people going you said this would just be a little spotty performance that you would minimize, your network’s been down for half an hour, you announced it not as a window but as a specific time, is there any time estimate on this getting done? And it went from outrage into silliness, and if you search that page for the word MySpace you’ll see a virtual argument between fake Steve Ballmer, fake Mark Zuckerberg and fake various heads of Google arguing about which social network is the best, as you could imagine a lot of web developers with too much time on their hands because their sites are down. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg saying “Steve Ballmer if you need any ideas look at MySpace, it worked for me” (laughter). Yeah, they were all there, see, everyone uses DreamHost.
Stephan: We could solve the world’s issues with DreamHost.
Kevin: Next story guys?
Stephan: So, probably some of the geeks out there know that MySQL.com and Sun.com were hacked just recently, just a couple days ago.
Kevin: I’m embarrassed to admit that this slipped under my radar; I think I was too busy following the DreamHost comment thread.
Stephan: (Laughs) well, InfoWorld has a pretty good analysis of what happened and they linked to some of the hacker conversations, so it’s fairly interesting because it was just a blind SQL injection, so basically a web form that they left open to the customer facing side that they didn’t have any kind of checks on, and they got access to all of the client information for MySQL.com.
Kevin: Zowie, so that’s all the commercial customers who have MySQL support contracts and stuff like that I suppose.
Stephan: Exactly. And so some of the people — and they got some of the MySQL employees’ usernames and ID’s and some of these people had like username Admin passwords of like four digits, so coming from the database company that’s supposed to know databases it’s kind of sad.
Brad: Yeah, I was going to say we’ve got to see a graph of most commonly used passwords, I think we saw that a few shows ago when we were talking about that website that was hacked.
Stephan: So apparently Sun.com was hacked as well, but they don’t know if it was the same injection method or what kind of information was gained access to, but it’s kind of, I don’t know, when a big-faluting company like Sun or I guess that’s Oracle now has these type of issues you think —
Brad: You’d think they’d know a thing or two about database protection.
Stephan: You’d think, right?
Kevin: So what is the actual, you know, the root cause here, because you see MySQL.com down you immediately leap to MySQL itself doesn’t know how to run a secure database. And the fact that there were passwords there available to be grabbed in plain text, part of that is a database design issue, but most of this it sounds like is a server-side coding issue.
Stephan: Yeah, it’s a web developer issue; I don’t think it was a database issue at all.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s nothing to do with the MySQL database itself, if you’re using MySQL on your website I don’t think you need to worry that the creators don’t know anything about security, your security that needs to protect you against this kind of stuff happens at the level of the PHP code you’re writing or the Ruby code you’re writing or whatever language you have between your web server and that database.
Brad: Gotta sanitize.
Brad: Lucky little Bobby Tables didn’t show up (laughter).
Stephan: I mean a lot of this stuff comes from when you write your queries or you leave your fields, you leave your input fields without being sanitized like Brad said, it’s like just little things that you would never think of if you weren’t a developer. I guess people that aren’t web developers, or maybe they’re designers, they don’t understand that there’s easy ways to inject things or select things from SQL if this stuff isn’t cleaned up, so.
Kevin: I want to kind of — maybe I’m being to generous here because I like MySQL and I used to be a Java developer so I have a soft spot for Sun as well, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that these sites, Sun.com and MySQL.com, these are sites that have been around since the dawn of server-side scripting, and I expect that these exploits were as a result of really old code written in really old PHP; I’m hoping this isn’t something that was written recently.
Stephan: Yeah, I mean I know I’m pretty sure I have code that’s from 2004 or something that I wrote that probably is not secure, so I should probably go back, this should be a wake up call.
Kevin: Don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy (laughs).
Stephan: This should be a wake up call to people, go back and look at your old code, especially if the site’s still in use, take a look at your code and see what you’re doing and maybe clean it up a bit.
Kevin: Yes, but I don’t think any one of us is MySQL.com to be fair.
Stephan: No, not at all.
Kevin: But I guess when you’re busy being acquired by Oracle and stuff like that maybe code security isn’t the top thing on your mind, this is possibly a symptom of the fact that MySQL as a company and Sun as a company, they aren’t the darlings of the tech world they used to be, they don’t have the money to spend on security audits and just maintaining old code, for example; I expect they’re very much in a let’s pinch pennies where we can sort of mode at the moment. I’m not hearing a lot of sympathy so I’m guessing there’s no excuse for this kind of thing.
Patrick: No, I think you’re being fair. Even if they have unlimited resources, you get a big enough website it just has to be one thing that’s off by a little bit to have something happen.
Brad: I would expect some type of QA process to inspect that stuff, if you’re pushing up new forms or whatever there should be, I’m assuming there probably is, certain levels that people have to signoff on and test and verify before it goes live.
Kevin: Yeah, I wonder if this is old code, I wonder if it just never made it through their current processes for security auditing.
Stephan: Or the guy fell asleep like the air traffic controller at Washington National Airport, it could be that.
Kevin: On a slightly related story, I think this is a good time to bring up my story which is a blog post by Brent Simmons, the author of NetNewsWire RSS Reader for the Mac; it used to be my favorite one for the Mac. As I’ve mentioned before on this show I’m currently using Reeder these days, but NetNewsWire is still an excellent piece of software for the Mac, and his blog post is a plea for baked weblogs. And I suppose as the author of an RSS reader app he is especially sensitive to performance issues with blogs, so sites that suddenly get a lot of traffic, you know Brad, I don’t need to tell you that out of the box WordPress does not perform very well under heavy load. What’s your recommendation for the best WordPress plugin to solve that these days?
Brad: Caching. I mean a lot of people don’t really think about it until it’s too late, you’ve got to set up good caching at the server level and at your website, you want to cache WordPress, like he mentions in the article, WP Super Cache, there’s W3 Total Cache, there are plugins out there to do it, but also on the server-side you want to look at Memcache, APC, things like that, there are a lot of things you can put in place, and this is probably one of the most common things we do when working with WordPress is optimize, because so many people start getting a lot of traffic and they don’t know what to do because their site really slows down if you get any decent amount of traffic, and that’s where caching comes into play.
Kevin: Right. So this blog is suggesting a technique that I had in one of the very last chapters of my book, Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP and MySQL, the very first edition of that one of the quote/unquote advanced techniques at the end was generating static pages from your dynamic PHP code. And at the time I said it’s easy to write a PHP page that does what you want, it’s a lot harder to write a PHP page that does what you want efficiently and quickly, and rather than try and solve all the performance problems with your code why not ask yourself do I really need to be generating these pages of my site dynamically on the fly in response to browser requests. Or maybe can I get away with static snapshots of those pages, could I make it so that whenever I change some content in the content management system of my site that triggers this heavy process that regenerates all of the static pages of my site and so that the pages that the browsers are actually landing on are just plain HTML files, the same way we’ve built web pages since 1991 or whenever it is you got started on the Web. So this is a new call for this old technique, and he points out software like WordPress that goes really out of its way, it requires you, like you say, Brad, to have a lot of server knowhow and know which plugins to install to get acceptable performance under load for your site, so why not do away with that server-side stuff that is running in response to every page request? What’s your reaction to this, Brad, do you think this could fly?
Brad: Yeah. I love it. I think it would solve a lot of problems and make things much easier, but you are going to run into issues, we’ve had this problem too where if you’re caching pages what if you want like a Twitter widget or your latest Twitter status on your website, if you’re caching you’re going to have maybe the last, you know, every 24 hours it’s going to update, or whatever it may be, so these are problems that you have to figure out ways around it. If you need it to be fresh like a Twitter update or something that’s going to happen multiple times throughout the day caching things like this is not going to work.
Stephan: I have two things to say. The first is I saw this technique used by someone I respect and I think he’s a cool guy, his name is Paul Stamatiou, he goes by Stammy and he has a website, and he uses a Ruby script called Jekyll on his website now and it generates static HTML files and he has a very nice long post on why he did this and how he did it and how pleased he is with it. So I think it’s really interesting, I think it’s a good idea, I think especially if you’re getting a lot of hits or you expect to get a lot of hits, the static files make a lot of sense because there’s no database calls, there’s no interruption of service unless your server just can’t handle it. So I really like that. The thing I don’t really like is that this isn’t something that could be done for say clients, I don’t think in an easy manner, unless there was a desktop application that really was a good word editor because what the blog post you posted, Kevin, says is that he’s using — if you go and click on his link how he does it, he’s using Textile or Markup in his post to get the look he wants, and I don’t think most people who are publishing, Brad, now you can correct me, most people who are publishing who are not techies know Textile or want to learn a new markup language to simply write a post. So I think that’s one downside I see, but if there was a text editor out there that converted bolding or things like that, if it converted it into Textile I say go for it, I think that it would be a great thing to have.
Kevin: Well, I would love to see a WordPress plugin, for example, that you still installed the WordPress software on your site, you still use the whole WordPress WYSIWYG editor and all of that to edit your content, but what the plugin did was maintain in response to all your edits a static version of your site’s content and then hid away the dynamic version, and so what you pointed your traffic at was that static version but you were still using the WordPress content management system to manage and edit your content.
Brad: Well, I mean that’s kind of what the caching plugins are doing, I mean they’re basically making static files on your server for each page or post or whatever you have for your whole site, and then if you go to update it, it wipes out the cache and recreates it, I don’t think it’s really enough.
Kevin: Yeah, true enough.
Brad: They’re not perfect by any means but it’s better than nothing, and that’s a tip I give a lot of people, like don’t wait until you get Fireballed or Dugg or Slashdotted, there’s nothing harder to do than set up caching when your site is getting slammed with traffic, it’s nearly impossible, and at that point it’s too late, you need to think about it before it happens, get something set up, anything is better than nothing, and that way if it happens you’re ready for it.
Kevin: With all the great changes that have made to WordPress lately I’m surprised they haven’t bundled in caching as a part of the core yet.
Brad: Yeah, that’s a discussion that I’ve seen crop up quite a bit, and I think the general consensus is it would essentially be over most people’s heads and most people wouldn’t use it.
Kevin: Wow, really?
Brad: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s — that could always change.
Patrick: In the post, in the blog post you mentioned, Kevin, there’s a link to being Fireballed where it’s at blog.23x.net, and that’s kind of where the inspiration for the post came from was this guy had tons of traffic all of a sudden, his server didn’t really handle it. Now there’s a question in the comment thread, someone asked out, “Why is WordPress by itself so inefficient at caching pages,” and Mark Jaquith, and Brad that’s like a WordPress core developer, right, Mark Jaquith?
Brad: Yeah, he’s one of the lead devs.
Patrick: Okay. He answered the question and he said, “WordPress is like that because it has to run on the least common denominator/APC x-cache or even a file system, someone mentioned some hosts don’t want you to use WP Super Cache probably because they have a distributed file system and all those file rights can go and mess things up, so I guess that’s kind of the general idea, and this is kind of an old comment, December 2009, but he mentions canonical plugins as well and plugins that are featured within WordPress, stay up-to-date and that it might be a plugin in that area. Has that happened, Brad?
Brad: No, it hasn’t. In fact, they were working on canonical plugins and I don’t think any have been released as far as I know, I could be wrong on that, but there certainly isn’t a caching one that I’ve seen.
Kevin: That’s a really interesting point, though, the need to run on the least common denominator, and that’s kind of a by-product of WordPress being built on PHP; PHP is known and its greatest strength is that it’s available everywhere, you can run it everywhere, and so if you’re going to build something like WordPress, a flagship piece of PHP software, you really do have to be very forgiving in what the environment is and, yeah, I supposed bundling in caching plugins that won’t work on all PHP configurations, or that might work on some where the host doesn’t want you to and just installing WordPress will get you banned by your web host as a result, it’s not really an option. I guess this is an argument for services like Page.ly that provide hosting tailored for WordPress, so it doesn’t just give you PHP hosting, it gives you PHP hosting with all of the bells and whistles that WordPress thrives on and in fact sets you up probably I would be very surprised if the Page.ly’s default WordPress installation didn’t have a caching plugin enabled on it, I’m sure it does.
Brad: Yeah, it does, it ships with WP Super Cache right out of the box.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. Alright, well, I know there’re probably one or two aficionados of Movable Type in the audience going “but Movable Type has always done this!” Movable Type is, we’ve spoken about it recently as the loser in the Movable Type versus WordPress war, but one of the things that Movable Type has always done has provided you the option to run in this “render to static” mode, and it’s interesting that I guess WordPress would have seen that feature in their rival and decided, ah, no, we don’t need that. Anyway, interesting food for thought, I’d love to see someone come out with a brand new blogging platform that was really focused around this idea of rendering to static; I think if you architect it from scratch to that you could probably build something pretty interesting these days.
Patrick: There you go, Kevin, that’s your next project.
Kevin: (Laughter) what have you got for us, Patrick?
Patrick: You may have heard that Amazon launched its Appstore for the Android platform recently last week, and Apple immediately filed a lawsuit targeted at the Appstore over the Appstore name, so if you’re thinking about developing anything that’s called an Appstore you may want to rethink that at least until this litigation works its way through the system. Basically Apple feels that Amazon is improperly using the app store mark in conjunction with a new mobile software store and developer web program and that consumers will be confused by their use of the mark and think that it is sponsored or approved by Apple. Apple has actually filed a trademark application for the name App Store which has been challenged by Microsoft who feel that the term is too blah, is too generic I should say, and that’s currently pending and will be reviewed by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, according to the IPlawblog.com most of Apple’s trademark infringement claims will rest on the proof that consumers are generally confused by Amazon and expect to receive products from Apple. So, what do you guys think, are you developing any App Stores?
Kevin: (Laughs) no App Stores going on here. There is the Google Web App Store though, isn’t there?
Patrick: Right. Do they call it Web App Store? Chrome Web Store, that’s what they call it.
Kevin: Ahhh, so they took the name ‘App’ out.
Patrick: And that’s part of Apple’s filing is actually they say in the filing that other companies in the industry have offered a variety of downloadable ringtones and games but that such companies brand their services with a variety of terms that bore no similarity to the term App Store, and that’s also according to the IPlawblog.com, it’s really straight up the use of the word App Store that bothers Apple.
Kevin: So what’s entirely different for me, because I’m a nitpicker by nature and frequently edit text, what stands out for me like a sore thumb is that Amazon calls their thing Appstore and Apple calls it App Store, and there’s a space in there whereas Amazon uses one word Appstore is one word for Amazon whereas with Apple it’s two words, and that’s night and day for me, there’s no confusion at all (laughs).
Brad: Microsoft’s going to use an underscore.
Kevin: Can you think of any reason why Amazon would have chosen that one-word spelling if not to avoid litigation by Apple, because it seems so awkward.
Patrick: That’s a good question. I can’t really think of a reason unless they have some sort of internal — I don’t even want to — I don’t know, I don’t know, like internal branding of how they view the word necessarily and they think well this should be one word, I don’t know, but yeah I think you make a good point that that might’ve been their intention, I don’t know if that was intention that really made a lot of sense, and I’m not surprised Apple’s filing a suit over this even though the trademark itself is obviously pending.
Kevin: Well, they were talking about this on MacBreak Weekly, the MacBreak Weekly Podcast last week over on the Twit Network, and they made the very good point that you can’t really fault Apple for filing litigation here because Apple is forced to defend its trademarks, that’s the way trademarks work, if they want to have any kind of ownership over the name App Store then they are forced to defend it any time something like this happens. So whether Amazon is vindicated or is forced to change their name here, the outcome doesn’t really matter so much as the fact that Apple stepped up to the plate and said we own this name App Store and we’re going to defend it. Now the courts may decide the one-word spelling is different enough or the fact that it’s Amazon’s Appstore for Android devices makes it different enough that there’s no confusion, and then Apple will have to go home empty-handed, but they will still own that trademark because they stepped up to the plate to defend it; if they didn’t show up the next people who came along who named their thing App Store with two words could just go, well, Amazon did it and you didn’t take them to court so your trademark is invalid, and that’s what Apple is probably most hoping to avoid at this point is a precedent.
Patrick: They could always license it but they don’t want to do that either I’m sure.
Kevin: Well, yeah, I’d be very surprised to see Amazon pay anything to Apple to license the name; I think they’d probably change the name first.
Patrick: Maybe they’d rather jump off the roof.
Kevin: It’s not that sexy, they ruined it with the — maybe it’s just me but this one-word spelling looks terrible. I could imagine if no one had ever called anything an App Store before and me marketing guy at Amazon got the brilliant idea that I was — we’re going to create this thing that’s called an App Store but to make it our own we’re going to make up our own new word and call it Appstore!
Patrick: Will you be happy when the AP Stylebook announces in about 27 years that Appstore’s actually one word, will that make you happy?
Kevin: (Laughs) no. No, I’ll take them to court!
Patrick: Yeah, I don’t know, the term to me seems pretty generic so I don’t know.
Kevin: It does.
Patrick: I mean I’ve seen App Store, I’ve seen people use the App Store name obviously not as big as Amazon so that’s why they’re probably not attracting attention, but like I’ve heard of a WordPress App Store, doesn’t that exist somewhere, Brad?
Brad: I’m not familiar with it but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Patrick: Yeah, I’ve seen WPplugins.com says they’re the WordPress App Store.
Kevin: Yeah, definitely. Like you see it was probably a misstep on Apple’s part to name it something so generic because they two words are very generic, App, it’s kind of more brand-y than application, but we’ve been saying apps for years, the killer app for this new operating system or this new platform or something like that, so the word app has been in the vocabulary for a long time, store is as generic as it gets if you’re selling stuff. So, yeah, App Store probably not a good move; you look at people like Google who they make up their own word, Google, I mean it was an obscure math term with a different spelling, but they changed the spelling, the pick this word that hopefully meant nothing to the vast majority of people out there, and to this day they continue to try to encourage people to think of Google as their site, their brand, not a generic action, so when you hear people out there saying I’m going to Google you or I’m going to Google that, and it’s clear that they’re not necessarily talking about using the Google trademark search engine to do it, Google gets a little shifty. I wish I had the link in front of me right now, but they did a blog post roughly five years ago now I think where it felt like they were being a little defensive about this very issue where they said let’s all remember that Googling means going to Google.com and typing in a search, it doesn’t mean going to one of our competitors and typing in a search, that’s not Googling at all! But all of this maneuvering is all around — it’s all because of the way trademark law works, specifically in the United States because these are all U.S. companies.
Stephan: Basically Apple doesn’t want App Store to become the new Kleenex.
Kevin: Yes, exactly.
Stephan: That is what’s happening.
Patrick: I don’t know; I kind of think that it’ll fall through, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that Apple didn’t give it a specific name depending on how they view it. You have the Amazon Kindle, right, because that’s a product and Kindle is a name that has been trademarked so that they own that, whereas with Amazon’s MP3 Store, for example, you have Amazon MP3, so they can’t claim MP3 in this case but they’re still Amazon, so I think that’s the kind of thing we’re looking at here is it’s Apple App Store and I think that’s what Apple’s going to have to accept in the end because they didn’t seek to brand it as a sort of own product within the company like iMac or iPod or iPad, and you know maybe that’s not such a bad thing, maybe it would be less understandable if it were branded as anything other than an application store.
Stephan: What you’re saying Patrick is its too generic, like the name App Store is just too generic, right?
Patrick: I’m saying the name is maybe generic but also descriptive, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing; if they had tried to brand it as some sort of unique thing I don’t even want to guess, I mean they could’ve maybe tried iStore or something but I don’t know if that would’ve flew, but my point is that by calling App Store they’re being clear about what it is and they will not be able to protect that maybe, but maybe they’ll get more sales because more people understand what the heck it is in the first place.
Brad: It’s apps, I mean all these phones have apps, if I’m sitting next to one of my buddies that has an Android and another buddy that has a Blackberry I’m going to say, hey, what apps you have installed on there and they’re going to know exactly what I’m talking about whether they call them apps or not; I think it already has turned into that kind of generic label, an app is an app.
Stephan: And you’ll get a cease and desist letter from Apple (laughter).
Kevin: Alright, you said you had two stories, Patrick, what’s your next one?
Patrick: So my second story is related to Amazon unintentionally but do any of you have an Amazon Kindle or use the Kindle service, I forgot?
Stephan: I have a Kindle.
Kevin: I have a Kindle that went out of use when I got an iPad and I passed it on to my girlfriend who used it to read one book and now it sits on our bedside table devoid of charge.
Patrick: So, Stephan, do you take advantage of the lending feature at all?
Stephan: Yeah, I’ve used Lendle a little bit.
Patrick: Okay, well then this is right up your alley then. Did you notice when Lendle shut down recently?
Stephan: Yeah, it really — when they did it I was in the process of getting a book.
Patrick: Okay, so that’s my story is on March 21st Lendle received an email from Amazon.com saying that they had revoked their API access and that they had done so along with Associates account which is the Amazon affiliate program because Lendle “Did not serve the principle purpose of driving sales on products and services on the Amazon site.” Lendle took exception to this and wrote a blog post about it among other things saying that you can’t borrow if you don’t lend and you can’t lend if you don’t buy. The next day, March 22nd, they received another email from Amazon after trying to reach out to the various addresses they could locate saying that as long as they disabled a particular feature called the Book Sync Tool, which syncs user’s Kindle books with their Lendle account, Amazon would restore their API access as well as their Amazon Associate’s account, Lendle complied and Amazon gave them access to their API again and I guess their app is working and everyone is back to lending books with the service, even you, Stephan, did you get your book?
Stephan: Yeah, I got my book.
Brad: So, real quick, for the non-Kindle guy in the room what is Lendle, I don’t know what Lendle is.
Stephan: I was just going to say it’s a lending service basically, it’s a third party that allows you to lend books because now on the Kindle you can lend between two users and you get that book for I think it’s 14 days when you lend it to someone, and so now rather than you having to go find someone that wants this book or a book you want this service basically does it for you.
Kevin: So it’s like a matchmaking service, I want to read book X, find someone out there who’s willing to lend it to me.
Patrick: So it’s kind of like a social network even on top of lending kinda sorta. And you have to be willing to lend in order to receive, is that correct?
Stephan: That is correct, yes, you have to lend to get books.
Kevin: I guess when the lending feature first came out on the Kindle I think a lot of people imagined this sort of application, you know, Amazon goes well, look, we’ve got good news, you buy a Kindle and you can lend, you can temporarily lend any of the books you buy to your family and your friends, and every web API nerd out there goes, ha, ha, family and friends, wait till we open it up to the whole world, no one will have to pay for a book ever again or you’ll have to just buy one, you know, I could see someone buying a book that they don’t even intend to read just because it is the most popular requested book on Lendle right now so that they can lend it out to lots and lots of people and get all the books they actually want to read for free.
Patrick: But there are restrictions on the program.
Kevin: There’re restrictions?
Stephan: I believe you have to lend — you can only lend one book at a time, like you can only receive one and have one out at a time, and then you only have it for 14 days and the person you lend your book to will only have it for 14 days and then it’s automatically returned to your Kindle, and during that time you can’t read the book that you’ve lent out.
Kevin: So those are limitations of the Kindle lending feature itself.
Patrick: And also lending an enabled book can only be lent out once ever, once you lend it out once you cannot lend it out again, that’s according to Lendle.
Kevin: Really, wow. So that is very like I would say Lendle has gone out of its way not to offend Amazon here.
Patrick: That’s an Amazon restriction too, though, that’s an Amazon restriction on the service, I mean you physically cannot lend a book more than once at all regardless of what an app allows you to do.
Kevin: Wow! See I could see not lending it to the same person more than once because Amazon wants you to have it for 14 days not have time to read it and then have to buy it yourself, but only being able to lend it to anyone once, wow, that’s really, really stingy.
Stephan: So basically if you’re wanting to lend the book to someone you know you don’t want to put it on the service.
Kevin: Right, yeah, exactly.
Stephan: Because once someone takes it then you’re not going to be able to ever lend it to someone that you actually want to lend it to.
Kevin: But even with these restrictions if you are a speedy reader and you can get through a book in 14 days, which I think serious readers who actually use their Kindle probably are, then this is a buy one get one free program for your Kindle, right?
Kevin: You buy a book as long as it’s popular enough that someone out there wants to borrow it you’re going to get another book for free to read.
Brad: For 14 days.
Kevin: So, okay, Kindle’s been pretty tight with its limitations here, but nevertheless I think Lendle was doing the right thing, they were abiding by all the restrictions, and Amazon’s reasons for shutting them down seem particularly, I’m looking for a word other than evil, but evil’s the only thing that comes to mind. You can only use our API to, quote, “serve the principle purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site,” unquote. That’s not the spirit of Web 2.0 here.
Stephan: It seems to me here that it’s counterintuitive to what the service was originally meant to be, right, I mean now it’s turned into this it’s basically here go buy something from Amazon even though we’re not affiliated with Amazon. And, I don’t know, it’s kind of frustrating so I don’t even know if I’m going to still use it.
Kevin: Well, yeah, this removal of the book sync feature is particularly weird to me, so correct me if I’m wrong, Stephan, but this book sync feature made it so that any book you bought on your Kindle automatically appeared in your Lendle account.
Stephan: Yes, yes. You had to sync it up but it did show up.
Kevin: So you didn’t have to log in to Lendle and say, look, I have The Da Vinci Code available to lend, it would just know it because you had bought that on Amazon, but now Amazon’s saying yeah that’s no good, we need you to take that out, so now Lendle users need to go in and manually add their list of books that they’re making available to lend.
Stephan: Yep. They pretty much have to go type it in, search for it and then find the books.
Kevin: So whose interest does this serve? I mean it’s a minor roadblock to people who are actually going to use this service, it’s an annoyance really, so it does not prevent, you know, it doesn’t save anyone at Amazon from anything except it creates friction and annoyance for the users of Lendle, it’s like yeah you can use our API unless you build something good with it in which case we’re going to make you make it crap.
Stephan: I mean if you think about it some of these books aren’t even lendable, you can’t lend them out anyway because of publisher has put restrictions on the book. So, I mean it’s kind of — it’s a convoluted system and it’s kind of like now I put my wife’s Kindle under my account so we can share books unlimitedly — unlimitedly, that’s a new word, we can share books back and forth without limit, so if she wants my book I just say send it to hers because we’re on the same account, it doesn’t care how many devices its on.
Kevin: So these features like sharing and stuff, they’re intended to recreate the experience of owning a physical book to some extent in the digital realm, and they’re intended to be there to help people embrace this new format of books that doesn’t require dead trees to work, but every time Amazon makes a change or enforces a rule or something like this that makes these features more difficult to use it just seems like they’re shooting themselves in the foot. What are people going to do, they’re going to go and pirate your books is what they’re going to do, and this is actually related to my spotlight, so maybe it’s a good time for that unless anyone has any other stories let’s dive into host spotlights, guys. Because I was just ranting about my spotlight, my spotlight is a site called dontmakemesteal.com, and this is the Digital Media Consumption Manifesto, and I’m not usually one for manifestos, this is possibly the first thing labeled manifesto that I have thought isn’t completely up itself, but this is a list of five criteria and you can sign a promise on this page. If you come to this page you can say I promise never to illegally download a movie, and you can substitute in TV show or Amazon book here if you like, I promise never to illegally download a digital product if there was legal alternative following the criteria on this page, and then it’s just a list of five things that the authors, the contributing authors to this site, figure are fair and reasonable things to ask of your digital media. First of all, reasonable pricing, so as long as the company trying to sell you this digital movie or digital book or whatever is not gouging you, which means things like rentals should not exceed 1/3 of the price of going to see the thing at the movies, purchases should not exceed the price of going to see it at the movies, all this sort of stuff, these very reasonable sort of requirements for pricing, and there’re similar requirements for things like languages; if they movie has a French subtitle track don’t take it away from me and then try and charge me extra for it or make me buy a separate version of it to get access to it, just put it in there. Similar things for convenience, choice and release dates, and rights, number five, is probably the biggest sticking point for most people trying to sell content online, and this is probably the one that services that otherwise pass all of these tests are probably going to fall down on number five because a lot of places still put DRM. I congratulate Apple, for example, for taking DRM off of all of the songs in the iTunes Music Store, but the reality is they’re still putting DRM on all of their TV shows and movies that they sell which is why it doesn’t satisfy the criteria in this thing. So I’ve signed this manifesto, what do you guys think, is it signing worthy?
Brad: I see a big loophole here with number one, and that is all the pricing is based off cinema price, so why not just triple the price to go to the cinema and then they can jack up the price of the whole movie.
Kevin: Well played.
Brad: Call me a cynic, no, I think overall I like it, I mean I think all these I could agree with and I think it’s something that everyone would agree is fair on both sides. It’s just that it’s such a pain to buy media these days because there are so many stipulations and it’s such a hassle to watch certain things, you know.
Kevin: Yeah, you can buy your digital book from Amazon, but you can only lend it to people you know, actually you can lend it to people you don’t know as well but only if the fact that you have it to lend isn’t automatically synced to the site, you can manually sync it to the site but not automatically, isn’t that clear?
Stephan: And you can only do it once because with a regular book, you know, because when you get it back it self-destructs.
Patrick: When I started typing this in it was already in my browser history and it made me realize we talked about it on the Copyright 2.0 show, and which is another podcast I host and I have to say in general I like some of the stuff here, but I have an — it makes me feel unseemly kind of, the ultimatum nature of this, as if stealing is really a legitimate choice and in my view it’s not. So, I make a point to buy the things that I enjoy and consume, and so I kind of take issue with that, with presenting that really as a legitimate choice, I think there’s a sense of entitlement there that is unfortunate and so I could not really get behind such an effort. I think the listed items here are in general okay, I think some of the pricing things are a little too stringent, this is a business, I’m a supporter of capitalism, I believe in kind of the freedom of pricing your items and then the freedom of not buying those items if they’re too expensive. So I kind of would rather let market forces play that out and not be dictated to, and there are a couple things in here that are kind of unreasonable and shortsighted such as the release date is global, there are no limits for it in the country I live in, that’s harder to do than you might think, and it would take a lot of different things to come together for that to happen.
Kevin: Is it really? So, I want to talk about those.
Patrick: I think so. Think about all the countries throughout the world that have to be serviced through media, how to get everything to them on one specific date; if it was so simple it would already be done.
Kevin: But it seems, first of all I want to go back to your point on the unseemliness of this because when I Tweeted this site I got a similar reply from Twitter user Derek Johnson who says, “I disagree with the premise, studios shouldn’t make you steal or not steal, your morals should.” And I kind of see that point because, yeah, the unspoken assumption here is I’m going to get your content, as long as I have the money to pay for your content it’s up to you to earn it otherwise I’m going to steal your stuff (laughter), you know, like you say it’s a sense of entitlement, I’m going to get your movie whether I pay for it or not, make it worth my while to pay it, which I think yeah that is quite a — probably a bit of a stretch. If this site were labeled, I don’t know, what’s an alternative title for this site that would get past that? Well, yeah, yeah, I’m thinking like let me buy your stuff would be one.
Patrick: Sure, that’d be a little more positive one.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. But the global release date I really have to disagree with you, Patrick, because first of all we are talking about digital media here, and so anything that limits products availability is something that has to be built on top of it because as soon as you release something on the Web it is global by default, and any efforts you take to limit its release globally is something you have to build extra. Am I wrong?
Patrick: With certain types of content I would say it’s easy to be global. With certain types of content it’s not. I would like to see it happen, but I think that using it as a contingency as to whether I will pay for your service or not is, again, I think strange. And so I think the pricing, reasonable prices are understandable, I think there’re some good points here, again, but the whole kind of thing strikes me as a little creepy, that’s just me though.
Kevin: My summary of it though, which I posted on Twitter and which I stand by, is that any service that sold movies, books, TV shows, music, that managed to do all five of these things would get a lot of my money. Principles aside, stealing aside, if you did all these things you’d get a lot of my money.
Patrick: If you don’t have every movie ever made then I will not spend a dime on my movies ever because that makes a lot of sense.
Stephan: But if I can rent a TV show, and I don’t — or own a TV show, if you let me buy the TV show for $2.99 or something I would probably jump on that; instead of Apple’s model of well you get the show for, you know, as soon as you start watching it you have 24 hours to watch it, sometimes I have to stop watching what I’m doing and I have to actually do some work or something and 24 hours sometimes isn’t enough time.
Kevin: Well, you can buy TV shows from Apple but they come with the DRM on them.
Stephan: Yeah, and they’re expensive. Or, give it to me for free with the commercials in it, I’d still, I’d watch the commercials.
Kevin: Well, that’s the Hulu model, right?
Stephan: Yeah, or Hulu Plus, I guess they have less commercials now.
Kevin: Alright, that was a really long spotlight, sorry about that, guys. Who wants to go next?
Patrick: My spotlight is Epic Rap Battles of History. This is from the YouTube channel of nicepeter, and there’s a playlist on there for epic rap and the history, extremely well produced, a funny series of videos pairing unlikely competitors against each other in a rap battle. The videos range from two million to eight million views and feature such pairings as Justin Bieber versus Beethoven and John Lennon versus Bill O’Reilly. And I have to say that it’s not safe at work necessarily because there is some cursing in here, some vulgarity, so bear that in mind, but if you can get past that it’s really hilarious.
Kevin: Excellent. Some good afternoon viewing there. Vader versus Hitler.
Stephan: It is a little not okay for kids under a certain age.
Kevin: So what are these actors impersonating these people in a rap battle?
Patrick: The person whose channel it is, is nicepeter, he’s in some of them, and then sometimes he has other people playing some of the other people that are in the video, so it’s not always him, it’s not just him, it’s kind of a cast of different people and they’re really well produced, it’s not like two guys staring into a webcam, I mean there’s some quality to this production and it takes them I don’t even want to guess how long they do, I think they want to do two a month now and previously they’ve been doing them at a much slower rate; because of the popularity they’re going to put more out, and they take the suggestions for the pairings from the comments of the videos, so someone actually suggested Bieber versus Beethoven for example.
Kevin: Excellent. Alright, Stephan, what have you got?
Stephan: So, I don’t know, it’s kind of a departure from web development or anything, but it’s the Vimeo staff have released an iPhone app which excites me a lot because I really like Vimeo’s content, and so you can actually edit and record video in this thing and upload it and it’s really cool, so it’s free from what I can tell, I haven’t downloaded it yet but the intro video for it and stuff is really cool, and you can actually download videos that you want to watch later. So if I see something I like I might download it and take it with me on the plane and watch it later which is awesome.
Kevin: It’s a very slick app as well; it’s just what I would expect from Vimeo. You know when someone sends me a video link and its encoded as like a shortened URL I always kind of hold my breath a little to see if I’m going to land on YouTube or Vimeo, and whenever it’s a Vimeo link I kind of go, ahhh, that’s nice. Alright, last but not least, Brad, what have you got?
Brad: Yeah, I have a fun little website, it is called ishtml5readyyet.com, and just like you would expect it has a big NO at the top of it, no it’s not ready, but it has a fun countdown to the official date when the HTML 5 specification is final which is three years and X amount of days away, it’s kind of neat. But there’s actually another part to this, if you view source in the code itself the author has kind of laced the code with some funny kind of snarky comments throughout it, and he actually even has some HTML 5 resources in the source as well, so it’s a fun little site.
Kevin: Very cool, yes. So this is the latest in a long tradition of question URL’s like this from developers. I think the first one I’ve heard of is canrailsscale.com which is just a blank page with NO in the middle of it. But usually it’s funny, it’s like these are tongue-in-cheek things that the point the developer was trying to make was that, yes, Rails can scale, but he’s so tired of explaining it that it’s easier just to say no, no it doesn’t, go away, run along, we’re happy using Rails. So similarly I think that point that’s being made here is that according to this countdown timer there’s still three years and ten days until HTML5 is ready, so if you’re looking for a one-word answer the answer is no, go away, but the answer is actually yes because this page is built in HTML5, and if you know what you’re doing, if you know what parts to use and not to use HTML5 is ready for primetime today, but it takes a little longer to explain that, so the answer you’re looking for is no. Alright, thank you for your spotlights guys, that was excellent, and yes this show has been massive. It seems like when we don’t plan our stories ahead of time we have a lot more to talk about. Thanks again for listening to the SitePoint Podcast, let’s go around the table guys.
Brad: I’m Brad Williams, Webdevstudios.com and you can track me down on Twitter @williamsba.
Patrick: I am Patrick O’Keefe of the iFroggy Network, ifroggy.com, I blog at managingcommunities.com and on Twitter @ifroggy.
Stephan: I’m Stephan Segraves, I blog at badice.com and you can find me on Twitter @ssegraves.
Kevin: You can follow me on Twitter @sentience and follow SitePoint @sitepointdotcom, that’s SitePoint d-o-t-c-o-m. Visit us at sitepoint.com/podcast to leave comments on this show and to subscribe to receive every show automatically. The SitePoint Podcast is produced by Carl Longnecker and I’m Kevin Yank, thanks for listening, bye, bye.
Theme music by Mike Mella.
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