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Few things are certain in today's crazy world but the weekend is one of them. So without further ado, here's this week's The Web Week in Review.
By now, only the most naive believe that the ongoing global financial crisis doesn't affect the technology industry. From online publishers to semiconductor manufacturers, there's no escaping today's economic reality.
When leaders of the G-20 nations convene in Washington D.C. today and tomorrow to discuss the crisis, it's all but certain that no "quick-fix" solutions will be discovered. But how well world leaders are able to come together could have an immediate impact on the market's perception of where the global economy is headed next and how bad things could get in the near-term.
Therefore, this is an event we should all be watching closely, even if the result is melodramatic and less satisfying than we would hope it to be.
With the flood of spam emails that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis, one might believe that the battle against spam relies on ever-improving technologies to separate "the wheat from the chaff" when it comes to incoming email.
Yet the shuttering of a California firm that security experts believe was a major provider of hosting services to wholesale spammers has apparently caused a dramatic decline in the amount of spam.
According to the Washington Post, "the volume of junk e-mail sent worldwide dropped drastically" after two internet providers cut off connectivity to McColo Corp.'s facility.
Spam monitor Spamcop.net says that spam levels fell from 40 spam emails per second to 10 per second following the disconnection while IronPort, a company that sells email security products, claimed a 66% drop in spam levels.
If accurate, there's probably no better an example of the fact that a handful of entities control a substantial portion of the spam business.
Of course, given that large-scale spammers capable of sending vast amounts of emails could theoretically earn $2 million annually with conversions of just 0.00001% according to some researchers, it's clear that the economics of spam will continue to encourage the activity.
How long McColo Corp.'s shuttering keeps spam levels down is unknown but in the meantime, if you've stopped receiving emails pitching the usual suspects, enjoy it while it lasts.
Microsoft has bet money on social networking darling Facebook but that doesn't mean that it isn't looking out for number one.
It announced this week that it is adding social networking features to its Windows Live web services.
Microsoft, which has hundreds of millions of registered users on its Hotmail and Messenger services, has yet to do anything "social" with them.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times:
"Microsoft plans to offer its users new ways to engage and share with friends online. They can assemble contact lists, set up networks of people and create news feeds that feature Twitter updates, Flickr photos, Yelp reviews and other popular online activities."
According to Windows Live general manager Brian Hall, Microsoft "is trying to create a central hub where people can interact easily."
Obviously, there's some logic behind this. Microsoft should look to leverage its users to the fullest extent possible and building a coherent portfolio of social features is an obvious way to try to accomplish this.
Yet I can't help but think "social networking" is so 2004.
While it's no surprise to me that more and more companies are making social functionality a part of the user experience, I question whether Microsoft (and Yahoo, which has similar ambitions) are really going to be successful.
The market for "social" services has become highly fragmented, with many of the most avid users of these services using multiple services (i.e. Facebook for social networking, Flickr for photo sharing, Digg for news, Twitter for microblogging, etc.).
While I think it often makes sense for content destinations to implement social functionality which enables users to interact around content, Microsoft really isn't such a destination and I think it's going to be difficult to interest most consumers in using Windows Live for anything more than Hotmail and Messenger. It may even turn off some of its users with its social additions.
At the end of the day, I think Microsoft (and Yahoo) have probably missed the boat when it comes to creating the type of "hubs" they seem to want to create. The MySpaces and Facebooks of the world have been there, done that.
Fortunately, that may not be so bad. When looking at the monetization woes faced by the biggest social networks, that boat may have been the Titanic.
According to ABI Research, there will be over 530 million smartphones with web browsers in 2013, up from 130 million today.
While I'm usually skeptical about such projections, the rising popularity of smartphones and the increased use of mobile devices to access the internet is not something I doubt. I see evidence of it on a daily basis.
The implications of this rising popularity and use is incredible.
As Marguerite Reardon of News.com reports:
"As wireless subscribers get more sophisticated about their Web surfing, they are looking for more freedom. They don't want the carrier-controlled, on-deck mobile Web experience available on earlier mobile phones. Instead, these users are looking to replicate the Web experience they have on their PC on their phones."
This, of course, will have an incredible impact on web publishers.
With more and more users accessing their websites from mobile devices like the iPhone, not having websites that render nicely in mobile browsers can put web publishers at a major disadvantage when competitors do.
While the growth of the mobile internet has been overhyped and previous projections have been exaggerated in many instances, the reality does appear to be that now is the time for web publishers to look at their mobile presence.
The absurdity of virtual worlds continues. Although I hope that this story is a parody even though multiple outlets have reported it, a Second Life housing crunch and a virtual world murder are apparently just the tip of the iceberg.
After a woman discovered her husband making sexy time with a virtual lover in the much-hyped virtual world, it is clear that everything that can happen in First Life is bound to happen in Second Life.
Unfortunately, what happens in Second Life doesn't stay in Second Life.
The woman, 28 year-old Amy Taylor, has filed for divorce from her husband, TechRadar UK reports.
According to Taylor, "It's cheating as far as I'm concerned."
While it is easy to dismiss such incidents as examples of the virtual insanity of today's society, even I will admit that the implications virtual worlds have on real-world relationships are real.
Are the "relationships" Second Life users have with each other "real"? Are these users bound by the same moral and social "rules" that govern real-world relationships?
Clearly, one former husband and wife did not see eye to eye on this one.