A new era on the web?

There has been a lot of hype created around the Wolfram/Alpha search engine – brain-child of Stephen Wolfram, inventor and academic. The promise is that the Wolfram/Alpha search engine will provide answers not just links to articles which might provide answers. Will it work? The site is not generally available but Wolfram did showcase his new baby at Harvard University the other day. The new search engine has been called, predictably enough, a Google-killer and Google does seem to have been rattled enough to release it’s own new approach to structured data to coincide with the briefing.   The verdict, though, was mixed. This, from ZDnet was typical. I do think, however, that we are about to see another lurch forward toward the web of data. Watch this space.

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The roots of innovation

For some reason I’ve found myself reading E H Gombrich’s A Little History of the World and I was struck by this particular passage on the ascendency of the Greeks:

Now unlike the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Assyrians, these noblemen weren’t interested in preserving the ways of their ancestors. Their many raids and battles with foreign people had opened their eyes and taught them to relish variety and change. And it was at this point, and in this part of the world, that history began to progress at a much greater speed, because people no longer believed that the old ways were best. From now on things were constantly changing.

There you have it: the birth of the innovation culture.

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End of an era at ITV – at last

I was reading The Observer’s story this morning about how ITV mishandled the opportunity from Susan Boyle’s video. The thrust of the piece was that the video in all its forms – on YouTube, ITV.com or on the BBC – was now over 100 million views and rising and yet ITV has failed to capitalise fully from advertising potential around the global phenomenon. The reason? It has been unable to negotiate a suitable deal with Google, according to the article…

Part of ITV’s reluctance to agree a deal with YouTube could be because it wants to maintain the traffic to its own website. There is also speculation that it is trying to strike too hard a deal, using Boyle’s unique position as a bargaining tool for a better share.

Another explanation could be ITV chief executive Michael Grade’s public loathing of YouTube, which he has branded a “parasite” living off TV shows and content created by the commercial broadcaster.

Last week Michael Grade announced he was standing down as CEO of the stricken broadcaster. It occurred to me that this was probably the end of an era. There was a time when the gifted superstars of broadcasting could be relied upon to ride to the rescue of TV channels which had lost their footing. Grade’s departure after less than two years, proves that is no longer the case.

The internet moves very fast and success happens wherever it happens; ITV’s response to the Susan Boyle phenomenon seems to have been 1. to be have completely taken by surprise by the speed of events and 2. determined to stake their claim to what was there’s “by rights” – i.e. a sizeable share of any advertising spoils and exclusive rights to the traffic. ITV, headed by Grade, just don’t understand the internet (consider Friends Reunited which had an enviable head-start in the UK social networking space and has now been put up for sale.) Maybe a change of managerial outlook will serve the broadcaster better?

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