Twitter used Twitter clients to grow and then combined their innovations and traffic with its own and dumped their clients. Awful but legal. I invested in one, Seesmic and lost my investment. Google used the Internet as a whole to grow and now it is evolving from a search engine to an answer provider. Weather, flights, Wikipedia type info, many searches are now not linked by Google but answered by Google. As a result sites that helped build Google are now losing traffic.  People don’t just start at Google, they now start and end at Google. Google is not happy anymore with organizing the world’s information, it wants to provide it. The US antitrust authorities are fine with this.  The EU not so, and is looking into this as a possible abuse of monopoly power.  The Economist this week has an article exactly on this issue and the view of many German companies.  One of them is Axel Springer whose board I serve on.  But then Google is also on my board at Fon. So in terms of disclosures I am somewhere in between. I also know both sides of the argument well.

google_ap_imgPersonally I am hesitant on what the EU should do.  On one side Google built a de facto monopoly on search by linking to everyone else more accurately than others.  At that Google did an awesome job. Other search engines died or lost market share because Google is just better.  But is it fair to grow via say, Kayak or Expedia, and then replace them with your own flight search engine that comes as the top result even when it is not the top destination? This move certainly hurts Kayak and Expedia, but does it hurt consumers?  Monopolies are broken up because they hurt consumers. It is hard to argue that Google is hurting consumers by providing its answers directly and going to the same suppliers as Kayak and Expedia to get the information.  Especially when people prefer to get an answer rather than clicking again on a second link.  But aside from what is fair, one thing is clear: if you built a business by receiving traffic from Google you should rethink your strategy or you will end up like a Twitter client.  Aware of this, one company took a radical step and so far it paid off: Facebook. It stopped Google from searching it. It closed its content to Google’s “crawlers”. Unfortunately Facebook hasn’t come up with a good search engine itself, and finding whatever you once wrote on Facebook is almost impossible.  So as a consumer I wish I could search my Facebook as easy as I search my Gmail, or the Internet as a whole.

And as far as being a monopoly, to me monopoly is something like Time Warner Cable, if you live in NYC and want Cable TV there’s no other choice than Time Warner Cable. Search engines? There are others. Yahoo, Bing. Google is where it is not because somebody gave them a franchise, but because of how good it is, a position that Google has to defend every day. Would I watch Google if I was a regulator? For sure.  Would I stop them? Only if there is harm to consumers.

(Photo credit: The Nation)

scottishindependenceAs I read that Scotland may become independent in 11 days, I realize that the English and the Castilians kingdoms have had a similar historical fate. Both first conquered, annexed or joined together nearby kingdoms and territories (via treaties/marriages) and became what is now Spain and UK. After that was accomplished, both then went overseas to conquer a remarkable chunk of the world. As a result English and Castilian Spanish became the two largest Western languages. So these two very small nations, the English and the Castilians had at one point incredible empires with what today would be half a billion people (Castilians) and over a billion people (England). In the late 1700s, and mostly during the 1800s and some remains in the 1900s, these colonial empires fell apart, to the point that what remained of the former glory was the original core Kingdoms of what today is UK and Spain.

But now, over 200 years after key colonies were lost, the early nearby unions, Scotland and Catalonia, may also become independent. Five or more centuries later the mighty kingdoms may go back to their humble origins. Why have the Germans have had such a tendency for reunification, and the British and Spaniards for fragmentation, could be the subject of many books. Probably it has something to do between what is seen as a union of equals vs an imposed culture. Or maybe it is a perception by the Scots and the Catalans of economic benefits to be obtained via independence. But whatever the motivations are, reality is that as of today, half of the Scottish want out and may get out of the UK on September 18th and a similar percentage of Catalans seem to want out. I am not sure how long the Kingdom of Spain will stay together under the framework of the 1978 Constitution. Personally, union or independence in both countries is fine with me, I can see both sides of the arguments. But what is not fine is to keep people in a union they don’t want. Better to vote and see.

In the case of Catalonia, if there is a referendum, I would hope that it goes beyond a yes or no for independence. What is needed is a previous negotiation that would give more clarity to voters on key issues such as, would Catalonia be in the Euro or out, in the EU or out, what part of the Spanish national debt would it take with it, would it vote as a whole for independence or per province (if Spain is divisible, so should be Catalonia) and so on. I am in favor of a referendum in both cases, but with very clear visibility of what yes or no means the day after.

(Photo credit: The Telegraph)

As you probably know, we have now begun shipping the Gramofon. After the amazing support we received when it was introduced on Kickstarter, we are now delivering the first units. Gramofon, as it is today, is a product for residential users who want to become Fon members, a product that improves their home WiFi coverage and of course, allows them to listen to their favorite online music on their existing stereo.

Free wifi sign, cafe, The Hague, Netherlands. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.Today the good news are that in parallel we have also been working on a new flavor of Fon WiFi, that we are launching in Beta: WiFi for Business. It is a solution for small and medium businesses, whose owners want to give WiFi to their guests in the best possible way. We want to get rid of places that say “Free WiFi here” and then, when you want to get access, you need to ask for a complicated password written down somewhere on a piece of paper. And that is if you’re lucky! If you’re unlucky, they might not even remember the password. And others may just leave their personal WiFi signal open, putting their security at risk.

With WiFi for Business every store can offer WiFi in a professional and secure way. It’s a fully customizable solution in which the owner of the place can easily design the look and feel of the guests’ WiFi experience and decide how many minutes or hours guests are allowed to surf for free. They can also publish special offers on their WiFi landing page or gain followers advertising their Facebook page. All in the merchant’s hands!

Guests can easily log in with Facebook or with a Fon account, allowing merchants to understand visitor demographics and compare between different locations. Of course this information is shared only with explicit consent from the user.

WiFi for Business is tailor-made for every business: bars, restaurants, dental offices, hairdressers, car repair shops, offices… every place where people come and wait!

Starting today in Beta, WiFi for Business is available through the new Fonera for Business. This router can be purchased at our shop at a special launch price. Soon, our telco partners will also distribute the solution to their business subscribers the same way Fon is rolled out to residential subscribers: embedded into their existing WiFi routers.

I expect that the “age of WiFi passwords on a piece of paper” is coming to an end, and I think that our WiFi for Business will be a big part of this trend.

(Photo: The Guardian)

zune-hd-facebook-twitter-featuredLately Facebook is trying to be more like Twitter and succeeding. And there’s good reason for that.

Before Facebook, it was you telling your friends what you are up to, and them doing the same, mostly in writing or via photos. This had a problem that for some “Murphy’s law of Facebook”, those who you cared about the most, posted the least and those who you wanted to learn from the most, were silent. On top of that, Facebook had the “toddler challenge”. Toddlers don’t make friends because they want lots of attention, but can’t give attention. Facebook became a community of attention seekers. Twitter saw this. And what Twitter did to escape this problem is to do away with “befriending” and start an asymmetrical platform from the ground up. A community that by design accepts the reality that talent is unevenly distributed. Twitter killed reciprocity and allowed a few people to lead over many others, those who were truly interested Twitter rewarded with an audience. Facebook then saw a successful formula in Twitter and partly copied it allowing those who generate interest to have followers as well. But that was a secondary feature and Facebook could never give up being a friendship platform, a symmetrical platform of personal news. A platform in which everyone is supposed to generate similar levels of interest. But lately as it became clear that that wasn’t the case, Facebook brought in more Twitter-like elements. Especially media. The latest are “trending articles” for you to follow important media events, and “related articles” a feature which also drives you towards media. These new features were so successful that many media publications now, such as Business Insider, Wired and others, get more traffic from Facebook than from Google. Facebook’s evolution from friends only, to followers and friends, and now to friends, followers and media is working and is making people spend more and more time on Facebook. And in a way it allowed Facebook to sell ads using news organizations, something that not even Google was able to do.

Now the part that I don’t understand is the lack of admiration from the other side or why Twitter never copied what worked best at Facebook. To me what would be crucial is to tinker with the 140 character religion. The 140 characters have forced Twitter’s users to come up with all sorts of ways around it. People attach pictures of long texts, attach links that then Twitter shows or lately Marc Andreessen has come up with a numbered style that many have copied to make their tweets longer. And if there is one place where it really doesn’t make sense to have 140 characters is in DM. If Twitter had made DM unlimited in characters and able to incorporate pictures, videos, and even location early on it would have been a real competitor to now Facebook-owned WhatsApp and possibly to Snapchat as well if it had allowed true privacy. It would have then dominated the public and the private spheres. Twitter had the right concept but they never went full force in the private exchange world, and WhatsApp came out of nowhere and ate their lunch, all $19bn of it.

(Photo: Matchbox)

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Much  to the surprise of many, Facebook is now worth more than Amazon, IBM, Coke, it is the 15th most valuable company in the world. Some may call it a bubble, a crazy P/E, but however way you look at it Facebook is hugely successful. This is in my view a key reason for their success.

One of the most common criticisms of Facebook is that there is a bias towards positive news. That people tend to post many more good things than bad things that are happening to them. That few post such things as “my life sucks and I don’t know where I will get the energy to go to my boring job tomorrow”. But maybe that is actually a significant part of the success of Facebook and why it is so popular, the tendency towards good news. What Facebook made clear is that people wanted good news.  The alternative to Facebook is media news and they have exactly the extreme opposite bias. In media almost all news is bad news.  After a lifetime of bad news people were craving for a new form of media focused on positivity. And friendship was the missing link to make positivity feel real. It is the combination of proximity and positivity that makes people want to be on Facebook. Facebook nailed it and is now worth close to $200bn.

(Photo: WebProNews)

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Muslim history over the last decade has been extremely sad. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have died in armed conflicts. Over 99% of them died as a result of the European/American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and in the hands of fellow Muslims in the Syrian civil war, the ISIS conflict, the Shia Sunni conflicts, the Egyptian, Libyan internal fights, the fight against the Taliban in Pakistan and others. But this week after Hamas indiscriminately sent rockets on civilians all over Israel, and Israel retaliated striking on military targets, sadly killing innocent civilians who are not the target (as opposed to the Hamas rockets that do explicitly target civilians) but are used as human shields and this is happening when Hamas knows that the moment they stop throwing rockets, the Israeli retaliations will stop, I am shocked to see my Facebook and Twitter feeds go insane with accusations to us, the murderous Jews. If you are not a Jewish reader you have not idea what it is to be a Jew during the Gaza conflict and the things that people say to me, a diaspora Jew.

So what can I conclude. That when Jews defend ourselves we are horrible people but the USA, Spain, France, UK and all the countries of the Iraq/Afghanistan coalition, who committed horrible atrocities in the Fallujah attack are not? Or when Muslims massacre Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and other countries, you are nowhere to be found protesting? Where are you on my social media when Bashar Al Assad mass-murdered hundreds of thousands of his own? Why is it murder when Israelis build a wall to protect themselves from Palestinian terrorism and not when Spain builds one in Ceuta in which more people have died trying to cross it? Why are the same policies that others apply with much greater impact so worthy of condemnation when Israel adopts them? Why is there such a SELECTIVE INDIGNATION vis a vis Israel and Jews in general? Of course what Israel is doing now in Gaza is tragic, but why is my social media silent with the vast majority of Muslim deaths unrelated to Israel?

Have you thought of what it would be like to have to run to a bomb shelter at a minute’s notice with your loved ones many times a day? Can you imagine London under attack? Madrid under attack? New York under attack? Paris under attack? Well that is Tel Aviv when Hamas attacks and it’s happening now. Even the Palestinian UN representative said that Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli civilian population are a crime against humanity.

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Please think again before you post. I have also condemned Israel in the past and Israel does have to work harder at reaching peace with the Palestinians. The Palestinians deserve their country and deserve it as soon as it can be done at peace with Israel along the lines of the Oslo treaty. Israel must find a way to contain its own radical elements that block peace with the Palestinians. But Israel is not at war with Al Fatah in the West Bank, it is at war with Hamas in Gaza who wants to wipe the country out and are financed by Iran who uses them to fight Israel. This is the case even though Israel, paradoxically, pulled out from Gaza and forced settlers to leave risking a civil war. Media keeps calling this a Palestinian Israeli conflict but the majority of Palestinians are not with Hamas. This is a war against Hamas in which Israel uses missiles to defend its children and Hamas sadly uses its children to protects its missiles. If Israel really wanted to kill the children of Gaza it would do what Bashar al Assad did when he killed over 50,000 of his own children. Not even the death of one child is justifiable, not a single civilian casualty is justifiable, but Israel can wipe out Hamas and it does not and I have no doubt that if Hamas could wipe out Israel it would. Moreover the rocket attacks at this point have been effective enough to isolate Israel and most airlines are not flying into Israel for fear of Hamas attacks.

In the midst of the awful ISIS successes in Iraq and the Syrian war going on now, and in the height of the Sunni Shia bloody conflict, and the threat of a nuclear Iran, Israel is our hope to stop the radicals in the region. Israel is fighting Hamas, people who dream to see you, me, moderate Muslims, and everyone who believes in equality of men and women, rights of homosexuals, freedom of expression and freedom of worship or non worship, dead. We cannot allow Hamas, ISIS and other horrible forces of evil win over reasonable and moderate Muslims. Considering what Israel could do to wipe out Gaza, the way Bashar al Assad wiped out Homs, its response is incredibly moderate, reasonable, measured and as targeted as the situation allows. If you study casualty figures in Wikipedia you will see that the chances of a Muslim to be killed by a fellow Muslim or Christian are over 1000 to 1 than those of being killed by a Jew. Please stop attacking the right of Israel to defend itself and take a global view of what is going on in the region before taking sides. In my view the only reasonable request at the moment is to ask Hamas to stop sending missiles to Israel and for Israel to stop bombarding Gaza. And I hope that this happens as soon as possible and peace is restored.

(Photos: The Telegraph and AFP)

I’m very happy to announce that the roll out of our WiFi network in the Netherlands has just taken off, thanks to hard work from many people at Fon and KPN.

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There are now 250,000 hotspots all over the country, and we expect to reach one million by the end of the year.

This is wonderful news! Now Fon members will have free WiFi access when traveling the Netherlands, and KPN customers have access to over 13 million WiFi hotspots around the world.

KPN is the largest telecom in the country and we are so pleased to have them as our partner in our endeavor to blanket the world in WiFi. Thanks to everyone involved and can’t wait to connect to KPN WiFi with Fon on my next trip to the Netherlands!

Romtelecom_logo,_2009,_trademarkHappy to announce that Fon is continuing its European expansion!

Now it’s Romania where we have begun a new partnership. Romtelecom, part of Telekom group and the leading telco in the country, will be working with us to create the largest WiFi network in Romania.

It’s great to see Europe being covered more and more with Fon WiFi. And there are more partnerships in the pipeline, both in and outside of Europe, that we’ll announce very soon. Thanks to them we expect to expand our presence even further and reach 35 million hotspots by 2016!

I met King Juan Carlos on a few occasions, I also spent a couple of hours with him alone at his office. And what I saw was a great man who was trapped in a lifetime job he did not choose. A person who had to fight his own instincts to be a free man and struggle hard to stay on as King. And if he stayed on until today it was not because he loved to be King but because he loves Spain. Not royal Spain, all of Spain.

Most people think being King is a great job and blame monarchies for giving Kings or Queens this awesome position to a person who was not elected for it. But if people really understood what the job is like, most would refuse it. And I actually do know people who rejected that job in other monarchies. These are people who had the opportunity to marry a prince and did not, mainly because of the lack of freedom and constant public appearances that the job entails. Or people who abdicated to marry somebody they were in love with and wanted to lead a more normal life.

From what I saw, King Juan Carlos dream would have been not to be King. When he was younger he would escape from his King’s duties, drive somewhere in his car, try to be a free individual for a few hours. Being King is a daily obligation, not a choice.

The first time I met King Juan Carlos I had to dress with a special kind of tuxedo to dine with him in the royal palace. It was mandatory. And when I walked to greet him, my discomfort with wearing those clothes became so obvious that he read my mind and said. Hombre, Martín, ¿y tu que crees que a mi me gusta ir vestido así? (do you think I like to dress as a king?) and gave me a big smile. After that comment I felt at home in his palace. That phrase to me said it all about how he felt about being King. To me it meant behind Juan Carlos the King there is Juan Carlos the man. A funny, kind man who came to greet me with a charming, ironic comment. And in that meeting I realized how Juan Carlos the man, was actually greater than Juan Carlos the King. Yes, King Juan Carlos had shortcomings and his share of family scandals. But King Juan Carlos fought for democracy and led Spain through a period in which without him, paradoxically, democracy would have been more fragile. When I think of the Spain that he got at the start of his reign, and the Spain that we have, I am grateful to him. Everyone focuses on the fact that Kings are not elected, but few think of how Kings themselves do not choose what to do with their lives. Are we at their service or are they the ultimate public servants? In Europe’s constitutional democracies, it’s the latter.

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Mia(2) and I went for a walk at our farm in Menorca when all of a sudden she asked me. “Dad can you carry me in your arms? When I am in your arms I can touch the sky” I was moved by her request and carried her in my arms until we arrived at an area of the farm with pre historic ruins. When we were there I asked her where else she felt like she could touch the sky. She told me she could touch it when she climbed to high places. I asked her to show me and she walked up to this stone fence and touched the sky.

So if you ever wondered where the sky starts, here is her proof, the sky starts at around 1.5m from the ground. She certainly convinced me. Now I know that the sky starts somewhere between Mia and I.

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