The problem of over regulated societies is that what in some countries is a matter of individual choice in these type of nations they become a matter of state. USA for example does not regulate languages. If a person in USA wants to promote products in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, or any other language say advertising on the street or public transport he/she can go ahead. But in Spain language is unfortunately regulated and this regulation turns language away from a source of understanding into a source of public conflict. And what is more suprising to Latin Americans living in Spain such as myself is that in many parts of Spain you are not allowed to promote yourself and your activities in Spanish or communicate openly in Spanish even when you want to address yourself to a Spanish speaking audience. But this regulations are very inconsistent because while you may not be able to advertise your bread in Spanish on the street you can advertise it in Spanish in the leading newspapers of the non Spanish speaking regions which are in Spanish. Fortunately there´s a new movement that is simply asking for freedom to use whatever language you want whenever you want. And yesterday this movement, which is the first time I hear about it. Started with a massive demonstration in Palma, Majorca. What Spain needs is simply to deregulate languages in any activity that is not in the public sector.

The news of Andrew McLaughlin’s departure from Google to work as Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the Obama administration just came out in the New York Times. The article mentions that there are critics who believe that this move will benefit Google as a company. I have a response to this criticism, but before I make them I would like to disclose that I am a friend of Andrew McLaughlin and that Google is an investor in Fon, the company that I am CEO of. Regardless of these facts I have chosen to write this post as it is valid not just for this case but for anyone who moves from industry to government.

In general I don’t understand why journalists believe that a move from industry to government is somehow very different from a move from industry to industry. If Andrew McLaughlin had moved from Google to Cisco, Cisco’s CEO would not hire him thinking that he will promote the interests of Google at Cisco. When a banker moves from Goldman Sachs to Morgan Stanley, a direct competitor, people at Morgan Stanley consider this a great success. And it is a similar success for the Obama team to have convinced Andrew to leave his fantastic job at Google to serve the US Government. As Andrew promoted the interests of Google when he was at Google, he will now protect the interests of the American people working for the US government. And we should all be happy for that. I can’t think of a better person than Andrew to do this job.

If you still think about Spain as a conservative, Catholic country you can change your mind. Spain is one of the most liberal and secular countries on the planet now, up there with The Netherlands. Gambling, prostitution, are either legal or losely regulated. Even downloading movies and music is legal in Spain. And gay marriage is of course, legal as well. But today a controversy arose when a judge said that, as a Catholic, he objected to marry gay people. Newspaper El Pais reports Judge Pablo de la Rubia asked if he could possibly be excused from marrying gay couples. Surprisingly he was told by the Supreme Court that he had to marry gay couples whether he approved of their marriage or not. The argument went that because it´s legal for gay people to get married as a judge it´s part of his job to marry them. While I see the logic to the argument I think the Supreme Court´s position is too extreme. If Judge De la Rubia thinks it´s wrong for gay people to get married, he should be excused from marrying gay people. Why? For a simple reason that has nothing to do with the law. His demeanor may spoil what could be the happiest moment in the couple´s life. There are enough other judges who will be happy to do the job. The problem with gay marriage, whether in Spain or USA is that the debate many times centers around legal principles. And while doing this people in government forget that what gay marriage is, is the desire of two people to at least try, to live happily ever after.

In this video I show how I can access the Fonera in my office when I am at home using the DynDNS app. This is useful to upload pictures, videos, or to download pictures, videos, movies (always own the content of what you download) with the many services supported by the Fonera including Youtube, Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Bittorrent, Megaupload, Rapidshare and others.

I had the idea of FON in late 2005 in Paris, France. I was desperately looking for WiFi. While I found a lot of WiFi signals, I could not access a single one of them. They were all locked. It was then that the key concept of Fon dawned on me “share a little extra WiFi at home and roam the world for free connecting to other people´s routers”. For a while the Fon idea seemed to be utopic. Now thanks to Fon itself and now to progressive carriers such as Free of France it´s becoming a global reality.

This week, the French ISP Free launched a community WiFi service similar to ours at FON. Owners of a Freebox v5 who share with FreeWiFi will be able to surf off the WiFi router of other Free customers. As with FON, Free customers must share to get access to the FreeWiFi signal, which is a second SSID broadcasted by their Freebox.


Still there is a big difference between the new community launched by French ISP Free and Fon and that is that it is a closed community available only to Free customers and only in France as Free only operates in France. Moreover since this community has no aliens neither Free nor its customers can make money offering their WiFi to non donors as is the case with Fon.

FON grows either by selling its own Fonera and by partnering with Telcos around the world such as British Telecom, SFR Neuf (Free´s competitor) and others. But even though Free is so far not a member of the Fon community itself and some people have asked me if we did not feel threatened by Free acting alone we congratulate Free for the move as it validates Fon´s concept. While it may not be apparent to journalist who cover the Internet and Telecoms sharing a la Fon is a way that operators have to reduce churn, provide more with no additional cost and differentiate themselves from carriers that only offer you internet at home when you pay at home.

Image representing Fon as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

We very much apologized for the delays in delivering the Fonera 2.0. We miscalculated demand and ran out of the first order. Good news is that we just received our new cargo and the Fonera is now again available in Continental Europe and Japan. We are sorry that it is still not available in the UK and USA. You can order yours here. Or here. And the Fonera is an open source project. You can follow all the new developments in the blog of the Fonosfera.

I wrote this memo to Fon employees. I edited a few parts that I can´t publish yet and I share it in my blog.

Fonera is now a Computer in a Network:

The Fonera now shows up as a COMPUTER in a PC or Mac. So while you cannot send files to the fonera via wifi using Firefox yet, you CAN send foneras via WiFi by copy and pasting files accessing the hard drive of the Fonera. Soon the Fonera will be able to receive files via WiFi and if you send them to a folder called Youtube it will automatically cue them and send them to Youtube. This is a dream functionality, a real buffer, you have files, you send them via WiFi and they are sent later by the Fonera. No need to use pen drives and actually walk to the Fonera.

Javi is working on a Fontastic Firefox Plug In:

Today I saw the demo of a GREAT Firefox plug in that allows you to choose ANY link on the net, bittorrent, megaupload, rapidshare and http (probably soon ftp) and when you click on it you get a choice to download to your computer or download to the Fonera. It is an intelligent plug in to the point that if you cut and paste a lot of text that is not instructions to download stuff it will decipher the instructions in the long text and do all sorts of different things without you telling it. So it will go to megaupload when it detects a megaupload link, to a direct download when it detects a direct download, to rapidshare, to bittorrent. It is very SMART as it ignores the garbage part of the text. This makes it SO MUCH EASIER than going through the dashboard! Also it has a status bar that tells you what the Fonera is doing while its doing it.

Marketing Inconsistency in the Fonera:

I realized that we have a marketing inconsistency at Fon. In our boxes called our router LA FONERA but the router calls itself FONSPOT. All involved please change this. Fonera has to say FONera not FONspot. Or change the Fon logo to read Fonera but we can´t call it Fonspot anymore. Indeed we should not use the world Fonspot anymore at Fon. Products with two names confuse the hell out of search engines like Google and new search engines like Facebook or Twitter. We don´t have any money to advertise ourselves. We can´t confuse people calling the Fonera a Fonspot. Also let´s drop La Fonera and make it simply Fonera.

Direct Downloads must be Explained

The Fonera can download ANY FILE on the internet. Not just bittorrent, megaupload and rapidshare. I did not know this and many of you may not know it either. For example if you put below link in the download manager the fonera will get you the latest version of Ubuntu. Pls test this functionality however because it may not work well it is still in beta mode.

Now this is HUGE. Because there are a LOT of direct downloads on the Internet. There is a lot of content, software for example, that people want you to have and they give you download links. The fonera works very well for all uploads and all downloads except torrents which go slowly and only one at a time. But what works about the Fonera is a lot, let´s communicate it well while we improve the Bittorrent functionality. If you look carefully this IS explained in the Download Manager in the fonera. But you have to be pretty geeky to realize that http means that you can download any direct link over the internet. Marketing should find a better way to communicate this feature and Development should explain this in the firmware as well as it now explains for example how to send files to Youtube.

Once I asked a gay friend of mine why was it that gay men had so much sex. He replied….because there is nobody to say no. I remembered this today when trying to understand why Twitter is growing much more than Facebook per dollar invested. And it became clear it´s also because in Twitter there is nobody to say no. You twit, somebody follows you, you don´t need to accept them. Twitter has no formal acceptance process. In Facebook instead there is a pretty complicated acceptance process, and that leads to less connections, to more thinking, more hesitation. Less sex. Twitter is less inhibited, you speak to the world, you don´t care if what you say can be heard by all, the more the merrier, you twit. Facebook is more about balanced relationships, hence less sex. Which for members of course, it´s a good thing. But not for a growing business. My guess is that Facebook will continue to strip down the acceptance process or create a default category of followers which then whose status can then be elevated to friends when you follow them back or in some rare cases block them. It´s interesting that Twitter considers rejection rare and makes you feel awkward when you say no to a follower.

Over the last couple of years I have been asked a question that I had no answer for: what is the successor of the Web 2.0? What comes after user generated content or P2P? Well I think that the next web is the Visual Web. And I mean visual as opposed to text based web. No, I am not saying that text is dead but I do believe that text as the main driver of the Internet is becoming less and less important. And all other audiovisual means of communication are becoming more important. And that is why I call this new web the Visual Web.

In terms of Telco traffic and ISP the trend towards visual is felt in the enormous traffic increase of TV, high quality pictures, high def video, movies of ever increasing quality, P2P video communications like video calls on Skype, music, and gaming including the new trend to play web served games. Traffic. If the textual web was 90% of the web a few years ago now it´s more like 10%. Even this blog, or the more active version of this blog which is in Spanish, has become more and more a video blog, a photo blog, an image blog. And even text itself is increasingly populated with emoticons, a new type of “letters” that other than the smiley do not exist outside of the web. Text on the web is rarely seen without a visual effect. So much so that when I read books now I find them sorely lacking in visuals, I suffer over long textual descriptions of events or images that would be so much better represented via graphics or art. But this is much easier to do online.

In this blog, in July of 07, I have talked about the possibility of creating a FemtoFonera. This week I met with Chris Gilbert, the very able CEO of Ubiquisys in order to study this idea.

A Femtocell is a router slightly larger than the Fonera that transforms a cable or ADSL home line signal into a 3G signal. But unlike Wi-Fi, 3G signals are private, so only the operators can authorize Femtocells. They have been designed with the exclusive purpose of giving better indoor mobile coverage for their owner. So currently Femto are the opposite of Fon which is designed to give coverage both to the owner and into the streets. But while Femto seems to be limited in order to protect telcos, it is interesting that Fon has been able to team up with many telcos including BT, SFR, Zon and others to build WiFi networks geared outdoors. Why? Because nowadays big telcos are competing with each other, not only in the marketplace trying to lower customer acqusition costs and churn. Behind the market wars there are the capex wars, and Fon helps 3G operators to unload 3G traffic through WiFi thereby reducing hugely expensive 3G capex.

Now Ubiquisys has another interesting way to unload 3G traffic and that is to create micro cells that cost 100 euros vs 300,000 to the tower and to ask customers to use their own DSL/Cable/Fiber connections to send the traffic that normally goes through these towers. So think of the combination, think of a Femtofonera a Fonera that creates both a WiFi and a 3G network out of the Femtofonero home and gives the Fonero free WiFi and 3G roaming in exchange for helping build the network. Now that is a powerful concept, especially for the 2% of the population who could be Femtofoneros.

In this post I am interested in your opinion so here are two surveys.

The polls are in Spanish because they are a continuation of a Spanish blog post. The first poll deals with a 100 euro FemtoFonera that ONLY improves your coverage at home but does not give you free 3G roaming. No la compraria means I would not buy it. Si la compraría means I would buy it because not only it´s like a Fonera 2.0 but also I get good 3G coverage at home.

The second survey is about whether you would buy for 200 euros, a FemtoFonera that, aside from giving you better coverage in your house and having all of the functions of a Fonera 2.0, gives 3G coverage to others, and therefore gives you free roaming – meaning free 3G access in your entire country – in exchange for you installing one. Again, no la compraría ( I would not buy it) vs la compraría (I would buy it).

Here´s a video showing the concept and a Femto from Ubiquisys.

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