Here´s a view of how Google will make Youtube disappear. Personally, I don´t agree that that will be the case. Indeed, if I had to guess I would not be surprised that Google Video will do to Youtube what Google WiFi did with FON, and that is to establish a healthy competition with an internal project and an external one which Google partly or wholly owns. And, surprisingly, the internal project may very well lose and yet not dissapear.
As you know, FON is a global community of people who share WiFi connections. We call these people “Foneros”, as a tribute to our heritage as a Spanish company. In order to become a Fonero, you go to FON, to download software that you install in your router, you place your antenna by a window and you share bandwidth with other Foneros from anywhere in the world. You can also buy the FON Ready router from our web site, plug and play. FON creates a free WiFi roaming environment for those who contribute WiFi signals, namely those who have already signed up with a local ISP and downloaded our software into their WiFi routers.
The success of FON, like the success of all online communities — such as eBay, Skype, ICQ, IM — depends on many people joining. At the very beginning, when there are no obvious advantages to joining FON, it is not so easy to get Foneros, even though the service is free. But as Foneros continue to join, and there are more and more Fonero hotspots, the dream of a unified global broadband wireless signal becomes a reality. The FON movement, as we call it, can achieve what 3G or EVDO has not — a truly broadband wireless Internet everywhere. 3G/EVDO are great for coverage, but their throughput is pitiful compared to WiFi and they are way too expensive.
FON was launched just 90 days ago and we already have over 3,000 registered Foneros. While that number may seem small, 3,000 registered Foneros puts us at 10% of our 2006 objective in only 3 months: to become the largest hotspot network in the world by the end of the year. Currently, the largest global hotspot networks have around 30,000 hotspots. But after having built the second largest Spanish Internet company, Ya.com and the second largest publicly traded telecom company in Spain, Jazztel both with significant backers, I realized that at FON was going to need very special alliances to succeed on its objective of having 1 million hotspots around the world in 4 years. I knew that our method of downloading firmware was a much faster way of building a unified global WiFi signal than the traditional method used by local hotspots companies. Their way — buying WiFi boxes and deploying them hotspot by hotspot — is costly and inefficient. Ours is simple: download and install. Ours is a people’s network. But for FON to succeed we need tremendous magnifying power for our message.
So I sought the ultimate alliances in the industry, and aimed high, very high. And today I have a great announcement to make: FON can now count Google , Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures as investors and backers. They’ve joined us to help advance the FON movement, leading a group that has put 18 million Euros into FON and also committed to give us a strategic boost that should help us make this great idea into a great platform for everyone who wants a faster, cheaper and more secure wireless Internet. We’ll invest this money in R&D so we can make it quicker and easier to become a FONERO and so that we can expand the number of things you can do with your FON service. Our goal, after all, isn’t just to share bandwidth. It’s to use the power of people to people networks to create a global wireless network. What makes each of these firms great backers for us is that deep in their DNA is the idea of brand-new business models, tons of innovation and a commitment to making the digital world easier and cheaper. We feel the same way. So while we’re excited about (and responsible for!) their investment, we’re even more pleased to have their support. Also I am pleased to announced today that we have obtained the support of two significant ISPs for FON. In America Speakeasy has said that they welcome FON and in Europe, Glocalnet and FON have signed an agreement so Glocalnet sells its services FON ready and the Swedish foneros will soon be able move around Stockholm and other cities with their WiFi enabled gadgets. FON shares revenues with ISPs making it attractive for them to join the FON movement.
Before starting FON, I would google my last name and get 80,000 answers. 45 years of life and six companies and two foundations got me to that level of internet notoriety. But in less than 45 days subsequent to starting FON, I went up to 300,000 replies, an impossible number to read (I google my last name and not FON because FON as a term gives many answers that are not related to our company, as it is also a language in Africa). Because FON is a start up and I am interested in knowing what people say about us I would like to have a tool that allows us to POLL what people are saying about FON. The aim of FON is that people download our software and become members of a global, people´s built wifi network. We need people to want to download FON. If somebody, for example, was against FON, fortunately or unfortunately the Google algorithms would bury this potentially valid criticism to the end of so many citations that we would probably not find it and try to correct it. I wonder if somebody has developed tools to POLL Google. For example a tool that gets all the Google answers, then gives them a random order and then looks for positive or negative sounding words. Also this tool would have to work in Spanish, as over half of the citations are in this language. If nobody has done this I do see an opportunity for programs that randomly analyze search engine results as an opportunity to offer automated competition to Gallup and other polling organizations.
Many “Bill” FON members are asking us how we will pay Bills. The idea is to use a system very similar to the one currently used by Google with AdSense.
AdSense is an advertising system in which webmasters cede space on their web pages to Google, which Google uses to advertise using hyperlinks. If you’re a regular internet surfer, you must have seen hundreds of pages using this system. Google sells the advertising and then gives a percentage to the webmaster. Advertisers contact Google and pay Google to post their ads.
So in terms of how FON pays Bills: FON is like Google, Bills are like the webmasters and Aliens are like the advertisers.
If you are a Bill, all you will have to do is convert your access point into a FON access point, agree to the terms of the contract and begin earning money. The whole process will be online and will take about 5 minutes. If you’re already a webmaster using Google ads, then, you already have an idea of how Bills will get paid by FON.
There´s something wrong in Google’s rank. This blog comes out in Spanish and in English. Yesterday I served around 13,000 pages, of which around 2,000 were served in English, 11,000 in Spanish. Still my google rank is 4 in Spanish and 5 in English. Why? Because the people who link to me in English seem to rank much higher than the people who link to me in Spanish and that is simply because English is a much more important language on the internet than Spanish. In terms of relevance however my blog while somewhat known in English it is much better known in Spanish. Still my ranking in Spanish is lower. I think it´s time that Google introduces Google Rank per language and contributes its share to do away with the English bias of the Internet. As it is now, people who write in English always come up with higher rankings. This in my view is globalization taken to an extreme.
Here´s an idea for my friends at Google. It´s called RANDOM GOOGLE. We all love the google ranking algorythm… but sometimes it is useless. For example, let´s say Al Gore, tired of seeing hurricane after hurricane hit the States as a result of global warming, wants to run again as the “environmental president”. The people who run his campaign would like to have a way of “polling” google. They would like to search for “Al Gore”, but this time they want to do away with Larry´s famous algorithm. Voting is not a ranked activity (and there are many who aren´t). Voting is one person one vote. So what the pollers want to know is how popular Al Gore is in Google, posting by posting. What the campaign manager wants is what I call the RANDOM GOOGLE button. What would RANDOM GOOGLE do? Basically give you a random string of say 100 results. Pollers could then read them and classify them as pro Gore or anti Gore. In other words, they would poll Google provided that they have a Google without the ranking. They could search random strings by quantity and time periods. From Google´s point of view, the Random Google button would greatly increase ad servings. People would search a term and then random Google it. Maybe more than once. And they would randomly learn about their search term being more frequently exposed to google ads.
As hurricanes continue to cause tremendous destruction and death and, as evidence piles up showing that increase in hurricane strength is a function of rising surface water temperature, global warming is becoming our worse nightmare. But until last week I used to think that SUVs and Americans passion for 68F air conditioned rooms were by far the greatest carbon criminals. They are not alone. The internet it turns out may soon be as bad. Working on the internet and having started companies like Ya.com I would take comfort thinking that we operated a clean industry. But this is hardly the case. Over the last month I became aware of two related activities that I thought were energy irrelevant are actually energy hogs. They are thinking and computing.
Last night during dinner I finally was able to tell Sergey and Larry about my idea for creating the type of IM that Google could launch that in my view could beat Instant Messenger. My concept for revolutionizing chat is based on something I said before, that text of the kind I am using right now to write this blog is obsolete. If you think about it, text is great only because you were trained for 12 years, or more in most cases, to use it. Otherwise text sucks. Have any doubt? Watch an 8 year old chatting and you will see. Younger children who have not developed the skills to type endlessly without making mistakes that others frown upon, use much less text when they chat. What they use is emoticons, skype, webcams or anything to get away from text slowness and boredom. Well my idea is a plan to include the best emoticons of all, your files as given to you by Google Desktop (if you don´t have this amazing tool download it right now!) and by Google when you chat. What makes a good chatter? To me somebody who chats very well is someone who can reply quickly and with somebody who sends you a lot of MEANING in little time. Now how can u increase the rate of MEANING going through a chat? With GOOGLE!
Some internet companies laid their cards right out there. For example, eBay started out as a marketplace. You sell your stuff on Ebay, you pay them a commission, they render a service, they get paid. Other companies, however, operated under what for years looked as an NGO model, and only when they were immensely popular did they come after your money, and they got amazing valuations for doing so.
Of this kind two former Internet NGO´s come to mind. One is Google and the other one is Skype. How it is that Stamford University does not own at least half of Google´s $80bn in stock escapes me. How it is that Larry and Sergey were able to use the immense Stamford University infrastructure for free for so long while building what is now an empire for themselves, is a mystery as well. If you Google the history of Google on Google you will see that during the first years of its existence, until VC money was raised and ads appeared, Google was mostly seen as a gift to humanity. What was great about the early Google is that it gave you useful results on your searches and it seemed to want none of your purchasing power. But when searches reached the billions, the famous internet bubble idea of monetizing eye balls held more truth than ever. And now at $288 per share, Google is worth $80bn. However, Stamford is not a major shareholder and Google is far from being and NGO.
The other company that emerged as an NGO and only recently has shown it´s money model, is Skype. I remember downloading Skype for the first time and wondering about the profit motive. It too looked like an NGO allowing us to talk to each other for free. It appeared that somewhere in Northern Europe there was somebody with a lot of money to lose. But again that was not the case. As Skype grew (now up to 165 million dowloads according to their site), VCs entered the game and Skype started Skype In and Skype Out. Skype is nowhere near as valuable as Google but still a remarkable business.