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Mashups Are Breaking the Mold at Microsoft, by John Markoff

Image and text source: NYTimes

Published: February 10, 2008

REDMOND, Wash. — TUCKED away in a building on this forested corporate campus, John Montgomery and his team of 17 programmers might be more at home in Silicon Valley than at Microsoft.

Compared with its tenacious Internet competitors like Google and Yahoo, Microsoft is generally still viewed as being more of the shrink-wrapped software generation than the Web 2.0 world.

In Silicon Valley today, software is increasingly delivered as a Web service, it is often put together by teams of programmers who might be scattered on three continents, it’s often free to users, and Web surfers usually do the testing soon after the first prototype is complete.

By contrast, Microsoft has long been a software engineering culture in which huge projects like Windows Vista are developed and tested by teams of hundreds, and whose completion time is measured in a large fraction of decades.

Although it is not yet widely visible to the outside world, some people inside Microsoft are beginning to break that mold.

Mr. Montgomery, a veteran product manager who has also worked as a computer industry writer and editor, is an example of how it just might be possible to teach dinosaurs to dance.

Read the entire article at NYTimes

The Face Behind Facebook Tells 60 Minutes “Beacon” Needs Work, 2008 IPO Highly Unlikely, by Leslie Stahl

Image source: The Equity Kicker

Text source: 60 Minutes

Originally aired January 13, 2008

Note: I saw this on CBS last night and thought it was worth keeping in the archive for possible future reference for several reasons. First, the myth that “the young will lead” in the computer age is promoted eloquently; Facebook’s CEO is only 23 years old. Also, the frenzy that made the WWW so popular before the dot.com bubble burst of 2000 is kept alive with eloquent distance, while excitedly stating that Facebook is perhaps the next “Google”; and to accentuate this point they show Mark Zuckerberg in a large shared office space echoing the early days of the internet boom, particularly in San Francisco; his office is in Palo Alto, not too far from the former dot.com haven. But the most interesting part is to see Zuckerberg struggling to create actual revenue and hitting a wall that other online entities have encountered in the past when they try to make hard cash out of community based sites. Wikia and Shopwiki are two obvious examples. Perhaps Zuckerberg’s most interesting remark is when he explains why Beacon, which was not well received by the Facebook community, did not work. He actually does not know why. And when asked about the role of ads in Facebook, he resorts to a common argument that any business owner uses when asked about the pressure of making money: “I mean there have to be ads either way because we have to make money,” Zuckerberg says. “I mean, we have 400 employees and you know, I mean, we have to support all that and make a profit.”

(CBS) Are you on Facebook yet? The site is up to 60 million users so far, with a projection of 200 million by the end of the year.

If you’re not on Facebook, here’s how it works: you set up a profile page with details about yourself and then decide who gets to see it. Friends use their pages to share personal news, exchange photos, team up on political causes, or just play long-distance Scrabble. It can be a useful tool or an addictive waste of time. Either way, Facebook is having a dramatic impact on the World Wide Web and it’s estimated to be worth $15 billion.

As Lesley Stahl reports, sitting atop this growing company and directing an Internet revolution is a young, geeky computer programmer who created the site only four years ago.

The face of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, the mogul who’s guiding its extraordinary growth. What everyone wants to know is: Is he old enough to be running a company some people say is the biggest thing since Google?

“I’m 23 right now,” Zuckerberg tells Stahl when asked how old he is.

“And you’re running this huge company,” Stahl remarks.

“It’s not that big,” Zuckerberg says.

During her visit to Facebook’s headquarters, Zuckerberg helped Stahl set up her own Facebook page, with a profile of her likes and dislikes. They added her friends and family, and within a few minutes, she got a friend request.

“Here’s a guy I haven’t talked to in two years and I’m so thrilled to hear from him,” Stahl remarks.

Read the entire feature at 60 Minutes

New Online Advertising Strategies Spark Privacy Worries

Image and text source: The News Hour

Originally Aired: November 6, 2007

Social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook have started to allow advertisers to access users’ profiles and target the ads they deliver to that user accordingly. A media and technology writer examines the potential impact this marketing may have on individual user privacy.

GWEN IFILL: Judy Woodruff has our Media Unit look at the balance between online information’s financial potential and individual privacy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s where millions of young people list their favorite hobbies, movies, friends and trends, and now all that information from the two largest social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace, with a combined total of more than 160 million users, will be made increasingly available to advertisers.

Facebook announced today that it will allow companies to show ads to its users, both when they are on and off the site, based on personal information they list online.

Yesterday, MySpace unveiled a self-service advertising tool allowing groups like small businesses, musicians and politicians to post an ad and choose who sees it. They also increased a number of categories that track user preferences by more than tenfold, in order for businesses to better target their products to the much-sought-after 18 to 25-year-old demographic.

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