Thursday, June 10, 2010

The War Begins


There are companies whose only service is to track what you cut and paste from articles you read online. Tynt makes millions off people hitting command (or control) C to watch people copy text from articles. Basically, its spyware that companies actually pay to have on their website. Most of the print media is banking on the advertisements placed alongside their clumsy websites and clunky web content. Only the most tech savvy media outlets seem to have websites that aren't garish or difficult to navigate because of advertisements.

There are RSS feed programs that can strip the text you want while leaving the java-scripted spyware and ads in the dust. The New York Times went after Pulse recently for the usual legal mumbo-jumbo and for a few moments in cyberspace, Pulse was taken off the App Store. A relatively small event in the history of the internet. Or is it?

The comical part of companies like the New York Times going after apps like Pulse or Instapaper is that these apps weren't removing the ads or the java script that tracks your cut and paste, and Lord knows what else on purpose. It was simply the nature of the way the apps had to be written for Apple's device. You can't save offline content without removing java script, and ads made in Flash won't run on Apple's iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone and have to be automatically excluded for an RSS feed reader.

As the people who produce media trip over the folks crafting filters for folks to view that media, it occurs to me that companies like Apple are going to get caught in the middle. Excluding Flash was a brilliant move on Apple's part. Early adopters got to experience the web largely flash (advertisement) free, Apple got tons of free publicity, and they get a piece of every app like Instapaper or Pulse that sells as a filter for web content.

Will companies like The New York Times generally resort to litigation instead of innovation? I bought a copy Wired and Sideways for my iPad on principle alone, I want the medium to succeed. We live in a world where most people are running a 3-5 year old Windows PC or Laptop, with a browser one or two steps removed from the latest version. Not everyone is savvy enough to go in and change the core programming of their OS thwarting companies like Tynt, or have their news routed to a RSS Feed reader to avoid obnoxious ads and other intrusions on the senses. Most people will suffer with crappy web content because it is all they have ever known.

All it will take is one serious invasion of a person's privacy and the market will grab onto that headline and market browser ad-ons, apps, and services to "protect you". Yeah, companies like Norton, AVG and McAfee have been making money for years keeping an unsuspecting populace safe from computer viruses developed by some hacker trying to get your bank account number or credit card number. So what happens when legitimate programmers start competitively making real money selling programs that protect people from having their privacy or senses intruded upon by companies peddling media using legitimate web content?

Companies like the New York Times can either...

A) Make a kick-ass website with ads blended into the content in a stylistic and pleasing way. Also, the web content tracks only when you visited the site, and what hyper-linked text or ads you clicked.

B) Instead of giving money to web developers and creatives, they give them to Lawyers and try to produce litigation to suppress apps like Pulse and Instapaper.

Personally, I think the reason Pulse came back to the App store so quickly is that the New York Times is a savvy newspaper and knew they were making a gigantic mistake.

UPDATE:

Tynt Blocker Extension for Safari (Hurrah!)

http://github.com/bdougherty/tynt-blocker

1 comment:

  1. This was a truly useful piece, thanks for posting it.

    ReplyDelete