Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Social Networking in India

Orkut, Gazzag, Friendster, Myspace and a score of others! What is so attractive about social networking that we hear almost every week about a new social networking portal?
Well, there are many reasons. It would be repetitive to list all of them here. Though the most fundamental reason I can think of is that these sites are a gold mine for search portals, job portals and all such other portals that makes them so attractive for internet firms and VCs worldwide. People who otherwise fill personal information forms elsewhere with "not so correct" data seem to fill loads of "correct" data at these sites which can be mined to correctly serve targeted ADs.

Targeted ADs then translate into good revenues for firms who advertise online. This strategy is very cool for US and other nations where e-shopping is a big rage.
But what about India ? Here we do things differently. We hardly buy anything online. E-shopping is not such a huge business here. Why and how can a social networking start up target good and steady revenue in a market such as India. My solution is a little far stretched and may not be true at all. But then it never bad to listen to a new perspective.

When I see social networking portals such as Yaari and Minglebox coming, I see a clear lack of business idea. How are they going to make money in market where large internet user base doesn't translate directly into revenue. And also what different strategies are needed to tap this market. Make no mistake, user base of such portals is big and used by people who have money to spend. Every tom, dick and harry in my office and elsewhere has got an orkut account. Not only that these people log on to these portals several times a day.

First look into differences in Indian and US internet scenario. In India, despite a major telecom boom, internet speeds are slow to say the least. Most of the ISPs provide at max a 256K'b'ps connection. That is Kilo bits per second and hence at best can provide 32KBPS of net speed. (Two things this 256Kbps generally tops at around 150 Kbps and MTNL just annoucned a 2 Mbps connections...Things are bad but changing!). So what does this has to do with a social networking portal ? A lot! Bad net speed translates into a slow and heavy social networking portal into a beast which sometimes takes 1-2 mins to load a page....sometimes. This maybe a reason why people in India are still stuck with Orkut when elsewhere Myspace and other such rich social networking portals are becoming popular.

On the other hand telecom boom has made sure that almost everybody now has got a phone and people spend a lot of time and money on these little gadgets.

So the million dollar question which still remains unanswered is who does one go about making a Indian social networking portal? Here is what I suggest
1. Make it simple, keep the total loading time on a 128 Kbps connection less than 10 secs...preferably 3-5 secs. Thats a big task. 128-256Kbps would generally be around 80-170 Kbps. Thats 10-20KBps. That means pages should not be larger than 50-100KB (at max 200KBs). You need to let go a lot of images that you put into those menu bars, buttons etc. A text only page with 8-12 , 5-7 KB highly compressed images seems to fit the bill. Keep that CSS file as small and custom made as possible.

2. Server side need to be very quick. Java is a complete no -no. Php would invite wrath of hackers(though it would be fast) and would be difficult to maintain (coding wise). RoR is good and fast too...with less security issues and a carefully tweaked Apache server with a fast database (I am careful not to mention which one) would be good. Lisp is also a solution. Static pages is not a bad idea it seems(if security aspects are taken care off). What I mean is that user profile pages and home pages need to be a static html file. No database connection (or very less of it). Would definitely be faster that database driven dynamic pages.

3. Ajax is the key. A lot of users in India like Gmail. Just because it's swift and prompt. A lot of ajax coding would also make dynamic pages a lot faster than they usually are.

4. Link with major Indian ISPs in such a way that there are server which serves the user has a internet back bone of that particular ISP. This is rather doubtful starter but whats the harm in trying.

Business side of it
in the next post

Sunday, December 03, 2006

M$ and Novell

Not as bad people are projecting it. Give some credit to M$ for atleast taking a step in forward direction.

Google and Orkut

It's nice to see small changes appearing in Orkut but I still think there is a lot of room for improvement in orkut. For instance that Donut thing is really very irritating. Also the way they have integrated gtalk with orkut! They could have integrated the Gmail-talk into orkut and that would have been quiet something. But still...atleast a start. Scrap alert feature is quiet good though. But scrapbook page needs to be ajaxified...completely
What about a picasa and orkut linkage ?

On Future of Google

Google recently integrated most of their services. Google talk with orkut, google talk with gmail, docs (writely) with spreadsheets, docs and spreadsheets with google pages, Google groups new avatar in gmail format etc. A lot of stuff still needs to be done like photos with gmail and gtalk(maybe even docs). Then there will be search integration with spreadsheets, blogger with gmail (even gtalk with blogger...who knows!). And many more such small-big changes...
But what Google apps or for that matter other web apps lack is a server at the client end. I think we users think it's very unreliable to have a important document stored only at Google servers. I think there is a need for Google to use Google Desktop as a server at the client ends so that user may also work offline. This, in my view, requires a lot of innovations. Saying it easy but actually doing it may not be possible at all...due to concerns of size, memory requirements, reverse engineering concerns etc. But if done, it would be a definitive step towards a web based era of desktop computing and this I think is what google is about to do in near future.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tata indicom in Mumbai - system crashed?

For past 10 hours I am not able to call anybody and vice versa! I called up customer care and they told me that there is some technical glitch. Anybody else experiencing similar situation?

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Blogspots get blocked and they instantly start blaming the government about it.
I won't do it because
1. Government issued a letter to ISPs to block *some* blogs and ISPs goof up and block the whole domain name-not fault of the government.

2. Bloggers point that their "freedom of speech" is being crushed by the government- Not exactly. Govt. never tried to block blogpsot on the whole. It was the ISPs. They also say that blocking even a few websites is not good and is "censorism". Well, yes it is censoring and yes it may be violating the spirit of internet. But violating the freedom of speech. Don't think it is the same. One of the websites quoted there was hinduunity, which is a hindu extremist website, spreading hatred, and thus government took a correct step by banning that. But then aren't we disallowing those extremist to express their views? Yes we are! But would you
allow LeT to run a advertisment campaign on say some private news or tv channel?
allow al-quida to start a news channel in India to air their 'beheading' acts and give justifications about it ?
allow a banned hindu extremist organization to run a radio channel which airs programs about how to start riots and how to kill most number of muslims in your locality?
allow a terrorist organization to give newspaper Ads asking for donation to their cause?

Nahi na?
Then why should we allow such sites to exist or remain accessible? They are not much different than radio, tv or newspaper. They are also source of news, data, views, articles and advertisment...form is a little different.

Anyways, lets explore the technical part of it. Why did all these ISPs goofed up ?
Well banning a * is very easy. Just do a DNS lookup of blogspot, get th IP address and put it into "access denied" list. But banning a particular subdomain such as is much difficult task. As this subdomain has no seperate IP address.

So now that ISPs are slowly allowing the domain to be accessible, can we say that this is all was there to the story ?

Maybe or maybe not!
For the starters bloggers are still fighting it out on the google groups and blogs
Also there may be a small subtle point we may be missing here. Banning of these blogs may have been a exersize by the security agencies to locate those people who access these blogs. And this maybe the very reason not to make the ban list public. The ISPs may have been asked to route the access requests to these particular blogs/sites to govt. servers which in turn register the IPs and thus secuirty agencies would have been able mark out locations from where people are accessing it. This may not be a very intelligent idea to get the IP addresses of the culprits but a very practical idea...yes definitely.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blogspot -> blockspot? Not really

This is entirely a different take at cureent 'blogger crisis' in India. I think it is just indianized-"american-style-paranoia" and is extremely and utterly stupid move of the Indian blogger community to start a hate war against the government before getting the facts right. It is as if the government will gain anything by blocking these sites! Do not forget that this is the same government who passed RTI act and has enabled so much information into public domian.

So what exactly happened tonight ?
1. Government agencies find some terrorist activity at various websites.
2. Shoots off a letter to ISPs to block them.
3. --my guess->Some ISPs (stupid enough) block the domain name instead of that particular blog! and hence blogspot got blocked

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ruby on Rails

I have been working with Ruby on Rails for about 15 days now and believe me it rocks. Okay first question is what is Ruby on Rails (ROR from here on) ? Well it's a webframework like java webframwork (struts, xml, jsp, tomcat etc combined). So what is a webframework ? Lets say I have make a web application such as an e-commerce website. For this work a webserver, database server, a scripting language and HTML are needed. A database structure is created, scripting language is used to embed business logic inside the application (like let only registered users buy stuff etc ) and present the user with an output at his/her browser using HTML which itself is embedded somewhere inside that big mess of scripting language. As it is obvious from this, scalibilty and maintainence will be two big problems ahead of anyone who will be managing this application. Therefore a novel approach (which is not all that novel) is adopted of seperating view that user gets at his/her browser, business logic and database. It is not all that novel because this approach is followed in almost all the apps programmed in *nix. But somehow down the line M$ with it's "super easy" to use VB, made this line thin (usual MS bashing stuff :P ) or may be web is so closely linked to user output that everybody thought that it's better to tangle all in one.
Anyways, Ruby on Rails as the name suggests is based on Ruby language (invented in Japan and has a very clean syntax). Rails is the actual framework. Rails completely seperates the model (business model) , the view and database. And not only this, you have several scripts that auto generate a lotof codewhich make web programming extremely easy. I have been web programming for a long time now and had I been ROR I'd have definitely finished all that I coded in almost 1/3rd of the time. No seriously! I am not joking it is THAT effective. Though I must forewarn that ROR has rather longer/steeper learning curve and it takes sometime to fully gulp down the scheme of things.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I am back

and I hope I'll be blogging regularly. Fourth year though is kinda drag as nothing much to do but then I keep on getting busy doing something or other (like Techkriti 2006 or Josh 2006, two festivals which happen to run on a event management system created by your's truely. Ilike writing web applications and as I am getting more aquainted to it, I feel that it may be something I'll be doing more in near future.
Well on the tech front a lot has been happening like Google diversifying like anything. They have even a started a philanthrophy arm. Aim is to hear people saying Google is god and not only in the virtual world!(well okay I cooked that up :P). Apart from that Google has made a lot of changes in the Gmail interface and it now also acts as a jabber client! and it is agree that it is innovation at it's best at gmail. On the other hand much touted yahoo beta mail is yet to make a public appearence (though it is available to a few people).

On the iitk geek front, we have taken a few steps in the forward direction too! We now have a bit torrent file system working to do away with leachers. Hall 2 hallday had a first to celebrate when it streamed that event realtime on the campus lan! and slowly and surely IITK lan is moving towards 1GB speed! That will eb awesome bbut I won't be here (hopefully!) to witness it. Net speed has also increased manifold.

Techkriti 2006- Techkriti started on a poor note with only 80 people attending the inaguration event and two main events, Endeavour and Eureka were a complete fraud show! (One of the teams told me that they are using a very "powerful" tool called "VB" yes visual basic to the face recognition and when I asked about the algorithm they told me that they were matching pixel by pixel, the two pics!! God bless them!)
Open software was good though and there were good entries in that. But on the whole something is missing. With very low participation compared to last year it can be termed as worst techkriti ever and feel in someway I am responsible for it too :(.
Anyways ...