Tag Archives: Seoul

The Message Behind Instant Messaging

Be careful what you wish for. For nearly a decade I, and a lot of people like me, have been dreaming of the day when we could send an instant message to someone who wasn’t on the network as us. An instant messaging program is one that sits on your computer and allows you to send short text messages to other Internet users in real time — if they are online they see the message as soon as you’ve sent it. it’s faster than email because they get it straightaway, and it has the added bonus of letting you know whether the other person is at their computer and awake. Hence the name instant messaging. The big players, like Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and Google all have their own programs and networks, with millions of users. The services are free but beam ads at users through the software.

Now here’s the rub: Because there are no open standards, most instant messenger users can only trade messages with others using the same program. So if I signed up with ICQ, say, I won’t be able to chat with Aunt Marge if she only signed up with Yahoo. It’s a bit like only being able to send emails to people who use the same email service as yourself. Or only to make phone calls to other people using the same operator.

I’m not going to get into who’s to blame for all this. For the past few years I’ve been using a program that lets me include all my chat accounts in one small program, so I can talk to anyone on any service without having to run four or five different chat programs. No ads and less clutter on my screen. Yes, I do feel slightly bad using software that leaches off other people’s work, but if those other people can’t solve my communication problems with Aunt Marge I had to find someone who could.

But as instant messaging has grown, the arguments against fencing users of each system in have grown weaker. Instant messaging is no longer the province of teenagers: it’s as popular in business now as it is in the home, and many a market deal from London to Seoul has been done over instant messenger. Not only that: and the rise of voice over internet services like Skype, which include instant text messaging features, and the introduction of video chat, mean the clamor for interoperability has become harder to ignore.

Hence the recent announcement that Yahoo and Microsoft have started a test run of allowing users of their services to swap messages. This is a big step forward, although it’s noticeable that AOL, by far the biggest player in all this with their ICQ and AIM services, aren’t yet joining the party. Still, it’s good news. But there’s a sneaking worry about it all this. Why has it taken them so long? And why now? In reality, hard commercial reasons lie behidn the decision. It’s not just about helping me send a message to Aunt Marge on another network. In the recent words of Niall Kennedy (thanks, BJ Gillette), program managers at Microsoft, it’s about gathering information about us as we chat and surf so that the companies can target better ads at us. Quite reasonable for them to want to do, I suppose, but one more reason for me to be a tad suspicious about what I say or do online. For now I’m sticking with my third party, ad-free, leaching program.

Morph: Where You Sit

I’ve been invited to join a bunch of interesting folk blogging at the Media Center Conversation, “a global, cross-sector exploration of issues, trends, ideas and actions to build a better-informed society. It’s a collaborative project that rips, mixes and mashes people from radically different spheres of activity and thought to share and learn from each other.” The idea is to “explore how society informs itself, tells its story and creates the narrative from which we extract context and meaning about our world, our neighbors and ourselves. From this exploration we seek to connect people and opportunities, to incubate ideas – and to stimulate projects and action.”

Here’s an excerpt form my first contribution: Where You Sit:

Where you are influences what you write.

I write a technology column for the online and Asian editions of The Wall Street Journal, based in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Even my boss sometimes asks me why I don’t move to some geeky centre like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul or Taipei.

Last time he was in town I was trying to explain to him — the diversity, the perspective it lends to geeky gadgetry fiddling with my Treo as a prematurely old woman drags a truck-sized cart of grass past my taxi window, the wow! factor when technology really does work in the real world — when a terrorist bomb went off outside an embassy less than a mile away. That stopped our conversation before I had really gotten into gear. Nothing like a bomb blast to break the mood.

Yes, I know it’s awful to quote oneself, but I just wanted to show you I’m staying busy. And actually there are some interesting folk posting to the blog, so you can ignore my stuff and read theirs if you prefer.

Finding Liberation Online

Further to my earlier post about Lina Yoon’s piece on Korean ‘blogging’, here’s a taster to convince you to take out a subscription to WSJ.com, or go out and buy a copy of today’s AWSJ: WSJ.com – Finding Liberation Online 

SEOUL — In the real world, Kim Min Jung is an introverted secretary who finds it difficult talking to people she doesn’t know. When speaking, she often covers her face with her hands. On the Internet, though, the 28-year-old is no shrinking violet. On her personal Web site, Ms. Kim entertains about 1,200 visitors a day with plot summaries and witty commentaries on TV shows and movies. Online, she says, “I feel more confident expressing myself.”

In South Korea, centuries of patriarchal Confucian tradition have taught women to be deferential and reserved. But the country is also one of the most technologically advanced in the world, creating opportunities for women to freely express themselves in ways not yet seen in many other Asian societies. One of the most popular online avenues for women is Cyworld, an Internet community used by 14 million people — a little over one-quarter of the population of South Korea — that’s set to launch in the U.S. and other parts of Asia later in the year.

It’s just a short piece but does a great job looking at a very interesting phenomenon that may or may not take off elsewhere. Here’s some more detail on Ms. Kim that we had to cut for space:

For Ms. Kim, the secretary, expressing herself verbally remains difficult, but she finds herself becoming more popular in the office, with co-workers sending her ideas for her site.

Now, for a monthly fee of $30,000 to $40,000, companies are creating their own minihomepies to connect with younger female consumers. AmorePacific, a maker of beauty and skincare products in South Korea, started one for LaNeige Girl, a cosmetic line aimed at women aged 18 to 22. AmorePacific marketing executive An Yoo Shin says the site attracted 400,000 simultaneous viewers one day last year after a promotion offered anyone visiting the site at 5 p.m. a free background image of the LaNeige Girl character.

Now go and buy the paper.

Where Did That Email Come From?

An interesting new tool from the guys behind the controversial DidTheyReadIt?: LocationMail. (For some posts on DidTheyReadIt, check out here, here, here and here.)

LocationMail tells you where e-mail was sent from. It uses the most accurate data in the world to analyze your e-mail, trace it, and look up where the sender was when the message was sent. Find out where your friend was when she e-mailed you, or where a business contact is really writing from.

LocationMail integrates seamlessly into Outlook or Outlook Express; once installed, it shows you location information next to each message. LocationMail shows the City, State, Country, Company, ISP, and Connection Speed of the sender.

Installs painlessly into Outlook but crashed my Outlook Express. In Outlook a popup window appears with details of where the email was sent from, including the company, location, connection type, domain and IP address. LocationMail does this by using what it thinks is the IP address of the sender and running it through data from DigitalEnvoy and IP registrars. (A fuller explanation is here.) The makers hope to target a range of customers:

With phishing and other forms of Internet fraud becoming more and more problematic, LocationMail protects you from e-mail based frauds. The program can tell you if an email you seemingly received from your local bank was actually sent from a location half way around the globe. By instantly tracing the source of your emails, LocationMail helps keeps you safe from identify thieves. LocationMail lets you identify and eliminate fraudulent transactions from eBay and other Internet-based auction houses.

LocationMail protects companies who accept orders by email. Credit cards are regularly stolen from people in affluent countries, and used for placing online orders by criminals from other countries. By telling you an email’s origination location, the program helps you detect fraudulent inconsistencies.

Whether you’re a business person who wants to keep track of the demographics of prospects and customers, a manager who wants to ensure that incoming email addresses are legitimate and consistent, or a home computer user who is curious about where friends are e-mailing from, LocationMail has the tools that you need.

It costs $30. Another program that does something quite similar is eMailTrackerPro which will also identify the network provider of the sender, including contact information for abuse reporting, and uncovers the ‘misdirection’ tactic commonly used by spammers. Of course, LocationMail may not help that much, since legitimate emails might not, in Internet terms, originate from the place where they should. But it does a pretty good job and is useful if, say, you’re not sure about whether an email is spam or not (it does happen) the fact it originated in Seoul should provide a clue (unless you know lots of people in Seoul, of course).

And most importantly, this isn’t an invasive technology.

The Real And Lucrative Art Of Mobile Blogging

Here’s a new version of mobile blogging — using maps.

WaveMarket have just announced a new “location-based blogging system” that enables users to send and view information that is time and location specific. Korea’s SK Telecom will be the first to use the technology, called WaveIQ, which they hope to launch soon.

It works like this (the website does not do a good job of explaining how it all fits together, so I may get this wrong): You use your phone as a sort of mobile blogging tool, posting information and/or pictures — say a restaurant review — to a central blog, organised by space and time. Others can then see that posting (stored, I guess, either by date, location or type) by either reading the blog as text, or seeing postings by location on a map viewable on their handphone.

Another feature is WaveSpotter, which allows you to wander around and by seeing where you are on a map, look for content near you — restaurant reviews, or whatever, or more personal stuff you or people you know have recorded, such as where you first dated your spouse (you mean you forgot already?)

One other feature is WaveAlert, which ‘enables wireless operators ”to notify you when you are near something important to you, like a speed trap before its too late, or a good friend who happens to be in your area”.

Here’s WaveMarket’s vision: “We enable a single screen archive to catalog an anywhere, any time visual history. Suppose 20 years from now, you want to see what happened here today, where the future of technology is being shaped. WaveMarket will have your photos and postings of what happened in this room at this time. WaveMarket can maintain a daily history of what happens anywhere — from this time forward. Events — big and small — state primaries, Middle Eastern conflicts, neighborhood improvement projects, family reunions or baby’s birthday can all be captured, broadcast, shared and archived. In short, WaveMarket enables you to see a visual history of the world, from today forward, written by the people of the world as it occurs.”

Um. OK, that sounds pretty radical. Thinking more short term, I can see this may be a neat service, and one that could really catch on, especially with those night-time folk who seem to spend more time communicating via SMS or voice with friends they’re not with than the ones they are with. But it may also have more practical benefits for cellphone users, such as figuring out the nearest hospital, the nearest bookshop, or how far from home your son is.

Of course, behind all this are some serious marketing opportunities. The last bit, in particular, sounds like a serious opportunity for firing off location-based ads via SMS/MMS. And of course there’s the privacy aspects: The whole service depends on being able to monitor your location in real time, something you may not be too excited about. Another downside: If one company has a daily history of your movements, your postings, your interests and whatnot, that’s valuable commercial data and you may want to think twice before having that stored somewhere. Not to speak of the interest law enforcement agencies may have in it. You may have done nothing wrong, but how about someone stole your phone and committed a crime with it in their pocket? Who ya gonna believe?

That all said, WaveMarket (the name, by the way, is telling) is the future. Handphones so far have not made full use of the fact that they are, among other things, very effective homing devices. Put that data on maps and hook it up with other time and spatial data and you have some powerful services — and marketing opportunities. And these guys clearly have overcome the huge data processing requirements of this kind of service. Must head off to Seoul and see how they use it.