For Dis-CERN-ing Eyes: The First Photo On the Web

Who are Angela Higney, Michele de Gennaro, Colette Marx-Neilsen and Lynn Veronneau (below, from left to right)? Chances are, you don’t know, but tyou can thank them, in part, every time you view a photo published on the Web.

The First Picture Uploaded to the Web

It seems that those wacky kids at the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) Laboratory near Geneva, you know, Tim Berners-Lee and those wacky kids who actually did invent the World Wide web, had an annual talent show called The Hadronic Music Festival.  A popular “girl-group” there, made up of admins and significant others of scientists, was called “Les Horribles Cernettes‘ (LHC). On July 18, 1992 — 20 years ago today — their manager snapped this photo (title added and edited) for use on a soon-to-be-released album cover.

So when Tim Berners-Lee, a LHC fan, needed an image to load on to the latest version of the Web, one that would support photos, he turned to a nearby Mac that had the scanned in  .gif file of the LHC and used that one.

This was significant for two reasons: first, it showed that the Web (up until then used solely for science) could be used for fun; second, it became the precursor to what people like best on the Web today – graphics and visuals. Typically, hardware advances fuel software developments which in turn push the envelope spurring further hardware advances.  Like them or not, but online gaming and, yes, porn pushed hardware and operating system producers to make faster computers with more capacity for graphics and images.

So the next time you view a photo on Flickr, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest  or on a blog or any on any other page published across the WWW — think about the not-so-horrible Les Horribles Cernettes.

As for LHC? They’re still singing songs and breaking physicists’ hearts.

Oh, and if you think that it’s a coincidence that the worlds largest particle collider, the Large Hadron Collider being used to try to recreate the energy of the big bang that created the universe, has the initials LHC — think again.

Hat Tip: To Abraham Riesman and his article on Mother board

Very Pinteresting, Why Facebook Paid $1 Billion For Instagram

Facebook InstagramIn advance of its much ballyhooed IPO, Facebook, which historically made acquisitions of $100 million or less, bought Instagram for cash and stock approximating $1 billion. The photo sharing mobile app, launched less than two years ago, was valued at $20 million in February 2011 and $500 million as recently as last week (based upon investor funding).

So, why pay $1 billion for it and why now? Five reasons:

  1. Platform. Instagram is a mobile app, and mobile represents the biggest upside for future marketing and commerce. Facebook needs more mobile features.
  2. Graphics. Pictures and images rule the day online. They’re compelling content that conveys the you-are-there experience with one-click satisfaction, and then love to share.
  3. Category killer. In two short years, it is by far the best known and most widely used mobile photo app. Go ahead, name two others (I’ll wait).
  4. Accelerated growth — and poised for more. Instagram launched on October 6, 2010.  Two months later in December it had 1 million users. By September 2011 it grew to 10 million users, and now boasts 30 million users. And that’s with it being an iPhone only app until a few weeks ago. When its Android operating system version was finally released April 3rd of this year, it was downloaded over 1 million times in the first 12 hours. Android users effectively doubles the potential user pool. And all of this was before the hype and buzz associated with its acquisition.
  5. Pinterest — or, why Instagram was worth a billion bucks to Facebook. Also launched two years ago, Pinterest is likewise driven by graphics, allowing users to pin their favorites to collection boards with sharing via social nets. Like Facebook, Pinterest has a “like” function and users can comment on content. True, Instagram features user-generated photos while Pinterest links to graphics linked to the Web, but here’s why that will change. Read more of this post

Everything AOL Is New Again, Again

American layout roulette wheel.

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t help it. Maybe it’s because I spent 10 years working at AOL during it’s rise and fall. Maybe it’s just that things happen in cycles. Regardless, when I saw this headline today it made me think of something I’d written about previously:

StumbleUpon passes Facebook in US referral traffic

So what does this have to do with AOL? First, some background for those of you who have never been an AOLer. Navigation within the walled garden of AOL content was aided by the use of shortcuts known as Keywords. Want to jump directly from the Welcome Screen to content regarding vacations? Enter keyword: Travel.  Want to go from there to see how your favorite team did last night, use Keyword: Sports. With both major and sub-categories there were literally hundreds (if not thousands) of keywords on AOL.

So what does this have to do with StumbleUpon passing Facebook as the number one referer on the ‘Net? Well, at AOL we were privy to the list of most popular keywords (as determined by user clicks), and invariably every month positioned near the top was Keyword: Random.

Enter “random” in the keyword box and a roulette wheel would appear. Click it to spin and when it stopped you’d be taken to a random page somewhere on AOL. Some pages were great, some not so great. But people loved the, well, randomness of the result, something I refer to today as serendipitous discovery“– where you (literally) stumble upon content you previously had no knowledge of.

It worked back then for AOL, and to StumbleUpon’s benefit it still works today.

♫… No need to remember when
‘Cause everything old is new again …♫

Everything AOL Is New Again

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

♫… When trumpets… were mellow
And every gal only had one fellow
No need to remember when
‘Cause everything old is new again …♫

I have a soft spot in my heart for AOL. Shortly after getting my first PC in 1994, I joined all of the Internet portals of the day on a trial basis: Prodigy; CompuServe; Genie; Imagination but ended each subscription at the end of the free period except for one: AOL, because of what I later came to know as Community. I quickly got hooked on building relationships with like-minded people without regard to geographic or societal boundaries. In other words, social networking.

In fact, I loved it so much I became a beta tester for AOL 1.5 (when it had 500K members) onward, then a volunteer, then a contractor and finally in 1997, a paid  employee. During the next 10 years I rode the crest of AOL’s rise to the largest portal in the world (with 35 million paid members) as well as its accelerated denouement.

Blame management; blame the ill-conceived and worse executed merger with “old media” Time-Warner; blame whomever or whatever you wish for AOL’s fall from grace. But the fact is, AOL was a trailblazer in many ways. So, it’s both satisfying and frustrating to see current digital companies (including the “new” AOL) turning back to its concepts and features.

♫… Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails …♫

Back then, AOL based programming on a TV network model comprised of major content categories called channels, with user engagement provided by supporting community teams. About 20 or so major channels, provided both content and community. And so, it was good to see TechCrunch (itself an AOL “channel”) report today, “AOL Consolidates 53 Brands Down To 20 “Power Brands” in an effort to consolidate both content and advertising inventory. See the resemblance?

But it wouldn’t be a trend if only New AOL were doing this. The NY Times reported on Monday about a growing trend in many large organizations, “Companies Are Erecting In-House Social Networks“. Organizations are employing private networks, or intranets, utilizing social networking to improve communications and increase associate engagement. Great idea! Of course, AOL  provided parallel AOL private networks for a fee to companies and organizations way back in 1997 – fourteen years ago.

Yes, AOL fell behind on many fronts, especially the migration to broadband access and the open Internet as well as products such as blogs and user-generated video. And, ultimately, it has no one to blame for its current situation other than itself.

 But its important to give AOL credit where due.

♫… Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again …♫

(Lyrics: ‘Everything old Is New Again”  – Peter Allen)

The Names of American Cities (According to Twitter)

How do Twitter users refer to major U,S, cities?

Of course, there can be only one ‘Gotham’ city, but I imagine those claiming ‘Titletown’ may get an argument from residents of Green Bay

Click Image to View Full Size

Newspapers: Not quite dead yet.

Quick Post: There are 10,000 online newspapers in the world, find out where,  here:

To newspapermap.com

Sad, But True (and Funny)

Another in a long line of reasons why companies need to hire an on staff social media professional.

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