Thinking out loud

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Webaroo...

Well it has been a complete let down, frankly. We've been watching Webaroo for quite a while now. So many IITians have worked for them by now and on apparently very interesting things too. There were people working on image compression, video compression, information retreival, etc. They spent money too. Pizzas for lunch... etc etc. I was pretty excited about Webaroo myself. With them spending so much money on interns and the kind of work going on, I was expecting some spectacular products to be announced. Come 10th April and the only expression I had was - "What? All this for a webpack?"

And what a webpack too. A friend tells me that the Mumbai webpack does not throw up IIT Bombay in its search results. Ok, you can say I have an inflated ego but come on, I'd still say IIT should be there in a Mumbai-only webpack. In any case, the whole idea is indigestible. Lots of people have already pointed out several problems with the concept.

1. hard-disk space on laptops is expensive. Does 40 gigs of webpack make sense?
2. a webpack for cellphones? how many MBs did you say? duh?
3. anyone who knows he'll be away from a network connection (as when travelling on an international flight) for an extended period would simply download relevant stuff he'd want to read - well maybe this does not hold that much water, but fine.
4. connectivity is exploding. Beyond a certain threshold it does not matter how much hard-disk space you have. Is this a product to just act as a filler for the time when connectivity becomes ubiquitous, even in aircrafts? (yes, even today you can get network connectivity there, albeit at a fairly high cost and only on some carriers).
5. The internet is an interactive medium. Once you "download" it, the interactivity is essentially gone. You can't read email, can't eshop, etc. so what's the point.

Those are common arguments that are raised. I, however, had other questions on my mind. The first is that of copyright infringement. What Webaroo is offering is basically redistribution of content from the web. Now such material could be copyrighted and yet make it into their webpack (if it doesn't, quite a lot of good content would be absent). Google only stores it in an index for searching, so perhaps that's fair use. But giving it away as a product... is that fair use?

Second, what about websites that make money by online advertisements? Aren't they losing revenue because there obviously cannot be ad-tracking? So isn't Webaroo running at the expense of other site owners?

As I said, I was pretty much disappointed with Webaroo. So much research for (in my opinion) a fairly crappy product. Maybe they have something else hidden away; waiting for the right time to announce it. Maybe, just maybe. One hopes. Meanwhile, I'm just happy IIT has given me a 24 hour net connection and I can blog at 4 AM in the morning.

[Wait! Maybe people in IIT Chennai would like to download this stuff; what with LAN down during the night... just a thought]

[I remembered a joke I heard years ago. It was basically when the internet was only entering common vocabulary. This guy walks up to a computer store owner with a floppy and says - "can you give me a copy of the internet on this floppy?". It was pretty lame even then but I think the Webaroo guys got serious about it. Floppy maybe not, but an HD-DVD surely (or Blu-Ray disc, depending on which camp you're in)]

8 Comments:

  • The biggest problem I have with internet download packs is that I have no idea ahead of time what I'll be reading, let alone having somebody or some algorithm recognize what I might want to read and create a pack just for me.

    And yes, quite a bit of content is dynamic - blog posts, mail, etc.

    Webaroo may have been a better idea 8 years ago. Releasing a net download pack after so much secrecy sounds like a joke to me.

    What might actually be more useful is not to have a predefined pack, but to catch all clicks the user makes offline and download the pages when online.

    By Blogger Kartik Vaddadi, at 9:27 PM  

  • copyright was the first issue which people raised question upon :p :p but ofcourse since this is the first issue in everyone's mind, they themselves had this issue in mind and the answer of course. :)

    Product sucks anytime. Even from view point of offline browsing keeping in mind limited stuff can be offered. Better they shld remove "offline search" and make it "computer whitepages search" since its only useful for getting some specific information like hotels, acco etc. about the place like Mumbai (keep in mind not bombay :p, hence no iitb).
    [ may be i have browsed internet much but i think most of the people with PDA's would have ]
    For now there target seems to be just tourists (in 13 places, since there are only 13 webpacks). Lets wait more.. :-(

    By Blogger Nakul, at 10:23 PM  

  • I have to agree with the Interactive point. Most of the Junta who USE net here in the night use it for browsing for assignments/Projects {gaming and downbloading are out of question anyway} So anything like webaroo is basically waste.

    PS: Just like you are not from IIT Mumbai, we are not from IIT Chennai. Sy IITM at the least .

    By Blogger Vinay, at 6:28 PM  

  • Yup... do appreciate the IITM/IIT Chennai point. Will take care in the future :)

    By Blogger Parijat, at 11:09 PM  

  • didnt understand much of it but what i realize is that ur fundaes are real clear in something...n that is totally high funda...saw some cribbing about iit chennai...we still call u iitb...so please we are too iitm

    By Blogger vineet, at 6:48 AM  

  • Just wanted to tell you that there's a new version of Webaroo now available.

    You may want to try it out - www.webaroo.com."

    For a quick download here is the url

    http://www.webaroo.com/download

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:30 AM  

  • Hi, Webaroo has released a new version of our product - Webaroo 2. This version lets you download YouTube videos, Flickr photos and more... Check it out at http://my.webaroo.com
    Vishy - VP, Engg - Webaroo

    By Blogger Technocrati, at 9:57 AM  

  • Hi, Webaroo has released a new version of our product - Webaroo 2. This version lets you download YouTube videos, Flickr photos and more... Check it out at http://my.webaroo.com
    Vishy - VP, Engg - Webaroo

    By Blogger Technocrati, at 10:22 AM  

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