Winning Friends and Influencing People in the Cyber Age

By Hector Cisneros

Since the advent of the Internet society has changed. We have gone from  face-to-face relationships to a society that prefers social networking. We have cyber friends we don’t even know. Young people today would rather text you than speak to you in person.  Facebook now runs commercials showing that people would rather be on their Facebook phones, reading their news feed, than interacting with their families at the dinner table. The fact is we live in a cyber-enabled world. So, if you want to build strong relationships and get ahead, you need to learn how to make friends and influence people in the 21st century.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article called “How to win Friends and Influence People in the 21st Century. In that article I emphasized the law of reciprocity. The law that states what goes around comes around.  That means if you help others, they will in turn help you back. This was my magic formula for growing my business, my reputation while building trust among my customers. I also advocated providing others with testimonials letters, as well as referrals and recommendations long before the advent of social networks. Word of mouth marketing is built on your reputation. It depends on building trust and credibility. 

Think of social media as an electronic form of word of mouth marketing. It allows your referral partners and 
Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
happy customers to sing your praises to a worldwide audience, an audience that can spread that positive or negative message quickly, reaching far beyond your customer base.  In my previous article I also mentioned that my social networks have built-in functions to pass along recommendations and testimonials. LinkedIn, Ecademy and FourSquare were the examples I gave. Since that writing LinkedIn has added an additional endorsement function where you can just click on a person’s skill to recommend them. However, I still prefer that you write a genuine testimonial letter and upload it.  This will carry more weight than just clicking on someone's skill set as an endorsement.

As a general rule, the more work you do to help someone, the greater the value and weight your efforts carry.  Don’t limit your recommendations to just one social network. Post your recommendations on as many networks as possible. I often post my recommendations on the top five social networks. This includes Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. But don’t stop there.  Posting to other networks like Merchant Circle, AnglesList, Google Local and  YollowBook  also helps. I also like making  recommendations on  blogs and  websites, if it has the facility to allow you to rate them there.

A quick note about YouTube; many people don’t think of YouTube as a social network, however it has all the features of a true social network. You subscribe to it. You can follow other accounts, build a following, 
Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase
make and receive recommendations and leave comments on a person’s posts. More importantly you can create a video testimonial for the person you’re trying to help. In today’s world, nothing is better than a video testimonial from a happy customer. Commercials are full of actors faking their endorsement.  But a customer’s eyes rarely lie. Today, videos are the king of testimonials. More people would rather watch a short video that read anything. This is especially true of your testimonials. Unscripted, spoken from the heart words of praise are priceless marketing weapons without equal. Do everything in your power to help your customers provide this valuable service for you and your company. This can include providing incentive for the completion of a recommendation etc.… However, the law of reciprocity only works if the testimonial that is given is genuine. You must earn their recommendation by providing them with good service or a valued product.

Many social networks allow you to upload pictures and or videos. Note that written testimonials, referrals and recommendations can be saved as PDF and JPG files, essentially turning them into pictures and downloadable documents. This is another way you can upload testimonials to social networks like Twitter, Google + and Facebook. Don’t forget to upload your video testimonial to these channels also. This includes other rating sites like Google Maps and Google local. As a matter of fact many “Local Directories” provide a place for you to upload pictures and videos. Use these to your advantage.  I would be willing to bet if you do, you will be one of the few that use this strategy and it will give you a big advantage.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
Today there are also lots of tools that make it easier to post your recommendations and testimonials. These 
tools provide leverage so that you can post to multiple networks simultaneously. You can even schedule post asking people to read your testimonials’ and recommendations. There is no rule that says you can’t post this type of request more than once. Just don’t do it too often or you risk alienating your following. My favorite tool is Hootsuite and it is free at

A few last notes to consider. Today, your reputation (individual and business) extends far beyond the boundaries of your business. Anyone can research your reputation and they believe what they read and view. Social media has become the great equalizer. It some cases, it has also become the spoiler. This is especially true if a competitor is trying to soil your reputation. The viral power of social networks allows a reputation to be passed around the world quickly (good or bad). It behooves you to make disgruntled customers satisfied. Making things right is the best way to turn a bad situation into a positive recommendation.

I have spent the last 20 years of my business life following the law of reciprocity and it has served me well. I have dozens of recommendations and have a clean online reputation. I work hard at keeping my reputation clean, not by tricks or burying bad news by launching a massive PR campaign that pushes that news off page one.  Instead  what I concentrate on  is helping others first and then making things right if I make a mistake.
Twitter 6x6
Twitter 6x6 (Photo credit: Steve Woolf)
 I do this because I believe it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Pick a number of referral partners, (I chose 30 when I did this experiment) and write testimonials for them. Post them to the top five social networks, (or whichever ones you’re on) and then let them know that you provided this service for them. Ask them if they could reciprocate by doing the same for you. You will find that your reciprocity rate will be between 30 and 50% most of the time. If you do this experiment three or four times you will have helped a lot of people and in turn helped yourself by gathering a handsome number of recommendations to boot. Keep in mind that this will only work if you have built trust and credibility with others. If they don’t know, like and trust you, asking them for a recommendation is not going fly either.

In this article I have covered the law of reciprocity and how it allows you to win friends and influence people in the 21st century. I have discussed how you can use this principle on a variety of social media including the top five social networks and others like Angieslist, Merchant Circle and Google Local. I have included suggestions on how to leverage your time and given insight to using YouTube as a social network and testimonial tool. If you have enjoyed this article pass it on to your friends. If you have other ideas, thoughts or comments on this subject share them with our readers in the comment section.  If I or my company can be of any service, call, email or write us and we will contact you personally.

That’s my opinion.  I look forward to hearing yours.

Hector Cisneros is CFO of W Squared Media Group, a Jacksonville, Florida based Internet marketing agency.  You may also hear Hector live on Working the Web to Win every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

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The New Face of Facebook

by Hector Cisneros

With more than a billion subscribers, Facebook is the most widely used social network in the world. The folks behind the scenes at Facebook tell us that they are working hard to improve the user experience. They also say that they are working to provide a business friendly advertising medium. Facebook's founder makes new promises every year with regards to upgrades and added features. As a matter of fact, they add new feature so often that it makes me wonder why this constant tweaking is needed. They are currently twice as big as their nearest competitor.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
The problem with all the tinkering is that if you find a feature you love, it can suddenly vanish. Do the  constant changes and add-ons to Facebook frustrate you?  Do Facebook's constant changes tick you off? If so then this article is for you. We will explore the many ever-changing faces of Face Book and show you where to find help and where features have been moved. This article will help you make heads or tails of the new face of Facebook.

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has been at the center of social media. Its meteoric rise from unknown social network to the industry-leading juggernaut in 2013 has been nothing short of meteoric. Today Facebook has more than a billion subscriber’s along with hoards of fans and a number of detractors who say the popularity of Facebook is slipping. Every year Facebook has made functional and cosmetic changes to its social platform. Some of these changes have been met with applause and others with disdain.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
What’s amazing to me is that Facebook and other software companies ignore a very important fact. Most people in the world don’t like change. Studies have shown that only about 25% of all software users look
 forward to upgrades and changes. About 50 percent don’t like change but will tolerate it if there are perceivable benefits and there are the last 25 percent that just hate change. That means that 75 percent of all users don’t want rapid changes. Yet rapid changes is the norm in the software world today. Let's cover some of the newest changes going on at Facebook

The new Timeline allows for bigger picture and videos as well as organizing your news feed in a way that
 allows your tabs to display information by category. The default news feed page lists your posts on the right side. The left side contains information about you, followed by sections containing your friends, photos and your likes for music, movies, TV show, books etc… Clicking on the tab for any of these items moves them to center stage for you or your friends to see.

Facebook new Graph Search will allow you to search and find others who have similar interests to you. It will allow you to use simple phrases like “find photos taken by friends in Key West” or “show me people who like windsurfing”. This feature is not yet available to all users. There is a waiting list you can get on to try it out when it is finally released. I have added myself to the list because I believe this could be a significant tool that subscribers will love.

Facebook adds a dedicated music tab. The music tab was recently added along with tabs for movies, TV show, books, likes, notes and places. This information was available in your profile before but Facebook decided that creating tabs for each item type made for better organization similar to the way a newspaper is organized into sections.

Facebook chat function allows you to enter into a chat session with anyone listed in the chat function tab in the lower right hand corner of your Facebook home page. This not so much a new function as it is a function that has moved around and been refined over the last year or so. It now sits out of the way unless you click on the chat tab, which in turn makes it pop up, showing you how many of your friends are online right now.

Illustration of Facebook mobile interface
Illustration of Facebook mobile interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Facebook confusing Edge Rank algorithm. This algorithm determines if a subscriber sees your ad based on a myriad of criteria. For example, a post can appear in a subscribers timeline based on its category (photo, video or text), how long the post has been displayed, if you recently interacted with that subscriber, how popular it is (via likes and comments) and so on. It’s easy to see that it would be hard to predict how often subscribers would see your ad. This is also borne out by reports that ad results have been poor.

The Facebook cell phone. Facebook recently teamed up with HTC to produce an Android phone with a home page Facebook app as the standard interface. Initial sales have been a little slow but I am sure that for the Facebook addicted masses, this cell phone will fit right in.

 Facebook Home for Android. If you don’t want to buy a Facebook cell phone, you can convert your current Android Smartphone to a Facebook phone by just downloading the Homepage Facebook app. As of this week, over 500,000 Facebook Home Page apps have been downloaded from Google play.  

Facebook continues to grow despite the predictions by detractors that they are slipping. Facebook just built a new $1.5 billion data center in Iowa. This means that they are serious about being in control of their own infrastructure and quality control. There have been some recent studies that show small businesses moving their advertising from Facebook to LinkedIn, Pintrest and Twitter. Small businesses have shown their frustration with the new and confusing Edge Rank algorithm, which has produced poor results for small businesses. On the other hand Facebook has shown tremendous resiliency even in the face of its constant tinkering with its interface and functions. There is no doubt that adding features and improving function is a worthwhile endeavor. I for one vote for fewer upgrades and slower change.  Once a year is enough.

In this article, I have discussed several of the newest Facebook features and innovations. I have discussed the subscriber frustrations associated with the constant changes implemented by Facebook. I also have mentioned the migration of many small business owners to other social networks like LinkedIn and Pintrest, caused by the confusion and poor results of Facebook new Edge Rank algorithm. In addition, I have provided a short list of articles worth reading is you are a Facebook aficionado in need of comprehensive detail. If you enjoyed this article past it on to a friend, if you have a different opinion add that in the comment section of this article. I hope to share other articles with you in the near future. That’s my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

Hector Cisneros is CFO of W Squared Media Group, a Jacksonville, Florida based Internet marketing agency.  You may also hear Hector live on Working the Web to Win every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

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When Will Computers Think for Themselves?

By Carl Weiss

Face it, since the 1980’s the personal computer has changed the world as we know it.  Before Apple and IBM started offering computers to the masses, the world was a much different place.  We weren’t as connected.  Life ran at a slower pace. The world seemed bigger.  But the advent of the microchip and everything that went along with it forever changed the ways in which we communicate, educate, shop, and do business.  In fact just about the only thing that hasn’t changed in the past twenty five years has been the fact that humans still control the destinies of every PC, tablet, smartphone, automobile, airplane and power plant.  Without programming, computers would be little more than diecast doorstops that are about as smart as an anvil. 

While science fiction novels and movies galore speak of the wonder and the horror of thinking machines, the fact is that there still aren’t any machines on the planet that can self-program or learn from their mistakes.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the day is coming sooner than you think when computers will be able to think for themselves. 

It all started with a game

Lëtzebuergesch: De Garri Kasparow géint de Com...
Lëtzebuergesch: De Garri Kasparow géint de Computerprogramm Deep Junior am Januar 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Computers are really good at games.  The reason is that games have rules.  Programming the rules into a computer is fairly straightforward.  Once programmed, a game playing computer has a distinct advantage over a human due to the fact that computers can perform hundreds of millions of calculations per second.  This was first brought to light in a big way when in 1997 the IBM computer Deep Blue beat the world’s chess champion Gary Kasparov. 

From Wikipedia - “Deep Blue, with its capability of evaluating 200 million positions per second, was 
the fastest computer that ever faced a world chess champion. Today, in computer chess research and matches of world class players against computers, the focus of play has often shifted to software chess programs, rather than using dedicated chess hardware. Modern chess programs like Rybka, Deep Fritz or Deep Junior are more efficient than the programs during Deep Blue's era. In a recent match, Deep Fritz vs. world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik in November 2006, the program ran on a personal computer containing two Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs.”

While an impressive feat, Deep Blue and its successors are extremely limited in what they can accomplish and how they can interact with humans.  All they do is play chess.  They not only are unable to hold a conversation about the nuances of the game, they don’t understand what the word nuance means.  However, all that changed in 2010 with the creation of the computer known as Watson.

IBM Watson (Jeopardy at Carnegie Mellon) - How...
IBM Watson (Jeopardy at Carnegie Mellon) - How I saved humanity! (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)
Designed and built by IBM, Watson was designed to answer questions on the TV game show Jeopardy.  Unlike Deep Blue, Watson could not only understand the sometimes arcane questions posed on the show, but it could deliver its answers verbally. Relying on an extensive database of some 200 million pages of content contained in four terabytes of RAM, Watson competed on the air against two of the most successful human Jeopardy competitors of all time, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, beating them both for a prize worth one million dollars. 

Since DeepBlue's victory over Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997, IBM had been on the hunt for a new challenge. In 2004, IBM Research manager Charles Lickel, over dinner with coworkers, noticed that the restaurant they were in had fallen silent. He soon discovered the cause of this evening hiatus: Ken Jennings, who was then in the middle of his successful 74-game run on Jeopardy!. Nearly the entire restaurant had 
Watson, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter in their...
Watson, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter in their Jeopardy! exhibition match. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
piled toward the televisions, mid-meal, to watch the phenomenon. Intrigued by the quiz show as a possible challenge for IBM, Lickel passed the idea on, and in 2005, IBM Research executive Paul Horn backed Lickel up, pushing for someone in his department to take up the challenge of playing Jeopardy! with an IBM system.  Eventually David Ferrucci took him up on the offer.
In initial tests run during 2006, Watson was given 500 clues from past Jeopardy programs. While the best real-life competitors buzzed in half the time and responded correctly to as many as 95% of clues, Watson's first pass could get only about 15% correct. During 2007, the IBM team was given three to five years and a staff of 15 people to solve the problems. By 2008, the developers had advanced Watson such that it could compete with Jeopardy! champions.  By February 2010, Watson could beat human Jeopardy! contestants on a regular basis”
Can you say Doctor Watson?

More incredibly, after retiring from television, Watson was repurposed in 2013 to provide management decisions in lung cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center.  IBM Watson’s business chief Manoj Saxena says that 90% of nurses in the field who use Watson now follow its guidance.  IBM is also looking at the possibility of using Watson for legal research,

While the software that upon Watson is based is available to large corporations and research centers
Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Photo credit: James the photographer)
According to IBM, "The goal is to have computers start to interact in natural human terms across a range of applications and processes, understanding the questions that humans ask and providing answers that humans can understand and justify."  (such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) The rub is that a system that meets the minimum requirements necessary to run a program as sophisticated as Watson currently costs more than one million dollars.  However, as computer chips become faster and less costly, it won’t be long before this kind of technology makes it to the masses.  When you realize that the computer power available in today’s smartphones is superior to that used to fly the Space Shuttle, then this claim is hardly beyond the realm of possibility.  (Even a handful of top executives at Google has espoused the goal of creating a computer much like the one on the series Star Trek.)
The Moore the Merrier
The real driving force behind the race to build intelligent computers did indeed start back in the 1960's with a tenet called Moore's Law.  Moore’s Law states that computer power doubles approximately every two years.  This little gem was coined by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore back in 1965, when he published a paper noting that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled ever since their invention in 1958.  While this trend has slowed slightly over the intervening forty eight years, the nearly exponential growth of computing power has directly impacted every aspect of the electronics industry and brought us closer to the point where computers will be able to think for themselves.  It also led to other technological visionaries taking the next logical step.
Peter Van DerMade, former IBM chief scientist, has spent over a decade studying the human brain and understanding how to replicate it in computer form. His new book, Higher Intelligence, tells the story of a 10-year breakthrough R&D project to build an 'artificial brain' chip that will help computers learn much like the human brain.  "By producing computer chips that allow computers to learn for themselves, we have unlocked the next generation of computers and artificial intelligence," Mr Van Der Made says.  “We are on the brink of a revolution now where the computers of tomorrow will be built to do more than we ever imagined.  Current computers are great tools for number crunching, statistical analysis, or surfing the Internet. But their usefulness is limited when it comes to being able to think for themselves and develop new skills," he says.“The synthetic brain chip of tomorrow can evolve through learning, rather than being programmed.”

Peter goes onto say in his book that he and his colleagues have already been able to simulate many of the functions of the human brain and convert them into hardware and software that enables computers to "learn new skills" without the intervention of programmers.  If he is correct, the next few years could see a paradigm shift that is more earth shattering than that of the advent of the silicon chip. Already we are seeing autonomous aerial vehicles flying the friendly skies and driverless automobiles plying the highways of Southern California.  With a few more iterations of Moore’s Law and a bit of tinkering, will we shortly be on the verge of intelligent systems, everyday robotics and machines that can outthink their makers?

If this isn’t quite the case yet, all I can say is, “Let’s come up with a game…”

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group, a cutting edge digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can also interact live with Carl every Tuesday at 4 pm Eastern on his radio show, Working the Web to Win 

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Can You Keep Your Computer from Catching Cold?

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By Carl Weiss

NEWSFLASH: A new strain of bird flu was recently detected in China that is infectious to humans and has so far killed four of the sixteen people infected.  As a precaution, hundreds of thousands of poultry have been killed in China and the US Center for Disease Control has been put on high alert.

When it comes to biological threats to people’s health, the governments of the world are up to the task of containing the spread of disease.  This is one area where red tape is routinely cut and bureaucracy stifled in
Malware logo Crystal 128.
Malware logo Crystal 128. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 order to preserve the public good.  Isn’t it a shame that this isn’t the case when it comes to computer viruses?  What’s even worse is the fact that the number of computer viruses worldwide has been rising at an almost exponential rate.

Did you know that in 2008, it was estimated the number of known computer viruses stood at in excess of 1 million, an increase of 468 per cent on the previous year? Figures suggest at least five malware samples emerge on the Internet every two minutes and 15 to 20 new Trojans are released every half hour.” 

The figures as of 2013 are as high as 17 million according to antivirus maker Symantec.  Far from being a high priority on the minds of government officials, in many cases the laws that do exist actually work to 
prevent government cooperation.  Even within our own borders, the powers that be have yet to create effective legislation that offers any hope of curtailing the proliferation of malware.  Prosecutions against malware developers are few and far between.  In the meantime, everyone from hacker collectives to foreign governments are busy 24/7 cranking out ever more insidious ways of infecting your computer.

Here Are the Headlines

June 12, 2012 ZDNet: On Sunday Microsoft reported that “…some components of the malware have been signed by certificates that allow software to appear as if it was produced by Microsoft.  

Dec. 26, 2012 PRWeb: New viruses that are disguised to look like a government program have been spreading around the world. The new type of virus generally blocks users from accessing their desktop, documents, and programs until the user pays a ransom (generally a hundred dollars or more) to the cyber criminals who created the virus. 

Jan. 13, 2013 The US Department of Homeland Security is advising people to temporarily disable Java software on their computer to avoid potential hacking attacks.

Once inside your computer, hackers can do everything from directing you to clone sites designed to get you to reveal your passwords, to activating your computer’s camera in order to spy on you, to holding your system hostage, or even hijacking your machine in order to infect yet more systems.  The good news is that with the right combination of software and a little online discipline, preventing all but the most concerted of hacking efforts is relatively simple to accomplish.  The bad news is that once infected, your system and your life may never be the same.

Forewarned is Forearmed

The best way to keep from being victimized is to run at least two layers of antivirus & anti-malware/anti-
English: Malware statics on 2011-03-16 (Panda ...
English: Malware statics on 2011-03-16 (Panda Security) Español: Estadísticas de Malware el día 16-03-2011 (Panda Security) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
spyware software on all your systems, plus a site advisory such as Web of Trust to clue you into suspicious websites.  This needs to include all of your PC’s and laptops, as well as tablets and smartphones.  While most people have at least an antivirus program working on their PC’s and laptops, it isn’t at all unusual for them to have no protection on tablets and especially smartphones.  This is a vulnerability of which cybercriminals are well aware, so you need to plug this hole in your defenses right away if you hope to avoid getting hacked.  (You also need to update most anti-malware packages and scan your system weekly to keep up to date.)

"There are many types ofmalware that can infect your computer, but the types that can steal your data are simply called "information thieves." They are made up of things like keyloggers, screen recorders and memory scrapers. They perform a variety of tasks, from recording what keys you press to taking screenshots of your desktop at random intervals. This information is then sent to the malware's designer, showing them whatever you typed or viewed on your computer. Using this method, a hacker can steal any data from computer passwords to credit card numbers." 

However, even the best firewall and antivirus programs cannot offer you complete protection if you insist on clicking on links leading to suspicious websites or opening email attachments without first scanning them for malware.  Software like Web of Trust uses a stoplight arrangement where suspicious sites are flagged with a red light and trusted sites are given the green.  If you click on a site flagged with a red light, that’s like leaving your car in the parking lot of a shopping mall with the ignition running and a “Steal Me” sign on the windshield.  Site advisory systems will only warn and not prevent you from accessing potentially harmful websites.

There’s an App for That

With the explosion of smartphones and tablets have come an explosion in “Free Apps.”  Needless to say, this has also resulted in an explosion of infected systems.  Understand from the outset that there is no such thing as a free app, just as there is no such thing as a free lunch.  In the best case, by downloading a free app onto your system, you will also load adware or spyware onto your system, as well as providing the developer with contact information that can be sold to the highest bidder.  In the worst-case scenario, you will download a virus, worm or Trojan horse that is designed to provide the developer with access to your system, or even provide them with the means to control your computer and do with it what they wish.

The humorous IT security expert, who sports numerous tattoos and has a penchant for heavy metal music, can hack into your mobile phone with a single SMS.  He can then remotely listen to your calls, read text messages and even access the password to your online bank account.
“It’s creepy, isn’t it?” said Ferguson, who is global vice-president for security research for IT firm Trend Micro, as he demonstrated the hack. Yet, many users still refused to believe how vulnerable they are when they use mobile devices, he added. 
In order to prevent picking up these unwanted hitchhikers, you need to only download apps and software from trusted vendors.  You also need to access software and app review sites such as in order to find out what other people think about any program you are thinking about adding to your system.  Many mobile security suites will even scan apps as they are downloaded, preventing viruses and other forms of malware from attaching themselves to your device.

Has Your Computer Got the Sniffles?

The problem with most people is that they don’t take any corrective action until their system is thoroughly infected.  Many people ignore obvious warning signs that there system has been compromised, such as slow performance, dropped calls, data plan spikes and higher than expected phone bills.  By the time they take their device to an IT professional, the damage can be so great that in some cases the infected hard drive needs to be completely wiped in order to correct the situation. 

Of course the cost of remedial action is nothing compared to the loss of privacy, financial information or even identity that can occur if a device is infected. Just as with the flu, while it is impossible to absolutely, positively eliminate the threat of malware, with a little preventative maintenance and an ounce of online discipline, you can prevent your computers from catching cold.

Carl Weiss is President of W SquaredMedia Group, a company devoted to keeping clients on the cutting edge of online technology.  You can join Carl on every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern for Working the Web to Win

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The Browser Wars Take No Prisoners

By Carl Weiss

Those of us who can remember back to the start of the Internet will recall the initial clash of titans as Netscape, one of the web’s first commercially viable web browsers, duked it out with Microsoft.  Even 
Netscape logo 2005–2007, still used in some po...
Netscape logo 2005–2007, still used in some portals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
though Microsoft was a Johnny-come-lately in the browser game, IE eventually chipped away at Netscape’s dominance, largely due to its virtual monopoly in the PC operating system market.  It also helped that Microsoft gave away IE with virtually every copy of Windows 95 that it sold, whereas Netscape charged for its browser.  This resulted in AOL, who had acquired Netscape in 1998, filing a lawsuit against Microsoft.  While the suit was settled in AOL’s favor in 2004 for $750 million, it was a case of Netscape winning the battle and losing the war, since by then IE was the clear market leader. By 2007, IE owned 77% of the browser market, compared to Firefox with16% and Netscape six tenths of one percent.

However, this overwhelming victory did not lead to a cessation of hostilities.  In the intervening five years, this technological cold war became hot again as a new player entered the fray. While Microsoft rested on its laurels, with a full five years passing between the release of IE 6 and 7, Google Chrome made its presence known in a big way.  Released in December of 2008, Chrome amassed 37% of the worldwide browser market by 2013.  It did this in part due to the fact that it is fast, secure and stable.  It also introduced a lot of features, such as form auto fill, full screen mode and drag and drop tabs.  More importantly Chrome has also been designed to sync between PC’s, smartphones and tablets.

Of course, that didn’t mean that Microsoft was going to take the emergence of a dynamic competitor like 
Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase
Microsoft lying down.  In fact, it was the allure of the emerging mobile computing market that made Microsoft take a leap of faith with the development of Windows 8.  A radical departure from its long line of operating systems, Windows 8 has been seen as so radical a departure from anything that has come before.  In fact, it is so different that Technology Review remarked that,

“Windows 8 is a computer science masterpiece trapped inside a user interface kerfuffle. Microsoft’s new operating system for phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and servers brims with innovative technologies, bold ideas, and visual elegance. The system’s radical new interface, called Modern, is a pleasure to use on phones and tablets. And although that interface fares poorly on today’s larger desktop computer screens, Windows 8 probably won’t damage the company’s standing in corporate America. It might even shore up its eroding presence on residential desktops and laptops by offering a user experience that’s new, fun, and different from anything offered by Apple and Google.”

Of course, not everyone sees Windows 8 in a positive light, including the European Union, which recently fined Microsoft $733 million for denying users in the EU their choice of web browser.  An article in points out that,

“Microsoft used to give its users the opportunity to choose the web browser, when they installed Windows 7 operating system, in line with an agreement reached with the European Union in 2011. According to European Commission, however, between May 2011 and July 2012, over 15 million EU customers were not given that opportunity, owing to what Microsoft classified as a ‘technical glitch’ made by its software engineering team.

Most used web browser in country or dependency...
Most used web browser in country or dependency as of July 2011, according to Statcounter: Blue: Microsoft Internet Explorer Orange: Mozilla Firefox Green: Google Chrome Red: Opera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Glitch or not, Microsoft’s actions and the resulting fine harken back to the original browser war with 
Netscape.  This comes as little surprise to those in the know, since according to statistics from StatCounter, Internet Explorer is still dominant in North America with 39% of the browser market.  However, Google Chrome is the big dog in exotic locales such as Europe, South America and Asia.  And Mozilla’s Firefox is still a contender, with 16% of the US market, 28% of the European market and 18% of markets in Asia, South America and Africa.

Microsoft is also not averse to firing a few shots across the bows of competitors, as Google found out it was pulled into a patent lawsuit that could lead to a ban of Google Maps in Germany.

According to Florian Muller of FOSS Patents, Microsoft’s EP0845124 patent in Europe is for a “computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor” and was issued in 1996. The issue was discussed in a regional court in Munich today and as Mueller notes, it doesn’t look like Google was able to convince the judge “that the patent is highly probable to be invalidated at the end of a parallel nullity proceeding.”

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
Should Microsoft win the injunction, Google would be forced to shut down its mapping service in Germany
 on both PC and mobile networks.  It could also be ordered to stop selling Chrome in Germany unless it blocks German users from accessing Google Maps.

While the outcome of the latest iteration of the browser wars is anything but certain, the battle for the hearts and minds of the web surfing public is so lucrative that this clash of the titans could result in total domination for one of the combatants.  Or, it could leave the door open to yet another up and comer who realizes that with the superpowers engaged in a take-no-prisoners brand of all out warfare, this is the perfect time to stage a palace coup.

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group and owner of Jacksonville Video.  You can also hear him live on Blog Talk Radio every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

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