First Look At RockMelt

Screengrabs of the new RockMelt browser for those that are keen.

I just got it last night thanks to @pkattera. First impressions is that its very google chrome-ish (built on webkit) with bars on the side for social networks. For those that have used the Flock browser, its a similar idea but less clunky and much faster. Easier to share things to social networks, and create quick links to your favourite people on facebook and to pages on the internet including facebook pages.

Oh, and I have no more beta invites left.

Here’s a video you can watch it in action.

I’ll report back when I’ve used it a bit more.

I’m out like Flock,

Matt Ho

China and the internets

I’m in a China mood lately. I’ve got Chinese class tomorrow, and on Friday we had a presentation at work which mentioned Plus I just finished the Mr China book. So here are some random points about China and the internet that I have come across recently.


Taobao is the largest ecommerce website in China. It sells everything! Its basically a Chinese version of Ebay. I actually came across it a few months ago, when this Chinese girl mentioned it to me as the place where she shops for books. Taobao is a subsidiary of Alibaba, which is a huge B2B website.

Let me give you some perspective about Taobao.

Though just six years old, Taobao (Chinese for “to search for treasure”) already has 120 million registered users and 300 million product listings. Its merchants produced nearly $15 billion in sales last year.

The company claims that sales through its Web site are already larger than any Chinese retailer. And, Internet analysts say, sales on its site this year will surpass’s expected sales of about $19 billion.

New York Times

I came across a tweet from someone at an Alibaba presentation that Taobao is set to overtake Ebay AND Amazon in revenues next year. That’s insane! Consider how big Ebay is and how big Amazon is. Combine them. Then you’ve got Taobao.

Check this for more evidence:

The unique host of has topped 40 million, surpassing that of Inc. and eBay Inc., making the Chinese online marketplace the largest e-commerce Web site around the world in terms of traffic, disclosed Zhang Yong, its CFO.

By far, has had 190 million registered users, accounting for half of China’s total Internet users and 4.1% of the world’s total, according to Web information company Alexa.

My understanding of the unique hosts stat is that it refers to unique visits. Having just finished Mr China, lets not get all hyped up considering how much of that information might be true. All I’m saying is ecommerce is big business in China and Taobao is #1 and its huge.

Busting up the search industry

Now in most Western countries, users have choice as to which search engines they can use. There’s Yahoo / Bing and Google. Realistically, most people use Google. However,  if you go to, you are shown a picture of Google HK and when you click on the picture you are redirected to Google HK.

Google was supposed to renew their search license, but they haven’t done so. They also have not renewed their map and location license. It appears that Google is pulling out of China, and moving its search service to Hong Kong.

They had their recent blowup about abandoning China on ethical and principles, since gmail users were having their accounts hacked allegedly by the Chinese Government. They didn’t mention it specifically, but they hinted at it fairly heavily in this blog post called “A New Approach To China“.  Realistically, I don’t think Google would ever pull out of the biggest market in the world.

The big search engine player in China is baidu. There are local players in the China search market, but I’m not too familiar with them. What I did come across recently is that the Chinese Government is entering into the search market by backing another player.

The second, and more surprising deal was a link-up announced two Fridays ago between Xinhua and China Mobile to start yet another search engine. Xinhua, a news agency belonging to the central government which also acts as a propaganda organ and sometimes intelligence gathering body, and China’s largest cellular carrier seem like unusual partners for an Internet venture, and the exact terms of the transaction have yet to be announced.

The New York Times described the deal as follows: “In an apparent bid to extend its control over the Internet and cash in on the rapid growth of mobile devices, China plans to create a government-controlled search engine.”

– via techrcrunch

Its very intriguing. Would you ever see the Australian government busting into the search market like that, creating a state sponsored search engine? I don’t think so. They were trying to introduce an internet filter but this is a relevant and related discussion but for another day.

This move is to introduce competition into the search market, to ensure one player does not become too dominant and to be able to control where people can search and what information can be given to them. The Chinese government wants to be able to do that =)

Having a dominant search engine (even Google) is not a good thing either. Search, like any industry needs competition but from the free market. Why do you think Google come out with Instant Search? So they can blow Yahoo/Bing out of the water with yet another innovation they hadn’t thought of. Search needs to be competitive but also people should have the freedom to find any information they want. Its akin to freedom of speech. How can I form a reasoned, independent and well thought out opinion without the availability of information?

CCTV iPhone app

Speaking of State sponsored propaganda media, CCTV has an iPhone video app blows the water out of any iPhone video app. The quality and speed at which it streams video (Chinese news) is amazing. Hat tip to @vincentzhou for showing me the app.

So why did they do this?

According to Computerworld:

China’s film and TV regulator late Tuesday praised the growth of an iPhone application from state broadcaster CCTV as the country looks for new ways to project its political views abroad….

China is investing heavily to expand the overseas reach of its state-owned news outlets, which often air official Chinese political views strongly at odds with mainstream Western views. The Dalai Lama, for instance, is frequently attacked as a dangerous separatist in Chinese state news reports, while the exiled Tibetan figure is seen more as a saintly religious activist in the West. The first section of CCTV’s major evening news broadcast is always dry footage of top leaders meeting with officials from other countries or with smiling farmers in rural Chinese areas.

Of course, lets throw the State budget at creating an iPhone app to further push their views. I mean, even I am considering watching CCTV to improve my Mandarin. Its one of the few dedicated Mandarin chanels on my Chinese tv at home.

The Wash Up

There are many opportunities in China, particuarly given the size of the market. There are more internet and mobile users in China than anywhere in the rest of the world. Taobao is currently bigger than Amazon, and could be bigger than Amazon AND Ebay. But as you can see in the search sector, its not easy doing business in China especially with the Chinese government moving in to create competition. And yes, they’ll do that with killer iPhone apps too.

I’m out like Google in China,

Matt Ho

Link love: What I’m reading

I got this idea from the Servant of Chaos a while ago. Its a summary of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve come across recently.  I’ll try to keep this on the regular. It’ll be a mix of digital, social, economics, business models, travel, music and things that I like. I think it also shows a bit of who I am as well!

Continue reading

Google vs Wolfram Alpha

The Tech World has been buzzing lately with the introduction of several new search engines and innovations.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the following come out:

Wolfram Alpha
Google Wave
Google Squared

I’ve experimented with all of them, except for Wave since it’s not publicly available, though I have signed up for updates and preview =)

 My intial impression is that Wolfram Alpha is very cool. It answers questions as opposed to finding results. You ask it for the distance between Sydney and Melbourne. It will find the distance, time by car/plane and a map showing the distance. Ask a question and it gives you one answer with some stats. I actually believe this is the way search engines will be headed. It’s a new way of thinking about search results.

Check out this video which has a good comparison of Wolfram Alpha v Google by ZDNet.

Bing is ok. Microsoft needed to upgrade their Live search, which I never used. I only used it when I searched in IE and I forgot the default setting wasn’t google.  Live search just did not look pretty. Google was minimalist. It simply worked and had a great UX (user experience). To be honest, I don’t see myself switching from Google to Bing or Yahoo. Google is too dominant in the world of search right now. In Australia, it has something like 70% market share. I might use Wolfram Alpha to experiment. It’s better for unknown answers and simple queries. 

Google Wave

I watched the Developer Google IO preview. Its roughly 80 minutes long and I got through about half of it. Waaaay too long. It’s very ambitious and has the potential to change the game. The potential to change the way we communicate online from email/wiki’s/IM, etc…. I really dig the idea of concurrent editing, because half the time you are simply waiting for the other person to respond on IM. The danger is that it can become a stream of consciousness. 

In terms of how I communicate and come up with ideas, I like to have the time to think and reflect and then type it up in a word document or a wiki / blog. If I’m doing concurrent live editing (where people can see my edits and thoughts in real time), I’m really put on the spot to come up with something. I know you can turn this feature off on Google Wave, but this is the danger of concurrent editing and the potential. 

I really dig it though. The ability to combine rich media like photos, video, playback. The developer described is as how email would look like if it was developed now! It’s like a cool mashup of blogs, wiki, photo sharing, microblogging, IM, etc…

You can read an alternative take on it by Jeremiah Owyang.

I’m out like Altavista,


HTC Magic Google Android Phone – in Australia?

If you have been following me on Twitter, you can probably tell that I’m very excited about the next release of Google’s Android Phone. It’s called the G2 and will be exclusively distributed by Vodaphone. 

Check out this video. It shows off the qwerty keyboard with predictive text and corrective text. 

[viddler id=c1d129fe&w=437&h=332]

The release date is 1 May 2009  for the UK and they are accepting orders for it now. There’s been a lot of chatter about it on blogs, tech and gadget websites, and video demo’s are popping up everywhere on youtube, vidder, etc…

Why am I excited about the Android? Because the platform is opensource so it opens up to the possibility of more applications. And you know developers can come up with some crazy apps! It will be superior to the iphone. 

At the moment, the release date is set for the following countries and this is what they are getting:

UK – White version

Germany – black version

Italy – black and white version (why?!!!)

Spain – white version

HTC Magic - Google Android phone

HTC Magic - Google Android phone

The obvious question is – when will it be released in Australia?  There are no plans at the moment. I couldn’t find anything on the internet. Why am I not suprised? I checked the vodaphone website in Australia, they don’t even list HTC phones on there!! Optus is still flogging off the G1 (first version) aka the HTC Dream. According to ZDNeT:

“As with the Dream, HTC will be announcing the Magic for different countries only after it has secured operator partnerships. Vodafone will be selling it in Europe but there have been no announcements for Australia yet.”


I’m out like the G1, 

Matt Ho

Take a jog in Tokyo

Mashup with Tokyo google maps and Nintendo Wii. Very Cool. It’s called Tokyo Jogging. The video shows that the Google Map doesn’t load fast enough to keep up with the jogging. The guy looks like he is running forever before he moves to the next section. However, this appears to be how Google maps work. You have to click through and press the arrow button before it moves you to the next section. 


I’m out like running in Tokyo, 

Matt Ho