Webdunia.com goes the Unicode way

webduniaNaidunia is one of the oldest Hindi newspapers of India, appreciated and respected for its content and values. Recently the newspaper completed 60 years of its existence and launched few initiatives including proposed editions for Chattisgarh and other states. But the most significant of the initiatives is the relaunch of their popular web portal Webdunia dot com in 9 Indian languages and that too in Unicode. The group has been a pioneer in bringing Hindi and other Indian languages on the net but they always had relied on their proprietary font. The site looked good and catered to a large base of people who still relied on older computers that couldn’t decipher Unicode, but it still remained largely invisible to the search engines. In its new avatar the new Webdunia has indeed crossed all barriers in reaching out to a much wider audience.

Webdunia.com has been launched, apart from Hindi, in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Marathi and Bangla. There is a search facility in each language and what’s more, the company has plans to enhance this to a full blown internet search engine. The Portal now sports a much improved picture gallery, greetings and email section apart from the regular channels covering a variety of subjects. My suggestions would be to add a “rediff.com” like commenting feature to encourage discussion on each news item, with facility to directly type in relevant language, a blog from the reporters of the newspaper similar to “ibnlive.com” and a magazine look for their literature section akin the “BBC Hindi patrika”. Of course I know they would do better not to copy others but these are some of the features that are probably a must for an interactive web.

Looking at the portal’s new incredible look and even the company website you can just sense the new zest and ambition. At the time when the Indian language newspapers are increasingly facing challenge from their English counterpart and have been forced to dilute the purity of the language, irking the language lovers, this is a fresh breeze of change. And when it comes from the people who have always worked towards enriching the language without compromising on values, you are assured of a committed growth of usage of Indian languages on the internet. Keep up the good work guys!

Your Computer is your TV too

The Indian economy is overheating, the feel-good factor does not merely exist on the story-board of political campaigns, and it has transgressed to Internet as well. Add to this a fizz of Web2.0 frenzy and you have a crazy concoction of Internet euphoria ready for the consumers. Dear readers, after YouTube desi wannabes Tera Video, TumTube and MeraVideo it’s the turn of Aapka Video, a recently launched, free, social video sharing site.

IMHO the problem with Video sharing sites is their likeliness to the email forwards; everyone wants them to be short and funny. In video parlance, this translates to sleaze, a mere glance on the home page of these sites will force to look around you, koi dekh to nahi raha, certainly these sites are not work-safe. But then, it’s a peril associated with most of the user-generated content.

AapkaVideo tagline is “Director ban jao” (become a movie director) which indicates a pious, if not unique, USP. They might have in mind those yuppie and extravagant Cell phones, with ever increasing recording time and video quality, people carry now days even in the toilets. Nokia was quick to realize this and has successfully tried to encourage movie making through these sneaky cameras. So yes, there is a market, but till that reaches a critical mass, you to have to be content watching those tacky snippets from Bollywood movies and Advt from the firang channels. The wait, meanwhile, for upcoming Mani Ratnams and Karan Johars may be prolonged though you could surely find umpteen Jagmohan Mundras.

Aapka VideoI feel good when I see a glimpse of monetization plan in such ventures, apparently AapkaVideo has plans to use the ‘Special” segment where they could have featured videos or videos on a theme, Buzzfeed fans will find an instant liking for this. Combine this with anticipated market for projects such as “movie on demand” and you may have a niche market in your trap.

The site has a professional layout and since it’s still a beta, improvements are imperative, including the fact already discussed in the blogosphere: the videos don’t work on Firefox. The option to enlarge the video seems good, but they actually should provide the facility selectively to videos that will look good at higher screen resolutions. The site supports a vide range of video formats and allows uploads unto a 100 MB. And being a Java guy, it feels good to see the “.jsp” file extensions on browser.

I really envisage the days when such sites will also have a meaningful aspect to them, imagine breaking news videos from a citizen journalist, vlogs, interviews and technology reviews. AapkaVideo seems to have an inkling of this and you could spot categories such as “Techzone” and “News & Blogs”, which may take some time to generate relevant content.

Amidst all these video sites becoming the cynosure of eyes, even a blind can see the emerging trend, namely, the television making a move from the idiotbox to your computer monitor. TV on Internet and IPTV are being discussed since many years, the Golliaths like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and the Telcos are involved in using the net as a medium of distribution of digital content, all this to take advantage of the interactivity with the viewer.

To most of the Indians this doesn’t mean much, atleast at the moment. Bandwidth is still a bottleneck, the availability graph is rising but the costs are still far off the affordability radar.

Another larger question that emerges, is the control over this user-generated content. YouTube has been in the docks for the same, sort of déjà vu of Napster, let’s face it: people are concerned over piracy issues.

The ultimate challenge for these companies is to provide superior video content on the net without ignoring the copyright and security issues (spyware, viruses), but if they are successful it would be win-win situation for both TV and Internet.

So be forewarned, the AapkaVideo jaadoo may actually end up mesmerizing you sooner than you think. Now, off to that video tagged “desi kiss” 😉

[Disclaimer: This is a paid review for Reviewme, but the thoughts are my own.]

Move over WordPress, here comes Habari

Every product has a life cycle. When WordPress gained popularity it looked as if Blogger.com would be confined to history. Many who were stuck with Blogger solely because they weren’t interesting spending bucks on maintaining an online identity, with the hosted solution WordPress snatched a major share of users from Blogger.com’s pie. But to the misfortune of WordPress Blogger.com evolved, the new Blogger.com is probably everything people vied for and with Blogger.com now offering free hosted solution with your own domains it was clear that difficult days are ahead for WordPress. Today a Google search for “WordPress to Blogger” won’t return you empty handed. Astounding it may sound, but many are actually considering migration to Blogger.com, apart from the usual allegations of WordPress being slow they have been tired of limitations such as not being able to tweak the theme code, or put their advertisement among other things.

HabariIt may or may not be for the love of Blogger, all of us need a change, probably the reason we keep on changing our templates and themes so often. When Logahead came people immediately started touting it as a replacement of WordPress until the poor chap has to proclaim himself. Logahead wasn’t too superior a blogware but it did show a novel way to do things, for example getting rid of the cumbersome Admin console of WordPress an the AJAX way to effortlessly deploy widgets. If you ask me the refined UNU version of Logahead is far more superior to the original and can give a competition to the Goliath.

The craving for the much needed change did not spare the creators of WordPress either it seems now. WordPress was slated as the “ultimate blogware” but the core team of WordPress comprising of Chris Davis, Khaled, Michael (the Kubrick creator) has now left WordPress and are working on the nextgen open-source blogware termed as Habari, a Swahili word for “What’s up”. Habari would not be forked from WordPress (WordPress was based upon B-2), it’s been written from the scratch and would sue the most modern technologies such as PHP 5 (and PHP Data Objects), Habari code would be Object Oriented and Database independent.

The creator of WordPress Matt modestly wrote that Habari would probably be Drupal meets Serendipity. He not only pledged his support for the initiative but also offered his servers. Despite of this the unrest in the WP camp is quite noticeable. Some said that this is the outcome of politics of people pissed off from not getting appointed at Automattic. Habari’s Skippy clarified this wasn’t so but wasn’t wary of terming the spam-prevention capability of WordPress as Band-Aid code. The Habari team is hopeful of cutting a relapse before 6 months and yes this will have the capability of “importing from WordPress”. Owen on the other hand said that there are no hard feelings and he would continue to be with WordPress as well.

Right now the only blog running on Habari is Chris’s, it might not seem too different but the team claims it would be fast and modern. Habari may be used with other databases as well, apart from MySQL. I wonder how popular it would be until they go for a hosted solution. If you ask people like me, who pay for their hosting, PHP 5 is not what my Hosting service would provide in near future and even I would be wary of going for it, it might break my other applications. yet I am excited by the fact that Habari is talking of community and using new things once in a while is so much better.