Archive for February 1st, 2007
Alongside the print version, HT and WSJ’s new baby (if anyone remembers a strange phenomenon called go4i.com, they would have fairly bad memories about doing a JV with HT) — Mint — also had the online version of the paper switched on today at livemint.com.
The good news is that the site, thankfully, seems to not run on HT’s or WSJ’s platform, of which the former is rumored to be going for a redesign and re-launch soon. The bad news is that, after a 10 minute browsing session of the website, I found more than a handful of problems on the website, some being very critical and others being minor ones.
First problem with the website is that it is hosted with Mirror Image Internet, at a datacenter in Japan, while WSJ and HT are currently hosted in the US. Connectivity between India and Japan is not the best in the world and ideally they should be hosted in India if they are targeting the Indian audience. It could even be a misconfigured CDN, since Mirror Image is based out of the US. On a related note, HT Media Ltd is listed as the netblock owner for the Livemint IP, with an entire Class D range allocated to it. Something surely is cooking there.
In true WSJ fashion, you need to register to be able to read the website, the RSS feeds (partial summary) are available without the log-in and the registration is free. The registration form has a couple of quirks, mainly because of the slow server taking its own sweet time in updating the drop-downs according to your previous choices.
Another problem I had was with the ’Register’ ‘Reset’ and ‘Cancel’ buttons. Of the three, the first two look way too similar and what’s with the arrows on all of them?
Another issue I found was with the templating, which is funny and inconsistent. http://www.livemint.com/SectionPages/SectionEconomyAndPolitics.aspx is the same as http://www.livemint.com/SectionPages/SectionEconomyAndPolitics.aspx?ID=11. So why use the query string anyway? Thankfully, section pages also seem to be real than virtual (since this returns a 404), which is a good thing from a security point of view (we don’t want pesky bloggers trying to pass queries on to the database, do we?) but awful from a point of maintaining things (look up a similar website called www.moneycontrol.com for example).
The guys who have developed the website have been smart enough to have RSS feeds from the word go, though Nikhil complains here that he could not find them. There is no auto-detection code in any of the pages, which will deprive most of the new generation browsers in their quest for auto-discovery glory. Moreover, the feeds don’t validate. And the errors can be easily fixed: line 8, column 4: Undefined channel element: Pubdate <Pubdate>Thursday, February 01, 2007</Pubdate> -- Wrong case used here. line 13, column 6: Undefined item element: Author <Author /> -- Wrong way to close the tag.
line 8, column 4: Undefined channel element: Pubdate
<Pubdate>Thursday, February 01, 2007</Pubdate> -- Wrong case used here.
line 13, column 6: Undefined item element: Author
<Author /> -- Wrong way to close the tag.
And it would be lovely if they could give us the GUIDs too on entries.
Now to the security issues. The email confirmation page is an email harvester’s delight. Changing the Userid gives away the email address of guys who’ve already registered. There is no cookie or session validation there. And in general, the cookie handling is awful, when I wanted to edit my profile, I ended up on someone else’s profile in the edit page, which is very very bad idea.
It might also be a good idea to enable custom errors, preventing errors being thrown up like this. Not a major problem there in terms of information being given away, but it is a good idea to turn errors off on production machines.
Webtrensds Live for tracking? Uh oh. Google Analytics is better, a million times over and free too!
The source code is tag soup of DIV and tables, adding to the already delayed rendering of the page. Go for a DIV-only layout guys, cache the CSS and speed up your pages.
And what exactly is an article feed? http://www.livemint.com/Articles/ArticleRss.aspx. It does not use session tracking and also spews out full text in the description. Update: It is returning a 302, though, due to the funky ways in which the response codes are treated by different browsers, I get redirected to the homepage in IE and the old page in Firefox.
This is by no means a takedown of the work that’s gone into it. I remember when we had launched just over a year ago, the number of mess ups we had made were too many even count with your fingers. I am also sending this link to their customer support and hopefully they should do something about it. Running a widely-viewed media website is a major learning curve and I am sure they’d fix most of the problems before soon.
Well, it has become sort of boringly predictable, and I don’t mean the earnings call that Google serves up at the end of every year, but the fact that the company’s had another amazing year.
Some interesting facts from the call:
- $1.2 billion is the specified AdSense revenues, which is around 37% of total revenue. Which is an interesting number because I’d really like to know where the other 63% of the revenue is coming from. The analysts at the call did not bother to ask about that number.
- Google Checkout is not doing too well, even after the promotions, and the cost for the same is offset against total network revenues.
- Two of the company’s major cost points continue to be Traffic Acquisiton Costs, which was $976 million, compared to $462 million in 2005 and capital expenditure, which grew from $319 million in 2004 to $838 million in 2005 and was at $1.9 billion in 2006. Of course, the other side of the story being that getting in more AdSense partners (major TAC component) and servers only ends up making the company more money. I really wish I was a hardware supplier to Google.
- YouTube revenue is not accounted for separately, though we might just be able to dig it out.
- Eric Schmidt has indicated that they might go for in-context advertising for YouTube, which should be an interesting development to watch out for. He also thinks Chad Hurley is a brilliant leader.
While I was at the dealer yesterday to get the new ride serviced (it’s already done 1400 KM under 30 days, which explains a lot why my back was busted the way it was for most of last year. I drive a lot!), I spotted a shiny new Swift in the compound, which had a weird label on it. It was then I realised that it was the new diesel Swift, which Maruti’s been threatening to launch, so I wasted no time and signed up for a test drive and my observations go something like this.
First up, I did not realise that the engine was a CRDI model, with propah DOHC and an intercooler turbo to kick some life out of it in the higher rev ranges. That’s a pretty smart move by Maruti to put a decent heart into the car and it is BS III compliant, which makes it even better. Rest of the car looks pretty much the same, though I had a feeling it had a lower ride height compared to the petrol Swift.
Performance-wise, the engine was very torquey, in fact it had considerably better torque than my petrol ZXI, which revs in a very breezy, free-hearted manner. This one is grunty, pulls well throughout the rev range and is capable enough to drag you out of a spotty situation. The test car was not the top-spec one, so it did not have a lot of the bells and whistles I am used to in the VXI and Maruti really should have used better quality plastic and molding for the interiors, or it should have at least used the plastic it has put in the Estilo.
On the noise-scale, it is quieter (word used in very relative terms) as compared to the Indica, but it is considerably noisier than the petrol version. You can’t feel much in terms of engine vibration, following in the path that the petrol one has taken with pretty decent insulation, though the engine is more than audible inside the car. But at the end of the day, it does feel like a diesel, pretty much in line with the Indicas, which should create a lot of issues for Maruti, because it is not noise that will end up screwing Maruti’s happiness, it is the price point.
The top of the range Diesel is priced pretty much at par with the petrol ZXI (Rs 544000 for the diesel and Rs 550000 for the petrol ZXI on-road in Delhi), which is a lot more than what an Indica costs and would probably get you a nicely-loaded Indigo top-range model. The Swift already has a bit of an image problem with the ‘tame’ crowd who would be eyeing an Indica in the first place and the price just won’t help matters much for Maruti.