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Mobile Web Design

The article series Mobile Web Design may be over a year old, but with the current land rush for .mobi domains, it's even more relevant today. It comes in three parts: State of the Mobile Web, Methods to the Madness, Tips and Techniques .

TIOBE Index: This Month's Hot Languages are Ruby and D

The TIOBE Programming Community Index is an attempt to gauge the popularity of programming languages, based on "the world-wide availability of skilled engineers, courses and third party vendors" as well as search engine results. Published monthly, it lists the 50 most popular programming languages. In the September 2006 index. they declare "Ruby and D are the hot languages of today".

More after the jump...

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Fun with the Kiko API and Ruby, Part 1

Kiko logo

Here's the first of a series of articles that introduces you to the Kiko API and also introduces the Ruby programming language for those of you who've been meaning to learn Ruby but haven't yet started.

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BusinessWeek on .mobi Domains

BusinessWeek's article, A New Wave of Web Addresses, attempts to answer this question about .mobi domains: "Who's signing up, and why?"

Steve Yegge: "Good Agile, Bad Agile"

Over at Steve Yegge's blog, there's an article titled Good Agile, Bad Agile that's been getting a lot of attention for a couple of reasons. First, there's Steve's assertion that agile methodologies aren't; second, he describes what working at Google is like, and it sounds like a developer's wonderland. Steve's writing style, which I find funny, is a bonus.

Speed bumps indeed...

I’ve received the odd mention in the press – usually some obscure point about an irrelevant Internet governance or technical policy issue. I never expected to get any attention from the hardcore IT press for anything of technical substance – good, bad or otherwise. Having recently assumed responsibility for managing the retail aspects of the Mailbank business portfolio, I guess all bets are off now…

Based on messages being sent out from Tucows, the migration process has hit several speedbumps.

- via

Joel Shore, the author of the article, goes on to nail the source of of our problems square on the head. My planning process was rushed, which lead to corner cutting, which lead to mistakes and problems and a decreased focus on getting the quality equation just right. This lead to avoidable mea culpa’s on the retail network status page and our customer bulletins – which eventually lead to Joel’s article.

The good news is that the fixes are well underway and ahead of schedule. The bad news is that we could have used the time spent fixing these issues on more productive activities – not to mention completely avoided invoking the wrath of our customers and Joel’s unflattering attention.

Take the time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Your customers will thank you for it.

For some more detail on the issues we’ve run ourselves into, you can check out our customer blog where I’ll be posting some more information the steps we’re taking to improve our quality control processes over the coming days.

(speaking of QA, when I clicked on the link on the ITworld website to send a copy of the article to the folks here at Tucows, here’s the response I got from their webserver  – click the thumbnail for a full view)


(originally posted at

Business Blogs and Customer Connectivity

WebProNews has an article titled Business Blogs and Customer Connectivity, which looks at the characteristics of sucessful business blogs. It says that many of the best "b-blogs" (business blogs) provide their readers with a look at the:

  1. Company represented.
  2. Individual heading that company.
  3. News that affects the company and its customers.
  4. Links that may be beneficial to the customers.
  5. Personality behind the logo.

.mobi News Roundup

.mobi logo

Following up from yesterday's article on .mobi domains, here's a roundup of .mobi articles from various news sources:

John Battelle Interviews Matt Cutts

Over at John Battelle's Searchblog, there's an interview with Google's Matt Cutts (whose SEO tips we profiled in this article). In the interview, Cutts -- "the human voice between Google and webmasters/SEOs" -- talks about his role at Google, humans and algorithms at Google and what is considered webspam.

7 Things You Need to Know About Ajax

Don Hinchcliffe says the Seven Things Every Software Project Needs to Know About Ajax are:

  1. The Browser Was Never Meant For Ajax.
  2. You Won't Need As Many Web Services As You Think.
  3. Ajax Is More Involved Than Traditional Web Design and Development.
  4. Ajax Tooling and Components Are Still Emerging and There Is No Clear Leader Today.
  5. Good Ajax Programmers are Hard to Find.
  6. One Must Actively Address Ajax's Constraints of the Browser Model.
  7. Ajax Is Only One Element of a Successful RIA Strategy.

Interesting developerWorks Articles

There's a boatload of articles on IBM's developerWorks that might be of interest to you -- I've selected the ones that caught my attention and listed them after the jump.

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It's .mobi Time!

The difference between 'Moby' and .mobi

.mobi logo If you resell domain names (or are thinking of getting into the business), you should consider .mobi domains, the domain for mobile devices. We'll explain they whys and hows of .mobi after the jump.

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Loads of SEO Tips from Google's Matt Cutts

Kudos to SEO Egghead and its author, Jaimie Sirovich, for taking the time to extract Google's Matt Cutts' SEO tips and putting them in an easily-digested list form! Here are the relevant articles:

Dynamism and their USB Sushi

Sushi-shaped USB keys from Dynamism

It was sci-fi author Diane Duane who introduced me to Dynamism, a Chicago-based shop that -- as Diane put it -- specializes in computers and gadgets that Japanese vendors have decided was too cool to sell outside their borders. Yes, their stuff is available at premium prices, but that's the cost of getting gear from the future.

Some of the less-expensive items available from Dynamism are their sushi-shaped USB drives. According to Dynamism, these aren't ordinary plastic extrusions, but "hand-made-in-Tokyo", which I suppose is why they're expensive (a 256MB "ebi" -- that's shrimp -- will set you back US$99 and a 1GB "otoro" -- that's fatty tuna -- will cost you US$219).

Google Results, as They Would Appear in Other Countries

Google's results are country-specific: that is, the result set you get is "tuned" to the country from which you're Googling, and that country is based on the IP address of the machine on which you're accessing Google. For instance, I'm based in Canada, and my results, whether I go to or, are always from But what if I wanted to see the results that people in America would see? Or the U.K.? Or anywhere else?

Enter's Google World Wide Search, which lets you enter Google search terms and a country, so you can see the Google results that people in other countries see.

Sets in JavaScript

A common task in programming is determining if a value is equal to one of a set of given values. Normally, this might involve setting up a large if or switch structure or a long expression full of Boolean ORs. However, in a flexible language like JavaScript, a simple function lets you implement sets, and testing for set membership is easy. For more, see this article: Sets in JavaScript.

Lifestyles of the Rich and JavaScripty

According to a survey by IT JobsWatch in the UK, the average salary for a British Ajax coder has gone up by 33% over the past year, from £29,375 (US$55,853) to £39,228 (US$74,588).

In response, Dietrick Kappe at the Agile Ajax blog wrote:

What's ahead for companies that are developing Ajax applications (and at this stage, that seem to be just about everyone)? There are those that will double down on traditional languages and skillsets via Javascript code generators such as GWT. But there will be enough companies going the pure Javascript route to drive up salaries even further. And behind the demand will come the training and certifications, the standards, tools and blessed frameworks, and the army of freshly minted Ajax programmers to fill all of those well compensated jobs. If you're considering selling all of your Java books and moving to a Javascript commune, do it quickly.

Golden Rules for Bad User Interfaces

In case you were looking to drive your users crazy and have them marching to your door with torches and pitchforks, the SAP Design Guild has a list of Golden Rules for Bad User Interfaces.

Phishing Up 81%, Tied to Organized Crime

'Fat Tony' from 'The Simpsons'.

According to this Reuters story, phishing -- the use of email to pose as someone's bank or other trusted institution in order to trick people into divulging their passwords or other sensitive information -- is on the rise, with the first six months of 2006 seeing 81% more unique phishing messages than the last six months of 2005. A researcher quoted in the article states that organized crime has become very interested in phishing.

DemoCamp 9 Tonight

DemoCamp Toronto logo

Tonight marks the return of DemoCamp -- Toronto's monthly show-and-tell for the software and web development crowd -- to its regular schedule. Check out the full article for all the details.

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Yahoo!'s Ruby Developer Center

Ruby logo

Yahoo! has just launched a Ruby Developer Center which features useful links to HOWTOs, educational sites and resources. If you're getting started with the Ruby programming language, it's a good starting point.

Day 1 Highlights Of Hosting Transformation Summit 2006

I had the good fortune to spend the last few days in Las Vegas at Tier 1 Research's Hosting Transformation Summit. I've collected up my thoughts on Day One of the conference here, Day Two follows next week. Read on to see what I learned...
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Larry Wall's "State of the Onion 10" Presentation

Hey, programmers! Interested in a little diversion? Go take a look at the text for Larry Wall's 10th State of the Onion presentation, in which he talks about all manner of topics, and if you're incredibly lucky, he might mention a thing or two about the current state of Perl. It's good coffee break reading.

DemoCamp 9: Monday, September 25th

Toronto DemoCamp logo.

DemoCamp 9 takes place on Monday, September 25th. If you're in the Toronto area and want to see what the local high-scene is like, come on down! More details in the full article.

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The "Six P's" of Email Newsletters

Rolf Anweiler of Brand Republic says that newsletters are the most widely distributed and most established form of email marketing and an indispensable part of the communications strategy for many companies. He says that the six important factors for implementing a successful email newsletter are:

  • PLACE How the newsletter is integrated into a website
  • PROCESS How easy is it to subscribe
  • PERMISSION Are data protection regulations being adhered to and how is permission gained from the subscriber?
  • PERIODICITY Is the timing and frequency of the newsletter right?
  • PERSONALISATION Is it tailored to the interests of the reader?
  • PRESENTATION How good is the newsletter design and layout?

Ruby Library for the Kiko API

Kiko logo

If you've been trying to get your paws on the Ruby library for the Kiko API without success, I've got good news for you:

If you're curious about the Kiko API and have got Ruby installed, you can give it a shot in interactive mode using irb -- the tutorial page will show you how. In the very near future, I'm going to post more extensive tutorials.

If Programming Languages Were People

'If Programming Languages Were People', a 'Foobar Jenkins' comic by Mike Arace

This one amused me: Mike "Mike-O-Matic" Arace's comic, titled If Programming Languages Were People.

RSS, Explained the Oprah Way

A lot of people don't make use of the RSS feeds offered by blogs and news sites. It's a bit of a hard concept for a non-technical person to grasp, and I'd been giving some thought to sitting down and writing the definitive explanatory article. It looks as though I've been beaten to the punch by a blogger named Stephanie in her blog, Back in Skinny Jeans:

Diagram explaining RSS in 'Oprah speak'

The diagram above comes from her article, titled How to Explain RSS the Oprah Way. I'm going to show it around and see if it helps people "get" RSS.

Why come to our job fair?

Learn why you would want to be a part of the Tucows development team!
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Blogs and the Thailand Coup

I remember the first time I'd heard of an intersection between the internet and personal reportage. It was back in my days at Queen's University, during a computer networking class, when professor Donald Jardine told us about how much of the news about the Tienanmen Square massacre came via email from students in China.

This sort of "citizen journalism" is alive and well today, with blogs joining the citizen journalist's toolkit. Here are some articles about people in Thailand who've been posting blog entries about the recent military coup:

Intro to XForms

As if there wasn't enough new client-side technique to cover, what with Ajax, DHTML, CSS and so on, there's also XForms -- the next-gen, XML-based, MVC-based, portable answer to HTML forms. They were made an official W3C recommendation back in March, they work in IE and Firefox, and they could very well become part of the Web 2.0 toolkit. Get the skinny at the first of a three-part series at IBM's developerWorks in an article titled Introduction to XForms, Part 1.

100 Random Colours

Screen shot of the '100 Random Colors' site

Here's one for the designers: the 100 Random Colors site generates a page like the one shown in the screenshot above, with 100 squares in random colours and their RGB values. There's some JavaScript/DHTML behind the page, which lets you rearrange the squares by dragging and dropping.

Good Ajax Reading

The people at Zimbra, the company that makes open source messaging and collaboration software, have been blogging about Ajax recently. I've listed some of their articles of note after the jump.

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10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About PHP

PHP logo

At (Yet Another Web Development Blog), there's an article titled 10 things you (probably) didn't know about PHP, which the author Jamie describes as "a short list of cool features that might have slipped under your radar as well."

Tucows Open House / Job Fair: Saturday, September 30th

On Saturday, September 30th between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Tucows will be hosting an open house/job fair. We have a number of job openings for:

Bring your resume to our offices, located at 96 Mowat Avenue, just east of King and Dufferin. You'll have a chance to meet with Executives & Managers of our Product Development, QA and Usability team, and talk about yourself and the exciting careers here.

Dreaming in Browser Swamp

I've been keeping a dirty little secret: in spite of all the fuss about web applications that can do what only desktop apps could, "Web 2.0" and Ajax, I have until recently been pretty ignorant of JavaScript, DHTML, the DOM and even CSS (I was using tables for layout until this year!). The shame isn't just mine; a lot of programmers to whom I've spoken have said "Yeah, me too."

Steve Yegge was in the same situation and he's been doing what I've been doing: self-training in JavaScript, Ajax and DHTML. He's written some notes and based on this experience in a blog entry titled Dreaming in Browser Swamp. He makes some interesting observations, my favourite of which is:

JavaScript is probably the most important language in the world today. Funny, huh? You'd think it would be Java or C++ or something. But I think it just might be JavaScript.

Email Chaos at British Firms

In a study of British businesses conducted by the enterprise content management association AIIM Europe, more than a third of the respondents said that their email systems were in "complete chaos" and had no policy or procedures for compliance issues and archiving. A mere 27% of the respondents archived their mail outside of Outlook in some kind of searchable repositiory, 16% kept printouts of important emails in files and 60% had "no widespread understanding of exactly what electronic records are and how they should be retained".

Language Wars, Part 1

Mexican standoff from the film 'Resevroir Dogs'.

Here's some food for thought for warriors on either side of the Ruby/Python language war: the c2 wiki entry titled Python and Ruby and Converging and Wheel of Ezekiel's Ruby vs. Python - why no-one should care.

Business Travel Bloggers Gaining Influence

Business traveller with rolling suitcase

The New York Times has published an article about how the travel industry is being affected by the persistent and globally-amplified word-of-mouth provided by blogs. Given that business travellers are knowledge workers who often travel with their laptops, and constantly try to maximize their travel dollar and deal with the stress of being on the road, it's not surprising that they would turn to the internet -- and especially blogs -- to find and share travel information and tips.

Tralliance seeks ICANN permission to introduce Sitefinder 2.0

Tralliance, the good folks that brought you .TRAVEL, are looking to implement something they are calling “” in the .TRAVEL TLD. 
ICANN Opens Public Comment Period on the Tralliance Proposed New Registry Service

– via ICANN.

ICANN's own Security and Stability Advisory Committee, SSAC, is saying that they don’t find any material difference between this proposal and Verisign’s Sitefinder implementation.

Bret Fausett has some thoughts about this on his blog as well.

In the spirit of getting involved, it would be great if you took the time to let ICANN know what you think of this proposal and took part in their public comment process.

Poll: Americans don't want net neutrality (or maybe they don't know what it is)

I really find the whole Net Neutrality debate somewhat disheartening. There are two sides to this debate, one rooted in the realities of the way the internet works, and one rooted in trying to "optimize" the internet to the advantage of a very specific set of applications (video and voice traffic) offered by a very few providers (primarily large network operators). Unfortunately, one of these sides seems to have gained the rhetorical upper hand and seems to be controlling the current tone and tenor of the discussions.
A nationwide survey of 800 registered voters is being touted by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation because it purports to show that Americans are not interested in net neutrality legislation.

– via Ars Technica

 Of course internet users aren’t interested in net neutrality legislation – most internet users don’t have a clue of how the internet works, ought to work and was designed to work.

I personally don’t have an issue with whether or not you want to apply QOS or traffic shaping to your packets, but please, leave mine along. The internet is not a cohesive thing, it is a series of interconnection agreements between various independently operated networks and a series of technical protocols outlining how those interconnects should happen for maximum interoperability. Just because you might own the wires, doesn’t mean that you own the bits.

My biggest problem with the entire situation is that it is largely an artifact of bad regulation. In my opinion, the FCC and CRTC aren’t doing anyone any favors with their 3rd party access and hi-speed internet regulatory policies. Competition between a small number of players with very large market share isn’t competition. Competition between DSL and Cable isn’t competition. True competition can only happen in the absence of over-reaching regulation. Which can’t happen in an environment where the very large players have had the benefit of regulatory protection for far too many years.

The regulators need to get off the pot with this one. We must demand that either strong legislation that protects the internet is enacted, or we must demand that protectionist regulation is dismantled to ensure that everyone has a chance to benefit from the unique opportunities that the internet has to offer.

Getting Involved in CIRA

Mark Jeftovic of EasyDNS makes some great points about the CIRA Board of Directors election currently underway. CIRA is the organization responsible for running the registry and managing the policy for the dotCA ccTLD.

During my 3-year tenure on the CIRA Board, I got the opportunity to travel across the country. Whenever we held a public forum anywhere in Canada, the turnout was usually quite high and the participants informed and enthusiastic.

Then near the end of every open forum I made it a habit to ask the attendees the following question: "How many people here voted in the last election?" and the silence was usually deafening. Less than 10 hands would go up every time, guaranteed.

So why the disconnect between getting live bodies out to an actual event and getting stakeholders to click a few buttons through their web browser?

– via Mark Jeftovic

Historically, a very small number of people were responsible for casting the votes for the candidates that get elected to the CIRA Board - less than 1000 votes were necessary to get elected in past elections. This really needs to change - the bar should be much higher, which means more members need to get involved.

I'm actually a candidate in this election and if you are a CIRA member, I'd really appreciate it if a) you would get involved in this election, and b) support my candidacy by casting a vote in my favor.

I’m going to resist the temptation to turn this blog post into a shameless self-promotion, so if you are interested in my "platform", you can read more here, here and here. If you have any questions about how to cast a vote or about specific issues raised by my platform, please be sure to drop me a line!

Python 2.5 (Final) is Now Available

Python logoToday's a big day for Python programmers. You can download the final, production, ready-for-prime-time release of Python 2.5 starting today. For more information, you can read a quick overview of Python 2.5's highlights, or if you're craving some depth, check out Andrew Kuchling's What's New in Python 2.5.

Screaming Users Considered Good

Edvard Much's 'The Scream'I'm not sure how I'd react if a user of something I'd developed came up to me and called it "the most white male fascist tool I’ve ever had the misfortune to use."

Dan Russell, one of the writers at Creating Passionate Users did the right thing when it happened to him. He took a deep breath and asked "And what made you feel this way?"

It may not be pleasant to deal with a customer who's all fired up about your product or service for the wrong reasons, but as the article Screaming Users Considered Good points out, you can learn a lot from users who are struggling with it, don't "get it" or have had a strong negative reaction to it.

A Marketing Lesson from Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton

"If Madonna was Marketing 1.0," says the entry in the blog Chartreuse, "then Paris Hilton is Marketing 2.0. She’s a real life version of what value is and how it is created today. Every web developer should pay attention to her."

The full story is at the article Why Paris Hilton is Famous (Or Understanding Value in a Post-Madonna World).

Programming Languages You Should Learn


eWeek has published an article listed the "10 Programming Languages You Should Learn Right Now". I think it offers some bad advice and promotes a short-sighted view of programming and offer some counter-advice.

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Java, Groovy and JRuby Side-By-Side


This handy table created by A. Sundararajan provides side-by-side examples of the use of various features of the Java, Groovy and JRuby programming languages.

Rasmus Lerdorf: "Getting Rich with PHP 5"


Rasmus Lerdorf, creator of the PHP programming language, has posted his slide from his keynote at the php|works / db|works conference titled Getting Rich with PHP 5. His presentation covers a wide array of topics: common problems and risks for PHP programmers, Internet Explorer annoyances, getting rich by writing a PHP Web 2.0 app that can handle the load put on a popular web app, how pleasant PHP 5 makes working with XML and web services (see the 5-second RSS parser) and PHP 5.2's hooks for applications that support file upload.

Paul Reinheimer's Presentations and Book on Web APIs


Paul Reinheimer had two presentations on web services sessions at the php|works / db|works conference in Toronto yesterday. In this article, I do a brief review of his presentations and a preview of his book, Professional Web APIs with PHP.

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Free Passes for ISPCON Fall 2006


As we mentioned in an earlier posting, Tucows CEO Elliot Noss will be hosting a "fireside chat" keynote with blogger, Cluetrain Manifesto co-author and Linux Journal editor Doc Searls at ISPCON Fall 2006 (November 7 - 9, Santa Clara, California). We'd like you to come, and to accomplish this, we've got guest passes that will get you into ISPCON for free!

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If a tree falls in a forest, does anybody hear?

There are two expressions that really hit home for me when it comes to Tucows Insight:

"If you build it, he will come" - Field of Dreams Fame

"If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?" - Bruce Cockburn fame (for me anyway)

The first one isn't so true. We have built lots of things, but people don't always come. And the second, well, if you build something, and you don't tell anyone about it, does it count?

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I'll be at php|works Wednesday Through Friday

php|works / db|works logo.

I'll be at the php|works / db|works conference taking place in Toronto from Wednesday, September 13th through Friday, September 15th, catching interesting sessions and taking copious notes. If you see me, feel free to say "hi" -- I'll probably have a few squishy cows handy and might even be able to point you towards a couple of interesting developer gigs at Tucows.

Kiko From a Developer's Point of View

There's been a lot of noise on various web sites and blogs about the business aspects of the Kiko acquisition. That's fine, but as a developer working at the company that acquired Kiko, the acquisition is far more interesting for another reason: I'm hoping to get a look at the code.

Kiko is written using the web development framework called Ruby on Rails (a.k.a. "Rails"), which in turn is written using the programming language Ruby. When I first came to work at Tucows in July 2003, Ruby was still considered to be a fairly obscure language. When I was told that Blogware was being implemented in Ruby, I was a bit skeptical: where would we find maintenance developers who knew how to program in this language that nobody seemed to use?

Ruby is no longer considered obscure, thanks to Rails, Ruby's "killer app". Rails is designed to be fun to work with and eliminates a lot of the headaches and annoying, repetitive and dull parts of development (what I refer to as "yak-shaving") through automation, good design and the use of programming conventions. It seems to have caught the attention of many programmers; the Rails in-house tutorial session I'm leading here at Tucows next Tuesday is going to pack our boardroom.

I've only worked on very small-scale Rails projects that run on my PowerBook -- little programming experiments and the example application provided in the must-have tutorial Agile Web Development with Rails. I've only seen the code behind demo or "toy"applications written in Rails, not something that has had some real-world "mileage" and has handled tens of thousands of users. To me, Kiko represents an opportunity to see the code behind such a real-world Rails application, learn from it and even share some insights. I'm looking forward to seeing that source code.

Elliot and Ross Talk About the Kiko Acquisition

Tucows Blog Podcasts

Since we launched this blog with the announcement of the Kiko acquisition, it's only fitting that we launch our podcast series with a Kiko-related podcast. This inaugural podcast is of an interview I conducted on Tuesday with Elliot and Ross in which they talk about acquiring a company on eBay while on vacation at the cottage, the so-called bursting of the Web 2.0 bubble, what's going to happen to Kiko's current users, "buy versus build" and the business of online calendars.

We'll post a transcript of this podcast next week.

The podcast is an MP3 file 13.2 MB in size and runs for 25 minutes, 47 seconds. Click here to play it (or right-click and choose "Save as") to save it to your hard drive.

Elliot Talks about the Kiko Acquisition at TalkCrunch/TechCrunch

Over at TalkCrunch -- Mike Arrington's weekly podcast covering "Web 2.0" companies -- the most recent post is a podcast interview with Elliot about our recent acquisition of Kiko. The podcast runs for 19 minutes, 35 seconds.

The podcast also gets mention in this TechCrunch article.

See Us at ISPCON Fall 2006

We'll be making our presence known at ISPCON Fall 2006, the premier conference for internet service providers, which takes place on November 7th through 9th in Santa Clara, California.

Our CEO Elliot Noss will join blogger, Cluetrain Manifesto co-author and Linux Journal senior editor Doc Searls for ISPCON Fall 2006's first keynote, In the Hotseat with Doc: A Fireside Chat on Tuesday, November 7th.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 8th, I'll be moderating a panel session titled What the Web 2.0? What it is, why it matters and where's the money?, which will feature SiteKreator CEO Ivaylo Lenkov and Zimbra VP of Marketing and Product Management John Robb.

Finally, on Thursday, November 9th, our VP Marketing Ken Schafer will host his session, 30 Rapid-Fire Website Wins, Guaranteed. This one comes with a guarantee: If you don't feel that you've picked up at least five techniques to improve your site by the end of Ken's session, he will personally assess your site and give you five ways to improve it!

If you'd like to know more about Elliot's keynote and Ken's and my sessions, I've included the descriptions from the conference program in the extended version of this entry (which you can get to by clicking the "more" link below).

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Why We Bought

On August 26th, 2006, Tucows was the winning bidder in the widely discussed (Techmeme,, Stowe Boyd) eBay auction of the web-based calendar application Kiko.

Why Did We Buy Kiko?

While there are a lot of little reasons, I'll cover a few of them in a moment, there is really one big reason why we bought Kiko. We needed the functionality, quite desperately, inside of our email platform and it was going to take us a long time to get it. Especially at the level of sophistication Kiko has.

The Calendar Function

Most webmail platforms have a calendar but very few of them are ever used. It is quite simply a crappy user experience. We as users have a problem with shared calendar inside of Tucows and because we are a mixed-desktop environment we are not able to go with the expensive-frustrating-functional Exchange Server solution. At times there have been real pushes for this internally but I have pushed back and insisted that anything we do with a shared calendar be open standards. There is not much.

We all believe that a calendar is a very important function in the messaging suite for small businesses. Given that people don't want to maintain separate services for personal and business use, and because the line between personal and business services is getting blurrier, we felt this functionality was a big hole for us.

So why didn't we build it? Well the short answer is we have so many things to do in general and so many exciting things to do with email in particular that it was just not going to be possible until at least Q2 of next year and even then the plan didn't really excite anyone around here. It looked sort of like the next-gen of our current offering. Had this not come up we would have probably stayed the course and looked to catch a break. When it did, we quickly went through a simple calculus.

The Important Question

What would we pay to have a kick-ass AJAX-based calendar available now?

When I am dealing with quick, complicated decisions I really like to boil them down to a simple abstract construct. Yes there are a huge number of shadings around that question but at its simplest that is the essence of the decision. What was the value to Tucows of the time and the certainty? Of being in the market with this functionality six to twelve months earlier than otherwise? What was the value of having it be good for sure? Even if we threw it away in six months (not that we plan to do that)?

What I can tell you for certain (and you'll be able to hear more details in an upcoming podcast) is that it was more than we paid!

This Situation and Tucows

From the time the auction was announced, there was great discussion online about the value of Kiko to a buyer and much of it was both accurate and confirming. Justin and Emmett (see them being interviewed by Alan Wilensky here, here, here and here) were absolutely right in determining that Kiko was a feature not a business. We think they were absolutely right in assessing that integration with email was key and that the greatest value here was to someone with a suite of services to integrate with. We felt that this was going to be 2-3 man-years of work and they confirmed that. All of this made us more comfortable in the short period of time that we had to make our decisions.

There were also some interesting facts that were specific to Kiko that made it work for us. It was clear from their posts and such that Justin and Emmett were no longer passionate about the calendar space and were excited to do something else. They felt, and we agree, that this was worth much more with them along for the ride. Probably by a factor of ten. It would have then attracted a completely different type of buyer. We would not have paid that premium for the people. Not that they aren't worth it. Just that our financial calculus was different. This probably kept some of the natural buyers out of the process.

We also did not need a huge base of retail users. They are nice and we will provide them with a great home but if this had been much of a success outside of Mike's 53,651 it probably would have attracted more financial buyers or domainers and the price might have ended up more than we were willing to pay. It is worth noting here (and we also talk more about this in the podcast) that there was clearly interest in the domain name and the traffic. We will certainly monetize that as it is a space we know well, but we also may choose to sell the name off as it is not core for us. Either way it is another place where we, more than most/all other buyers who would be interested in the calendar functionality, will be uniquely able to take advantage of the assets.

In a nutshell, this was the kind of deal where we were buying exactly what they were selling. That makes for good business and, by the way, is too infrequently the case with Internet services.

Other Benefits

As we dug deeper there were a number of other little benefits that made this seem like a great fit and got us comfortable pushing ourselves a bit on the spend.

I will call out a few of these, but this list is not exhaustive:

Global User-base - For some the non-US customer set and things like language support may not have been seen as benefits. For us they were a very nice addition. Our business is extremely global with customers in over 110 countries. We have a large European business and a large South American business. We have plenty of customers in Asia. The customers and languages that come along with Kiko are a nice benefit for us.

Mobile Integration - Kiko has a very impressive set of mobile carriers they integrate with. We were blown away when we dug into this. It will be nice to have that functionality for the calendar. It will be even nicer to have an existence proof for making the rest of our services more mobile. We are just starting to experiment with mobile around the edges of our business and this will help things along.

Nice AJAX Implementation - Kiko is a very nice use of AJAX, especially in a lot of the underlying thinking. To me, that is not about technology, but about making a web app behave more like a desktop app. Learning how this worked within Kiko and having to maintain this code base will be very good for the rest of our services. Again, there is a nice broad application of a benefit to be taken advantage of.


First and foremost this was about better/faster. We were able to get a key feature done well, and done now. In my view we were lucky with a number of the small things that made this happen. The people were not part of the deal which held down value for one group of buyers. The retail user base was real but not too large, which held down value for another group of potential buyers.

There were also a number of side benefits which are important in any good deal. The global user base and language support, the mobile integration and the nice use of AJAX are three examples.

All in, we are quite excited about this, we thank Justin and Emmett for all their hard work, we look forward to giving the existing customers an ever-improving user experience and look forward to bringing a great shared calendar to the millions of end-users and thousands of partners who use Tucows services today.

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