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Startup Webaroo to put the 'Web on a Hard Drive'? 340

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the starting-the-data-storage-arms-race dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new startup called Webaroo is launching Monday with an audacious proposition: You can search the Web without a net connection of any kind. Initial release consists of 'Web packs' on specific topics such as news, city guides or Wikipedia. Later this year they're promising a full-Web version that you can carry on a laptop -- provided you're willing to devote something in the neighborhood of 80 gig."
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Startup Webaroo to put the 'Web on a Hard Drive'?

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  • ownership (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xzvf (924443) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @01:52PM (#15095321)
    Wouldn't there be an issue here of selling another person's content? While everyone can view the content at will, copying that information to media and then reselling it, or even distributing it for free, would be an issue.
  • Not just access (Score:3, Interesting)

    by David Hume (200499) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:12PM (#15095421) Homepage
    FTFA:
    Which isn't to say that ever more ubiquitous 'Net connections won't pose a challenge to the Webaroo business model.

    "Long-term their opportunity may have more to do with [search] performance" than the offline capability itself, Enderle says.

    Husick tells me that performance benefit was reinforced for the company by a rousing reception their service received from Japanese mobile operators who he says were salivating over Webaroo as a means to siphon search traffic away from their increasingly crowded wireless broadband networks.

    Webaroo will also be touting the potential cost savings and convenience of its service.

    "Every hotel I go to wants to charge me $10 to $15 a night for Internet. Every airport wants to charge me another $10 to get connected," Husick says. "If I've got five minutes before I have to board my flight, do I want to spend that five minutes connecting or do I want to spend five minutes getting my search answer?"
    I still think this is a business scheme destined to fail. It may be a business plan that is designed to survive only long enough to cash out.
     
    I've got news for Husick. I'm a lawyer who have sets of Statutes, Court Rules and Local Rules behind his desk. I still look them up online to make sure I have the most recent version. I can't afford not to.
     
    Search performance? Rarely, if ever a problem.
     
    Siphon traffic away from "increasingly crowded broadband networks?" They make money from that traffic. They can't, if necessary, charge per data download? Tier the service by download bandwidth? Charge more? Build a better network?
     
    The first cell phone or wireless device that expects me pre-download some portion of the net, that portion being determined by somebody else, is the first one I can cross off my list.
     
    Save $5 or %10 at the airport by not connecting? What if I want to send or receive e-mail? Get the latest news, business or stock information? I'm AT AN AIRPORT, which implies I have some money, and in his context that I'm on business. I'm going to foregoe a net connection for $5 or $10? If my employer is that tight, I'm looking for another job anyway -- one that doesn't use Webaroos' services.

    This reminds me of software solutions to cramped hard drive spaces awhile back. On the fly file compression and expansion when data size was outstriping hard drive size for a short period of time. (Remember the file corruption.) Even though there was a market for those products, barely, everyone and his brother knew that market was going to go away Real Soon Now.
  • Hm.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:13PM (#15095423)
    Only if one of the webpacks is porn. Or better yet, if several are porn, cross referenced by type and participants.

    Though, my vaguely disturbing ramblings do raise an interesting point, maybe - what's their stance on the indecent materials that make up a good deal of teh webernet? When they say the "whole internet," do they MEAN goatse too?
  • by IndigoParadox (953607) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:15PM (#15095441)
    I've been thinking of snagging the downloadable Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and using a bot to download some other sites for this very reason!
  • Could just work... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ELProphet (909179) <davidsouther@gmail.com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:37PM (#15095538) Homepage
    But not in the way they think. TFA mentions two points, but doesn't explore them in depth. The first is their algorithms they use; let's face it, Google is starting to fall to the SEOs. If they have a new algorithm that was able to actually follow your web browsing all the way, they'd be able to provide much better results. Google claims to do this, but they can't follow you more than your first link. Second, they seem to pick up that most people find their entire information on the second or think link they visit.

    Combine these together, and the program could offer you 80 gigs of data to just sit on your computer and be sifted through at yuor leisure. It would be able to follow you through, and find exactly how you get through your data. When it needs to, it can spider into areas that it might think you'd want to go (Been looking at a lok of Wikipedia? Next time you connect, it goes an picks up some wikibooks).

    The best part, is that all the "Big Brother" information is being stored on YOUR computer, not their servers. You want that info, Bush? You'll have to supoena every user.

    If they tergeted this more towards a desktop-search type thing with better search algos than Google, this could just work.
  • by twitter (104583) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @02:37PM (#15095542) Homepage Journal
    The wayback machine's [archive.org] terrabytes [archive.org] of data is what this really takes. Keeping it up to date is another story.

    Archives are good and this can be a useful service. Providing 80 select gigs on a hard drive to libraries and schools is a useful until US networks get where they should be. Their software can keep those 80 GB up to snuff at night. When you leave the cache, you ... gasp ... get the new content. In the mean time, things are much faster when it matters. Mirrored content will always be a good idea. Look at the debian distribution system, for example.

    Good luck to the people at Webaroo. So long as they don't apply for stupid patents that give them an exclusive franchise to distribution systems, they are AOK.

    The road warrior thing will flop, though. People are going to stay where there's a network or pay the $10. It's the one piece of live information that requires the hook up. The speed of the rest is gravy for those people.

  • by dogwelder99 (896835) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:19PM (#15095661)
    From TFA...
    The company and service officially emerge from behind their stealth shield tomorrow armed with a flashy bundling agreement from laptop maker Acer.
    Most likely, the reason behind this awesomely silly "feature" is getting people to pay more for laptops with larger hard drives, with marketing promising "search the web without an internet connection!"

    And, of course, selling a subscription service that lets you download updates of your favorite internet content to your laptop... a technology formerly known as, well, "browsing the web". Using slick marketing to sell people stuff they already have, was a huge success for the bottled water industry... can't blame these guys for trying it on the internets.

  • Re:skewed world (Score:2, Interesting)

    by onebecoming (965642) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:24PM (#15095681)
    Five? You must live in the sticks. 162 Starbucks [starbucks.com] within five miles of me right now, according to the store locator... not that there aren't other places I'd rather be.
  • Re:Dotcom v3.0 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Philocke Fox (762396) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:26PM (#15095686)
    Robert X. Cringley had an article about this last year. http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20050210. html [pbs.org]

    Basically what he said was that venture capitalists raised a whole bunch of money that they didn't spend during the last boom. This money is raised from investors and is given to the VCs for a limited time. The VCs make money from the management fees they collect for dealing with this money, usually 1 or 2% of the total amount. But, if they don't invest, then the money AND the fees get sent back to the original investors.

    The time limit on investment is usually about 10 years. So if we say that the boom started around '96, then some of these limits have already expired, and the rest of them will expire within the next 4 years.

    Use it or lose it. And the VCs will definitely use it.

  • feh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by andreyw (798182) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @03:27PM (#15095687) Homepage
    Frankly, I could see a market for this *maybe* 10-12 years ago. It just doesn't make any sense now. The internet is not solely about static content. Also, the thimble of data provided in each pack will be underwhelming and perpetually out of date.

    I mean, if I know I won't be online for a week, what stops me from just CURLing or WGETing whatever I plan on reading for the next couple of weeks? And that goes only for static content like books and articles. Everything else is cannot be simply cached.
  • by fishizzle (901375) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @07:58PM (#15096778)
    Navigate to the page that interests you to have available offline, select "Favorites" -> "Add to Favorites..." -> Check "Make Available Offline" -> Click the "Customize..." button -> Choose how many pages deep you want to download.

    That's for IE, but I'm sure most competing browsers have the ability.

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