Thursday, December 18, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Within the past 4 days, news of a new web browser named Blackbird was announced and targeted towards the African-American online community. Immediately the biggest irony to me was the attention it received from those technological pundits outside of the African-American digital community. Historic trends outside of the recent US presidential elections (only to some small degree still) consistently indicate that whenever there is anything geared toward benefiting and enabling the communication skills of African-Americans, the enabling technology whether human or machine must be savagely demonized from coast to coast and time zone to time zone nationwide for the entire world to see.
Then again, I'm definitely not the target audience, so hard to judge. Any African American readers who want to try it out and come back to weigh in here in the comment section? "
The problem with this report of the Blackbird browser is that Wauters should have done more than nano-sized superficial research far before submitting this article to the website's editor and that TechCrunch is suffering from the same cultural blindness that is par for the course throughout the web2.0 world in that most tech reporters, editors, pundits, gurus, and experts alike already have the ability to make virtually all minorities invisible outside of entertainment and sports industries within the United States. One, I doubt that there are any minorities within these companies and then two, I doubt that they are given any attention beyond that given to the janitorial staff or a nuisance. Some things common to those suffering from such group thinking is like the old slogan of the 7-Up soft drink: Never Had It, Never Will.
As a result, all comments in print and online alike questioning whether the creators of Blackbird have wasted their time or not have swiftly placed their votes on the day after Election Day or on Inauguration Day itself where the votes do not count or matter at all.
After seeing the injustice given to Blackbird browser, I finally installed it after downloading it yesterday.
The first thing that I noticed about the Blackbird browser is the ticker tape news stories scrolling from right to left near the top of the browser which is mildly cool. Although the color scheme of Blackbird is to be expected when targeting the African-American community (basic black plus some bright color found in a fruit--laugh if you want to but look at any product distributed Coca-Cola or other food/beverage aimed at African-Americans for proof), the primary social networking features route users back to the same online venues (Myspace, Facebook, or the usual e-mail accounts) that already exist. No newly created value is offered as a result.
The initial assumption that Blackbird naively makes is that they falsely assume that past browser users and interested parties in the browser will always have the browser available on their computers. As anyone who has worked outside of the home can tell you, one is most likely not allowed to download and install software on a computer at work. Therefore the reach of Blackbird is crippled out of the gate. Anyone who has taken the time to review data provided by The Pew Internet & American Life Project would have readily noticed this. The vast majority of African-Americans online have their access provided while they are working (and again, the interested parties are not likely to be able to install the software to their computers).
I thought that Blackbird would have been smarter instead about building a targeted online community or providing the digital African-American community with a greater span of reach and networking ability. But instead at this point, it seems that the creators of Blackbird have fallen prey to the same corporate group think that previously ignored them. The biggest feature never seen before is found ultimately within the video section where several channels are found. The video section is where I believed Blackbird has its greatest opportunity while I see that it has yet to seize the opportunity there in its hands. The second misstep of Blackbird clearly made that can be rectified and improved upon is found within the video channels. Upon clicking on a video channel, one may readily view the videos available. But one is still locked into using the browser as the only means to view the videos.
I clicked on a video channel title and hoped to be able to view the same video on the Blackbird site itself (by copying and pasting the link of the channel itself) just in case I was ever away from a computer with the browser installed (or save the page to Delicious , Diigo , or any other social bookmarking site of choice), but instead I received the notice "You can access this information only with the Blackbird Browser. Click here to download the Blackbird Browser now." This faulty logic basically means that e-mailing a video link to someone else is never going to work unless one checks in advance that the receiver has Blackbird installed already. So the effort again is crippled out the gate but fortunately can be modified to actually work.
Blackbird is currently thinking like the old AOL in a world where Myspace, Google, Ning, Firefox, and RSS feeds operate with executive privilege. The opportunity that exists like a golden goose for Blackbird or anyone else looking to monetize any culture or community does not raise the bar of entry before the company itself enters but afterwards. Blackbird should create a plug-in for the Mozilla browser that can work with existing Firefox users and then allow the content being sent to its browser to be accessible on its website and embeddable anywhere on the internet period. Proceeding forward with a browser-only mindset weakens the targeted community and makes one falsely believe that it possibly cannot self-organize and find others of the same cultural interests.
Currently Blackbird has a Civil Rights mindset when a Barack Obama approach is preferred and welcomed. Most people online regardless of race and culture actually have more in common from a socioeconomic and cultural perspective than they would allow themselves to imagine offline. Whoever allows this paradigm to be broken down online and offline will create more value than any browser or technological tool has before it. But wait, Obama has already written this textbook:)
Blackbird has until Inauguration Day at the very latest to demonstrate that it can offer change in a way that is not fenced in like AOL of yesteryear and Facebook of today. This is the only digital change we can believe in. No other excuses, niche offers, or considerations will be accepted or tolerated. I would like to see the Blackbird team continue to make the needed changes quickly and then offer a social networking platform where sub-communities of niche interests can be created and networked at will across the entire digital world.
Posted by Roney Smith at 6:05 PM