One of the great things about the internet business space is how one person can build an empire with the same revenues / impact / influence as a very large company.
Markus is such a fellow and I’m glad to see he’s blogging about his ongoing adventures creating and running one of the top dating sites in the world – PlentyofFish.com. Markus provides a lot of detail and insight into how he created the site almost as a lark and now effectively competes with major corporations in the social network/dating space.
With 200 Million page views monthly and climbing, Markus really knows his stuff. One observation he makes I’m still trying to digest suggests that eventually *only* small companies will rule the internet due to their much greater flexibility and effeciency. Yahoo, Google, MSN are betting billions that they’ll maintain the huge stakes in the online world rather than small niche companies. Frankly, I’m guessing there is room for everybody in the expanding online business space.
Beware Blinko and all other ringtone providers. I recently discovered a 7.99 charge on my son’s part of our many paged cell phone bill. He’s a clever guy and insisted he’d been very careful about avoiding sign ups for paid services, so it appears he was either scammed by a ringtones provider or we were slammed with a ringtones subscription. Sprint actually confirmed that we had not downloaded anything with the service and – incredibly – could not tell me the company that had signed us up.
After getting Sprint to remove last month’s charge another appeared this month. Texting 42222 appears to have “unsubscribed” us from the service we never subscribed to in the first place and Sprint removed the current new charge but refuses to remove older charges I’d not noticed. I think I now got them to block the possibility of this happening again, but I’m very pissed that Sprints “default” position seems to be to assist these scamming Ringtone S.O.Bs.
I’ve learned that ringtones and downloadable phone content is a 4 BILLION dollar global industry (yes – four billion). Incredible, especially since so much of this industry is driven by teens who are either scammed into subscriptions or foolishly spending their parent’s money.
The industry is plagued by scams, the most common of which gets teens to sign up their phone for a ‘free’ ringtone but then have the account trapped in the fine print to pay a monthly charge. If this isn’t bad enough the phone companies, who are making huge profits themselves off this garbage, are not at all helpful in tracking down the scammers or applying appropriate credits.
UPDATE: Class Action Suit against Blinko:
Blim & Edelson, LLC
53 West Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
UPDATE: Based on all the comment I recommend anybody affected by these Ringtone Scams contact the FCC commissioners as follows. Be sure to indicate your phone company and detail how they failed to address your complaints. In my opinion it should be illegal to bill these services without a written, signed authorization from the account holder.
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Chairman Kevin J. Martin: KJMWEB@fcc.gov
Commissioner Michael J. Copps: Michael.Copps@fcc.gov
Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein: Jonathan.Adelstein@fcc.gov
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate: firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Robert McDowell: Robert.McDowell@fcc.gov
|To Obtain Information via E-mail
General information, inquiries & complaints: email@example.com
Freedom of Information Act requests: FOIA@fcc.gov
Comments on FCC Internet services: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elections & political candidate matters: email@example.com
|To Obtain Information via Telephone
1-888-225-5322 (1-888-CALL FCC) Voice: toll-free
1-888-835-5322 (1-888-TELL FCC) TTY: toll-free
1-866-418-0232 FAX: toll-free
(202) 418-2830 FAX on Demand
(202) 418-1440 Elections & political candidate matters
FCC Phone Directory
Maybe I’m just stupid but I’ve become experienced enough with domain issues that yesterday’s mildly threatening letter from America Online’s legal firm “Arent Fox” was more interesting than scary. The last time it was the New York Times’ firm which had one of those really fancy long names with something like ten lawyers in the firm. They told me I needed to turn over “GolfDigest.net” which I’d registered in conjunction with an expensive Golf Digest magazine advertising buy for the tourism group I worked with. In that case they actually withdrew the request and let us keep using the name when I pointed out that Golf Digest had approved our ad using the URL which was in a huge font in Golf Digest magazine. They could hardly claim we were trying to pull one over on them.
However, with a name like Arent Fox you’ve GOT to be good, so I have replied to them as follows:
Yesterday I recieved your letter dated June 19 asking me to turn over WINAMP.INFO to AOL because you feel it violates their service mark and I’m competing with them by placing some search information at that domain.
I think I agree that I should turn this over to AOL – I was unaware they owned a mark for the WINAMP name. But I do want to clarify a few things first:
* This was registered to me by the .info registry only AFTER all copyright holders had been given ample notice and time to register domains they felt they were entitled to – why didn’t AOL do this?
* Since AOL appears to think they should have registered this domain at the time but did not, it only seems fair that I’d be compensated in modest fashion for the time and expenses of registration and renewal. Are you empowered to offer any reimbursement. It does not seem reasonable that I’ve been paying AOL’s domain bills for several years.