Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Services The US Have and Australia and the Rest of the World Miss Out On

The following are services/websites that exclude the likes of Australia and many other countries from use.  I'm pretty sure it's mostly business reasons that these restrictions exist because there is less and less reason for these geological restrictions in the internet enabled flat world that Thomas Friedman wrote about in his book, The World is Flat.

There are ways to circumvent these restrictions such as VPN but you would likely be breaching the website's terms of service. But that doesn't seem to be stopping all that many people because as far as I can tell the VPN business is a booming. And the funny thing is people are turning to services such as VPNs to access and sometimes pay for mostly entertainment websites such as Netflix, Hulu in video and Spotify in music. I have a feeling people are willing to pay for content if the way it is offered to them is compelling enough. The evidence is in people using these location-tricking services to pay for access to what they think is worth going to all this trouble for. And the content protection cartels are still complaining. They have industries to protect you see. They might not get as much in Australia for a movie & TV show content deal because people aren't paying for subscriptions for the monopolike Austar/Foxtel anymore. I'm guessing a lot of it can be put down to piracy too. If there were options maybe people wouldn't have to turn to that.

So here are the hot services in the USA right now that are on my wishlist to come to Australia. Assuming they are as good or better with the content on offer, or services to use.


Spotify is an all you can stream music subscription service that was started in Europe and is credited with sparking a decline in music piracy in countries where it operates. It has millions of music tracks and I'm sure would certainly be aiming to have all the music in the world if licensing would allow. It is quite simply a different way of music consumption as the days of buying a full album or even single are taken over by a monthly fee. Spotify allows the freedom to stream your music on your computer, mobile device or even through your TV with offline storage a feature of their premium plan. And it imports your entire music library across from other software you use on your computer such as iTunes or Winamp. A wonderful thing about Spotify is the sharing nature of the service. Websites such as ShareMyPlaylists.com encourage the sharing of playlists put together by it's users and it really is the reinvention of the mixtape on a global sharing scale.

Netflix started in the USA as a DVD-rental subscription service and is beginning it's expansion around the world beginning in Canada and soon to be Latin America. As well as UK/Ireland in early 2012. Recent media reports have suggested it isn't coming to Australia anytime soon. And the state the company has been in recently makes it seem that they are lucky to even be operating in the US let alone rapid expansion around the world. But people who like Netflix, love Netflix. Every other day it seems like they are signing a new content deal with a TV or Movie studio and the actual streaming side is very solid. It would be a welcome addition to anywhere in the world as an alternative to piracy and a generally awesome and amazing entertainment service. I have a feeling there are forces in the Australian entertainment industry to keep it from coming here as long as they can. But it also just may not be in Netflix's interest to come here as we are only around 22 million strong. Quickflix has just announced a streaming offering but as far as I can understand it you need to be subscribed to the DVD-subscription service to use the streaming but it is only early days in that department. 

Netflix really is the future of TV/movie consumption if they are not beset by a movie studio culture of making the content deals to expensive as to make them out of reach. And Netflix doesn't have the cash reserves of competitors Amazon, Apple & Google.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Netflix affects the Australian media landscape when it comes. Here's hoping it's soon.

Hulu is a catch up TV service for viewers in the US with a back catalogue of television and movies that can be viewed on your computer and if you have Hulu Plus on mobile and some selected TV-connected devices. It looks like Hulu is going to be acquired if you pay any attention to the rumours circulating the tech rags. It's certainly searching for possible suitors. Google and Yahoo have been mentioned but both want better TV/movie rights deals than Hulu, which is owned by film/TV studios, are willing to offer. I don't see this as being as attractive as a Netflix if it comes to Australia unless they can get Australian content aggregated on the catchup service as well as the plethora of US /UK shows. But if they can do that and offer the service everywhere like Netflix do it will have more potential. Currently licensing restricts the freedom of consumption on Hulu, such as the 5 most recent episode policy. If I had it my way every episode would be up on the service and the money for the networks is to be made be letting people have the ability to catch up enough to be able to watch on the premiere night. Basically this restriction to protect DVD & digital downloads should be torn down for the betterment of the service. 

A US-Canada-only personal finance website that has won multiple awards and regularly releases interesting infographics about the state of the US-nation and sometimes world in regard to savings, spendings and everything in between. I have been wanting this in Australia for some time now. It's like becoming your own accountant in an easy, intuitive way with a great user interface. Mint was acquired by Intuit in 2009. It only recently launched in Canada so there is hope for the rest of the world yet. But I'm guessing the rollout will be slow as they have to work out financial institution partnerships.

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Amazon only just came to the game recently in the Instant Streaming subscription business but the service will never be as appealing as it is in the USA due to the 2-day delivery of Amazon products that is the nature of the Prime service. But they do have many movies and television shows to stream, but it is US-only like the others. I wonder if Amazon Prime Instant Video would be appealing to users just on it's own without the shipping advantage. That is the question, and if Amazon would launch it in a country without an Amazon presence I would be interested to find out how it goes.

And a service I recommend to get around the top three of these:

Unofficially of course.

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