BEST OF THE WEB: How Kickstarter is changing everything you know about business funding

It all started with an idea.

Canadian engineer Eric Migicovsky came up with an idea for a wristwatch that could display information from an iPhone, such as text messages and music information. It’s a fun idea –and no one’s done it yet.

Except he couldn’t get any financial backers to talk with him, let alone even pitch the idea.

So he turned to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where you pitch your idea and set a funding goal. If enough people like your idea, they pledge money, and when your target is reached you’ll get your money – after Kickstarter takes a commission.

So Migicovsky set a modest goal of $100,000 and waited to see what happened. In less than two hours, he and his business partners had already reached their target.

But it didn’t stop. Within half a day, they were at $600,000; and then $1 million. And with just over two weeks to go – two weeks after they started – the team have $7.8 million to play with provided by 50,000 people.

But their watch isn’t the only project to have taken off on Kickstarter. Far from it. In the past year, there have been thousands of successful projects funded through the site by users who like nothing more than the idea of something and want to see it become reality.

The site is becoming so large that last year alone it raised $119 million for various projects, taking home $6 million. Overall, it’s raised $200 million for 20,000 projects.

Perry Chen, one of the site’s founders, points out to the New York Times that not only tech projects are getting money, but at the Tribeca film fest, there are a dozen movies funded through Kickstarter – even a restaurant has been set up.

Video game makers are the latest craze taking hold of the site, with developers appealing to fans after being turned down by publishers. Together they’ve raised more than $20 million in a few months.

“This year marks the year that we’ve seen Kickstarter enter the real world in a number of ways,” Chen told the publication.

Kickstarter is changing the way businesses are made. With little more than ideas, successful projects are getting off the ground – and thriving.

Is it time for a new home screen?

The design of the Apple iPhone has remained the same for five years. During that same amount of time, Android devices have come up with dozens of different ways for their devices to show off.

Maybe it’s time for a refresh. Over at iMore, there’s a good argument for why Apple needs to reinvent the iconic look of its home screen.

Of course, that’s a problem considering people don’t love change, especially casual tech users. But the article argues that with so much information on the screen, there needs to be a better way of digesting it all.

Of course, that raises a substantial amount of questions.

“Is it as simple as adding a widget layer to the existing multitasking and notification layers? Is it increasing Siri to the point where the app launcher becomes secondary?

“Or will it require something completely new, something that makes Windows Phone Metro and webOS and the upcoming BlackBerry 10 look old and outdated?

“And if Apple does make a substantive change to the home screen, what does that mean for the hundreds of millions of mainstream users who are used to, perhaps dependent upon, the way things work now?”

The Developers’ Conference is only a few weeks away. Last year Apple debuted iCloud – will the home screen get some attention this time around?

The regulation of the internet

The debate over how the internet should be regulated came to a head late last year when the American public – and many other users around world – fought against the SOPA bill in the United States. The bill would have broadened the US Federal Government’s powers in shutting down websites if they were deemed to be breaking the law.

But as this piece in Vanity Fair points out, regulating the internet is much more complicated.

At the United Nations, in a few weeks’ time politicians and representatives will join to draft a treaty called the International Telecommunications Regulations. The treaty involves some 193 nations and will now seek to include debate on how people can use the internet.

“There is a war under way for control of the Internet, and every day brings word of new clashes on a shifting and widening battlefront. Governments, corporations, criminals, anarchists—they all have their own war aims.”

The internet is much more complicated now than it was 10 years ago. Piracy is rampant, and it’s enabled protestors to organise entire revolutions.

Regulators must weigh hard questions – should regulations be imposed, and how many?

This piece attempts to wade through the debate. But it isn’t easy and, as it points out, the meeting in a few weeks is set to be one of the most important in recent memory.

The problem with privacy

The problem of data collection by private companies has been thrown back into the spotlight again, with Google saying earlier this week that its software that caught users’ passwords over Wi-Fi networks was actually known to some Google employees and was not just a mistake.

But as this piece on The Atlantic describes, the real issue over privacy isn’t that data-collecting is “creepy”, but that even legal methods are concentrating power into the hands of online giants.

“The data all of these firms collect is proprietary and closed. Analysis of human behaviour from the greatest trove of data ever collected is limited to questions of how best to harvest clicks and turn a profit.”

“Not that there is no merit to this, but only these private companies and the select few researchers they bless can study these phenomena at scale. Thus, industry outpaces academia, and the people building and implementing persuasive technologies know much more than the critics,” it says.

It’s an argument worth considering. Although businesses do have the ability to detect what people are searching and use that to create better advertising, is that creating too much of an imbalance of power?

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