Sunday, August 28, 2005

ofoto / kodakgallery: poor international infrastructure?

This is interesting. One of my cousins in India has just started using Ofoto's UK site to upload photographs of their newborn daughter (lotta babies born in the past 2 months!). My first surprise was that I had to create a new account on the Ofoto.co.uk site. Hmm. I can type pretty fast and it's not above my threshold of pain to create a new account, I guess, so OK, fine, I create an Ofoto UK account, wondering all the while why I can't just use my Ofoto U.S. account. Now I can view the photographs, great.

So today, I decided I wanted to order a bunch of photographs from the Ofoto site and I wondered to myself, "Surely they have at least their back-end infrastructure setup so that the photographs will get shipped from their U.S. office rather than their UK office." I'm probably wrong, though I'm not sure. It looks like the photos are going to get printed in the UK and then mailed from there -- at least that's what I'm left to conclude after the magnitude of the shipping charge I'm paying.

What are the implications of this kind of weak international infrastructure (besides the fact that it's annoying to me as a user :))? It seems obvious to me that we live in an increasingly globally mobile society and that this is the type of user an Internet-based site should be supporting. It's specifically within the grasp of any company, with technology and the Internet, to solve problems like these. Not doing so is bad operations, architecture and design.

Another perspective on this issue is that societies and communities that cross national borders are able to develop much more quickly today than ever before because of the Internet. Folks from all over the world have access to reams of data from other countries of the world. I can surf the website of Japanese companies, buy electronics from Hong Kong (like lik-sang), exchange e-mails with bloggers in the UK, etc. Look at how engadget has launched sites in Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. So even leaving aside people/communities/societies that are moving around, there are tons of people that are interacting across borders and societies and communities coming out of it. At the same time, I'll temper these comments by saying that it is not like we live in a borderless world. There are still lots of things that stymie these cross-border societies and communities (language, probably a fair bit of culture, legal code, tarriffs). But the trend is definitely one that involves more global mobility and more cross-border communities and societies.

Two final observations:

1) technology companies should do what they can to cater to, where appropriate (like the ofoto / kodak gallery example above!), globalization trends because they are, I believe, up-and-to-the-right trends.

2) there will be exponential growth in technologies and services around globalization that will drive these trends and will be driven by these trends.

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