Web Directories

Linda Manly

Linda Manly

Source: R. Douglas Fields

The rate of lethal violence is 7 times higher than the average for all mammals

A new study of 1,024 mammal species has determined which animals are the most vicious killers of their own kind.  Killer whales perhaps?  Pit bulls maybe? For the answer, just look in the mirror.

Dr. Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot, shows a prototype of its fast-charging FlashBattery on a Samsung phone. (Photo: StoreDot)

CEO says his 5-minute phone charger will start production in early 2018.

When the public demands it, technology delivers it.

And in this case, that demand is summed up in one word: FAST.

The FlashBattery five-minute charging case from StoreDot, a Herzliya, Israel-based startup, is expected to roll out beginning in early 2018.

Researchers in Singapore have developed a way to teleport a drink over the internet — sort of.

This is a sponsored post provided by Paid Traffic.

Structured data makes it possible for search engines to better understand the content on a page.

For example, let’s say you run a website on movie reviews. Wrapping the title “Avatar” tells the browser to display that text in a header format. But the HTML tag doesn’t provide any additional information about what the text actually means. It could refer to the hugely popular movie or a profile picture on a social network.

What structured data does then is that it adds additional information to your website. These markups enable search engines to display enhanced and informative results depending on the search query. Chances are you have seen search results with rich snippets in them.

Here is an example from a site that has schema markup for one of its recipes:

The markup shows an overall rating of the recipe based on 726 votes, the time it takes to prepare, and even how many calories it has. It also has an appetizing picture that is sure to lure visitors in. That kind of information is incredibly helpful for end users.

Now look at the following Google search result:

The differences are immediately apparent. Visitors looking for recipes would be find the first result far more appealing and useful.

Web pages can be marked up with microdata from Schema.org, a collaborative effort among major search engines for schema markup. The site houses a vast library that webmasters can use to markup their web pages. There are hundreds of data types but these are some of the more common applications:

  • Articles
  • Restaurants
  • Reviews
  • Movies
  • Events
  • Products
  • Local

The big question you’re probably asking is how structured data affects SEO.

How Structured Data Can Boost Your SEO

Despite Google’s claims that structured data isn’t a ranking factor, there is data to suggest a correlation. A study from Searchmetrics analysing the top 50 results for its keyword set found that websites with schema markup rank on average four positions higher than websites without any markup.

The results indicate there is some correlation between schema markup and higher rankings. But the report is quick to note that it could be due to other factors:

“It may not be the case that pages are actually preferred by Google just because they provide schema integrations, and maybe the higher rankings can be explained by the fact that webmasters who use Schema.org integrations are one step ahead of the competition due to other factors that affect their rankings in a positive way.”

Regardless, using schema markup offers several distinct advantages.

Using structured data makes it easier for search engines to identify the type of content on your site. For example, video results are typically shown with a thumbnail while product reviews are shown with star ratings. These rich snippets help to boost the visibility of those pages in the search results. And better visibility can lead to higher click through rates which have a positive impact on rankings.

Surprisingly though, Searchmetrics found that only 0.3% of the 50 million domains analysed had schema markup. This means there are millions of sites that are missing out on SEO potential, something that you can use to your advantage.

Here we look at how to implement structured data on your site and control how it appears in the search results.

  1. Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper

Schema.org provides detailed documentation on adding different types of markup to your site. But marking up your pages requires some knowledge of HTML as you will need to edit the code on your site.

Google offers a more simplified solution of adding structured data to your pages with its Structured Data Markup Helper tool:

Note that the tool lets you add structured data to an HTML email. But for now, we’ll be looking at how to add it to webpages.

  1. Select a Data Type

Next, you’ll need to select a data type which is simply data that can be categorized. Here are the data types available to choose from:

  • Articles
  • Book Reviews
  • Events
  • Local Businesses
  • Movies
  • Products
  • Restaurants
  • Software Applications
  • TV Episodes
  • TV Episodes with Ratings

The list is certainly not exhaustive as there are hundreds of data types from Schema.org. Choose a data type that is relevant to the page you want to markup. If you are a local business, then you’ll want to choose “Local Businesses”. For this example, we’ll use Articles as it’s one of the more common data types.

  1. Paste in a Page URL to Markup

After selecting a data type, enter in the URL you wish to markup.

If you have an existing web page that is already live, then pasting in the URL is the simplest way to go as you can quickly highlight the different on-page elements to markup. Even if you want to markup a page that isn’t live yet, you can simply paste the page’s HTML into the tool.

Here we’ll insert a URL from a blog post on our Paid Traffic site:

Then click the Start Tagging button to get started.

  1. Highlight and Select the Data Type to Mark Up

If you were expecting the tool to automatically mark up the page, you’re about to be disappointed. You’ll need to highlight and identify the elements on your page to mark up. Google makes this a relatively straightforward process by displaying your web page on the left pane and data items on the right pane.

Earlier we selected the Article data type so the list will show data items for articles. What you see will depend on the data type that you select.

The first data item is “Name” so we’ll start with highlighting the name of the article. After you highlight an element on the page, a tooltip will automatically display.

Selecting “Name” from the list will add it to the data item on the right pane:

Next, you’ll want to tag other data types that are relevant to your article such as Author, Date Published, URL, etc. For certain elements that don’t appear on the page (e.g. URL), click the Add Missing Tags button on the right pane.

From here you’ll be able to manually enter tags that can’t be highlighted.

Try to mark up as many tags as you can. Don’t worry if you can’t add everything but do try to add the more important data items.

  1. Create and Add the Schema Markup Code

Once you finish tagging the page, click the Create HTML button at the top of the page.

Then the right pane will display the HTML of your web page with the relevant microdata added.

The highlighted snippets are the schema markup code that you’ll need to add to your site’s code. You can find these from the yellow markers on the scrollbar. Then copy the code (or download it) and paste directly into your CMS. When Google crawls your page again, the indexing algorithms will process the markup and make it eligible to display rich snippets.

Note that the tool allows you to switch to the JSON-LD format with the toggle at the top of the right pane. This format is actually recommended by Google but you can still use the microdata format.

  1. Use the Structured Data Testing Tool

Finally, you’ll want to use yet another tool from Google to test the code. The Structured Data Testing Tool checks and verifies that your markup is accurate.

Even if your page is not yet live, you can insert code from the Structured Data Markup Helper tool.

Paste in the code and click the “Run Test” button. The tool will take a few moments to validate the code and will also return any errors if there are any. Be sure to keep the markup helper tool open as you may need to go back. Then click the Preview button to see how the page will look in the search results.

Final Thoughts

Schema markup enables search engines to better understand your site’s content. Examples include ratings for products reviews, links to upcoming events, thumbnails for articles, and even prep times for recipes. These kinds of rich snippets provide better and more informative results to users. There is also data to suggest a correlation between using schema markup and better rankings.

Yet despite the clear advantages, few businesses actually markup their pages. Taking the time to implement schema markup can give your site an SEO boost and make it more appealing in the search results. Follow the steps laid out here to start marking up your pages.

This article was published in business2community.com By Emily Reiffer

Thursday, 04 May 2017 08:09

Library Systems Report 2017

Competing visions for technology, openness, and workflow

More statistics on sales performance, installations, and personnel for 2016 are available here.

The library technology industry has entered a new phase: business consolidation and technology innovation. Development of products and services to support the increasingly complex work of libraries remains in an ever-decreasing number of hands. Not only have technology-focused companies consolidated themselves, they have become subsumed within higher-level organizations with broad portfolios of diverse business activities. The survivors of this transformed industry now bear responsibility to deliver innovation from their amassed capacity. Modern web-based systems delivering traditional library automation and discovery capabilities are now merely table stakes. Real progress depends on building out these platforms to support the new areas of service emerging within each type of library.

Consolidation deep and wide

Library technology continues to consolidate horizontally and vertically. Horizontal consolidation—the merging of companies with similar business activities—shaped some of the larger players in the industry, such as Follett, and Infor Library and Information Solutions, Innovative Interfaces, Lucidea, OCLC, SirsiDynix, and TLC. Each has acquired at least one of its direct competitors. Bibliotheca’s acquisition of 3M Library Systems created a globally consolidated giant in the RFID and self-service sectors that is challenged only by much smaller local competitors.

Vertical consolidations represent the next avenue for growth in an industry where horizontal consolidation can be considered all but complete. This strategy of joining companies with diverse products and business strategies isn’t new in the broader library sphere, but library technology firms are a recent ingredient to the mix. The top-tier companies directly or indirectly involved in library business see library technology as an additional sector that provides opportunities to increase revenue, gain access to new customers, and realize synergies with other facets of their business ecosystems.

Companies offering content naturally gravitate toward discovery services with the potential to gain insights into library patrons’ search and selection processes. Recently, content companies have begun turning their attention to businesses offering resource management technologies, such as integrated library systems (ILS), library services platforms, and platforms for the procurement of library resources.

The acquisition of Ex Libris by ProQuest in December 2015 stands as a prime example of vertical consolidation. In this case, a company known mostly for its content products has gained status as the largest provider of technology to academic libraries.

EBSCO Information Services has revealed similar ambitions as it throws its weight behind the open source FOLIO project. Through this effort, EBSCO wants to support the production of a resource management ecosystem that is more open and friendly to its own discovery technologies, and also disrupt the flood of research libraries moving to the technology products of its rival ProQuest.

These synergies emerged early, via ProQuest’s 2004 acquisition of Serials Solutions for its electronic resource management utilities, and continued with its acquisition of Ex Libris. Although it seems reasonable to gain insights into the backroom processes for selecting and acquiring resources, exerting control may be another matter. Almost all libraries acquire content from many different providers and are unlikely to tolerate technologies that channel them to a specific content provider. ProQuest’s ownership of OASIS as part of its acquisition of Coutts Information Services from Ingram Content Group in April 2015 and EBSCO’s acquisition of YBP Library Services and its GOBI from Baker & Taylor in February 2015 show parallel interest in gaining access to internal library acquisition processes.

Follett buys Baker & Taylor

Follett’s acquisition of Baker & Taylor in April 2016 also falls within the vertical consolidation trend reshaping the broader library services industry. Follett is a massive family-owned company with diverse business activities, including campus bookstore management, distribution of print and electronic educational materials, library automation technology, and student information systems. Follett School Solutions dominates the K–12 school technology and content arena, at least to the same extent that Ex Libris does in higher education.

Prior to the acquisition, Follett’s business activities already involved content, resource acquisition, and technology, but the balance jumps toward content with this latest move. Follett acquired Baker & Taylor from Castle Harlan for an undisclosed sum. This move provides additional diversification and opportunities to gain new synergies among its existing content distribution and resource management and discovery technologies. As one of the major distributors of books and media products to public libraries and as a supplier to retail outlets, Baker & Taylor significantly expands the scope of Follett’s reach, not only into public libraries but also into the nonlibrary retail sector. As a result of the acquisition, Follett expects to see its revenues jump from $2.6 billion to around $3.6 billion. George F. Coe was recently appointed chief operating officer for Follett and its Baker & Taylor subsidiary. Prior to the acquisition, Coe was president and CEO of Baker & Taylor.

Many of the same synergies can be seen in play with Follett in the K–12 school sector as ProQuest and EBSCO navigate into the higher educational sector. Its Destiny ILS holds the dominant market share among K–12 schools in the United States, with most implementations at the district level. Many also use Destiny for the management of textbooks and other assets. Newly rebranded, Destiny Discover enables students to search and access a library’s print collections and available electronic resources. Follett’s Titlewave platform enables librarians to acquire print and electronic resources from the company’s broad catalog of content offerings with integrated collection analysis capabilities. This combination of products encompasses library resource management, discovery, and content acquisition.

FOLIO advances a new vision

This year saw the launch of FOLIO as a new initiative to create an open source library services platform that differs substantially in vision and technical architecture from established products like Alma and WorldShare Management Services. FOLIO embraces a highly modular approach in which specialized apps can be developed independently, yet collectively form a cohesive platform. This modular approach is designed to facilitate distributed development, a process in which disparate organizations or individuals can create apps that address specific areas of functionality rather than concentrating development within a single company. The design of FOLIO lends itself to the separation of resource management from discovery and contrasts the more tightly bundled arrangements associated with the existing library services platforms.

EBSCO lends substantial support to the FOLIO initiative, which it helped launch in late 2015 but which was not formally announced until April 2016. EBSCO has provided financial support, engaged Index Data to lead the development of the initial release of the underlying microservices framework, and offered educational events globally to spark interest in the initiative. The Open Library Environment, which had previously worked to create its own open source library services platform, has changed course to build community engagement for FOLIO. Involvement with FOLIO is a bold move for EBSCO, as it contributes substantial energy and resources to an open source product it does not own. It enjoys influence but not control.

Since its launch, the project has met some key benchmarks, including the release of the initial codebase for developers in August 2016 and the establishment of the Open Library Foundation as the governance organization for FOLIO and other open source communities. EBSCO reports that six vendors and 15 libraries are actively working on development, and 2,100 individuals have registered interest in the project.

This nascent FOLIO initiative faces formidable competition from the already maturing library services platforms offered by Ex Libris and OCLC. Both Alma and WorldShare Management Services have been in production since 2012 and now are used in more than 1,000 libraries. (Alma is in 829, while WorldShare Management Services is in 440.) Alma penetrated the apex of the academic library sector in 2016 when the Harvard and Cambridge University libraries selected it. Meanwhile, WorldShare Management Services has found a solid response among midsized academic institutions.

Another battle related to openness is raging. Libraries today have little tolerance for closed technology products that hamper access to underlying data and cannot be easily integrated into related business systems. The emergence of FOLIO brings to light a fundamental difference in the understanding of what it means for library systems to be open. A key issue is whether products must be released as open source to achieve the levels of flexibility expected, or if proprietary systems can deliver extensibility and interoperability though APIs. Even more important, can development distributed within the library community produce new innovations beyond the current slate of products?

The proprietary camp builds products based on software it controls exclusively. These systems do not offer access to the software’s source code. Instead, they can create APIs to enable programmatic access to the data and functionality of the application. Ex Libris, OCLC, SirsiDynix, and Innovative are examples of companies that cast their systems as open by providing robust APIs, but they do not release the source code. Ex Libris touts the success of this approach. It reports that its global Alma platform saw more than 479 million API calls in 2016, which represented 51% of total transactions and now exceeds those performed through its user interfaces.

Open source products allow anyone to access, modify, and redistribute the source code of an application, enabling cooperative and distributed development across many organizations. This approach relies on a business model based on fees for services rather than for the software itself. Open source software is well established as a main branch of the library technology industry. Products like DSpace, Fedora, and Hydra dominate the institutional repository arena. In the ILS arena, open source products represent a sizable portion of overall installations. A variety of companies provide services that enable libraries to use these products with no more technical personnel than would be needed for a proprietary system. Both Koha and Evergreen benefit from distributed collaborative development where no single organization claims exclusive control of the product.

FOLIO aims to bring this distributed approach to the library services platform scene. Although Index Data has been engaged to create the initial framework, the longer-term success of FOLIO will depend on other organizations joining the collaboration to enhance or create new modules.

FOLIO remains in the development phase, with no complete software for libraries to implement. Whether this project will eventually make an impact on the library services platform arena currently dominated by Ex Libris remains to be seen.

Library tech within global IT services firms

Another set of global companies seeks synergies between public libraries and other services of local government. One such company, Capita, which provides technology solutions to local government services, acquired Alto from Talis in 2010. The global IT services firm Infor acquired the remnants of the library automation pioneer Geac and now develops and supports its V-smart system and other library products as part of its division focused on technology for the public sector. Civica Library Solutions, a large IT services firm active in multiple global regions and dozens of business sectors, also operates a unit on education and libraries responsible for Spydus.

Capita, which supplies a variety of technology products and services for the public sector and academic institutions in the United Kingdom, offers the Alto library management system, branded as Chorus, for those interested in a fully hosted solution. This year three libraries, including a 25-branch system, selected Alto, bringing total installations to 79. Capita has enhanced its patron interface, now branded as Full Library Discovery, to encompass a comprehensive representation of content available from each library into search results.

Civica offers Spydus, which has been implemented by libraries in many global regions, especially in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. In recent years, Civica has developed Spydus 9 and, more recently, Spydus 10 as major upgrades to its platform. The company reports that more than 90% of its customers in Australia and New Zealand have moved to the new versions of Spydus. A recent reorganization joined the previously separate library and education business units. Civica launched a new business intelligence suite for Spydus in late 2016.

Infor, active primarily in Europe and Canada, develops and supports the V-smart ILS and related products. With revenue reported in the range of $1 million to $2.5 million, Infor is a 66-employee division of a global IT services company with 15,000 employees and 90,000 customers active in a diverse set of business sectors. In 2016, Infor completed the initial release of V-smart, a mobile catalog app for Apple, Android, and Microsoft smartphones, and V-smart Air, a new fully responsive patron interface for the V-smart ILS. Open V-insight, a utility for incorporating external data sources into the V-insight analytics application, and a new Iguana digital asset management for managing digital collections are both available as beta releases. This year, 24 organizations signed contracts for V-smart, increasing the total installations to 342. Iguana saw five new contracts, achieving total sales to 492 libraries.

Other business transactions

OCLC announced in January 2017 its intent to acquire Relais International, a Canadian company focused on resource-sharing technologies. This acquisition brings into its fold Relais D2D (discovery to delivery), a resource-sharing application created to support peer-to-peer borrowing, primarily among members of a consortium. Many consortia have implemented this type of product to satisfy requests for resources not held by a local library that are available in the collection of another member. These consortial borrowing systems can reduce costs and result in faster fulfillment than using a global interlibrary loan service such as OCLC’s WorldShare Interlibrary Loan. The acquisition of Relais International strengthens OCLC’s position in the resource-sharing arena to include distributed as well as centralized services.

Axiell has followed an incremental strategy for business expansion and diversification. Its initial phase focused on the merger of companies providing library automation products in Scandinavia and the UK. Subsequent phases have branched out to companies involved with technologies for museums and archives, ebook and digital content distribution, and public records management.

Axiell has made a string of acquisitions. In October 2016, it announced that it acquired BiBer, a supplier of automation systems to libraries in Germany and Switzerland. It also purchased the vital records division of Gold Systems and Mobydoc, a provider of museum collections management systems, to strengthen its museums and archives business.

Industry pillars

SirsiDynix and Innovative Interfaces hold similar places within the library technology industry. Both are large consolidated companies that have acquired multiple antecedent ILS companies. These two remain focused on technology products for libraries and, unlike ProQuest and EBSCO, are not deeply involved in content and related services. Unlike Ex Libris, neither specializes in a single type of library. Both SirsiDynix and Innovative serve public, academic, and special libraries. Once considered the largest companies in the industry, they seem midsized in the current industry context, each with less than half the workforce of Ex Libris.

SirsiDynix had strong sales, made progress on building out its BLUEcloud suite of web-based applications, and further strengthened its hosting services. It continues supporting its two longstanding integrated library systems, Horizon and Symphony, as it develops a new suite of applications based on its multitenant BLUEcloud platform. This strategy enables libraries to continue to use their Symphony or Horizon ILS while deploying new web-based interfaces for selected modules, thus avoiding the need to migrate their data. New sales this year included BLUEcloud applications bundled with Symphony.

BLUEcloud Circulation was initially released in January 2017. SirsiDynix anticipates that BLUEcloud Acquisitions, developed in partnership with the South Australian Public Library Network, will be completed in 2017, following its alpha release in October 2016. SirsiDynix recently entered into a partnership with Glasgow, Scotland–based SOLUS to develop a new BLUEcloud Mobile app, that will supersede the BookMyne mobile catalog.

SirsiDynix reported a strong sales year with 142 contracts signed for Symphony, bringing total installations to 2,573. Additionally, the company made 31 sales for EOS.Web in the special library sector. The public libraries in Wales selected Symphony to support a nationwide unified library management system. SirsiDynix continues to emphasize the deployment of its products via its hosting services, which now encompass more than 2,000 customers.

Innovative Interfaces has entered a new chapter of its business development. In early 2016, it named James Tallman CEO following the departure of Kim Massana in August 2015 and interim leadership by Bert Winemiller. A new set of executives joined the existing leadership team to reshape the company into an “enterprise-class library solutions company” with ambitious product development and business strategies. Innovative has been under the ownership of Huntsman Gay Global Capital and JMI Equity since August 2012.

Innovative set industry sales records in 2011, the first year it launched Sierra. Following that initial surge of 206 contracts for Sierra, sales leveled off in the 120 range for the next three years. After 90 contracts in 2015, Sierra had only 82 contracts in 2016. These figures still represent solid performance. Chicago Public Library’s selection of Polaris reinforces the ongoing appeal of this ILS for large municipal libraries.

On the development front, Innovative released Sierra version 3.0, including enhancements like additional APIs with create, read, update, and delete capabilities. Enhanced functionality for placing holds through the API now supports requests at the bibliographic or item level independent of the configuration set in Sierra. The company continues development of applications delivered through its new Open Library Stack environment. In addition to its new knowledge base platform, Innovative also created a new application on its cloud infrastructure to enable libraries using Polaris to directly participate in an INN-Reach consortial borrowing network.

The 82 new contracts for Sierra in 2016 increased total installations to 665. Polaris saw 16 new sales, increasing total installations to 501. After having five sales and three sales in 2014 and 2015, respectively, Virtua had no new sales in 2016. Its 216 installations in 2016 was a sharp decline from the 369 reported the previous year. Installations of Millennium fell from the 1,060 reported in 2015 to 506, reflecting the rapid movement of libraries to Sierra and competing products.

Expanding its global service coverage, the company launched a new facility in Melbourne, Australia, which it characterized as a “Competency Center” offering product development, support, training, and consulting for its customers in that region.

Standalone companies remain viable

Despite the consolidation, some midsized and small companies have so far managed to stave off acquisition. These standalone companies can focus more on development and customer support within narrower product categories or geographic areas.

TLC remains one of the few companies founded in the pioneering days of library automation that is still owned and managed by its founder. Apart from its acquisition of the Carl ILS in 2000, the company has stayed away from the churn of mergers.

Support for open source ILS  products

Equinox Software provides development and support services for open source software. Founded in 2007 as a for-profit company, the company began transitioning to nonprofit status in December 2016 and now operates as Equinox Open Library Initiative. The new organization is assuming all the assets from its for-profit days, including customer support contracts. Although most of the organization’s activities relate to the development and support of Evergreen, an open source ILS designed for consortia comprising public libraries, it also supports Koha for libraries automating independently. Equinox also developed and offers support services for the open source FulfILLment interlibrary loan system. Sequoia, a private cloud-based platform, provides the strategic technical infrastructure for the organization’s hosting services across all its products. Equinox also provides support for self-hosted implementations of Evergreen and Koha, but it reports that many of these are shifting to its Sequoia-based hosting services.

In 2016, Equinox signed 13 new support contracts (representing 26 libraries) for Evergreen. Of all the libraries currently using Evergreen, 896 now receive support from Equinox. Two new libraries selected Evergreen for Koha support. Equinox provides support for the implementation of FulfILLment for the Bibliomation consortium in Connecticut.

ByWater Solutions provides support services for Koha. In 2016, the company signed 70 support contracts, more than in any previous year, reaching a total of 949 supported libraries. Most of its customers are public libraries (684), but small academics (103) and K–12 schools (97) are also well represented. ByWater reports more than 40 institutions use Klassmates, its program that provides free access to Koha for library-school students.

ByWater Solutions actively contributes to global community development of Koha and benefits from the new features. The most recent version included contributions from 17 libraries and 37 companies. Recent advances include the option to use Elasticsearch as the search engine, a new set of RESTful APIs, improved handling of holds, and the addition of EDI support in its acquisitions module.

PTFS Europe provides support services for Koha and to libraries in Europe. The company also developed and supports rebus:list, an application for managing reading lists for academic courses. This year PTFS added 12 new customers, increasing its total to 78 libraries.

TIND Technologies was recently formed as a spin-off out of the CERN research organization in Switzerland. Developers at CERN created Invenio as an open source library management system for its library. TIND Technologies provides support services for this software to libraries outside of CERN, branded as the TIND ILS. TIND has been awarded eight contracts for support of the TIND ILS and another 11 for the TIND Institutional Repository. The California Institute of Technology was an early adopter of the TIND ILS, and it will partner with the company to enhance its functionality for electronic resource management. Subsequently, Olin College selected the TIND ILS, giving the company an additional reference site as it seeks to expand into the US academic library sector. Tapping into a major trend in academic and research libraries, TIND recently created a platform for the management of research data, with an initial implementation at Cal Tech.

Sales Leaders

Ex Libris led the industry in sales with 132 contracts for Alma, representing 203 libraries. Harvard University and Cambridge University, each with around 100 individual facilities, are counted only as a single library. The increases in year-to-year sales for Alma are impressive (132 in 2016; 88 in 2015; 43 in 2014; 31 in 2013; 17 in 2012). Ex Libris also had strong sales for its products in other product categories.

SirsiDynix led in ILS sales with 142 contracts signed for Symphony. Total earnings were boosted by additional sales of BLUEcloud components, both as part of bundles to new clients and as inside sales to existing clients. Though at a lower level of economic impact, Biblionix made 65 new sales of its Apollo ILS, primarily to small and mid-sized public libraries. Follett made new sales of Destiny to 5,192 school libraries, complemented by new and ongoing sales in many other product categories.

Academic libraries

Academic libraries, driven by their deep investments in electronic resources, are increasingly shifting to library services platforms that have the ability to manage complex, multiformat collections. Ex Libris’s Alma and OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services have both seen strong results in this area, though many academic libraries also continue to use integrated library systems in conjunction with other tools for electronic resource management and discovery. The genre of index-based discovery services, including EBSCO Discovery Service, Primo and Summon from Ex Libris, and OCLC’s WorldCat Discovery Services, are critical products for academic libraries.

While these libraries need modern systems for managing and providing access to their print and electronic collections, they increasingly must respond to institutional priorities, such as providing support for research data, digital humanities, and other activities involving close collaboration with researchers. By now, this model of the library services platform seems well accepted among most academic libraries, with the number of selections and implementations increasing apace. Support for library activities beyond traditional services provides fertile ground for the next wave of technology innovation.

Ex Libris, a ProQuest Company, continues to exert its dominance in the academic and research library sphere. Its entire arsenal of products is oriented to academic and research libraries, including its Alma library services platform, Primo and Summon for discovery, Aleph and Voyager as legacy ILS products, Rosetta for digital asset management, and tools for electronic resource management. With a broad customer base of more than 7,000 institutions in almost all regions of the world and an ever-deepening slate of products, Ex Libris has established itself as a formidable competitor, reporting revenues exceeding $130 million in 2016.
Ex Libris has integrated OASIS, ProQuest’s interface for librarians to select and order print and electronic books, into Alma. ProQuest gained OASIS when it acquired Coutts.

The business and product integration between Ex Libris and ProQuest Workflow Solutions is well under way. In 2015, prior to the acquisition, the combined workforce between Ex Libris (615) and ProQuest Workflow Solutions (255) totaled 870. By 2016, Ex Libris reported 830 total employees. Business consolidation almost always means substantial losses in personnel through redundancy. This decrease of 40 positions (4.6%) seems modest. Innovative dropped from 584 employees in 2013 to 416 the following year after it acquired VTLS and Polaris.

In 2016, Ex Libris signed 132 contracts (representing 203 libraries) for its Alma library services platform, bringing its total sales to 829 libraries. Sales included Harvard Library, which will migrate from Aleph, and Cambridge University, which will migrate from Voyager. Ex Libris has seen sales in Alma rise sharply every year since its launch in 2011. Of note, the University of Pennsylvania, one of the original Kuali OLE partners, recently opted to move to Alma.

Ex Libris remains committed to its legacy ILS products. Aleph saw 10 sales this year, proving its ongoing appeal to libraries that still primarily deal with print collections. That said, total installations of Aleph declined in 2016 for the first time ever, down to 2,401 from the 2,412 reported last year. Voyager has had no new sales since 2012. We can anticipate that the libraries remaining on Aleph and Voyager have migration plans under way and that most, but not all, will opt for Alma.

On the discovery front, Ex Libris made 138 new sales of Primo, including some à la carte implementations not paired with Alma. Summon saw 73 new sales, its lowest showing since 2010. After peaking at 718 in 2015, total installations of Summon declined to 602 in 2016. Primo Central and Summon now follow a shared data strategy in which both products continue independent development and indexes but are populated in tandem. Library patrons from the 2,591 libraries that use Summon or Primo perform 6.5 million searches daily.

Ex Libris has integrated Summon as a supported patron interface for Alma. It also supports open source discovery interfaces, including Blacklight and VuFind. Ex Libris launched the Open Discovery Framework, enabling libraries to create and share their own services and extensions to Primo. The tight bundling of Alma and Primo now seems considerably loosened.

With Alma well established as its flagship resource management platform, Ex Libris has ventured to create and acquire products that address needs in other aspects of the academic enterprise. Leganto, a tool launched in 2015 for instructors to manage course reading lists, has seen 29 total sales, 18 of them in 2016. CampusM, a mobile-friendly content management platform for higher education, has been adopted by 61 institutions, with 18 new sales in 2016.

Ex Libris has also created a premium version (Leganto powered by SIPX) that includes capabilities for containing licensing costs and copyright management.

EBSCO Information Services offers a diverse set of products spanning content, resource acquisition services, and technology. Despite not creating or acquiring its own library services platform, EBSCO has expanded into the technology arena through its software-as-a-service offerings and investment in open source projects.

Key enhancements recently made to EBSCO Discovery Service include a new autocorrect feature and an extension of the user search process beyond the existing autocomplete and “did you mean” capabilities. The company has also expanded its knowledge base to include resources from over 1,600 vendors. EBSCO continues to expand the APIs for EDS to enable interoperability with external applications. The company is now working to complete the Resource Management API, which will enable it to direct customers and ILS partners to access its holdings data from its knowledge base and electronic resource management features. EBSCO currently has partnerships with 60 ILS vendors for open source projects.

EBSCO has relaunched the bibliographic database and acquisitions tool acquired from YBP Library Services as GOBI Library Services from EBSCO. Though EBSCO has a well-established position as a serials subscription agent, GOBI extends its reach into library content acquisition workflows to include print and ebooks. Recent developments include significant enhancements to the bibliographic database and adding new publisher partners, especially in the health sciences.

OCLC, a nonprofit library cooperative, offers a wide range of products and services, spanning library activities including cataloging, resource sharing, collection analysis, resource management, and discovery. Its membership now includes 16,964 libraries. While OCLC serves all types of libraries, its WorldShare Management Services platform has thus far been adopted primarily by academic libraries. In 2016, however, it did see more public libraries added to the mix.

OCLC noted that by the fifth anniversary of WorldShare Management Services, it had been selected by 500 libraries on six continents. OCLC reported 83 contracts signed in 2016, with 440 libraries now using it in production. Some of the major sales made this year include the University of Gloucestershire in the UK, Münster University of Applied Sciences in Germany, Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and the statewide public library network of Northern Territory in Australia. OCLC has seen positive reception for WorldShare Management Services among midsized academic libraries, but it has had few selections by large academic libraries or consortia.

OCLC continues to expand the bibliographic database underlying WorldCat, which now includes more than 380 million records. WorldCat Discovery Service, which also provides access to article-level content from electronic resources, continues to expand coverage. OCLC reports agreements with 200 information providers to supply metadata, now representing more than 2 billion individual resources.

Resource sharing continues as a strategic service for OCLC. In January 2017, OCLC acquired Relais International and launched Tipasa, a new interlibrary loan management system. Built on the WorldShare platform, Tipasa automates the interlibrary loan office of a library and is interoperable with WorldShare Interlibrary Loan and other services. Tipasa is positioned as a forward path for the Windows-based ILLiad software developed by Atlas Systems, but it is sold and supported by OCLC.

Throughout 2016, OCLC made major investments to upgrade the technology infrastructure that underlies its cloud-based services. This new infrastructure adds significant capacity for expansion, strengthens security, and improves disaster recovery.

In its annual report, OCLC reported revenues of $203.4 million, a slight increase from the previous year.

SirsiDynix continues to support a large number of academic libraries. Twenty-eight of its 142 contracts for Symphony in 2016 were by academics (615 of 2,573 total installations). Recent developments important for academic libraries include the release of the BLUEcloud eRM, based on the open source CORAL software. Disrupting Ex Libris’s sweep of academic consortia seeking shared automation infrastructure, Canterbury Christ Church University, Cranfield University, the University of Greenwich, and the University of Kent, all in the UK, selected BLUEcloud Campus. Other academic institutions selecting BLUEcloud Campus in 2016 included Henan University in China and the National University of San Marcos in Peru.

Innovative Interfaces remains a strong competitor in the academic library sector. Of the 82 new contracts signed for Sierra, 53 were by academic libraries; academics represent 391 of 665 total installations. Of the 506 remaining Millennium sites, 346 are academic libraries. As one of Sierra’s largest projects in recent years, the Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative selected the platform for its 40 state universities and community colleges, including 156 campus libraries. Other developments included the release of a new version of Knowledge Base that supports electronic resource management, linking, and discovery.

Public libraries

Public libraries rely on technology that can support efficient and flexible circulation of physical collections and can facilitate ever-expanding interest by their communities in borrowing ebooks, audio books, and other digital content. These libraries require technology products and services that strengthen the engagement of their clientele with collections, programs, and services. It is essential for public-facing services to present contemporary interfaces with intuitive design and with built-in support for mobile devices.

The ILS continues to reign supreme in the public library sector. Almost all of the major ILS products are evolving from client-server to web-based architectures. Axiell’s launch of Quria as a library services platform for public libraries will be an important project to monitor, but it has yet to have an impact on public libraries in North America. The number of public libraries operating legacy systems with short-term replacement agendas, which fueled migrations in previous years, has dwindled, leading to sluggish sales in 2016. In the small public library arena, Biblionix has capitalized on its modern architecture and sleek functionality to attract impressive numbers of new customers. But for larger public libraries, lateral moves among currently supported ILS products rarely warrant the expense and disruption involved.

Many different companies offer technology products to public libraries. More than half of SirsiDynix customers fall within the public library sector, though the company continues to support and attract clients from academic, special, and school libraries. Polaris, now part of Innovative’s portfolio of products, is used almost exclusively by public libraries. The customer base of Sierra is divided across library types, with public libraries representing well over half. Another set of companies specializes in public library technologies, including Auto-Graphics, BiblioCommons, Biblionix, InfoVision, and TLC, as well as Axiell, Baratz, Capita, and Infor, which operate mostly outside the US.

Most public libraries rely on the online catalog or discovery services provided by their ILS vendor. Some vendors offer an optional discovery interface with relevancy-based search, faceted navigation, and other features beyond their standard online catalogs. SirsiDynix Enterprise can be used with Horizon or Symphony, and Innovative’s Encore can be implemented with Sierra or Millennium. Other vendors, such as TLC and Auto-Graphics, have revamped the online catalogs bundled with their ILS. Public libraries are not always content with the patron-facing interface bundled with their ILS, sparking some to use customized open source interfaces. The Marmot Library Network in Grand Junction, Colorado, has developed a discovery environment based on VuFind, branded as Pika, which has been implemented by its network and beyond. Notably, the Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library has adopted Pika, and it will be used with its recently selected CARL•X ILS to support the public school system. BiblioCommons has successfully displaced online catalogs from ILS vendors, attracting some of the most prestigious municipal libraries.

Polaris, now part of Innovative Interfaces, continues to be well received by municipal libraries and consortia. In February 2017, Chicago Public Library opted to replace its CARL•X ILS with Polaris. Polaris 5.2, which was released in December 2016, includes new discovery features, such as a facet for immediately available materials and new acquisitions features for consortia. Innovative reported 16 new contracts representing 201 facilities for Polaris, increasing its total installations to 501. Of the 82 contracts made for Sierra, 19 were by US public libraries.

SirsiDynix Symphony had a strong sales year in the public library sector. Of its 142 total sales, 33 went to public libraries. Similarly, of its 2,573 cumulative installations, 1,159 went to public libraries.

BiblioCommons, which specializes in patron-facing technologies, continues advancing its BiblioCore socially oriented discovery interface and its BiblioWeb public library portal. Six new libraries selected BiblioCore, and another five implemented BiblioWeb to power their websites.

Developments made this year include full responsiveness to mobile devices across all aspects of its product lines, improvements to patron accounts, support for lists up to 100 items, reorganization of profile pages to include activity and community feeds, and the ability to link accounts when a patron is associated with multiple library systems. BiblioCommons recently released BiblioCloudRecords, a bibliographic service available to libraries using BiblioCore to enable discovery of ebook collections without the need to load records into their ILS, simplifying library processing and enabling more immediate access for patrons.

TLC, a midsized company, offers a diverse assortment of technology products and bibliographic services. It offers CARL•X to support large municipal libraries and Library•Solution for smaller and midsized public libraries. Beyond the ILS front, it offers eBiblioFile, which provides MARC records for ebook collections, and RDA Express, which assists libraries in transforming their records to adhere to RDA cataloging rules. The ITS•MARC database provides MARC records for copy cataloging to subscribers.
CARL•X was selected to support the Limitless Libraries partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools. The public schools in Muncie, Indiana, subsequently joined the Muncie Public Library in a similar arrangement with Library•Solution. The large public library systems in Broward and Brevard counties in Florida both extended their CARL•X contracts for another three years.

In a modest year for new sales, 12 new libraries selected Library•Solution, expanding its installations to 745. The new sales of CARL•X to the public and school libraries in Nashville bring its installations to 14, encompassing more than 400 libraries.

TLC also provides social media management technologies, as the exclusive distributor of SocialFlow to libraries. Organizations such as the BBC, the Associated Press, and Condé Nast have adopted this service. TLC recently won certification from the General Services Administration enabling procurement by federal agencies.

On the product development front, TLC released CARL•Connect Discovery version 3.2, which has mobile-oriented personalization features, including ratings for materials, cleaner display formats, and opt-in notifications.

TLC made management changes. It promoted John Burns to vice president of sales, named Sherry Banks its director of operations at its Inwood, West Virginia, headquarters, and promoted Rich Jacobson to chief operating officer of Inwood operations. Annette Harwood Murphy, who cofounded the company in 1974, continues to guide the company as president and CEO.

Auto-Graphics, with a business history spanning 67 years, specializes in library automation and resource sharing products primarily for public libraries. Its VERSO ILS has been implemented mostly by small to midsized public libraries. Its resource sharing products SEARCHit and SHAREit are designed to support consortia and statewide interlibrary loan programs. In 2016, the state libraries in Indiana and South Dakota selected SHAREit for their respective statewide interlibrary loan services. In March 2017, the Access PA consortium in Pennsylvania reported its fulfillment rates increased 30% following the implementation of SHAREit.

Biblionix marked the 10th anniversary of its web-based Apollo ILS for small to midsized public libraries. As a small company with a growing customer base, Biblionix leverages the multitenant design of Apollo to deploy the product in libraries with only an incremental allocation of resources. In 2016, 65 additional libraries selected Apollo, increasing its total installations to 610. Libraries adopting Apollo migrated from diverse incumbent products, including open source as well as proprietary systems.

InfoVision Software, a small company with 10 employees, offers the Evolve ILS, which is used primarily by public libraries. In 2016, four libraries with a total of 23 branches selected Evolve, increasing its total installations to 133. Recent improvements to Evolve include a new release of its online catalog that fully incorporates a responsive design to support mobile devices and enhancements to its search functions.

School libraries

K–12 schools have distinct technology needs. Library automation systems are almost always deployed through district-wide or even multidistrict implementations. The number of school libraries far exceeds those in other sectors, but the costs per library are quite low. Many districts have cut library programs, which obviously impacts the school library technology marketplace. Additionally, the automation and discovery products for schools must be designed to accommodate grade, reading level, age-appropriate material designations, classroom checkouts, and integration with district office business systems for student records. These systems also benefit from the integration with e-commerce platforms for the acquisition of print and electronic materials. Discovery environments for students must be carefully constructed to provide access to electronic materials selected by the library, precluding results from inappropriate sources.

Follett has continued its lead among libraries in K–12 schools. With offerings that extend beyond automation software for the library, Follett exploits business opportunities in the broader school district environment. The company also distributes print and electronic content for schools, has created an educational digital learning platform, and offers a student information system. Nearly 5,200 new school libraries selected its Destiny Library Manager (an ILS designed specifically for K–12 schools and districts) in 2016, increasing its total deployment to 68,515. Destiny implementations are almost five times greater than its nearest competitor. Destiny version 14.0, launched in August 2016, brings a reworked interface and many new capabilities, such as support for the OneRoster specification for importing student and class schedule data, single sign-on with other district services and Baker & Taylor Axis 360 content resources, and integration with a registry of open educational resources. Follett rebranded its student-facing products under the name Destiny Discovery, including Follett Shelf, Universal Search, and BryteWave. Follett’s Aspen Student Information System is now implemented in more than 180 school districts.

Consistent with the move by many school libraries toward classifying resources by genre instead of using Dewey, Follett launched a new set of services and developed educational resources to assist with this transition. Follett also began a new set of “makerspace bundles” for libraries via its Titlewave e-commerce platform. These bundles help libraries create their own makerspaces with robotic kits, books, and other materials.

COMPanion offers the Alexandria ILS, which is used primarily by K–12 school libraries. Released in 1990, Alexandria has a long history of development, with version 7 completed in 2016. COMPanion offers hosting for Alexandria in addition to software for installation on local servers. The company reports that just under 14,000 libraries currently use Alexandria.

Book Systems develops and supports the Atriuum ILS and Booktracks for management of textbooks and other assets. Atriuum has been adopted by schools and small public and special libraries. Of the 259 facilities implementing Atriuum this year, 180 were K–12 schools and 35 were public libraries. Installations of Atriuum now total 3,673. Consistent with industry trends, Book Systems emphasizes its hosted services, both in new sales and in converting existing implementations. Atriuum version 11.0, released this year, has an improved KidZviZ catalog interface, which will help users promote programs and events to library patrons. Book Systems added support for Common Sense Categories for libraries interested in refining their collections.

Mandarin Library Automation’s latest product, Mandarin M5, has been implemented primarily by K–12 school libraries but also finds use in small public and academic libraries. Sixteen new libraries purchased this product in 2016, increasing its total installations to 729 libraries. Another 45 libraries subscribed to the Mandarin M5 hosted service, which now serves 801 libraries. Developments produced in 2016 include a completely redesigned Union Catalog and interlibrary library loan module.

The OPALS open source ILS was created by Media Flex and has been implemented by hundreds of school libraries, as well as church, synagogue, and other special libraries. OPALS is especially popular in its home state of New York, where many BOCES (Boards Of Cooperative Educational Services) locations provide front-line implementation and support services. Media Flex did not provide detailed sales and implementation statistics for 2016.

Special libraries

Special libraries, including those in law firms, corporations, health care facilities, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, have technology needs distinct from other library sectors. Differences among these types of organizations can also be considerable. Even the concept of a library within these organizations is in flux, with many functioning more as global information centers without physical collections.

CyberTools primarily creates technology products for special and academic libraries, especially those in the fields of health and law. The company reports that more than 400 libraries currently use its products, though it did not provide detailed sales and installation statistics. Recent development activity on the CyberTools Library Services Platform has emphasized a unified approach for electronic resource management. All installations of CyberTools are now delivered through its cloud hosting service.

Keystone Systems has developed KLAS to support libraries that offer services to persons with visual disabilities. These libraries require systems to be fully compliant with ADA standards, and rely on functionality for the fulfillment of requests made by mail as well as in person. Recently, Keystone completed developments to integrate KLAS with the PIMMS (Patron Information and Machine Management System) project of the Library of Congress. This enables customers with talking books to synchronize data with libraries that participate in the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In its highly specialized niche with limited sales opportunities, Keystone made one new sale, increasing the implementations of KLAS to 113.

Soutron Global offers a growing portfolio of products to legal, corporate, and other special libraries. In 2016, the company saw 39 new sales of its Soutron ILS, bringing its total number of installations to 172. The company recently began offering the Soutron Archive solution, which saw 14 sales in 2016. On the development front, Soutron is working to renew the internal technology used within its products, moving away from the Microsoft.Net platform to new web-oriented technologies. Work is under way to rebuild acquisitions and serials functionality. This work represents an initial phase to create an entirely new codebase for the product.

Lucidea, which has consolidated many of the companies active in this sector, including SydneyPLUS Library Systems, Inmagic, and Cuadra Associates, did not respond to this year’s questionnaire.

International sector

The library technology industry also includes dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller companies not active in the United States. Although this report cannot include all of these international companies, a few warrant mention.

Axiell, though its library products are not marketed in North America, ranks as one of the larger companies internationally. Beginning in the mid-2000s, Axiell acquired many of the library automation companies in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. In October 2016, Axiell continued its expansion with the purchase of BiBer, which provides its BIBDIA to 160 libraries in Germany and Switzerland. In addition to its public library business, Axiell also operates business units for archives and museums, while another business unit focuses on ebook and other digital content for libraries in Scandinavia.

In 2016, Axiell’s BOOK-IT ILS, used primarily in Sweden, saw new sales to 119 libraries, a dramatic spike from the five reported the previous year. Sales of other products have slowed as Axiell works toward channeling libraries using its multiple ILS products in each country to a smaller set of strategic products.  This pattern of product consolidation seems consistent with other consolidated companies, though for Axiell it comes a decade after the mergers that formed the company.

In May 2016, Axiell launched the development of Quria, a new library services platform for public libraries. Before Quria, public libraries relied on well-established integrated library systems, which have struggled to incorporate web interfaces and functionality to support new digital content and services.  The initial wave of web-native library services platforms, such as Alma and WorldShare Management Services, are more oriented to academic and research libraries. Quria breaks new ground for public libraries.

Baratz, a Madrid-based library technology company that serves public libraries throughout Spain, develops and supports AbsysN.net. The company made 25 new sales in 2016, reaching a total of 3,030 installations. Recent developments include integration with EBSCO Discovery Service and work toward a new platform for the lending of ebooks and other digital content. Baratz is also working to enhance the search capabilities of Absys.Net with a new SOLR-powered search interface called Rebiun.

Prima created the SophiA ILS. The Brazilian company was awarded 42 new contracts for SophiA, representing 92 facilities. This increased its installations to 623. Philos, which is used primarily by school libraries, was selected by 58 organizations representing 214 individual libraries.

Looking forward

The churn of migrations, especially among academic libraries, is likely to accelerate over the next three years as legacy systems become less tenable and newer alternatives mature. Activity in the public library sector will continue to languish until stronger alternatives emerge. In both public and academic libraries, an increasing portion of system changes will be driven by large-scale collaborative projects at the regional, state, and national levels. Companies that have developed products with proven abilities to provide collaborative technical infrastructure will prosper.

Despite the massive reshaping that has defined the industry in recent years, libraries can expect continued change, which may impact the technologies available to them. This disruption will likely include ownership changes as investors seek profitable exit paths. Other possibilities range from simple turnover of investors to additional horizontal or vertical consolidation. The lines of an industry composed of companies centered on traditional library automation products will continue to blur.

As industry transformation continues to unfold, libraries face challenges to react thoughtfully. As suppliers develop synergies among content and technology products, libraries need to ensure that the results align with their strategic interests. Libraries must hold technology providers to task. As companies consolidate, they must continue to allocate adequate resources for product development and support. Those that reduce choice but fail to deliver product innovation and quality support will inevitably be punished in the marketplace.

Note: The Library Systems Report 2017 documents on­going investments of libraries in strategic technology products made in 2016. It covers organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit, offering strategic resource management products—especially integrated library systems and library services platforms—and comprehensive discovery products. The vendors included have responded to a survey requesting details about their organization, sales performance, and narrative explanations of accomplishments. Additional sources consulted include press releases, news articles, and other publicly available information. Most of the organizations provided lists of libraries represented in the statistics reported, allowing for more detailed analysis and validation. Product listings in vendor directory are not comprehensive. A vendor directory is available here.

This article was published in americanlibrariesmagazine.org by Marshall Breeding

Thursday, 04 May 2017 07:35

Building a Better Digital Dollar

Lessons from PayPal, AirTM, and Tether.


Much can be learned about the potential and pitfalls of fintech by studying successful digital USD ventures, understanding how they work, and where they fall short.

Make it Useful


All tech adoption is use-case driven. People needed PayPal so they could safely complete Internet purchases on Ebay. Tether’s USDT (a token built on top of bitcoin[1]) provides a safe harbor for cryptocurrency speculators. AirTM gives consumers and businesses in the developing world an easy way to preserve wealth from local currency devaluation.

Make it Reliably Redeemable


PayPal money is widely accepted for online sales by merchants all over the world, but only because it can be redeemed for bank money in over 60 countries. Venmo’s digital USD would never have been adopted for social payments in the U.S if it couldn’t be redeemed for US bank money. AirTM’s USD is redeemable for money in over 200 bank networks and e-money systems via a P2P network of AirTM cashiers.

Tether’s recent difficulties is a case-study in the importance of reliable redemption. Starting on April 19th, Tether stopped redeeming USDT for bank USD via wire transfers. That means if you own USDT and want to turn it into money you can use to buy something in the real world (as opposed to participate in the hottest new ICO), your only choice is to exchange your USDT for Bitcoin on a cryptocurrency exchange and then send the Bitcoin to another exchange, like Coinbase or Uphold, that allows for conversion from BTC to USD that can be withdrawn to a U.S. bank account. The market swiftly penalized Tether with a steep discount, sending USDT below USD parity.

Manage Your Reserve Carefully


Redemptions of your digital USD on the front-end by your app users means rebalancing the USD reserve backing those digital IOUs on the back-end. Paypal supports 100 national fiat currencies with redemption to banks in 60 countries — their FinOps department must comprise a small army in order to ensure they don’t incur forex losses due to currency mismatches.

Venmo (and up until recently Tether) have it easier because they only allow redemptions in USD.

Fintech platforms that allow clients to hold balances in fiat and cryptocurrencies are the most vulnerable to finops screw-ups due to the volatility of these new forms of value. Thinly-capitalized ventures caught on the wrong side of a bitcoin bull market can be quickly overtaken by insolvency.

Engineering Ideal USD


Applying the lessons learned from PayPal, AirTM, and Tether, what sort of digital USD might a fintech entrepreneur build?[2]

Target Big Pain Points


Multi-national companies — airlines, consumer goods, cash logistics — have a notoriously difficult time extricating their profits from countries with weak currencies trapped and isolated bank networks.

Remittance companies in the developed world have am equally hard time moving the money they collect from immigrants across borders to pay their off-boarding partners in the developing world.

Tech platforms with global ambitions — Uber, WeWork, AirBnB — need to enable mass payments within bank networks all over the world, send funds in, and hopefully repatriate profits out.

Accessible, Low-Cost


Tether gets a lot of things right despite its recent bank problems. Its USD combines some[3.] of the benefits of bitcoin — ownership and transfer of USDT validated by bitcoin’s decentralized public ledger, low-cost transfer, accessibility — with the relative stability of the U.S. dollar.

Trust vs. Transparency


No one doubts the value of digital dollar IOUs issued by banks with FDIC insurance (despite the risky nature of fractional reserve banking and the fact that all the banks became insolvent in 2008). Likewise, no one asks where a fintech powerhouse like PayPal holds their money or if their assets match their obligations. Justified or not, fintech start-ups face a lot more skepticism and scrutiny. Publishing a real-time accounting of the bank USD backing your digital USD (See Tether and Uphold for examples) is way to obviate the need for trust. Proof of funds held on the closed ledgers of banks will always be inferior to the immutable data of a decentralized public blockchains like bitcoin[4.], but quarterly audits can confirm real-time transparency with regard to USD assets, while crypto-based USD liabilities can be tracked on the underlying blockchain.



Building digital USD on an open protocol like bitcoin means that it can be integrated into other value networks (such as cryptocurrency exchanges) without permission. This compares to digital USD platforms like Circle and Uphold that require network by network integrations to its closed ledger.

Existing Bank Relationships


Paypal benefits from established bank connections so they can hold USD reserves without fear of being cut off from the U.S. bank system transfers, as Tether was recently by Wells Fargo.

Of course, having established bank connections implies that this new and improved digital USD needs to be created by an existing financial service whose KYC and AML protocols and business model are already known and trusted by banks. It would be a plus if cash collection and logistics were an essential part of their existing business since this new USD crypto, like Tether and Bitcoin, can be transferred to anonymous blockchain-based addresses after creation, making a custody trail impossible to trace, just as it is with bank notes.

And the Winner Is…


Brinks, Paypal, Western Union, or Uber check all the boxes. But the first three are huge public companies unlikely to innovate towards anything that smells remotely like bitcoin, while Uber needs to focus on transportation innovation and probably won’t be distracted with a fintech project, no matter how promising.

That leaves the field wide open for any fintech entrepreneur who can build an app that engineers superior digital USD to solve the value transfer and trapped cash problems beleaguering these giants.

Build digital USD that connects more bank networks than PayPal and is as open as Tether but without its redemption problems. Then watch the acquisition offers come pouring in.

Please feel free to share this with your network. If you know anyone at Brinks, Paypal, Western Union, or Uber who are interested in learning more about how digital cash can add high-margin, low-risk revenue to their existing business, have them contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


  1. USDT is enabled by the Omni Layer (which makes it easy for small fractions of a bitcoin to represent non-bitcoin value). Colored Coins is another way to achieve the same result.
  2. A Fedcoin issued by the U.S. Central Bank would be the ultimate USD-pegged crypto. This report by JP Koning published by R3 is great background reading:
  3. Speculative upside would be the big missing benefit, but you can’t have USD stability and bitcoin moon-ness in the same coin.
  4. Stalwart bitcoin Blogger Piachu has a bunch of great posts on this and other topics related to Digital USD.

This article was published in linkedin.com by Tim Parsa

This post was sponsored by Eversign.

Signing paper contracts. Who needs it?

We have self-driving cars, augmented and virtual reality for Pete’s sake. Why are we still printing contracts, filling out blanks by hand, and scanning every page so you can email them… or god forbid, fax them back? Don’t forget about the head-meets-wall inducing scenario where you later discover that a whole section was missed. For me, every delay means that much longer before I get paid.

So, I pledged to myself that the next client contract I send must be steel-plated and legally binding — in every way possible — and I just uncovered “The One.” Enter: Eversign.

If Eversign sounds familiar, that’s because you may have used them for legal documents. From NDAs to power of attorney agreements, Eversign gives you the ability to create legal binding documents. Cool, huh?

Contained in the cloud, Eversign boasts a majorly-coveted list of integrations that all vow to give you one thing: Send, manage, and sign documents from anywhere, on any device.

So does it live up to its name? To help, I reviewed Eversign. Does it include all the must-haves for legal contracts? Is it updated with the latest integrations like Dropbox? Get the lowdown on each and every one of my favorite features of Eversign. Check them out below then pop over to their website to sign up today. 

  1. eSignatures by Eversign follow the authentication requirements globally. Documents signed on Eversign are legally binding and enforceable in a court of law. When you get that client that “forgot” to pay your last invoice for the entire year, your Eversign contract is still there. (Granted, some of the terms and agreements may have faded in your memory, but not to worry — Eversign’s document archive has got your back.) Your documents are stored on their encrypted cloud infrastructure so you can view them anytime.
  2. After I email my client contract, I’m usually impatient for a signature, so normally I would just email the client over and over again, whenever I would remember. But with Eversign, I can set up automatic reminders around timeframes of my choosing. I’ve been able to increase my turnaround time to three days compared to one week. A good contract is even better when it’s signed fast — and if my quick turnaround proves anything, it’s that this new automatic signature service is one of the best.
  3. Let’s get real: Automating your new client contracts and onboarding is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your client. (I even treated myself to Eversign’s upgraded version to have access to 10 templates — they are that good.) Automating my templates works like butter. I set my templates up to pre-fill with custom text and dropdowns. There are so many shiny options like checkboxes and radio buttons.
  4. There are few things I enjoy looking at more than a signed new client contract. I’m talking completing a 10,000+ page technical website audit before the estimated due date. And, most of my bookmarks and apps look like a smorgasbord of SEO tools that are barely aesthetically pleasing. But trying to get my hands on a signed new client contract is like waiting for a new season of Lady Dynamite to come out on Netflix. It’s. Just. Too. Long. Thanks to Eversign, things changed for my new client onboarding process. All of my contracts are now signed remotely. It’s reliable and easy. In fact, I’m able to predefine a sequence (Sequential Signing) that automatically forwards the contract to the next person once the previous signer completed the document. Geez, as of this month, I even started using it to sign my tax forms. I use this everywhere.

Like all good things in life, Eversign does come with upgraded features (unlimited documents, three templates, dedicated support, etc.) for $9.99 a month. There’s also a free version for you to sample. Considering the time-saving potential, though, I suggest you start creating templates in the upgraded version for your next client contract now.

Thinking about trying Eversign? Get tons of information on their features and pricing.

This article was published in searchenginejournal By Anna Crowe

Security researcher Gal Beniamini — who works for Google’s Project Zero — recently unearthed a serious vulnerability affecting the Wi-Fi chipsets used in both iOS and Android devices. Detailing the proof-of-concept attack at length, Beniamini explains in an interesting blogpost how an attacker within range on a shared Wi-Fi network could potentially execute arbitrary code on a targeted device.

By chaining together a pair of exploits, Beniamini managed to demonstrate a “full device takeover by Wi-Fi proximity alone, requiring no user interaction.” The attack was deemed to be serious enough that Apple wasted no time in patching up the vulnerability, having released iOS 10.3.1 earlier in the week.

Apple’s release note for the iOS update reads:

Impact: An attacker within range may be able to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chipDescription: A stack buffer overflow was addressed through improved input validation.

Google, meanwhile, is obviously aware of the vulnerability but a security patch for Android devices isn’t yet widely available. As ArsTechnica notes, “the fix is available only to a select number of device models, and even then it can take two weeks or more to be available as an over-the-air update to those who are eligible.”

There haven’t been any reports of a device, iOS or Android, being compromised but you’ll want to upgrade your mobile OS as soon you can. As a final point of interest, the vulnerability impacts all iPhones models since the iPhone 4s, a number of Nexus smartphones and most of Samsung’s Galaxy lineup.

Source : bgr.com By Yoni Heisler

In a bid to fight fake news and low-quality content, Google is updating its search algorithms. In addition to making improvements to search ranking, the search engine giant wants to offer people easier ways to directly report offensive or misleading content.

In a blog post, Google Vice President of Search Ben Gomes said that Google has improved its evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content.

For the first time, users will be able to directly flag content that appears in Autocomplete and Featured Snippets in Google Search.

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Autocomplete helps predict the searches people might be typing, while Featured Snippets appear at the top of search results showing a highlight of the information relevant to what people are looking for.

“Today, in a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system. The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of “fake news,” where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information,” Gomes said in the blog.

Google has a team of evaluators – real people – to monitor the quality of Google’s search results. Their ratings will help the company gather data on the quality of its results and identify areas for improvements.

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Last month, Google updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality web pages for raters to appropriately flag, which can include misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories. “These guidelines will begin to help our algorithms in demoting such low-quality content and help us to make additional improvements over time,” Gomes said.

Featured Snippets

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Meanwhile, Google recently updated its How Search Works site to provide detailed info to users and website owners about the technology behind Google Search.

This article was published in marketexclusive.com by David Zazoff



While the internet population continues to grow, there has also been an increase in bots as well.

In 2016, approximately 185 million new internet users came online, with the vast majority of these coming from nations like India. This represents a huge increase in the market. However, while the internet population continues to grow, there has also been an increase in bots as well. The word ‘bot’ covers a wide variety of automated programs: while some source data for search engines and help people match their queries with the most appropriate websites, others are not so helpful.

In the past year, bad bots accounted for 19.9 per cent of all website traffic—a 6.98 per cent increase over the same time in 2015. Bad bots interact with applications in the same way a legitimate user would, making them harder to prevent. However, the results are harmful: for example, bad bots can take data from sites without permission while others undertake criminal activities such as ad fraud and account theft.

Bots enable high-speed abuse, misuse, and attacks on websites and APIs. They enable attackers, unsavoury competitors and fraudsters to perform a wide array of malicious activities, including web scraping, competitive data mining, personal and financial data harvesting, brute force login and man-in-the-middle attacks, digital ad fraud, spam, transaction fraud, and more.

The bad bot problem has become so rampant it has earned its first piece of US federal legislation. In an attempt to make the use of ticket scraping bots illegal, the US Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act. Similarly, governments in the UK and Canada are also looking at introducing new laws to stop automated ticket purchasing by bots. While legislation is a welcome deterrent, it’s difficult to legislate against those you can’t identify. Bad bots continue to exist under the radar and they are looking to stay.

What does the data say?

Using our network, we looked for trends in how bots are developing, including hundreds of billions of bad bot requests, anonymised over thousands of domains. As part of this, we focused on bad bot activity at the application layer as these attacks differ from the simple volumetric Distributed Denial of Service attacks that typically grab the headlines. Here are some of our top findings:  

1. Bigger site? Bigger target

Bad bots don’t sleep - they’re everywhere, at all times. But even though bad bots are active on all sites, the larger sites were hit the hardest in 2016. Bad bots accounted for 21.83 per cent of large website web traffic, which saw an increase of 36.43 per cent since last year.

Larger sites are generally ranked higher in search engine results because humans rarely look past the first few search engine results. Smaller sites don’t get the same level of SEO traffic uplift so large and medium sites are more enticing targets for bad bots.

2. Bad bots lie

Bad bots must lie about who they are to avoid detection. They do this by reporting their user agent as a web browser or mobile device. In 2016 the majority of bad bots claimed to be the most popular browsers: Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. Chrome was at the top spot.

Alongside this, there was also a 42.78 per cent year-over-year increase in bad bots claiming to be mobile browsers. For the first time, mobile Safari made the top five list of self-reported user agents, outranking web Safari by 17 per cent.

3. If you build it, bots will come

When it comes to the attractiveness of a website, bad bots have a type. There are four key website features bad bots look for:

  •  Proprietary content and/or pricing information
  •  A login section
  •  Web forms
  •  Payment processors

In 2016, 97 per cent of sites with proprietary content were hit by unwanted scraping, 96 per cent of websites with login pages were hit by bad bots, 90 per cent of websites were hit by bad bots that bypassed the login page, and 31 per cent of websites with forms were hit by spam bots.

4. The weaponisation of the data centre

Data centres were the weapon of choice for bad bots in 2016, with 60.1 per cent coming from the cloud. Amazon AWS was the top originating ISP for the third year in a row with 16.37 per cent of all bad bot traffic - four times more than the next ISP.

But why use central data centres rather than the traditional ‘zombie’ PC that is part of a botnet, which is more typically used for DDoS attacks? The answer here is that it’s never been easier to build bad bots with open source software or cheaper to launch them from globally distributed networks using the cloud. These data centres can scale up faster and more efficiently for bot attacks on application layers, while steps like masking IP addresses has become easy and essential within bot deployments. This centralised approach is easier to manage when it comes to fraud and account theft campaigns.

5. Out of date? Out of luck

Humans aren’t the only ones falling behind on software updates; it turns out bad bots have the same problem. One in every ten of bad bots said they were using browser versions released before 2013 - some were reporting browser versions released as far back as 1999.

But why are bad bots reporting as out-of-date browsers? Perhaps some were written many years ago and are still at work today. Some may have been targeting specific systems that only accept specific browser versions. Others may be have been out-of-control programs, bouncing around the internet in endless loops, still causing collateral damage.

6. The continuing rise of advanced persistent bots

In 2016, 75 per cent of bad bots were Advanced Persistent Bots (APBs). Today’s advanced persistent bots are more sophisticated as they can load JavaScript, hold onto cookies and load up external resources – this makes them more effective in their attacks. Similarly, bots can carry out obfuscation techniques to randomise the IP address, headers, and user agents associated with their activity. This helps them to hide in the noise of everyday activity.

APBs can carry out highly progressive attacks, such as account-based abuse and transaction fraud, which require multiple steps and deeper penetration into the web application. If you’re using a web application firewall (WAF) and are filtering out known violator user agents and IP addresses, that’s a good start. However, bad bots rotate through IPs and cycle through user agents to evade these WAF filters. You’ll need a way to differentiate humans from bad bots that are using headless browsers, browser automation tools, and man-in-the-browser malware campaigns.

7. Is the USA the bot superpower?

The US has topped the list of bad bot originating countries for the third year in a row. In fact, the US had a larger amount of total bad bot traffic (55.4 per cent) than all other countries combined. The Netherlands generated 11.4 per cent of bad bot traffic and was the next closest country, while China reached the top three for bad bots for the first time. South Korea made the biggest jump, up 14 spots from 2015.

But does over half of all cybercrime really come from US citizens? A spammer bot might originate from a US data centre, but the perpetrator responsible for it could be located anywhere in the world. Thanks to virtual private data centres such as Amazon AWS, cyber crooks can leverage US-based ISPs to carry out their attacks as if they originated inside America and avoid location-based blocking techniques.

What can you do about bots?

As much as they try to hide their activity, there are some results from bad bot attacks that can be noticed. Normally, these results may not be explained within traditional monitoring tools. For example, you can tell significant volumes of bad bot traffic when unexpected spikes in traffic cause slowdowns without a concomitant increase in sales traffic. Another example might be where your site’s search rankings plummet due to content theft and data being scraped. Similarly, you might see poor results from misguided ad spend as a result of skewed analytics.

Other pointers to bad bot activity might be that your company sees high numbers of failed login attempts and increased customer complaints regarding account lockouts. Bad bots will leave fake posts, malicious backlinks, and competitor ads in your forums and customer review sections.

In order to filter out bad bots, it’s worth taking the time to learn about the most attractive areas of your website and find out if they are all properly secured against bots. One way to choke off bad bots is to geo-fence your website by blocking users from foreign nations where your company doesn’t do business.

Similarly, it can be worth looking at the audience profile for your customers – is there is a good reason why users would be on browsers that are several years and multiple updates past their release date? If not, having a whitelist policy that imposes browser version age limits stops up to 10 per cent of bad bots. Also consider if all automated programs, even ones that aren’t search engine crawlers or preapproved tools, belong on your site. Consider setting up filters to block all other bots - this can block up to 25 per cent of bad bots.

The best way to deal with bots is to monitor and respond on all your web and mobile traffic in real-time so that you see the next bad bot attack coming and stop it in its tracks. This approach relies on using more intelligence and automation to spot activities – rather than relying on human oversight of analytics logs, security can be maintained through better use of data and machine learning over time.

Stephen Singam is MD of Security Research at Distil Networks 
Image source: Shutterstock/Toria

This article was  published in itproportal.com by Stephen Singam

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