India's TRAI backs open internet rules, US's FCC to repeal existing rules too!

Indian Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) has come out with strict recommendations on net neutrality. In short, any internet service provider in India will not be able to carve slow and fast lanes and discriminate the former with selective content. These recommendations are required to be adopted by the government before they come into force.

TRAI has recommended that Internet of Things (IoT) services should also come under the non-discriminatory clause. A multi-stakeholder body for monitoring and enforcement is also recommended.

With that, Indian policy makers have completely rejected free offers such as those from and in the name of serving the poor who otherwise cannot have net facilities. The issue is using discriminatory practices in providing net and content; specialized services are excluded from net neutrality provisions. (You can see a detailed discussion on this matter in this article: Net Neutrality: what lies ahead...)

Net neutrality activists have applauded this move, seen to be way ahead of US stand on net neutrality. In fact, the Federal Communications Commissions is having a vote on repealing the existing net neutrality rules soon.

You can visit the recommendations here:   TRAI recommendations on Net Neutrality; November 2018

There are a good number of critics of net neutrality too, especially in India's context. Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg pitched for its 'Free Basics' fervently on his visit to India last year, promising to connect the huge number of un-connected Indians in one go and without their need to pay a penny. This editorial of Financial Express concludes that net neutrality is not an issue and TRAI is fussing over it for nothing:
Nor has Trai been able to justify its opposition to Facebook’s Free Basics – free access to a stripped-down version of various sites for people that did not have internet access. Net neutrality activists and some politicians argued India was for the “full internet” and did not want “walled gardens”. It was argued that only a few companies would be able to meet Facebook’s specifications and so they would benefit unduly – it didn’t seem to matter than at least people were getting some version of the internet and that they could graduate to the “full internet” when they had the money. When a telco offered a plan that gave free access to the website of a particular company, this was said to be anti-net-neutrality since only a handful of firms could afford to subsidize users on their sites – since a Flipkart, say, can afford to give free data to users to access its site while a Gokart can’t, this was said to be against the principle of a level playing field. That nowhere in the world do all companies have the same access to capital or talent or raw materials was something that neither Trai nor the activists/politicians even considered. At the end of the long – and not yet complete – exercise, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that what Trai has offered is a solution looking for a problem.

In the US, FCC seems to be leading the charge on behalf of telecom operators!

Interestingly, the FCC head, Ajit Pai, has taken on votaries of net neutrality in the US. In his speech yesterday, he called celebrity tweets in support of net neutrality as 'utterly absurd'. He also was critical of Twitter, a votary of net neutrality, of filtering content on its platform which, he says, goes against the concept of free internet. FCC is actively considering to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, and Pai is confident to do so with the help of Republican commissioners in FCC on 14th December. 

In the US, the fight of net neutrality is being fought fiercely between tech companies on one hand (Twitter, Google, Reditt...) and telecom providers (AT&T, Verizone). This round seems to have gone to the telecom companies. You can have your own arguments based on which way you look at things.

Don't let your blog suffer when you apply new Wordpress or Blogger theme

This post comes in the wake of two bad experiences shared by bloggers with me and my colleagues in the last six months.

The bloggers had gone for blog themes available on the web. In both cases, the themes had very good reviews and in one case it was from one of the most popular web theme developers who comes on top of search results when you search for 'blogger themes' on Google.

One friend created his blog on Blogger but did not like the available templates on Blogger. He looked for good themes and found one with so many good features: a nice two-column layout with modern title area, a fine looking menu bar, good fonts, nice looking social bookmarking and social media buttons, rich cards implemented, SEO optimized and good speed. It worked that way for three months but then the blogger found something fishy as his Google AdSense did not work the way he wanted, his titles of feeds would sometimes appear and sometimes not, and the 'related posts' widget worked erratically. He shared the theme with me and I applied the trial version of the theme on a free blog and then checked its source over time.

The problem with this theme was that the coder had hard-coded some features that should not have been, and had disabled/ modified some generic Blogger codes and widgets. Then I looked at the code minutely and found clever codes and links.

This happened with a paid theme!

In the second case, it was a free theme and it had links to the coder's proxy sites and scripts which won't work when modified, without damaging some of the features. Even when the blogger removed the theme and installed a native theme of Blogger, it kept on creating issues till each one was manually resolved.

A small disclaimer: Since we mostly deal with Blogger blogs, these examples are of Blogger themes. I reckon that the same might be the case with Wordpress themes.

Blog theme sites should be transparent about their codes, links and third-party resources, but that unfortunately is not the case. So, my advice to dear bloggers is that they must be careful in installing themes on their blogs other than those available with the blogging/ website creation platform.

apply new theme on Wordpress Blogger blog
Do not buy cheap themes from sites such as Fiverr. Buy themes only from reputed  vendors and go for them even if their themes are a bit expensive.

One way to check the quality of themes is to check some good websites/ blogs for the theme they have applied. (In case of free themes, the imprint will be somewhere on the blog's homepage itself, perhaps at the bottom; in paid themes, it might be available when you see the 'page source' of the web page.)

Though reviews can be manipulated, they still help in taking a decision. But the final decision must come after considering all aspects. In fact, in ITB we believe that content matters much more than looks.

Blogging report 2017: better content, well promoted, more professional...

This post is on a study by Orbit Media on the state of blogosphere in 2017 in terms of use of blogging. They have based their findings on the basis of responses from 1377 blogger to 11 questions. Summary of findings:

1. Bloggers now take more time in composing blog posts than before.

The time spent on creating a blog post has been found to be increasing over years since 2014. Now a blogger spends 3 hours 20 minutes on an average in creating a post. In addition, the number of bloggers who spend over 6 hours in composing a post has more than trebled over the last four years and they have said, they get 'strong results' by posting big!

2.  Most bloggers post weekly or around that, and the overall frequency has gone down.

But it is not that the drop in frequency gets good results even when the content is big. Frequency matters in getting good results, bloggers report.

3. More bloggers are using editing support than before.

4. The size of blog posts now averages 1142 words as compared to 808 in 2014. 

Moreover, the number of bloggers writing more than 2000 words has risen very sharply though half still write below 500 words, and those who write big posts say, they get 'strong results'.

5. Bloggers are now using more visual content. 

Those using multiple images per post and using audio have reported to be getting 'strong results'!

6. Guest posting is still popular.

7. Most bloggers (over half of those surveyed) update their old posts, at least some times.

8. Bloggers are more into promotion, especially paid promotions.

Use of social media comes on top when it comes to promoting blogs. Bloggers' attention is rising to use of SEO, paid promotions and reaching out to influencers.

It is found that the less popular ways of promotion, which also need hard work, give the best results (other than paid services). In decreasing levels of effectiveness, these are: influencer outreach > paid promotions > email marketing > SEO > social media.

9. Most bloggers use analytics and refer to it regularly.

10. Blogging is giving results, and better!

One in three responders says, 'the blog delivers strong marketing results' and another half of those surveyed say, 'blog delivers positive results'.

ITB view:
blogging tips
Blogging has become much more professional!

We have been observing, and we've shared it many times before, that the face of blogging has changed greatly from maintaining a web diary and social networking to professional blogging. More and more bloggers are now taking blogging as part-time or full-time vocation. They write more wholesome content and use media to aid it. They use professional tools such as analytics and SEO techniques. They are making investments into it when required, for example hiring content editors, buying themes, optimizing blog for search and paying for promotions. This study once again proves our point.

You can visit here the Orbit Media blog post.

Social media, blogging updates: double tweet size, WhatsApp delete, security lapses and vulnerabilities

Tweets finally are double their earlier character length

After a pilot run with 280 character limit for tweets, Twitter has finally implemented it. It shares the behavior of Twitter users during the experiment: people were initially excited and did silly things to bloat their tweets beyond 140 characters, but not many were found using space much beyond this earlier limits. However, it has led to ease in writing tweets and users are likely to spend less time in editing tweets to squeeze them into the tight character limit.  

You can now delete your messages on WhatsApp from others' phones too!

WhatsApp has introduced this long-awaited feature now. You can delete a message sent to an individual or a group within seven minutes of sending it. But for this to work, you and message recipient must have latest version of WhatsApp on their Android, iPhone or Windows Phone.

Hope, this helps reduce the embarrassment or damage that is caused by sending a wrongly worded message, a wrong photo or a message to a wrong recipient. But no luck if the recipient(s) have already seen it before you could delete it, isn't it?

Of course you can delete a message from your own device.

Both these features work when you press and hold the message and get options to delete the message for everyone or only yourself.


How safe are your social media accounts in the hands of the giants?

We generally feel safe when their accounts are with tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. The thought that comes to mind is that at least for their business and reputation, these biggies would take all cautions so that public information is safe and there is no risk that their information is leaked except legally.

Ok, there are numerous cases, when governments have asked these biggies to pull down an account or share information in that account often with the excuse of an investigation into cases of hate crimes, pornography, drug pedaling, terrorism etc. (One news report later in this very post!)

However, I am talking even of that. What comes as a shock is that Donald Trump's account on Twitter was taken down INTENTIONALLY by a Twitter customer support employee on her last day in that company! It remained unavailable for about 11 minutes on November 2 before being restored. Consider what would happen to our accounts with these giants if a low-level employee could play with the account of someone who is not only the present US President, he is also one of the top Twitter personalities in the world. 

That raises a biggg question: Are internal controls good enough in internet giants, especially Twitter?

Afghanistan bans chat sites, revokes ban after protest

Afghanistan's move to block popular messaging platforms, WhatsApp and Telegram, seems to have backfired.

The ban was enforced early November, for 20 days. First it was said to be for security reasons, and then the concerned ministry explained that the closure 'request' was to improve their services. But in the wake of widespread protests, the government had to take back the ban within four days. Sigh!

Lurking outlaws and social media use by teens

The Australian Psychological Society has found that around 15% of teens are contacted by strangers on a daily basis, on Facebook alone. Ten percent are reported to be 'actively communicating' with strangers. Please remember that friendly-looking strangers can be bad guys out there to goad innocent victims into crimes!

bad guys are lurking in social media
What is equally worrisome is that 60% parents among the 1000 people interviewed said, they never monitored their child's social media accounts.

Shows, once again, the type of threat is lurking on social media and how careless and indifferent the society is towards it.

Source: ABC News

Wordpress plugins can be a big security hazard

Wordpress is so poor without plugins. And there are thousands of plugins available free and on payment, for almost everything that a website or blog can do: SEO, listings, polls, security, displaying images, editing, even e-commerce. However, not all plugins are of high quality, and the issues range from a bloated code to poor execution of code to serious security issues.

In the face of reports of even erstwhile good plugins getting vulnerable to new forms of web attacks, it is recommended that bloggers with plugins on their Wordpress blogs/ websites should apply only reputed plugins and then keep updating them.

30 very useful blogging apps, tools and websites: updated list for 2017

We bring you the updated list of 30 very useful websites, apps and tools for bloggers. Each of these have been used by us and our blogger friends and we have found them stable, safe and really useful. Some of these have already been reviewed in detail by us, and we have linked them to the review pages. There are some freemium or paid tools that open a free account but after giving very limited results, ask you to go for paid version; we have rejected such tools outright. The tools that do not install well or are reported to install junk on your computer have also been rejected.

And all these great tools/ sites are FREE!


  • CoSchedule Headline analyzer 
Helps you create and test headlines that attract attention.
A magnificent spelling and grammar checker for English, which checks passages online, integrates with MS Word and has browser extensions too.  (Premium, paid, version has many more features.)
A fantastic free online grammar and readability checker, Hemingway app tells you how good or bad your writing it, suggesting ways to improve it. (It also has a paid desktop version.)
These alternatives to MS Office and other office suites are a workhorse. These have been included in this list because of their versatility for web use. You can make available on your website a document or spreadsheet or a presentation prepared with Google Docs, through a link. There are many more ways you can share your skills through this set of tools besides doing the job that paid office suites do. 
A very comprehensive dictionary cum thesaurus that is available offline and also online. Offline app integrates well with all Windows programs. It is free if you declare that you are not rich enough to buy it!
If your blog needs typing in languages other than English, this tool (has web and app versions) is a must for you. With intuitive word formation, it can type in 121 languages instantly as you type in English. 
Has online 'plagiarism checker' tool and a tool for comparing two articles.

Graphics and videos

The great free alternative to Photoshop. It has almost all that Photoshop has, maybe something more. And this helps to make all types of graphics for blogs and websites. But the learning curve is steep.

A dependable storehouse of mostly license-free images. 
Earlier called Picasaweb, this Google entity is free storage space for images. You can decide to share images stored on it through link on any webpage as each image has a unique web address. If you are on Blogger blogging platform, all your images are saved here automatically.
A great software for editing almost all types (some with the help of plugins) of audio files. Great if you are a podcaster or have a music blog. You can also use it for preparing audio lectures to go with screen captured video (e.g. for tutorials).
Needs no introduction. For blogs with videos or vblogs, it can be used as free storage space which not only allows linking but also embedding the video on the website. You can visit this article on why YouTube is so great as a secondary web host for videos.
Free, simple, online tool from Buffer with numerous free templates for making quick graphics for social media, especially with embedded text.
Another website that allows creation of beautiful graphics in a jiffy, using available free (and paid) photos and design elements, for all types of web media and other formats.
A marvelous infographic generator, it has free version that is good enough for most bloggers. 
A feature-rich screen-capture software that can easily make videos for tutorials.

Social networking

  • Facebook groups 

Some of these groups can be great for promoting your blog. However, if you discover that members are interested in promoting their content only, without much interaction or discussion, don't go for such groups.
  • Google Plus communities
Bloggers discard G+ in favor of Facebook, Instagram  and Twitter. However, we have found that Google Plus communities are more focused, encourage good participation and are liked by Google search engine.
Twitter's own scheduling and management tool. Has multi-column layout that makes it easier to deal with tweets.
A good scheduler for Tweets (and other social content). Unlike other paid schedulers, it has a good free version if you want to use it for only one service and limited number of social accounts.

SEO and search

Previously called Webmaster Tools, this gives you deep knowledge about search on your website, including what might be wrong and how to fix that.
Gives great insight into traffic on your website. A must for serious blogging.  The daddy of keyword research, this is part of tools available under Google AdWords - the advertising platform of the search giant.
Another useful free tool for keyword research.
Reported to be the most popular SEO plugin for Wordpress, with a useful set of features in its free version too.

Productivity, misc 

An offline and online blogging software that can be great for formatting and other frills (e.g. tables) not available on editors of Wordpress, Blogger and other blogging platforms. OpenLiveWriter integrates well with blogging on various platforms. 
A great website that teaches you bits of HTML in very simple ways and explains why a code on your website/ blog is working the way it is. You can test sample code then and there.
Bloggers need to look for updates in their area of specialization, and nothing beats Google Alerts in giving alerts on any number of topics.
Not to forget this most popular cost per click (CPC) program from Google, which allows bloggers to make money by placing AdSense advertisements on their blogs/ websites.
A fine automatic email sender and opt-in form generator, with enough resources in free account.

Carelessly removing custom domain from Wordpress or Blogger blog or website may hurt much

Users of Blogger and Wordpress free blogging platforms sometimes want to give up the independent domain they had mapped with the blog/ website. It mostly happens when they do not make good money from the blog. If you are one of them and have decided to junk the custom domain, you need to take some small but important actions so that the damage is minimal and your free blog regains life. Read on...

Removing the custom domain

This is the simplest task. When you stop paying for renewal of the custom domain, it will automatically be inactive. Full stop. 

But just letting the custom URL vanish might create an issue for some days: when the visitor types the free URL, the browser might still try to take him automatically to the custom domain and when the browser does not find the custom URL, it might give 'Site does not exist' or 404 Error. To avoid this, 
  • on Blogger, go to 'Settings', 'Publishing' and then click on 'x' next to the custom domain;
  • on Wordpress, go to 'Manage Purchases' and delete the custom domain.

Please remember, you MUST NOT DELETE the website/ blog created on Blogger/ Wordpress, but only remove the custom domain.

Making the original blogspot / wordpress URL live

When you remove the custom domain, the original free Blogger/ Wordpress blog will no longer take you to the custom domain. So, visitors using the or address will be able to see your website/ blog as it is.

However, whosoever types your earlier domain ( will get the error message. You will have to live with it until this domain is wiped from everybody's memory and bookmarks.

Taking care of manually added links

This is the most time-consuming action of all. When you created a new domain,, you must have put a number of internal links on posts and pages under the custom domain, e.g. or or Over time, these could be in thousands. All such links will go dead if you do not manually re-link each anchor text or image or audio or video to new pages under the free sub-domain, or

Dealing with third party permissions, codes given to others, social accounts

You will need to check what URL has been given on various widgets, badges given to others, rich cards, analytics/ webmaster IDs, affiliate properties and AdSense, social media buttons, etc and take action in each case.

Unless you do that, links given on badges and other codes that you offer to others will go dead, many codes with the custom domain will give blank results, some linked third-party codes will not work at all, leading to huge loss of functionality and traffic coming from badges, backlinks and web references.
Links given on social media posts/ comments will be lost for ever because you have no control over them, but you can save links on social media profiles by manually changing them.

Look and feel too might change when you change domain 

If you had applied a third-party theme on the blog/ website, the blog/ website will revert to a default theme. This might lead to things getting haywire, especially on Wordpress, which does not accept such themes on free blogs. 

Similarly if you had made some manual changes to the underlying code, or installed a security certificate, that might get impacted with change when the theme and code change.

To avoid things getting messy, take steps given in the section below.

The last point on domain change

This should have come the first but then it would have relegated the main point down, so it comes here. 

Why at all should you remove the custom domain? Though you might already have made up your mind to remove it for some valid reason, but I am asking this question  because this action will lead to a lot of loss and inconvenience as mentioned above. In short, you'd lose most of branding, SEO reputation, search position, search traffic, referral traffic and social media traffic - much of it irreversibly.

If you have no option but to remove the custom domain, make preparations before the day comes for transition; look closely at your website/ blog for all those links that refer to the custom domain and take the following actions:
  • Make a copy of the website's code. Blogger and Wordpress both allow that. 
  • Open a new free blog on the same platform. Import from the website/ blog with custom domain and check how it functions. Experiment with themes in case you had changed the theme of website/ blog with custom domain.
  • On the imported blog, change all links to refer to the free domain - on posts, profile pages, widgets, social accounts, etc.
  • Once satisfied, export the content of this new experimental blog to the earlier blog. 
  • However, if you are not comfortable with import-export between blogs, and if your blog does not have many resources, quickly make all changes in the last few days before removing the custom domain.
  • Change off-page identities (e.g. that given on your visiting card, email signature, etc.)
  • Write an email to email subscribers telling about the change. Similarly, write to all others who are likely to visit your blog.