WhatsApp's influence on society and how it is coping with local laws - India's example

WhatsApp is in the news for over a month in India for reasons good and bad. It would be interesting to know the issues, for people in other nations as much as for Indians.

The latest on WhatsApp in India

  • A government appointed committee finds WhatsApp guilty of being used for spreading fake news and rumors.
  • Government mulls action against WhatsApp and other social sites not abiding by Indian laws.
  • WhatsApp CEO flies down to India and promises actions as required.
  • WhatsApp kicks off campaign against fake news.

The background and full story of WhatsApp in India

WhatsApp is extremely popular among Indians, and an average Indian with WhatsApp on would look at his smartphone at least a dozen times a day - and that is a gross understatement. The user base of WhatsApp is about 200 million!

Of late, this chatting app has been blamed for fake news of all sorts. Rumors spread far and wide through WhatsApp are supposed to be responsible for crowd lynchings that have taken nearly 40 lives across the country. The supreme court wanted government to take strict action against social media, and the government appointed a committee of top bureaucrats to examine the matter. It is believed that the committee has recommended inserting a criminal law to punish mob actions, and immediate police action followed by legal action against against social media officials in case of misuse of their platforms.

Last week, the government had told WhatsApp that it was not doing enough to check the spread of fake news and must find technological solutions to trace origin of sinister campaigns. It is reported that WhatsApp has, citing privacy provisions, taken the stand that it cannot do so. WhatsApp CEO flew down to India and met Indian communications and IT minister. He was told to immediately appoint a grievance officer in India to deal with public complaints. Media reported that he got this message from the minster:

"You must have a proper compliance with Indian laws. We will not appreciate a scenario where any problem that has arisen (here) will have to be answered in America. No, this is not acceptable."

Earlier too, WhatsApp has been in the news, first when the supreme court asked the government whether the government wanted to keep a tab on social media (when the government toyed with the idea of a social media monitoring cell), especially taking the name of WhatsApp.

A public appeal has been made before the supreme court alleging that WhatsApp, which is already testing a payments app, does not comply with the financial and identity norms set by RBI, the country's central bank. The supreme court has asked the company to clarify. WhatsApp is murmuring that it is being discriminated against by the Indian government over permission for payment services through its app. The government has maintained that for providing payment services, foreign entities must locate their servers in India and strictly follow RBI norms.

WhatsApp's actions so far on fake news front

In the face of severed criticism and realization that mass distribution of undesirable messages was leading to mob actions, WhatsApp has limited 'forwarding' of messages to five. A forwarded label is also being put on forwarded messages.

WhatsApp has come up with a full page advertisement on major national dailies to explain its position and has now started a radio campaign to educate users about fake news and what precautions they should take when forwarding messages.

It is also reported that the company is in an advance stage to set up an Indian corporate entity, probably in Hyderabad. Its parent company Facebook has already set up an office in this IT hub of India.

According to media reports, WhatsApp also has partnered with an NGO for spreading awareness regarding the need to check authenticity of messages, so that fake news is not spread through its platform in the upcoming provincial and national elections. This could be in response to Indian election commission's warning that it would take very strict action against fake and paid news during elections. 

The story has only begun, not ended, because WhatsApp has found a huge market in India for digital payments and advertisements. Its rival Google already has a buzzing payments app and has been proactive in complying with Indian laws.

The company's stand on not sharing the origin of 'sinister' messages may yet prove a sore point though the payment app issue might settle down once WhatsApp complies with Indian norms.

VPS web hosting: Go for it for your blog or small business website

This is a compendium on VPS web hosting, the most common type of web hosting for individuals and small firms. But many of its details are not known to users, which might lead to poor decisions and consequent lack of good services and loss of money.

With the index below, you can jump to a particular section if you're in a hurry. For keeping the article for reference, you can think of bookmarking it.

-What is VPS Hosting?
-How does VPS differ from shared hosting?
-How does VPS cloud hosting differ from VPS hosting?
-Is dedicated hosting necessarily better than VPS?
-When do you need to upgrade to VPS from shared hosting?
-Why not go for unmanaged VPS web hosting?

What actually is VPS Hosting? 

As the name suggests (VPS= virtual+private+shared hosting), this type of web hosting gives you private space in a virtualized server. What it means is that your website is in a shared server but you still have your private space. Consider it as living in a joint family but with a bedroom of your own - so you do not have to buy or rent a full house and yet have privacy. Or consider yourself in a flat in an apartment building rather than having a villa on one hand (with huge costs and all the headache of maintenance and security) and a dormitory on the other hand (in which people live in a big hall, with so many others, with no privacy and little personal space).

VPS gives you a private space of your own, and you can have managed (in which the host manages services and space for you) or unmanaged (in which you have to manage the space provided to you) plans within VPS plans. Small firms and individual bloggers should opt for managed plans so that they do not need IT professionals to support them.

Virtualization in web hosting

In the context of web hosting, 'virtual' would mean that your website is hosted in a shared server but you have been assigned a space of your own (which others won't use) by way of what is called virtualization.

In virtualization, the physical server's space is divided into stand-alone compartments (virtual machines or VMs), and each compartment can run its own OS and programs and have its own RAM.

There are different ways the VMs can be configured and that determines the service level achieved.

How does VPS web hosting differ from shared hosting? 

In shared hosting (which is the cheapest type of web hosting):
  • There are a large number of users. 
  • All users share the same common space and resources. 
  • You cannot have your own OS and software installed on the server. 
  • If a few websites get huge traffic or have a defective code, all other websites are badly impacted. 
  • Expansion of resources is difficult (except in cloud hosting). 
  • Since these plans are the cheapest, they are often poor in terms of efficiency and customer support. 
  • In 2018, shared hosting plans come at around $3 per month. Some even start with $0.99! 
  • Shared hosting suits only small websites that need fewer resources. 
In the case of VPS hosting:
  • The number of users sharing the same server is smaller. 
  • Resources are apportioned among users. 
  • Each user has his own space, processing power, RAM and bandwidth. 
  • The user has access into root of the server and thus can customize various functions. In fact, you can install your own Operating System on the server and are not limited by the host-provided OS. 
  • Unless it is a severe issue, one user is not impacted by deficiencies of other users. 
  • Expansion is possible even in single-server VPS plan, and is guaranteed when it is cloud VPS hosting. 
  • It gets better resource allocation and consequent high efficiencies as well as good customer support from the host. 
  • Major hosts have varying VPS plans according to resources allocated.
    As of now, VPS hosting costs about $15 per month. Plans can start as low as $5.99 a month. 
  • VPS can serve small and medium sized websites as well as large ones (that depends on many factors, though).

How does VPS cloud hosting differ from single-server VPS hosting? 

VPS cloud based web hosting combines the good features of VPS with flexibility and scalability of cloud resources. These plans are slightly costlier than single server VPS offers.

Is dedicated hosting necessarily better than VPS hosting? 

The question in other words is, are you paying for dedicated server when you don't need that?

Dedicated hosting is of two types: managed and unmanaged. We'd talk about managed dedicated web hosting in which the server and other resources are exclusively available to the user but he need not bother about maintenance of these resources, which is done by the web host itself.

It would appear that dedicated hosting is always better than VPS hosting because the former is fully exclusive. However, if your use of resources is not too high and you need not maintain absolute privacy, VPS would be less expensive as compared to the dedicated one.

Dedicated hosting starts to make sense only when the user has his own technical team for optimization of resources, maintenance and customization - as in the case of techies or big companies.

When do you need to upgrade to VPS hosting from plain shared web hosting?

Remember that even when the web-host tells you that you get unlimited or very high level of resources with shared web hosting, you will NOT get such resources. By its very nature, shared hosting will give you the performance based on how all the websites on that server behave, and you have NO control over what resources others use.

Many hosts recommend their users to go for VPS or other plans when the website owner reports of slow speed, website hanging or high downtime. These could be due to that website's own reasons or due to other websites on that server, but web hosts often scare the users into buying a premium product.

There also is a genuine and welcome reason why upgrading from shared hosting is recommended: when there is rise in traffic on the website/ blog beyond what is offered in the shared hosting plan.

So, if in your own analysis, if your website is having issues with shared hosting but not for a valid reason, you perhaps need to change the host rather than the plan.

On the other hand, if you find the host good but you have outgrown the shared hosting, go for VPS hosting.

Is unmanaged VPS not a cost-effective solution? 

Generally NO. Let's see the user scenarios: The web space user is either an individual (or a small/ medium sized firm) with limited requirement for web activities and less money to spare OR a medium or big sized firm with big web-based business and lots of funds to allocate to portal management. The first one should go for shared or VPS hosting and the big guys for VPS or dedicated one.

Only in a scenario where the firm has lots of in-house technical capability but only low or medium level of web hosting requirements, VPS web hosting with no management will make sense. This could be the case only with techies and developers, not others.

When you go for unmanaged VPS, the host might charge you much less but you will have to manage starting with the basic web hosting control software. And if there is an issue, it will be you who will have to resolve it.

To conclude, VPS suits most blogs and websites. Go for a low-end VPS web hosting plan if your needs are low. Go for cloud VPS if you think you will need to upscale your hosting soon. Happy hosting!

Since proper web hosting is so integral to maintaining a professional, self-hosted blog, happy blogging too!!

Google's Broad Core search algo change: has your blog/ website been affected?

Google is known to keep changing its search algorithm throughout the year, some minor changes occurring almost every day!

@dannysullivan, on Google search algorithm changes
Google claims that these changes are made with the aim of giving more relevant results to searchers, rewarding genuine and good-quality content and downgrading poor content.

In August, Google is supposed to have made a major algorithmic change, and some big companies in the SEO field have reported that this change has impacted many sites.

What does Google advise website owners?

In March, Google gave some sane advice coupled with an insight into its regular algorithmic changes, and it is worth repeating [three tweets]:
Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year…. As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded…. There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.
The impact due to present change may not be directly due to change in the way Google ranks content quality. Danny Sullivan of Google Search, in his follow up tweets, referred to Google's search ratings for what constitutes good content though he hastened to say that the raters themselves do not influence the search at all. (You can visit here the ITB article deciphering the huge document called Search Quality Rating Guidelines.)

Believe Google. There is nothing to be done if your search traffic has increased or gone down in recent days. However, 
  • do keep posting content relevant to your target audience, and
  • do keep posting good stuff.

Give your blog independent identity without hosting costs!

Many of our visitors and followers are those who are scared of technology and have created a blog on a free host because it does not demand any tech know-how. 

That leaves the blogger with many constraints. For example, the free Wordpress.com blog cannot have advertisements, cannot apply a new theme and cannot use plugins.

In most such cases, i.e. when the blogger is interested in just sharing his thoughts with the world, even the free blogs are good enough. The Blogger (=blogspot.com) blog even allows placing of ads and optimizing the blog for search engines.

But what the free blog on these platforms does not get is AN INDEPENDENT IDENTITY. The blog is seen as a casual or amateur blog and not as a professional one.

In this post, let me tell you how you can shed that .wordpress or .blogspot easily and without spending much money. In case of .blogspot blog, the only money you spend is a small amount needed for buying the domain and annual charge for keeping it with you. In case of .wordpress blog, there is additional cost that Wordpress charges every year.

By this approach, you get good features of free blogging without any need for learning technology or spending big amount on web hosting.

Getting the blog an independent domain

I will summarize the basics in just two bullet points. I will then discuss the nitty-gritty of actually going about it. The 'mapping' your present blog to an independent URL, involves just this:

  •     Buying a new domain name.
  •     Mapping the free blog to this domain name.

Your current blog remains where it is, and you retain all the resources and design of this blog on the same platform. And yet, your blog gets an independent ID - its own unique brand!

Let's compare the expenditure that you incur on maintaining a free blog, hosting a blog independently and what I am suggesting here (mapping) [prices are indicative only]:

Free blog: No expenditure on hosting and domain name. No expenditure on web designing.

Self-hosted blog: about $10 per year on domain name plus about $50 per year for a low-end hosting plan (or a package with name and hosting, for $100 per year. If you do not have skills of web designing, then one-time cost of buying a theme could start from $20 for a routine theme.

Just mapping: about $10 per year on domain name (for .blogspot blog) and additional $15 a year (for .wordpress blog).

Let's go in a bit detail on the underlying concepts and how to change the domain on Blogger and Wordpress platforms:

Advantages and disadvantages of free and paid paid web hosting, for a blogger

Free hosted blogs have .wordpress.com, .blogspot.com etc suffixed to their operative name. What it means is that there is a big domain and your free blog is part of that domain, along with thousands of other similar blogs. In the case of a website/ blog with independent domain name (e.g. www.example.com instead of www.example.wordpress.com), the site exists there alone.

In the case of a free blog, you don’t pay anything for opening and maintaining the blog. You use the platform's resources for keeping the blog available on the web, your use their blogging tools free, and you store your images and videos on their servers. For maintaining a stand-alone blog, you pay for (i) designing the blog, (ii) buying the domain name, and (iii) hosting the blog on the web.

A free blog has the platform and the community that creates free widgets, apps, themes (templates) etc, answers to queries, troubleshoots issues and discusses new developments. Independent blogs lack this support other than the limited tools provided by the web host and its customer support (which is not great in case of low-end plans).

The middle, golden, path of blog hosting: just an independent domain, no paid hosting

When the blog has a distinct identity, it is looked upon as a professional blog. This identity remains even if the blog is not hosted independently! The independent identity

  • shows that you are serious, as you are spending money on the blog.
  • helps in the long run, as your blog is seen as a stand-alone entity on the web.
  • gets higher web authority and popularity as search engines tend to attach a low value to free blogs.

So, the golden path is to register a free domain name through a Domain Name Registrar and map the free blog to it. 

There are dozens of domain name registrars on the web, including GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator and inMotion. The domain names these days are not very expensive unless you want a popular or special name.

The next thing is to map this domain with your blog.

Blogger does it FREE. Take the following simple steps and you are there:

1. Go to Settings on your Blogger dashboard.
2. In the Publishing option, your blog's present address is given. There are two links below that:
a- Set up a third-party URL... If you have already purchased the domain name, put it here. Click on  Submit and your new domain ID is mapped to the current blog.
b- Buy a domain. Select this option to buy the domain name from Google itself. It will take you to Google Domains, where you can select the name of your choice and make payment, and come back to the Settings.

In both the cases, it takes only a few seconds/ minutes to map your .blogspot.com blog to the new independent identity.

In the case of free Wordpress blogs, this mapping comes with an annual fee. Therefore, many bloggers on Wordpress prefer to go for wordpress.org, and pay for both hosting and domain name - an option better than paying just for mapping the domain name because then they get all the independence that comes with paid hosting.
(If you are confused about wordpress.com and wordpress.org, please visit this article: Wordpress confusion: created deliberately? )

1. On the dashboard, select your blog.
2. Choose Plan option, and then Domain.
3. Choose Add Domain.
4. Select the domain name that you have already purchased or go for the domain offered by Wordpress. Make payment and the mapping is over.

At the given link, you may visit the first post of a 3-part series on choosing the right domain name, web hosting and related matters in greater details.

Hindi best blog directory compilation begins! हिन्दी के सर्वोत्तम ब्लॉगों की डाइरैक्टरी का संकलन शुरू!


The next edition of the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs is to come out on 30th September, 2018. The last edition came on the same day, in 2017, and had the best 140 Hindi blogs.

The blogosphere is undergoing a big transformation since the fast rise of social networking, social sharing and instant messaging apps and websites. Non-English blogospheres are affected much more and are facing sort of turmoil due to it. 

Even earlier, we had seen that established blogs suddenly went into hibernation or stopped altogether, and many blogs of the earlier editions were replaced by new ones. We apprehend that it might happen in a bigger scale this time. 

Whatever the case, we are committed to bring out the list, and with the same parameters. Fair play will be our hallmark.

We invite visitors to suggest blogs for the latest  edition of the Hindi directory. We will be able to consider any blog suggestion that we receive by the end of August. We already are surfing the web for good blogs and have found a handfull of good ones.

So, friends, expect a more compact Directory of Best Hindi Blogs on 30th September. As always, your suggestions for improving ITB listings are always welcome.

Best wishes. ITB team

अब समय है हिन्दी के सर्वोत्तम ब्लॉगों की डाइरैक्टरी के अगले संस्करण का। पिछले संस्करणों को कई मित्रों ने सराहा था और हमें आपके बहुत सारे सुझाव भी मिले। साथ ही आप लोगों ने कई नए ब्लॉग भी हमें सुझाए। धन्यवाद।

अगर आप हमारे पिछले एडिशन को देखें तो पाएंगे कि बहुत सारी पिछली प्रविष्टियाँ नई लिस्ट से बाहर हो गयी हैं। हालांकि हमें अपने पिछले ब्लॉगों  को फिर से डाइरैक्टरी इत्यादि में स्थान देने में खुशी होती है, लेकिन जब ब्लॉगों को परखने की बात अगले साल आती है तो हम बहुत सख्त हो जाते हैं। आशा है, आप quality के प्रति हमारी इस ज़िद को समझेंगे। 

इस बीच फेसबुक और व्हाट्सएप्प जैसे सोशल नेटवर्किंग तथा चैट की वेबसाइटों के प्रादुर्भाव की वजह से भी ब्लॉगिंग पर खासा असर पड़ा है और हिंदी का ब्लॉग-संसार इससे अछूता नहीं रहा है। फिर भी हम नए और उन्नत ब्लॉगों की डायरेक्टरी आपके सामने लाते रहेंगे, यह हमारा वादा है।  

अगस्त अंत तक नए ब्लॉग सुझाते रहिए ताकि हम इस वर्ष और भी अच्छा संकलन आपको प्रस्तुत कर सकें। हिन्दी ब्लॉग का 2018 का संस्करण हम 30 सितंबर को प्रकाशित कर पाएंगे।
itb टीम