Sunday, September 4, 2011

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TV In The Cloud

Posted: 04 Sep 2011 09:30 AM PDT

TV cloud

TV is moving to the cloud. It is inevitable, just as other kinds of media from books to music are increasingly delivered over the Internet. Netflix, Hulu, and even Apple TV are making inroads when it comes to distributing traditional TV shows and movies to Internet-connected screens. YouTube keeps grabbing more of our attention, accounting for 7 percent of total time spent on the Internet in the U.S., according to comScore.

And yet the TV (and movie) industry are proving more resistant to change than any other form of media. Change will come, but it won’t happen as quickly as it is with music, news, or books.

The TV industry is digging in. Starz is walking away from its content deal with Netflix. Hulu seems to be treading water while it tries to sell itself. Even Apple is having a hard time changing the model. It recently stepped back from its attempts to offer TV show rentals (a move we saw coming a month ago) because the TV networks ever only participated half-heartedly.

But does anyone really doubt that eventually the Internet will triumph here to smash the rigid program guide that cable and satellite companies shove down our throats? Most of us only watch a few dozen channels regularly, yet we pay for 500. If we could subscribe on a per channel or per show basis, many of would. It’s just so obvious that the better experience starts with letting people watch what they want, when they want, on whatever device they want—whether that’s their TV, laptop, iPad, or mobile phone. But that is not enough. TV in the cloud isn’t just about shifting distribution. It is about making it easier to find and share new shows, and change the way we consume them. It is about making TV smarter (did really I just say that?) In a recent post on this topic, Asymco’s Horace Dediu recently wrote:

Unlike the Smartphone which could only have emerged to leverage the Internet, TV has no "smart content" to leverage. The "smartness" has to be not in the box but in the programming.

Of course, I don't mean there's a lack of good programming. What I mean is that there is no innovation in what a program is–the job it's hired to do. The way it and its distribution fits into a person's life. TV programs have not changed for half a century. They feature the same genres, the same duration, the same business model, the same series, format and scheduling and the same value chains as when "I Love Lucy" premiered in 1951. They assume people watch TV during the same time each day (while doing nothing else.) They also assume people are equally influenced by brand advertising and that audiences are largely homogeneous.

TiVo tried to make the TV smarter, but it too was out foxed by the cable and satellite companies, who co-opted its DVR technology and stuck it in their own set-top boxes. Although TiVo is now forcing them to pay patent licensing fees, TiVo itself is in decline as a consumer brand. All you have to do is look at the chart below Ed Bott at ZDNet put together comparing searches for the term “Netflix” versus “TiVo” and “Media Center.”

Bott concludes:

You could not ask for a clearer trend line: The streaming media era began in 2008, and the DVR is an endangered species.

But bolting a computer onto a TV was never really the answer. Once video content can be indexed and streamed at will, the whole experience could potentially change. You don’t wade through a program guide on YouTube, even though it does have channels. You find videos the same you discover anything else on the Internet—either through search or social sharing. Traditional TV is still locked up in your set-top box because it remains the most lucrative place for content owners to show it. TV advertising still dwarfs all online advertising, not to mention what you pay for your monthly cable bill.

Google wants to bring these two worlds of content together not just through YouTube, but also its Google TV project. The networks who control traditional TV content, however, don’t want to play along. Apple keeps trying to build bridges via its Apple TV and iTunes, but that too has been a long, hard slog. There are plenty of rumors that Apple wants to redouble its efforts in this arena, perhaps with its own actual TV with a screen and everything.

Some observers think that Apple will never get into the commodity TV business because the margins are too low. But that misses the bigger picture. Apple doesn’t want to sell TVs. It wants to reimagine the whole TV watching experience, and if it has to build TVs to do so then so be it. The other thing they forget is that the TV is just a screen. All the value is in the cloud, because that is where the content is going to be stored, searched, streamed, and shared.

The current Apple TV box is really just a media streamer with hardly any storage to speak of. Once iCloud launches, movies and TV shows will likely be a part of it. Apple’s current model is a la carte pricing. You pay for each show. While that is not ideal, if Apple can get the best shows and movies, it could still end up being cheaper than a monthly cable bill. And just like Netflix recommends shows and movies based on what you’ve already watched, Apple could do something similar to make it easier to find something good to watch. That would be a first step towards a smarter TV.

The next step would be to create a social TV guide based on what your friends or people you admire are watching and recommending. The beginnings of this type of discovery is part and parcel of an increasing number of TV companion apps on the iPhone and iPad (BuddyTV, Dijit, Yap.TV), but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be part of the core TV watching experience itself.

Eventually TV won’t be the same unless it is online and connected to everything else. A show that can’t be shared or linked to will command less and less of our attention. Scheduled TV will go away for everything except live events like breaking news, sports, and award shows. The Internet will become our DVR, but one freed from the awful user interface of the current program guide. There is no grid large enough to contain all the video content you might want to watch, and why should your program grid be the same as mine? Trust me, it will be much better once it’s all in the cloud.

Photo credit: Flickr/zizzybaloobah

Launch Date:
23/5/2003, NASDAQ:NFLX

With more than 23.3 million members in the United States and Canada, Netflix, Inc. is the world's leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For $7.99...

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Launch Date:

Founded in March 2007, Hulu is operated independently by a dedicated management team with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Beijing. NBC Universal, News Corporation, as...

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Apple TV is a network device for both Macintosh and PC computers that allows users to download, stream, and view High Definition television shows on demand via iTunes.

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Lost In Denmark: Hackers, Robots, Wacky Office Spaces And Sharks

Posted: 04 Sep 2011 04:11 AM PDT


I spent the better part of last week hanging out with some fellow tech bloggers in Denmark – in Aarhus and Billund, to be more specific – and mingling with the people who organized and traveled to attend, speak or exhibit at the Next Aarhus ‘Beautiful Mistakes’ conference and exhibition.

The conference in itself was really fascinating, though not exactly TechCrunch post material even if people working at AT&T, Google and Katalabs were on the speaker list. Topics ranged from biotechnology, "green" productification, sustainability and the reinvention of architecture to social media marketing, context-aware computing and the future of advertising.

Terribly interesting stuff, but not quite the type of event I’ve grown used to attending. No startups pitching, no interviewing of or keynotes given by top-level executives from tech companies, no product launches. Awesome, in other words. They even featured a working wind turbine next to the stage, and brew their own arctic herbs-flavored beer for the event (meet Ale 404).

When I was picked up from the airport by someone who works at Innovation Lab, the organization that put on the show, I asked him what the most exciting tech company or startup in Denmark was in his opinion. He had to think hard and ultimately couldn’t give me an answer aside from Navision (which is really a U.S. company since it was taken over by Microsoft) and Bang & Olufsen.

Amazing, really. Also: get to work, Startupbootcamp Copenhagen!

As a self-confessed geek, the accompanying exhibition was a real treat, though: hackers on the loose, a multitude of nifty robots, Lego bricks, an augmented reality-enhanced Sega OutRun arcade car capable of driving (must-see video right here), ancient technology artifacts – the works.

Engadget’s managing editor, Darren Murph, posted two videos of some really cool robots if you’re into that. London-based design artist Vahakn Matossian also has a great photo set of the exhibition up on Facebook. These are some of the photos I shot:

And here’s a video featuring Flemming, a hacker from Open Space Aarhus, showing neat stuff:

Hackers, unite!

As I mentioned, Next Aarhus is organized by Innovation Lab, an international knowledge center for new technology. They have an ├╝bercool office space north of Aarhus – I just had to take some pics:

So what about the sharks you teased in the headline, you ask? Here you go:

Yes, there were batoids and other fishes too, but sharks sound cooler, right?

The video above was shot in Legoland Billund. Visiting that theme park was such an amazing experience, however, that I just had to do a separate post about it. Coming up.

The European Startup Summer Of Love – London, Berlin And Beyond

Posted: 04 Sep 2011 03:55 AM PDT


LONDON, Summer, 2011: When you can gather 1,500 startup people into a car park on a warm summer evening in London, you know something is going on. When you can tell 800 people at a joint startup party in Berlin that they will have to PAY if they LEAVE the party before 8am, you know something is going on.

And so it is in London and Berlin. Other European centres – Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona – are clearly generating their own startup clusters. But right now, it’s London and Berlin which are becoming the natural centres of gravity for the European Tech scene. When a London-based VC says you – as they said to me the other day “I am spending my days on planes between London and Berlin” – then you realise things really are happening. This is the Europan “NYC-SF red-eye” right now (without the red eye).

It’s obvious to see why. London is hugely international, Europe’s largest financial centre and a natural landing point for visitors from the Valley. It also has it’s own natural startup cluster in East London, or Silicon Roundabout (which we’ve been documenting in a series of films here).

Berlin, meanwhile, is cheap to live and work in, has a natural affinity for attracting talent from all over Europe (especially Central and East where there are rich engineering talent pools), and has an increasing international scene of technology founders. It’s also throwing off its shackles as a clone factory, something evidenced by the recent declaration of an “anti-copycat revolution“.

Thus, last Thursday night this week the annual Moo party – a fixture on the London scene – attracted 1,500 people into London, and it was only three weeks ago that SoundCloud and EyeEm attracted 800 people to theirs.

This September will see new events like the Advance Conference and Pirate Summit in Cologne, How To Web in Central Europe… Next week is Seedcamp Week in London, StartupWeek in Vienna, Dublin’s DWS / F.ounders in the Autumn, Le Web in Paris… the list goes on. Innovative, European startups who want to take on the world are flowering like they have never flowered before, and they have the platforms to showcase themselves.

If there was a Summer of Love in European startups, a 1968 Woodstock era if you will, then Summer 2011 was it.

Welcome to the revolution.

BERLIN, Summer, 2011

How To Sell Your Company

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 02:03 PM PDT

alec baldwin selling

Editor's noteJames Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book he's giving away free. He built and sold Reset, Inc in 1998 and in 2007, among others. You can follow him@jaltucher.

I’m a pretty good salesman, but I'm the worst negotiator. If I say, "buy my car for $10,000" and someone says "$8,000," I'd just shrug my shoulders and say "ok". In fact, that happened.

Some people could be good at both. But I think it's very hard. By definition. When you're a salesman you want the other guy to say "yes." When you're a negotiator you have to be willing to say "no", regardless of what the other side says.

So although they aren't total opposites, the goals are completely different. But big picture:

Negotiation is worthless. Sales is everything.

Why? Because when someone says "yes" to you, you are in the door. Eventually then, you'll get the girl in bed (or guy, whatever). If you negotiate right at the door, then you might have to walk away and try the next house. That takes time, energy, and still might not work out.

Some examples of my bad "negotiation" that have worked out for me.

A) I sold my first business for much less than other Internet businesses were going for at the same time. But it was 1998, the Internet was about to go bust, but first all the stocks went up.  Many businesses in the same category held out for more and ended up going bust. Even the guys who sold for a lot more, went broke when they didn't sell their stock.

B) I gave 50% of my second company, Stockpickr, to for no money. Blog posts were written about how bad my deal was. But when someone owns 50% of your business, they care about what happens. They had to buy my company four months later rather than risk someone else owning 50% of it. For companies they only owned 10% of, they gave up on them. I was able to sell about four months before the market peaked. After that, it never would've happened. My one employee quit on me because he was so disgusted with the deal I did. [See, How I Sold Stockpickr, Osama Bin Laden, and the Art of Negotiation]

C) I sold my wife Claudia's car for $1000 less than she wanted to. But now the car was gone. We didn't have to worry about it. That was worth $1000 to me.

D) I got my old company to do websites for New Line Cinema for $1000 a movie. That was 1/200 what we got for doing "The Matrix" even though some of the sites were the same size. Why did I do that? The best designers wanted to be hired by us to work on those movies. Meanwhile, they stayed late on Saturday night to work on Con Edison sites that paid a lot better. I didn't negotiate at all.

E) I gave away my last book for free and also sold it on the Kindle for $0.99 instead of a higher price. But this got my ideas out more and 20,000+ people have downloaded the book. See the above link for how to get the book for free.

F) I get offers every day to advertise on my blog. I say "no" to every one of them. Not my big picture.

The key is, only negotiate with people you really want to sell to. Else it boils down to money. Someone recently wrote to me that they wanted me to speak in Copenhagen. I didn't want to go. So I said, "50,000 dollars." I priced it so far out of a reasonable range that if they said, "yes", I would've been happy to take it. I never heard back from them. That was fine for me. But if I really wanted to do it I would've done it for much less without even negotiating. Sometimes when you are selling to someone you don't love and you price yourself way out of range, sometimes they say "yes". That's fine also. That's the only thing I know about negotiation.

You don't want to be stupid. Only sell something you love to someone you love. Always think "what is the bigger picture here?" In many cases in the bigger picture, the negotiation is not as important as the "sale". Hence, the rise of models like "freemium".

Ten Keys to selling:

1) Ask what's the lifetime value of the customer? When I give away a book for free. It gets my name out there. That has lifelong value for me that goes way beyond the few dollars I could maybe charge.

2) Ask, what are the ancillary benefits of having this customer? When we did for $1000, we became the GUYS THAT DID MIRAMAX.COM! All of that helped get 20 other customers that were worth a lot more. I would've paid them money to do that site.

3) Learn the entire history of your client. You need to love your client. Love all of their products. Infuse yourself with knowledge of their product. I wanted to work at HBO because I loved all of their shows and I studied their history back to the 70s before I applied for a job there in the 90s.

4) Give extra features. Do the first project cheap. And whatever was in the spec, add at least two new cool features. This blows away the client. Don't forget the client is a human, not a company. That human has a boss. And they want to look good in front of their boss. If you give them a way to get promoted, then they will love you and always hire you back.

5) Give away the kitchen sink. One of my biggest investors in my fund of hedge funds had just been ripped off in Ponzi scheme. They almost went out of business. I introduced them to reporters at every newspaper to help them get the word out about the Ponzi scheme. They were infinitely grateful and even put more money in my fund. Whenever the main guy was depressed about what had happened I would talk to him for an hour trying to cheer him up. I wasn't just an investment for him but a PR person and therapist. Go the extra mile.

6) Recommend your competition. Think about it this way: what are two of the most popular sites on the Internet: Yahoo and Google. What do they do? They just link to their competition: other websites. If you become a reliable source then everyone comes back to you because your knowledge has value and they can only get that by having access to you. They get access by buying your product or services. [See, 10 Unusual Things I Didn't Know About Google, Plus my Worst VC Experience Ever]

7) Idea machine. There's that phrase "always be closing". The way that's true is if you are always putting yourself in the shoes of your client and thinking of ways that can help them. When I sold to the superficial reason was that they wanted the traffic, community, and ads my site generated. The real reason was that they needed help coming up with ideas for their company. I was always generating new ideas and talking to them about it. Often the real reason someone buys from you is not for your product but for you.

Show up. When I wanted to manage some of Victor Niederhoffer's money I read all his favorite books. I wrote articles for him. At the drop of a dime I would show up for dinner wherever and whenever he asked me to. If he needed a study done that required some programming beyond what he or his staff was capable of doing, I would offer to do it and would do it fast. Nobody was paying me, but ultimately he put money with me (at ridiculously low fees but I did not negotiate), which I was able to leverage into raising money from others. Plus, I really liked him. I thought he was an amazing person.

9) Knowledge. When I was building a trading business I must've read over 200 books on trading and talked to another 200 traders. No style of trading was off limits. This helped me in not only building a trading business, but building a fund of hedge funds, and ultimately building I knew more about trading and the top investors out there than anyone else in the world, I felt. Creating value was almost an afterthought. When I was building websites I knew everything about programming for the web. There was nothing I couldn't do. And the competition, usually run by businessmen and not programmers knew that about me. And knew that I would always come in cheaper than them.

10) Love it. You can only make money doing what you love. If you work a nine to five job that you hate then you're on a leash and you'll only make enough to get by and you won't behappy. If you love something, you'll get the knowledge, you'll get the contacts, you'll build the site with the features nobody else has, you'll scare the competition, you'll wow the customers.

I didn't enjoy writing finance articles. I'd write a finance article for some random finance site and then repost this on I had zero traffic.

Then I decided to write articles I enjoyed. To get back to my true roots where I loved writing and reading. I also lwanted to really explore all of my failures, my miseries, my pain. In public. I love being honest and intimate with people. I love building community. I love emailing with readers. That was about 10 months ago I decided to make the shift where I was just going to open the kimono at and say everything I wanted to say, and at the same time indulge in my love of writing, art, creativity, and reading. 2.5mm+ "customers" later I'm enjoying more than ever doing what I love.

AdMob To Stop Serving Ads To Mobile Web, Google Pushes Developers To Use AdSense

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 01:26 PM PDT


When Google bought mobile ad network AdMob for $750 million in 2009, the company was clearly trying to capitalize on the growing mobile advertising market. Mobile advertising, both on apps and the mobile web, is a natural extension of Google’s display and search ad business. Of course, as the integration has taken place over the last year, certain AdMob features have been axed because  they didn’t fit with the overall strategy or  for redundancy. For example, Google ended AdMob’s cross-promotion download exchange a few months ago. And now Google is announcing that it will soon end AdMob’s mobile web serving capabilities.

As Google aptly titled its blog post announcing the change; AdMob is for mobile app developers. AdSense is for mobile web publishers. Even after over a year of integration, Google is still sorting out the overlap and has determined that mobile web publishers should head to AdSense to monetize their sites, and mobile app publishers should use AdMob.

And for mobile apps advertising, all AdSense for Mobile Applications beta participants have been switched to AdMob, which Google says is now the primary ad solution for mobile app developers.

Google says that AdMob support for older WAP mobile web sites will stop on September 30. For sites and ads that can be viewed on more advanced mobile devices like smartphones, the AdMob product will be around for a little longer but will also be phased out eventually.

It makes sense that there would be some crossover between AdMob and AdSense’s mobile offerings, and that certain programs and features in both platforms will be cut and further integrations will be made. For example, Google announced last fall that iPhone and Android application developers in the AdMob network will be able to show Google AdSense ads when an AdMob ad is not available.

And despite some earlier reports that the AdMob integration hasn’t been going so well, the mobile ad network’s metrics are still growing like gangbusters. It’s unclear how much hardship this move will cause developers (Google makes it sounds like a natural progression and integration), but it definitely doesn’t make sense for there to be competing ad serving technologies within the same organization.

Launch Date:
25/8/2004, NASDAQ:GOOG

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of...

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Launch Date:

AdMob is a mobile advertising marketplace that connects advertisers with mobile publishers. They allow advertisers to create ads, choose landing pages and target their ads with plenty of detail....

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The Tragic Triumph Of The MBAs

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 11:11 AM PDT


“We’ve seen Mubarak fall,” said Salesforce’s Marc Benioff of the corporate need to focus on social networks at the recent Dreamforce conference. “We’ve seen Khadafy fall. When will the first CEO fall for the same reason?” What a fantastic comparison! Because, as we all know, dictators who brutalize, torture, and murder thousands of their own people over a period of decades are just like CEOs who miss quarterly profit targets.

Benioff isn’t a bad guy, it was just a dumb thing to say — but it’s stuck in my mind, because Salesforce, cloud-computing’s poster child, is the future, and his seems to be the voice of the zeitgeist. This feels a little like the end of an era. While I have issues with Apple’s hegemonic approach, during his career Steve Jobs repeatedly changed our sense of what was possible, and the world, by making genuinely revolutionary products. Now he’s gone. Meanwhile, Google has spent the summer laying waste to vast swathes of its product line. Google Labs, its experimental playground? Dead. Slide, bought last year for $182 million? Dead. Aardvark, bought last year for $50 million? Dead. A whole grab bag of other products and services? Dead.

And it seems that whatever survives the ongoing Mountain View bloodbath will be thoroughly monetized. Massive price hikes are on the horizon for Google’s (terrific) App Engine platform. Russell Beattie of PlusFeed reports that he’s shutting down his service because otherwise his server costs would increase by a factor of thirty. I use App Engine for my own open-source-travel-guide pet project, and my costs will apparently increase fiftyfold. (OK, that’s from a penny a day, but still.) The new pricing model is a lot like that of Salesforce’s Heroku platform. Hmmm.

Is this the right thing for Google to do? From a business perspective, hell yes. They need more focus, fewer projects, and less bureaucracy. But at the same time, they’re shutting down and/or discouraging independent and experimental projects to focus on me-too projects like Google Plus and Google Offers. Isn’t Google supposed to be a company that innovates and changes the world with its superior algorithms and scalability, rather than one that plays catch-up for the sake of profits?

Nope. That was then, this is now. With Jobs’s departure and Page’s new focus, it seems that Apple and Google are no longer primarily in the business of changing people’s lives; instead, they’re in the business of business. Marc Benioff, the voice of the zeitgeist, doesn’t actually seem to see any difference between the two.

I suspect this is pretty common among CEOs and MBAs — but most techies don’t agree at all. To us, successful businesses are a necessary means for the promulgation of revolutionary technology, not an end in and of themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge champion of free-market capitalism, and all great businesses do change the world; but there’s a big difference between doing so by intent and letting it happen as a side effect.

A famous essay from the first dot-com bust refers to what it was like for a co-founder to watch venture capitalists and MBAs take over the management of his tech company: “Like watching a group of nursery school children who’ve stolen a Boeing 747 and are now flipping all the switches trying to get it to take off.” I think I speak for many techies when I say we found that soothing, as well as funny. It reassured us that tech was different, that the suits would never be able to take over what we did and why we did it. But I’m sorry to say, it seems to me now that we underestimated them.

Image credit: Paul G, Flickr.

Gillmor Gang 9.3.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 03 Sep 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang -— Robert Scoble, Dan Farber, John Taschek, Kevin Marks, and Steve Gillmor — calmed down after a week of Dreamforce, the annual user conference. As the editorial independence of TechCrunch is questioned, let us be clear that Dan Farber is editor in chief of CBSNewsOnline, Robert Scoble is Chief Scobleizer Officer of Rackspace, and the rest of us are employees. Let me be clear that I support and appreciate Michael Arrington and his evolution for a very simple reason, namely that the horse he rode in on is the very reason why TechCrunch exists and is so valued.

The Gillmor Gang has always followed a similar set of principles, namely that integrity and authority will be conveyed by the audience, who are very good at making up their own minds in this age of transparency and velocity. Keep in mind our ties, relationships, biases, and every other metadata that enriches and informs our work, and then decide for yourself who and what you trust. Enjoy the show and holiday.

@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @dbfarber, @kevinmarks, @jtaschek


Steve Gillmor is a technology commentator, editor, and producer in the enterprise technology space. He is Head of Technical Media Strategy at and a TechCrunch contributing editor. Gillmor previously...

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Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. He is best known for his popular blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical...

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CNET Networks

Dan Farber was named Editor-in-Chief of in Dec. 2008. Prior to CBS News he was Editor-in-Chief of CNET’s in February 2008. Previously he was vice-president of...

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John Taschek is vice president of strategy at He is responsible for corporate product strategy, corporate intelligence and market influence. Taschek came to company in 2003, bringing over...

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Kevin Marks is a software engineer. Kevin served as an evangelist for OpenSocial and as a software engineer at Google. In June 2009 he announced his resignation....

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