Here’s a (recently updated) incomplete list of commercial / companies registers in the EU and Switzerland from my bookmarks. Originally, I planned to include only “official” registers, but I’ve included other sites providing access to the registers’ data (and often further data), too.
You should be able to obtain information on certain types of companies on-line by visiting these sites (for more details, see directive 2003/58/EC). Searching is mostly free, but fees apply in many cases for viewing / downloading documents. Not all registers are equally comprehensive (yet?).
StudiVZ, Germany’s most popular social network site for university students and often called a “German Facebook clone”, has been forced to shut down its website for several days following the exposure of a series of pathetic security issues. While this disaster provided hours of great entertainment for programmers and hackers, from a commercial perspective the most interesting question is the one posted by Don Alphonso in his recent blog: What if StudiVZ’s users simply turned to the original and registered with Facebook?
As he writes, this would leave behind an essentially worthless company. However, here’s the main reason why this won’t happen: Facebook is available in English only. Yes, we’re talking about university students and not about consumers in general, which have trouble understanding even simple slogans in English. Still, we have to face the facts: A representative study rated only 5% of the students as having very good or good English language abilities. I’m serious. Just look at my lousy English – my fellow students thought it was amazing (“You must have spent a lot of time abroad” – maybe so, but not in English speaking countries).
Loosing 5% or even 15% of their users wouldn’t cause irreparable damage to StudiVZ. You’d need a far higher figure to generate the positive network externalities which really make social networking site work. Facebook won’t get there unless they set up a German version. They probably won’t get this done until Tuesday, when StudiVZ is supposed to be back on line. Apparently they don’t even own the domain facebook.de.
Lesson learned: Security and internationalization should be on your mind right from the beginning of a web project.
This is not the message I wanted to get after sending an important e-mail to a supplier in Taiwan. To make things worse, this isn’t a message I received when connecting to my (e-mail) provider’s mail server. Instead, the mail server itself received this message when trying to relay my e-mail to Hinet, where my supplier has his account. Maybe somebody at Hinet had a brilliant idea of how to reduce SPAM (“let’s not accept more than 8 e-mails per month from other mail servers”) or their server was having temporary problems and nobody could be bothered to check if the error message sent together with error code 421 made sense. In any case, my e-mail wasn’t getting through.
Other than sending a fax, the solution I found was to connect directly to the mail server at Hinet (ms12a.hinet.net) from my e-mail software, thereby bypassing my provider’s mail server. On this illustration from Wikipedia, this would mean drawing an arrow from “Alice’s MUA” directly to “mx.b.org”. My first attempt failed (“relaying denied”) because I had forgotten to remove my own address from the BCC field. Since Hinet’s server (at least this one) isn’t an open relay, it only accepts e-mails for its own users (*@hinet.net). After I fixed this, sending the e-mail was no problem (and it actually arrived, too).
Luckily, it was easy to add an alternative mail server in my e-mail software (Becky!). Still, this wasn’t the first time I had experienced problems communicating with business partners in Taiwan who were using Hinet and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m really wondering how many potential deals were never concluded because of Hinet’s poor performance.
Thinking about using a remailing service to save money? Think again!
Today was a happy day for me as the software that comes bundled with my new managed server finally arrived. Actually, I had expected to receive it one week ago.
Looking at the postage stamp, I noticed the letter had not been sent from Germany (where our company’s web host is based), but from Malta. This might explain the delay and reminded me of an invitation to a trade fair a German supplier had sent me, also from Malta. It arrived about 10 days after the fair was over. 🙄