A fascinating thing happened this morning. Someone happened to be looking at the source HTML to Apple Computer’s PowerBook information page (which you can pop over and visit here, if you’d like) and noticed a very interesting little snippet:
If you don’t follow the Apple market, their new G5 CPU-based laptops are eagerly awaited by the Apple community, and so far there’s been no substantive information about when these systems might be released. Until now…
But this isn’t marketing like it used to be. Within an hour of irreverent news Web site theregister noting the HTML snippet, Apple had removed the code from the site, but it was too late. The information had already been picked up by different news media hungry for a scoop, and while this is going to be a 24 hour tempest in a teapot, the implications for marketing confidentiality are staggering.
Embedding a placeholder or counter (we tech types call them “webbugs” actually) on a Web page is a common occurrence, and adtmt.com is owned by Seattle-based marketing and advertising firm Avenue A. Indeed, this particular snippet could have been silently sitting on the Apple page for weeks, collecting statistics and visitor usage patterns without anyone knowing. But nothing is secret any more.
Which means that the need for tight security on future product announcements, something for which Apple’s already in hot water (as I write about in How Think Secret ruined Apple’s Surprise Party and Of Apple, Think Secret and Trade Secrets), just becomes more and more critical. Remember the story of the Osborne Computer? By leaking information about a future product, sales of the current unit stopped and the company plummeted into bankruptcy, unable to ship the new product in time. I’m certainly not suggesting that this is going to happen to Apple Computer, of course, but the speed of information dissemination is increasing exponentially each year and today the overheard conversation at a café or the sly inclusion of a webbug in a public Web page can become a shot heard around the world within hours!
When you’re planning your next product announcement, think about that. How well do you trust the people who work in that printing facility? The advertising agency designers? The IT person testing out your RSS feed platform?
It’s a brave new world, and it’s spinning faster all the time…