Google Social Challenge – users do not follow developers, developers chase users.

Tech is buzzing with Google’s plan to enter the social network space today with Google OpenSocial, a set of APIs that will allow rapid development of social networking applications across several sites that are working with Google now, such as Friendster and LinkedIn.   UPDATE:  and Myspace

At this point it appears Google Social will not allow better convergence of applications with Facebook, and it seems unlikely (let’s assume a zero percent chance) that Facebook and their new partner Microsoft are going to work hard to make the social network space a big, open, happy family run by Google via Google Social.   UPDATE:  Myspace just joined the Google Open Social Network.

Myspace is still the key player here with some 5x as many users as Facebook, depending on which metric you use to figure out traffic, users, subscribers, pageviews, or attention.

This will certainly lead to a surge of initial activity as developers chase the users of those sites – a user base that is substantial – Marc Andreessen says 100,000,000 users which would be more than twice Facebook’s user base.  Update – Google is now accessing far more of the key users than Facebook.   

  Can Google social resurrect Friendster?    Maybe, if the APIs are good enough that we can carry profiles in and out of sites seamlessly. 

I’m speculating here but would guess that the Google move is going to quickly shake up the Social space into three camps:  Two?  One camp?    Facebook+MSN, and Myspace+Google Social which will tie together thousands of existing and new social environments.    

Facebook is obviously the key player to watch.  The stakes are about as high as they can get and I bet Marc Zuckerberg and his brilliant Facebook gang have corked the champagne bottles and deciding how to move ahead.   Prediction:  They’ll stay the course with moderatly openness and will reject Google Social.

Given that many have been looking for a ‘one stop’ social network stop is there room for more players in this space?   Certainly yes given this open approach.    It’s even possible (though I think unlikely) that enough users would insist on the new open standards that they could push Myspace and Facebook to line up with Open Social.   Update: Myspace is on board now.

Here’s a simpy *superb* summary of the emerging landscape by Google partner and web pioneer Marc Andreessen of Netscape and now Ning.   

Google Phone announcement expected soon

Om Malik is reporting on several aspects of the coming Google Mobile operating system and/or “Google Phone” that will likely drive many phones and be available through several carriers which may include T Mobile and Sprint.

As noted before here at the blog, a Google mobile OS could be one of the most provocative applications in years.   If the Google phones create a powerful ad distribution mechanism and place that on top of the data and voice services Google could reduce the cost of cellular service significantly  (or keep the costs fairly high and rake in tons of mobile advertising revenues).   In both cases Google wins big if their phone is widely adopted.   Unlike the Social Network space where Google has a poor track record with Orkut, Google shines when developing great technology and combining it with advertising.   For this reason I predict a huge Google win with the Google Phone.

Google Open Social opens Social

Google’s OpenSocial launches Thursday and will be a set of 3 APIs that will allow interface with a stable of early partners in the project incluing Friendster and LinkedIn.   Unclear to me is if the big social network players – Myspace and Facebook – will shun this solution in favor of trying to keep most  of the balls in their courts.   Eyeballs that is.  

The really provocative challenge in Social Networks is whether to close them up and try to keep everybody inside your own network (Myspace’s approach), or to open them up somewhat and hope developers will create applications to interface with your users, but still try to keep everybody playing in your application environment by your rules (Facebook), or to open things up even more as Google will do on Thursday. 

Google seems to be everywhere these days.  The Google Phone or gPhone will be out soon and I predict the Google Phone will be a spectacular success.  They may even launch their own cellular carrier network and seem to be on a tear all over the online space.   

For Google Social the partners are big, important players including linkedIn, Plaxo, Friendster, Ning, and more, but absent are the two key players in the social place, Myspace and Facebook.  If Myspace and Facebook keep doing their own thing it is going to be hard to predict how all this will shake out.   Google historically has been a fabulous tech company but conspicuously failed with their “Orkut” social network which never took off in the USA though it remains popular in Brazil.    Will Google Social turn all this around?   I just don’t know, but will be sure to check it out when available, and hope to be able to develop a travel application for the new Google Social.

TechCrunch has details.

Google as Social Network = THE killer application?

Google’s acting social at the Googleplex and this could become an earthquake in the social network landscape.   TechCrunch reports that Maka Maka appears to be the Google codename for their social network integration, which may be a way to tie together existing Google stuff in a seamless and user friendly way.   For many of us Google aleady has a lot of info.   I use Gmail, Google Toolbar, and more.  If they simply say to me “click here and we’ll make it all work great” I’m going to do it.    If it works, I’ll keep it.  If I, and 50,000,000 other users keep it Google will be bigger than Facebook….almost overnight.  If they integrate it all with the upcoming Google Phone?   Wow.

The real killer app for Google is not to turn Orkut into a Facebook clone. It is to turn every Google app into a social application without you even noticing that you’ve joined yet another social network.

Hey Yahoo!   Why don’t you DO THIS!    Use Mash to get all Yahoo users going.  Don’t ask others to sign them up – simply have a  one click Mash page creation thing where YOU set up a page for all Yahoo users…..right NOW.    If people want to delete it, fine.  If not, rock on with the new largest social network, and populate it with people …. later.

User content myth?

Chuqui 3.0 has a nice piece challenging the hype over “user generated content”.   He suggests that it’s inappropriate to call simple profile pages at Facebook or Myspace “user content”, and that only about 1% of users are generating most of the content in social network sites.    

I’m torn between wanting to agree that things are overblown about this and my basic assumption – social content of both high quality (serious bloggers) and low quality (myspace TV show notes from a 12 year old)  is driving the new web and will continue to do so for some time.     Tons of content is pouring in and even by a high measure of “quality” people already have more than they could read in a lifetime.    It’s hard to make a case that the popular YouTube videos are quality, yet they are generally viewed far more than most quality web pages talking about relevant news or science or yada yada.

So, is the importance of user content of mythological proportions?  

No, but thanks for a thoughful post Chuqui!  

The Illusion of Will. Prisoners of the synapse?

This morning I stumbled on a reference to a book by Harvard Psychologist Daniel Wegner called “The Illusion of Conscious Will” which is one of those interesing books I’d like to read but probably won’t.    My coffee pal Roy had clued me in to this research some time aog, and the key point is available online via reviews and such, and it is simply this:

We don’t have conscious will.    Things happen to us, and we process them using our conscious mind, but we don’t *make them happen*.

Now, at first glance this deterministic view seems absurd.    Of course, one might say, I control my actions.    But determinist psychology folks point out that it’s increasingly clear that our actions are *preceded* by brain activity and events that would suggest – I think I’m getting this right – that by the time we are doing “conscious processing” about the thing we are doing, we are already engaged in the activity.   ie the “cause” of our actions comes before the conscious processing period.     From a nice review of Wegner’s book I understand he thinks we confuse this “after the fact” processing with “control”.

Although I am pretty much a determinist I am also uncomfortable with the idea that we are sort of passive players in a predetermined universal play.    The “gut test” says we control our actions and decide what to do.  

I think my ongoing hypothesis about this will be  similar to my idea that consciousness is a conversation between different parts of our brain.  These conversations, many of which are taking place during waking hours and some during sleep, allow us to process information very creatively and act on mental models of the world around us.   It seems we might not have control over our actions 0.1 seconds before them, but that we might have control via processes that happen seconds before as our brain runs through various scenarios.     Now, I think Wegner would say – correctly – that for any given conscious thought you can show there is a preceding electrochemical activity (synapse firing and such) that is not reasonably defined as conscious.  

However what if that initial spark of reflection is unconscious but then leads to a back and forth conscious conversation within your mind that in turn leads to the action. Would that be free will?

[my brain answers –   dude, no way, you have no free will.   Now, stop blogging obscurities and pass the damn M&Ms!]

Microsoft wins on matching employee donations – way to go MS!

 This in from Mercury news.   Kudos to Microsoft for this level of generosity, and Google and Yahoo should do *at least* this much!    C’mon Google, you of all companies owe it to the world to help your peeps give back from those fat paychecks and options!

Mercury News Item:

Company giving Microsoft boasts that it provides up to $12,000 in matching funds for employee donations to charity – far surpassing Google, Adobe, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo and eBay. It was the largest corporate giver to United Way Silicon Valley’s last campaign, with $1.2 million in employee and company matching gifts. About 60 percent of its employees donate, far surpassing the usual 20 percent of most valley companies, according to Mark Walker, president of United Way Silicon Valley.

San Jose Mercury News – A Cautionary Tale from Business Week

There is a great summary at Business Week of the  remarkable rise and pending fall of Silicon Valley’s newspaper – the San Jose Mercury News.     They note that in many ways the Mercury News saw it all coming, but still failed to position itself to profit from the migration of offline info to online info.  

Although the article does not make this point, to me the failure supports the idea that paradigm shifts do not come from old systems evolving into new ones even when the old systems “get it”, rather they come from new folks thinking out of the old boxes and building the next generation of innovative solutions basically from scratch.  

Obviously new technology rests on the shoulders of old technology, but it seems reasonable to assume that the next big things are not going to come from the previous big things, they are going to spring up from the harsh, quirky, and shifting sands of technology and innovation.     I would suggest that IBM might be an exception to this notion but clearly Microsoft, then Yahoo and Google, now YouTube, Myspace and Facebook all fit this model of major changes coming more from scratch than from a slow simmering of existing ideas.     This also helps explain the challenges of Venture Capitalism in finding “the next big thing”, which may right now only be known by the glimmer in a college kid’s eye.

If so, who is next?