Tweets in Space from Nasa


I’ve been writing a lot lately about Twitter for many reasons, but I think two very good examples of why Twitter represents a key social media breakthrough are the upcoming Twitter tweets from space by NASA astronaut Mark Polansky and last month’s contest for followers between celebrity Ashton Kutcher and CNN news.   (Kutcher won by topping a million Twitter followers first).      Note that NASA and Kutcher – arguably two of the more technically adept big name brands, are not using Facebook to push content and interact with fans, they are using Twitter.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a very open, interactive, public venue.    It’s almost ideally suited to superficial yet “somewhat intimate”  interaction with both a small and large audience, and I think this is the key brilliancy of Twitter.    It serves both as a messaging system with friends  or business associates but also as a kind of community public square that allows you to interact with millions of other people in an informal yet direct way.    Pushing out a note to the world via Twitter, especially if you have a lot of people following you, is likely to result in fast, often rewarding feedback.

For well over a decade  it has been clear that the internet is about *people* much more than it is  about technology or computers.   However it’s only in the last few years that the barriers to entry, the familiarity with the tools, widespread access to broadband, mobile phones, and more of the human components of the internet have come together in the necessary ways to push people ahead of technology as the key online consideration.   Twitter remains at the same time superficial and profound and is the culmination of that online socialization paradigm.    With only tens of millions using Twitter and over 200 million on Facebook there is clearly  plenty of  room for Facebook success, but I believe we’ll see Twitter continue to grow more rapidly and become the key global messaging tool – primarily because it’s so simple to use and much friendlier for mobile applications.

Yes, you should be on Twitter too and let me know so I can follow you!    Joe Duck on Twitter

Google & Facebook & Twitter, oh my!


Silicon Alley Insider is discussing an interesting analysis suggesting that Facebook could be a “Google Killer” thanks to Facebook’s greater rate of growth and the suggestion that Facebook now accounts for 19% of incoming Google unique user traffic, up from 9% a year ago.

My intuitive take on this is that the analysis is misleading and seriously flawed for several reasons:

1) Rates of growth will tend to be vastly larger as sites approach the market saturation levels we have with Google and I think we may soon have with Facebook.      The new 800 pound Gorilla on the social scene is  Twitter which is growing at over 1000% last year.   You can’t 10x your current traffic for long without exhausting all people on earth, so all these rates must slow, and soon.     e.g. at 1000% annual growth with 5,000,000 unique users you’ll exhaust earth’s population in about 3 years, 2 months.

2) Twitter will chip away at Facebook user’s time online, and fast.    No major application has grown at the rate we see now at Twitter.    For many reasons we’ll see Twitter continue to grow explosively for at least a few years and I’ll be surprised if it does not rival Facebook within 3 years in terms of use.    Most high tech early adopters are tending to move away from time on Facebook and towards time on Twitter, and major media is showing a huge enthusiasm for promoting Twitter feedback on TV to mainstream America.   Twitter, not Facebook, is the application with the most disruptive potential.

3) Monetization of Social Media sucks, and will continue to suck.    Google can easily monetize searches for things where Facebook continues to struggle to find ways to turn the vast numbers of views into big money.   Although they are likely to make modest progress,  I do not see social networking as potentially all that lucrative where keyword search, almost by definition, remains the best high value internet monetizing framework.

4) The claim that 19% of Google uniques from Facebook  seems very, very dubious.    This number appears to be from Comscore and does not even make sense.   Facebook searches do not generally direct people to Google, so presumably this is suggesting that a staggering number of people leave Facebook to go do a  search at Google?    I’m trying to find more detail about this but it does not pass the sniff test even if they are simply stating that people tend to jump to Google after visiting Facebook, which is correlation and probably not causation.
This suggests that Facebook’s 236m uniques drive  (.19 x 772m) =     146m uniques to Google?         Something is  Facebook fishy here.

I am confident that all three of these applications will continue to thrive because each is filling a different online need and doing the job well.   There is no need to converge online activity more than has already been done.   For example it’s not inconvenient to switch to your banking or travel booking website for those tasks, and many probably prefer this to having a single “one stop shop” for all online activity.     Ironically Facebook’s attempts to imitate Twitter may actually accelerate the growth of Twitter which seems to be a better way to communicate quickly and effectively and superficially with many contacts.      Facebook, however, has been making good progress with their “open social” efforts that allow users to log in to other sites easily and then post blog comments and other activity to their Facebook account.     Facebook will thrive but as the recent revaluations / downward valuations suggest Facebook is no Google and will never be Google.    Search trumps social in terms of making money, and the mother’s milk of internet growth and to some extent  innovation is …. money   (though I’d say innovation is fueled by the lure of wealth as much as real wealth).

Facing Facebook Friendships, sociologically speaking


In a  recent interview with The Economist called “Primates on Facebook” Facebook’s resident sociologist (hey Mark Z, got any more Sociology jobs at Facebook?)  reports that even though we have a lot more projection of our stuff out to the web people continue to maintain the fairly small circles of friendships that characterize offline behavior.

The  author Andreas Kluth has more at his blog

If this holds across social networks it’s very important, suggesting that we are likely to struggle or fail to cope with the level of social interaction we set up online at sites like Facebook and Twitter.

I remain skeptical and would argue that the Dunbar number (about 150,  suggesting the maximum number of people a single person can manage) will be increasing as we learn to cope with more online relationships.     I simply cannot believe this is a physical constraint – my guess it that it’s more an artifact of our tribal evolutionary primate past than a determinant of our future.

The Economist notes:

An average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”.  An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26.   Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

… people who are members of online social networks are not so much “networking” as they are “broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren’t necessarily inside the Dunbar circle,” says Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a polling organisation.  Humans may be advertising themselves more efficiently. But they still have the same small circles of intimacy as ever.
Sure I have room for more Facebook  friends, just tweet me at Twitter!

Goodbye [S][C][R][A][B][U][L][O][U][S]


Hasbro appears to have won a battle with Facebook application “Scrabulous” which has been wiped off of Facebook.   One of the most popular applications on the massive Social Network, many thought Hasbro would buy Scrabulous from the two founders.   That may still happen but Scrabulous’ negotiating position has been severely weakened over the past month as Hasbro first launched an “official” Scrabble on Facebook and now has won the copyright battle and had the competitor removed.

As I’ve noted many times before the prevailing notions of copyright among onliners differ quite a bit from those held by most judges and the legal world at large and this will continue for some time.   Napster, YouTube, and Scrabulous may seem like reasonably clean applications for the online crowd, but in a legal sense they are on very shaky ground.   Will these copyright issue clear up anytime soon?   In one two letter word …  [N][O]

Malik: Facebook Connect is better than Colin Farrell?


I can’t help but think Om Malik is under some kind of Facebook conference spell when he first criticizes their presentation as too stylish (comparing Mark Zuckerberg to that bastion of style and wit Colin Farrell = OUCH!) but then gushes that Facebook Connect is going to be the big winner in terms of bringing web-wide social functionality.

Malik notes:
In addition to offering a simple authentication method, FC allows granular social interactions to be embedded in non-Facebook services. If Facebook can work with its partners to build interesting use-case scenarios that go beyond simple sign-on, it is quite feasible that Facebook can out-execute Google, MySpace and everyone else with its ID ambitions.

I suppose it depends on what he means by “quite feasible”, but I’d still predict that Google Friend Connect (still in Beta) is the system to watch in this space for two very simple reasons:

1) It’s Simple
2)  It’s Google

A great example of the first challenge is to read the Malik excerpt above.   How many mom and pop websites will read that and say “wow, gotta have it!”.   The answer is very few.  Instead, I think in a few months they will be working their PPC account at Google and be prompted to “click here for the code to make your site a social masterpiece”.

Even assuming Facebook’s social application will allow very simply integration with any website, it’s going to be very hard to compete with the web’s top brand as web empires as well as mom and pop websites seek to integrate social functions into their sites.

I’m not suggesting Facebook will fail however.   I just think that once the game begins in earnest both Myspace and Facebook will struggle to keep up with Google.   I think we’ll see social functionality spread quickly across the web, probably starting from the three key places working this angle right now:  Google, Facebook, and Myspace.  A key question will be how these three will choose to allow their applications to interact, but luckily for users there is a lot of pressure for cross compatibility of social networking.

So, in the end everybody is going to win, and we should soon see a great new layer of social functionality spread across the entire web.  And  that….is a good thing.

Facebook tells me I’m overweight – this is *good* targeted advertising?


Logging into Facebook I was assaulted presented with an advertisement featuring a picture of an incredibly fit fellow’s chiseled abdomen with the caption “48 YR OLD Overweight?”….

I suppose I should be thankful this was not a picture of a shirtless Mark Zuckerberg, but ..

I’m 48 so I can’t believe this was a coincidence – obviously Facebook is using my personal information to target ads to me – using the information they said they’d keep confidential and I really don’t want shared with any old Tom, Dick, or Hairy bodybuilder advertisers.

As I’ve noted before online privacy is largely an oxymoron, and I’m really not very concerned about the privacy “violation” here.  However something about this pisses me off – I think partly because after all the hype – including from people like me – I hate to think this is the best we can do with targeted advertising.

Sure, I’m a *little* overweight but I don’t need the bogus overpriced green diet junk advertised to me here by Mr. Muscleydude.    This is the classic type of junk product “seen on TV” presented in an annoying way using information I don’t want given out to advertisers.   In my book Facebook has already pushed past the limit of advertising more than is welcome by me, and I get the strong feeling that with revenues in question we’ll see a lot more of these marginally relevant ads in the future.

Facebook, Facebook Get Ya Facebook Shares at 80% off


TechCrunch is reporting that an insider at Facebook is shopping his shares at 80% off the normally quoted (and probably absurd) 15 billion dollar valuation.   TechCrunch is also suggesting that even Mark Zuckerberg is willing to sell shares at a price consistent with a 6 billion valuation for the company.

Like Arrington, I’d also like to take one share of Facebook.  For me please add a Coke and a Cheeseburger.

The 15 billion never made any sense, and as it becomes clearer that social networking won’t monetize well their perceived value may quickly drop below a billion, though that would still be one heck of a payday for Mark Z and the gang.

Twitter less?


Seems to me that Twitter is, in fact, a very important issue with far too much discussion about downtime and not enough about why Twitter appears to be replacing blogging, Facebook, and email as the communications paradigm of choice for the digital elites, which often means  the rest of the online world will soon follow.

Twitter’s system failures have become so common that several of the silicon folks like Mike Arrington are suggesting that people should be moving  to other services – most noted is FriendFeed which now allows “room” conversations as a way to sort noise from signal and talk with a group about specific topics.   I think if they’d come along at same time FriendFeed would be winning the war for the hearts and minds of the legions of twitterers, but Twitter has such a foothold as the microblogging / communication tool of choice it’ll be hard to unseat Twitter unless their services fail to improve over the coming months.   Improvement is likely given their recent Venture capital injection which effectively valued Twitter at about 100 million – enough that money will  soon pour in as needed to beef up their shaky infrastructure.

Why is Twitter important?   It’s really a form of A.D.D. blogging – fast and furious with links out to full treatments which can be read only if they really look interesting.  Because Twitter caters to short attention spans and also throws everybody in regardless of laptop color or digital creed, it’s going to keep catching on fast with the business and tech crowd.   I am NOT convinced it’ll be a big hit for grandma or even Nascar dads, who will see Twitter for the time waster it tends to be…

Yikes.. my Twitter Deficit Disorder makes me think a blog post of more than 143 letters won’t generally get read anyway, and makes it harder to write.

MicroHooBook rumors are very probably false. A test of the non-Emergency Blogcasting System?


I thought I’d coined “MicroHooBook” but Matt   had done that  a full hour before.

Just a moment, just a moment…. looks like The 463 had it before Matt.   Originality sure isn’t what it used to be…

Microsoft is certainly working with Yahoo now to try to buy a piece of the company rather than the whole – Microsoft announced that over the weekend.     Most think they want to buy the search component of Yahoo and that Yahoo may sell because if they don’t Carl Icahn will be forcing a proxy fight that he will probably win, having already bought or lined up about 30% of the votes/shares in his favor.     

But John Furrier “broke” the rumor that as soon as they had Yahoo search MS would snap up Facebook for 15-20 billion.    I think this rumor is speculation and nothing more and I’m even thinking this was something of a test of the non-emergency blogcasting system, which generally delivers misleading information even faster than the truth. 

John Furrier and Robert Scoble are both clever guys, which is why I’m a bit suspicious they have cooked up the MicroHooBook rumor to test TechMeme and how the blogosphere reacts to unfounded rumors.

As usual, the blogOsphere loves unfounded and unverified rumors and this is the key tech blog story for Monday May 19. 

I think Sarah Lacy has this right, and she’s got more of an inside track to Facebook than most reporters.

Facebook owes me $1.50 per year!


Over at WebGuild I was doing some simple calculations about my value as an information slave to social networks like Facebook.    Using their 150MM revenues last year and dividing by approximately 100 million current users, we get a value of only $1.50 per year per average user.

The value of an average user in terms of the capitalization of these companies is obviously much greater.  Facebook is (over) valued by some measures at 15 billion based on Microsoft paying 240 million for a tiny share.   By that metric I am worth $150 to the company.    By traditional stock metrics this should jive  in logical ways with the revenue and profit potentials, but the internet economy has shattered many of the old sensibilities about company values, which these days are largely a function of hype, competitive takeover strategies, and other unusual metrics.