To Twitter or just copy Twitter?

In technology there are few more important questions than “What’s going to happen with Twitter”.    As with many early adopter issues, only the digerati and a few smart marketers understand how profoundly and importantly Twitter is reshaping the online landscape, giving a voice to millions who want to interact casually and superficially with … millions more.

This spinoff effort will be very interesting to watch as it’s a successful niche website that is  establishing a Twitter like interface:

The challenge here is that if every website you go to has it’s *own* chatting interface you’ll either 1) get ticked off or 2) spend the rest of your life interacting with people at all these sites.

The answer is not individual site chat areas, rather we need to integrate the real Twitter with websites.  (or some other chat standard,  but Twitter seems to be the right choice given it’s ease of use and exploding subscriber base)

Open ID, Facebook connect and Google Friend Connect and open social and Disqus (for blog questions) and many other applications  have the right general idea but nobody seems to be able to integrate all this across the board.   We need to be able to seamlessly move from site to site, carrying our identity along with us so we can comment and interact easily.

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.

Weave -ing the twisted path to browser enlightenment?

Mozilla is announcing Weave, an application that will enhance the browsing experience in various ways.   I’m somewhat confused about what this means to users, but my early understanding is that this is a Flock-like approach, trying to make the browser environment a better one for socializing,  multitasking, and customized uses.

Generally I think this is a positive thing.   For reasons I don’t understand few of us really take the time to use and configure the many applications that allow us to customize our desktops in more functional ways.    Google desktop, My Yahoo, Flock , and many more tools would allow us to build a great “control panel” for our online needs, but this appears to be a fairly low priority for most of us.    I think it is analogous to how rarely people use even the simplest extra commands at Google search to refine their search.    For reasons that escape me we don’t like to improve on design or functionality even when doing so is easy and does not take much time.     Some do, most don’t.  Why?

Blogger and OpenID

Reshma Kumar over at Webguild is reporting on Google’s upcoming launch of blogger based blog commenting that will support OpenID.   This is a great development and kudos to Google for again doing the right thing, which is making it easy for people to comment without having to do a separate login.   Also, along with Open Social, this approach is coming closer to the ideal online environment where you log in ONCE, and then interact in a robust way with all online environments and other onliners.   The analogy we should all be using is that of a massive party where everybody has a searchable name tag that contains all the info they care to share including pictures, writings, and resumes.    The complication is obvious here – some people will want to keep some things from some people.    I’m not sure how to manage that part since turning the info “on and off” does not work well in our cached and oft-downloaded online info environments.

Reshma notes:
 Users of OpenID-enabled services such as LiveJournal and WordPress can comment on a blog using their accounts from those sites rather than with a Blogger/Google account.

 This may not sound like much, but it will increase the ease of commenting on other people’s blogs.   I’m concerned by how blog commenting is becoming a dying art.   This is due to part to spam comments and in part to blogger selfishness where they don’t want to add to other’s blogs for a variety of SEO or ego reasons.      Ideally I’d like to see every person with their own blog, and then an auto-trackback feature so the conversations would span multiple blogs and instead of comments you’d just have dozens of interconnected blog posts on a topic.   However many people don’t want to have a blog but do want to participate.   This will help with that.

Yahoo! WAKE UP!

It’s very frustrating being a Yahoo shareholder.

Not because Yahoo isn’t a good company, in fact Yahoo is a *great* company.

Not because Yahoo doesn’t seem to “get it”, Yahoo arguably “gets it” better than almost all other companies in terms of Web 2.0, the social networking space, and in terms of the importance of open architectures and developer support.

Not because Yahoo doesn’t have any of the lucrative search market share. They are the clear 2nd place in search with huge search activity and over 20% of global internet search traffic.

It’s frustrating because despite all the advantages, Yahoo just can’t seem to capitalize on all these advantagesto turn a good buck, monetize the site to full potential, and increase my share price. Google, with total traffic levels about the same as Yahoo, has a stock capitalization some *FIVE TIMES* that of the company with arguably very similar potential for profits.

Little internet companies and even many very big ones have a good excuse for failing in profitability – online biz is a cold and cruel world and for all the but the huge players everything can turn on a dime. Yahoo, on the other hand, has no good excuse for failing. They are a market maker in terms of online search, global internet reach, online video, and …. this just in for me …. they are HUGE in the Social Networking space. Yes, that would be the social networking space everybody is so excited about. What do I mean by HUGE? Let’s review this graph from via TechCrunch.

First we need to note that is not even remotely a perfect measure, and also adding “unique visitors” in this fashion is counting some folks twice. Also, they are listing sites like Geocities that are arguably not social sites, though I’d argue they could be “open socialed” quickly with an effort in that direction. Since the overlap at these traffic levels is probably not a very big deal, and also assuming they spend time as if the Yahoo properties are separate sites their ad potential may be the same as if they were different folks, these numbers are important and relevant.

So, the big players first:

Myspace: 72 million unique visits in October

Facebook: 33 million

Yahoo: 38 million …..

<screeching reverse halt noise here>

What? Yahoo has more social traffic than Facebook?! Yes they do if you add Flickr and Geocities and Yahoo Groups.

Aside from the fact that Caterina and Stuart and the Flickr gang are probably thinking they sold out a bit too cheap at only 20 million, Flickr is an astounding success with some 14 million users and growing. Personally, I’d rather hang out at Flickr than Facebook anyway.

So, where does this huge number of users in the Yahoo social networking juggernaut leave us?

Frustrated baby, frustrated……

Email as the new Social Network

The New York Times is summarizing some interesting plans from Google and Yahoo to turn their email systems into forms of social networking.    This idea could have a lot of potential, as the Yahoo’s Brad Garlinghouse points out in the article that Yahoo has a lot of information about an individual’s social relationships – for example who they email regularly – and this info is simply begging to be mined to help users navigate their increasingly complex online worlds. 

Google to everybody: Open up and say “Google”

Matt Ingram  has it right again – Google sees Openness as a competitive advantage, but Google is also correct that Open Social networking and open cellular software and hardware are in the best long term interests of the internet community.

The tech blogosphere has been abuzz for several days now with Google’s message of Open Social Networking (Open Social) and Google’s gPhone / Google Phone / Android / Open Handset Alliance.   Open Social will bring a very open architecture to websites and networking while  Android will craete very open software and presumably unlockable and open hardware for the mobile market.

Is Google being generous?    Not really – they correctly see this as a path to even greater Google profits from advertising.    Google scoops up some 50% of all online advertising revenue now, and this is likely to continue until Yahoo and Microsoft get their advert-asses in gear, which does not appear to be happening anytime soon.    So, while the long term consequences of openness are very unclear the short term benefits are going to go to … Open up and say it loud … GOOGLE!*

* No, I would not recommend buying GOOG at $700 per share.   This pretty much anticipates a smooth transition to a Google world, which seems unlikely.  The internet, after all, is not driven by rocket science … it is driven by … advertising.

Open Social challenge – Guilt by Open-Social-Association ?

Don Dodge has an excellent post today where he suggests the Open Social hype machine has spun out of control.    I don’t really agree with him because I think Open Social is a sincere effort by Google to create the truly open social networking many have been wanting for some time.    At the same time I would say there are a lot of challenges with Open Social, and it certainly was an aggressive move to kick Microsoft in the Face-book and take the winds out of the Microsoft Facebook partnership deal.    Google is remarkably good at being sincere, innovative, brilliant, and ruthless all at the same time.  In fact it’s become a hallmark of their success though they never seem to acknowledge the ruthlessness of some of their decisions – it’s kind of a collective delusion at Google that what’s good for the Google is good for the gander.   This is often true, but not always.

Back to Don’s interesting point:   What happens if a friend of yours – on whose profile you appear as a “friend”, goes over to a porn site which is using Open Social networking.   Does your smiling mug and name wind up appearing next to objectionable material?   Yikes – you could lose your job, wife, and family all in one fell Open Social swoop and you never even did anything !     

Although I can’t say be sure I’m confident this problem has been solved.  Probably via some form of content controls or content ratings for sites that are allowed to participate.  Will there be bugs in this?  Of course, as Don notes Plaxo already had a problem with their Open Social implementation, but on balance I think it’s still reasonable to see this as a social networking sea change, albeit one that will take some time to shake out.