October 9, 2009
There’s an interesting post over on the Nielsen Wire blog from Jon Gibs (their VP Media Analytics) about the methods people are now using to discover content. Their findings show that a lot of surfers now make social media their starting point when trying to find information online. 18% of the people Nielsen quizzed said they start a search for new information using Wikipedia, blogs or social networks (such as Facebook or Twitter). That’s a pretty big percentage, especially when you consider that only 37% said they started their hunt on a search engine (which you’d traditionally think might be the starting point).
It’s not really a surprise to see web users learning to trust information that is recommended by their peers, or info that comes from within their sphere of influence on social networks. Recommendation is a powerful thing online and crowd sourced recommendations are a great way to answer certain queries. However, as networks are inherently distributed are they as likely to get an accurate answer to their more complex info needs as they would on a search engine?
In the same report 26% of respondents who identified themselves as socializers (the ones likely to start on a socnet) said that they feel ‘there is too much information online’. Perhaps this is what draws them to social networks for their information searching needs? Maybe the trust factor that someone has recommended some information to them gives them the confidence that they will drill through the dross and find the nugget they are looking for. However, if they feel overloaded now that is only going to get worse as networks grow.
Social network contacts are never going to be able to answer all the questions that intelligent use of a search engine would (unless your network includes some of the finest minds). If we, as web users, rely too much on social networks for finding information are we going to lose the ability to really search when we need to? Search can be a bit of an art form; some people struggle to get how to think laterally when searching for a niche topic, others can get there in one or two searches by using word combinations and booleans cleverly. Could reliance on social networks for the answers to questions destroy the art of searching or data mining that the web has historically been so good at encouraging? Social networks are great for recommendation and serendipitous discovery of content but how do they cater for people who just want their questions answered? Do they need to branch out more deeply into indexing and search or perhaps encourage search to begin on their networks by providing tools to do so?
I’m not offering any answers as this is a shift in habits which has been underway for a long time, but as more users become socializers (inevitable), and information becomes more and more realtime, someone needs to provide a way they can divine the realtime stream for the information they seek. Either that or search engines need to provide new, more social ways to search their indexes. What do you think?
PS. Just in case you think I mean divine in the Biblical sense, have a look at this.
September 23, 2009
This post has now been moved to my new blog and can be found here.
November 19, 2007
Part of Facebooks game plan seems to have been to create an illusion of openness while at the same time ensuring that their platform is actually closed to anyone who could tread on their toes in the areas that drive their revenue. Now admittedly they don’t have much revenue right now but that is going to change very soon with all the new advertising options available to brands who want to be promoted on the social network. So with this increasing revenue should come an increasingly closed approach as they try to prevent others from stepping on their toes. Right?
Well, it seems Google may have a way in to the Facebook platform, and it may be something that Facebook can’t do anything about.
Bring forth OpenSocket; a Facebook application that allows you to run any OpenSocial application on your Facebook profile. Now, as OpenSocial gains traction I can very well see developers looking for ways to monetise their efforts on this new platform. Of course, with Google at the helm one of the obvious options would be to carry Adsense adverts on your OpenSocial app. So that is how Google can potentially make advertising revenue out of Facebook without striking any sort of deal.
Will this happen? Well, I’d imagine Facebook will try to block Google ads from appearing, but if a lot of developers start using OpenSocial the demand to allow this may be overwhelming and actually more in Facebooks interest to allow this than to try to block it.
November 2, 2007
For development… Don’t get too excited as this doesn’t guarantee them dominance in the social networking world but Google have a bit of a coup as they’ve announced MySpace, Bebo and Six Apart are going to be working on Open Social too. Apparently Google have been in talks with MySpace for about a year on this (which explains the recent appetite to open up from MySpace). Techcrunch has more here.
And for an insight into why this is all happening, here’s a video from a Google event last night explaining more about why it’s good to be open.
The full list of Open Social members is pretty formidable (MySpace, Engage.com, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce.com, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, Bebo and XING). Should Facebook be worrying? Well right now all the announcements mean is that there will be an amazing amount of openness between the members of Open Social and there should be some pretty amazing development going on. It doesn’t yet mean that people will leave Facebook for anywhere else (although the chances of that will get greater).
There may be an opportunity here for an early adopter of Open Social standards to create an uber social network which features functionality and data from all the participating networks. It makes the evolution of the life stream much more important and likely to appear sooner. It also gives choice, no longer do you have to stick with anyones interface, you should be able to move away and go to other places while still keeping in touch with the networks.
October 29, 2007
Techcrunch has a great article on the emerging rumours about ‘Maka-Maka’ the hotly discussed coming social platform that will apparently tie all Google’s online properties into a stream of social attention and activity data.
I mentioned this ambition in September, it seems the rumours back then were true. All that remains to be seen is quite what is going to emerge from all of this. Techcrunch’s commentary is spot on and covers all the angles so I’ll say no more apart from that I really hope this results in a set of fully open API’s and a stream of data (as Techcrunch surmises). That will be an incredibly powerful tool and enable a new surge in development of web apps coming from outside Google, some of which could even compete with Facebook.
How does Orkut fit into this picture? I hope they recreate it as a social hub for your online attention and activity streams.
October 29, 2007
When it’s on Facebook it would seem!
Valleywag has uncovered the rather dubious practices going on at Facebook HQ. Employees at the world’s most popular social network have access to every users profile information. Not only that, they have access to a log of all the user profiles you have looked at during your time on the site.
Obviously some people within Facebook have to have open access to the whole database of users and their activities, however to make this open to everyone seems a major breach of privacy to me. I don’t want their junior developers reading my wall posts, or their interns knowing who I have added to my top friends (and who I haven’t).
This breach of privacy becomes even more worrying when you think about who are members of Facebook. From political candidates to pop stars to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, all their personal and attention data is available to Facebook employees.
It’s unknown whether the data available to employees includes the more sensitive messages and contact details.
It’s seen as a perk of the job, but to me this just seems plain wrong!
October 29, 2007
Many people assume that social networking is a strictly western past time, with the vast majority of users coming from the U.S. and western Europe.
Not true at all! The latest figures from comScore show that it’s a truely international phenomenon and is actually being lead by the Asia Pacific region at the moment.
This leads me to deduce that it’s not all about Facebook and MySpace. Neither have the presence in these other areas of the world. Orkut, Google’s social network offering, is massive in Latin America and making waves in Asia, but something else must be contributing to these Asia Pacific totals.
Engagement wise, it’s Latin America leading the way. The average social network user in Latin America spends much more time engaged in social networks than users in North America or Europe. Could it be that Orkut is more engaging than Facebook?
The figures above would seem to suggest that although Asia Pacific are heavy users of social networks they are not as engaged and are using them for different purposes to the Americas (perhaps).
Lastly comScore have a breakdown of the regions with what social networks they prefer.
This is where it suddenly jumps out that Friendster is doing really well in Asia, and that a network called CyWorld accounts for a lot of the numbers in that area but doesn’t figure at all in EU or U.S. Also obvious from these figures is that Facebook just doesn’t feature in Asia or Latin America, they have a massive opportunity to break into these regions and gain a lot more eyeballs!
October 25, 2007
Just a quick post to publish some of the thoughts that are appearing on the web about the huge valuation of Facebook. The $15B valuation makes it the 5th most valuable U.S. internet company according to Michael Arrington at Techcrunch .
Is a company with no evidence of profit actually worth such a huge sum? Possibly; it has the traffic (the most important thing for any site which will derive most of it’s revenues from advertising), it’s just signed a deal with a good technology partner (Microsoft), it’s open standards should help it (unless of course MS integrate their services with it, how open would it’s platform be then?) and with the current bubble mentality it’s likely to get more investment very easily.
The BBC has published 15 reasons why Facebook may actually be worth $15B. Very interesting, my comments interspersed in blue:
1. The network has gone viral in the last 12 months, with more than 50 million users worldwide and a user base that is growing faster than great rival MySpace. According to Facebook, it adds 200,000 new users each day.
Yes, it’s certainly a traffic monster! The growth rate is astounding, but that could slow as it must reach a saturation point eventually. The eyeballs is great for advertising revenue though so that should guarantee them a profit (eventually). They need to be careful to avoid the saturation point though, keep it fresh, become the webtop of choice and don’t let anyone launch something more interesting (or the fickle web users will forget about you very quickly).
2. The average user spends 3.5 hours a month on Facebook – more than the average user on rival MySpace – which is increasingly attractive to advertisers.
Funny one this; I don’t spend long on it at all, in fact I’ve taken to updating my status via a browser plug-in now. So a lot of people must be using Facebook as their email and communication alternative, that’s what they need to do to keep the eyeballs, become a default location for peoples web browsing.
3. Facebook is the current Web 2.0 darling – popular with ordinary users and “tech heads” alike.
Darling of the moment, but it could easily slip from being the techies darling, especially with Microsoft on board.
4. US research reveals that Facebook users come from wealthier homes and are more likely to attend college than MySpace users – increasing that attraction for advertisers.
Not sure on this one; often the more prosperous will be the earlier adopters anyway, and as Facebook descends closer to the more chavy MySpace I believe the demographic will change anyway.
5. Microsoft’s investment makes them a serious player in the growing market of “social advertising”. Social network profiles are full of personal data that users voluntarily hand over, which is very useful for targeting adverts.
Big point this one! The data Facebook is gleaning is amazingly powerful to an advertising network. Facebook could be one of the first websites to carry adverts that are actually contextual and useful to their targets, this can result in a huge revenue stream if done right.
6. Sixty percent of Facebook users are outside of the US – so Microsoft’s investment buys access to a global audience quickly and simply.
Microsofts ad network is global anyway and there are plenty of other places they could have invested in to get a global market. Global doesn’t matter as much as size (as the old adage goes).
7. Facebook is the new web: The decision to open up the network to outside developers turned Facebook into a destination for many uses, like messaging, photos and video. Of course, as Facebook is on the web it could never really be the new web.
Facebook could be the newest web if it integrates with Microsoft Live platform… That could be huge and really make it into a webtop.
8. Every major content firm with an online presence is either working on a Facebook application or has already launched one – from Google to the BBC.
Hype; everyone will always try to dive into something new which gains popularity as quickly as Facebook. I don’t believe that is any sign of value.
9. According to a report, 233 million hours of work are lost each month in the UK due to staff looking at social networks. Advertisers can now target people when at their desks.
Advertisers have always been able to target people when at their desks, now they can target them on another site where people are actually very engaged and in my opinion less likely to interact with adverts than a traditional site or portal.
10. The openness of Facebook is attracting a wealth of talented developers who can launch their applications to millions of users quickly.
Yes, but this helps those developers make money it doesn’t increase Facebooks value directly, only indirectly. Of course the better the developments the greater amount of traffic is attracted…
11. Facebook messaging is the new e-mail. Everyone feels stressed from a deluge of e-mail from unwanted people and companies. But Facebook messages are always from friends.
How long till spam becomes a feature of Facebook??? If Facebook could integrate with Live Mail and become the email destination of choice that would be the coup of the decade.
12. Facebook’s “status updates” have become the easiest way to let friends know what you are doing and how you are feeling at any given moment.
Along with Twitter and a multitude of other status alert services. I do like the Facebook status engine, but it can get annoying. We need better ways to filter the types of alerts sent!
13. Facebook thrives on playful applications such as Pirates, Zombies, Super Wall and Top Friends, which have made the network a place to play as well as communicate.
And they add no value! All style no substance this aspect of Facebook, it needs more productivity apps and networking features to be really succesful and not end up another MySpace.
14. Facebook is the acceptable face of blogging – you can reflect your life and personality online without being seen as a “blogger”, which often carries a geeky stigma.
15. Facebook is worth $15bn only because Microsoft says so. The value of Facebook is based on a 1.6% share of the firm being worth the $240m Microsoft paid for it. Microsoft and Google were in a bidding war for a slice of the firm and both companies have large pockets. This was not just business, this was personal, according to some analysts.
Very true! It will take a market valuation for me to believe it is worth so much, and even if it had one I’m not sure $15B is worth it in it’s current state. A year down the line, if it becomes a web starting point of choice then it may command a valuation many times higher!
Some good, thought provoking points from the BBC there!
October 25, 2007
Okay, maybe a little harsh as headlines go…
Microsoft has invested $240m in Facebook. This guarantees Microsoft the position of exclusive third-party advert provider to the social network. It also gives them a measly stake in the company of under 2%. Facebook has said that it may well take extra funding from other parties in this round of financing.
Great news for Facebook; they go the money they’d been looking for.
Great news for Microsoft; they’ve secured a highly lucrative advertising deal and got their feet under the table at the biggest thing on the internet (currently). Although the ad revenue is shared with Facebook the potential to get their ads in front of eyeballs is huge and will be a big draw for publishers.
The deal has valued Facebook at $15b; that’s a massive sum for a site that isn’t returning huge revenues yet. They need to start bringing in the bucks if they are going to keep an investor like Microsoft happy, they won’t sit back on their laurels and just be happy with the ad revenue, they’ll want to see a return on their investment of some form.
Could we see the integration of the Facebook platform with Office Live, Live Search and Live Mail? That would be a coup for Microsoft and give them the honour of being part of the biggest webtop platform going.
I’m guessing that both Microsoft and Facebook will see this as one in the eye for Google (seeing as Google would have loved to have been a part of this) but I reckon Google may have something up it’s sleeve (it usually does).
Edit: Mashable is reporting that Facebook may have secured a further $500m from two hedge funds. The source of this info is not confirmed yet.
October 16, 2007
It seems that NY State have decided to settle with Facebook over the child safety probe I blogged about a few weeks back.
There’s no mention in the Reuters story of exactly what the settlement entails, but Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said that he planned to hold a press conference on Tuesday “to announce a major development involving social networking Web sites.”
What could that be? A new law forcing social networks to better protect their users? A law forcing them to expose user data? Or maybe some kind of code of conduct that social networks will have to sign up to? My bet’s on a type of code of practice which if you don’t sign up to you get your ass sued!