Is Google + deflating Facebook’s IPO ?

First there was usenet, arpanet, listserve and BBS’s, AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, theGlobe, Tripod, Classmates, Homepage, then Homestead, GeoCities, Friendster, Sixdegrees, mySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Facebook and now we have Google +.  All of these services at one point or the other were the AlphaDog of their time. Each of them for some period of internet time shared the limelight as THE ‘hot’ spot site to be seen and heard on.  I had a block in GeoCities, used many a BBS (I dreamed in green and black back then), had a HomePage not a Homestead (disclaimer: I worked at HomePage.com) threw the most ridiculous backgrounds on my mySpace page with all of the ugliest stuff I could find on the planet, used Friendster, never did try a few other the others ( Sixdegrees, Bebo or Orkut). And of course have had a Facebook page since the ‘edu’ days when I tried to get in by using my old ‘edu’ email address from the University of Wisconsin (but that didn’t work for one reason or another I can’t recall).  I’m not including Twitter in this post as I don’t consider it to be a place where you have a page that you call and fashion as your own – rather it’s a fire hose of information to share.

What’s interesting to note here is that nearly all of these early services back then lacked 2 major components unlike today – the addition of the mobile phone coupled with leveraging the GPS in phones to create a location-based user experience.  This component has allowed all of us to extend our online personas to outside of our homes and desks where our main computer is.  And, because of this, the use of  these services and the traffic they generate like Facebook wouldn’t be possible.  It has been said that over 100 million people access Facebook using a mobile phone every month (http://on.fb.me/rmoDN1).  And that is just today.  And about 300 million access Facebook on a computer monthly (http://tcrn.ch/owiarn).

 

Its been just about 1 month since Google + opened their doors to a select group of people. Invites now are beginning to trickle out, and it seems that Google + has over 10 million users thus far. That’s not bad. At that rate and when the general admission doors open up, 100-200 million users should be easily possible. By years end, I think we will see just those kind of numbers. And perhaps in 2 years, double that, say 400 million or more. Flash forward to the end of this year and the impending Facebook IPO. Now if you are on the Facebook IPO train, you’ve got to look hard over your shoulder and realize that it might be very possible that a few people who now use Facebook will begin to use Google + as more and more friends try the service.  It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. Precedent has been set already.  Look what’s happening to mySpace now? People who use and who have used all of these services are like minnows or lemmings – they all flock together and this happens quite quickly.  There is no ‘loyalty’ I ever had to Classmates, AOL, mySpace  and other sites I used like these.  And today, given the proliferation of mobile phones and the ease at which we can access these sites along with the ‘notifications’ that come along with the mobile web apps we get, interacting and trying out any new service like Google+ is easier than ever before.  So that’s what get me to think that the bankers on Wall Street are all smoking crack! Is Facebook really worth $ 100 billion dollars given the fact that Google + will more than likely have half the user base Facebook now has in a short 2 years? Does that mean that Google + just added $ 50 billion to the bottom line of Google?  Perhaps Facebook valuations might stick to the wall a whole lot better had Google + not just launched, but given the history of these sites and the rapid following and user base Google + has already, the only ones that will make money from the FaceBook IPO will be the underwriters and Zuck.  And if you haven’t tried Google + yet, run and get an invite from someone you know – it a breath of fresh air.

And you thought Twitter was just for ‘I’m eating lunch’.

I’ve been a user of twitter since its inception and I’ll admit I didn’t get it at first. I mean, why do I want to waste my time telling anyone where I am or what I’m eating for breakfast? Or reading what they eat for lunch?   I’ve watched Twitter grow up now for sometime and it has seen some massive growth. So, it cant be from everyone telling everyone else such mundane and useless information. There has to be something here that means so much more. And there is.

Back in the days when I first jumped aboard the web, prior to the first dot.com meltdown, you had Netscape (R.I.P). I used NS as a place or ‘portal’ as they called it to find out the weather, news, events, movies and other things that was scattered throughout the internet. Actually before NS, I used BBS boards. Useful, but a bit boring and graphically plain and in 1 or two colors, its was sloooow to use and a terrible user experience. But then again, that’s all there was until NS appeared.  (Can you say 28k and 56k baud squelching modems)?  And then AOL and Yahoo came along which was a step up from NS. It started collecting ‘links’ for us.

Our browser (netscape) allowed us to bookmark our favorite places so we didn’t forget them. I used to have way too many. And then really simple syndication showed up (RSS) and that was pretty awesome. Sites created an RSS ‘feed’ which was a link of sorts. We then had RSS ‘readers’ and presto, web sites and readers could ‘feed’ us what they updated without us going back to the site to load it up every hour or two. A syndication of information of sorts, quite useful and all of a sudden EVERYONE has an RSS feed.   Then we had ‘shared’ bookmarks. The concept of shared online bookmarks dates back to April 1996 with the launch of itList. Within the next three years, online bookmark services became competitive, with venture-backed companies such as Backflip, Blink, Clip2, ClickMarks, HotLinks, and others entering the market. Then Delicious in 2006 along with reddit, newsvine and dig showed up. All of these allowed us to share what we thought was cool and interesting that we found on the web.  Collaborative tagging so-to-speak.

And then came Twitter. I found that the best way to use Twitter is to consume and drink from twitter and not to necessarily feel so inclined to ‘tweet’ incessantly. With my RSS reader, I have to launch it and peel through (and find) the feeds ‘I’ have chosen to read. With twitter, if I follow people who are smarter than I am, they find things that they ‘tweet’ about and ‘tweet’ them out. Even the ‘re-tweeting’ of things becomes a beacon and new river of new information for me to see and learn from. Think about it –  using smarter people and friends to find cool things to discover and read about on the net in just a short 140 character ‘tweet’. No long story to read, a quick blurb and a link. If I think it may be interesting, I’ll read it. Sometimes I don’t even need to read the article – its encapsulated enough in a tweet. And, yes I get to see what is most obvious about twitter delivered to my mobile or ipad, which is the current trends and events that happen somewhere on the planet which CNN and ABC never get to first anymore. Its usually someone with a mobile phone who ‘tweets’ it. (Think the jet in the Hudson river in NYC).

Yes Twitter can be used as a marketing tool and is all the time – sometime too much so. Twitter’s usefulness as a ‘free’ loudspeaker or podium for their services /software/business can work against people more often than not as its abused so much so that way. But as a way to consume snippets of information from around the planet for even short periods of time from people who are experts at one thing or another that you are NOT an expert at, is pure serendipity. There’s no other tool like it today.

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Michael Jackson is a test. He is only a test of the emergency broadcast system

Guest post – Dean Takahashi – 6/25/09

emergency

The Internet was built to withstand nuclear attack. That was why it was built in the ’60s in the first place, as a communications system with redundancy built in so that the military could communicate even if one of the nodes went down.

We saw some of that happen today, as news of Michael Jackson’s death spread like wildfire through the Internet. TMZ.com got the scoop about Jackson being sent to the hospital. But the site went down from the surge of traffic. The LA Times reported he was in a coma, but then that site went down too. The LA Times managed to report that Jackson was dead, and then everyone else started buzzing about it. Twitter went down. Keynote Systems, which measures web site performance, said that the following sites all slowed significantly: ABC, AOL, LA Times, CNN Money and CBS. Starting at 230 pm PST, the average load time for a news site slowed from 4 seconds to 9 seconds.

abomb

This is not supposed to happen. More than a decade ago, when I was writing about computer servers and Sun Microsystems was advertising itself as “We’re the dot in dotcom,” the hardware vendors were all talking about “utility computing.” Carly Fiorina, then the chief executive of HP, touted “adaptive computing,” where software would automatically route traffic from one overloaded server to another. Sun called its version of utility computing “N1,” after the code name for a project that aimed at rebalancing server loads on the fly. IBM, meanwhile, operated on a vision that it called “on demand.”

These visions were great and they all made sense based on an understanding of traffic as a flow of data. Companies such as Akamai set up networks to deliver video in real time for events, such as Victoria’s Secret’s annual lingerie show on the web. In years past, Victoria’s Secret had lots of trouble keeping a site up. But now it’s not as hard. Akamai sets up server centers around the country to feed video to users as needed. But now we’re talking the need to update in micro-seconds.

Servers have gotten better at being multi-headed beasts, especially with the arrival of hardware innovations such as low-power processors and chips with multiple cores, or processing engines, on a single chip. Virtualization software from VMware and others has arrived. That allows a server to split itself into two or three or more machines, just like the old mainframe computers, which had to do tasks in batches by necessity. Each instance of the server can handle a computing task, like fetching a web page from memory and sending it back to the user that requested it. Servers have become like hydras, doing all sorts of these trivial computing tasks at the same time.

And yet networks still buckle under the weight of traffic when something like today’s events shakes the whole world. Mobile networks are particularly weak, as AT&T’s activation problems related to the launch of the iPhone 3G S showed. In some ways, the servers worked today. As one site went down, another picked up the torch. But the transitions were rocky. The promise of utility computing is that you will be able to switch on and off server capacity as if you were switching on and off your lights.

And that leads me to consider the future. As tragic as Michael Jackson’s death is, it’s only a small taste of what would happen in a true calamity. If the servers go down, how are we going to get our Gmail or Yahoo Mail? Who will be there to listen when we collectively Tweet for help? What will we do if the emergency plan is stored on the network?

It’s a wake-up call for the web, and for those who are building its infrastructure and plumbing for it.

(Dean writes for http://venturebeat.com/)

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Email is the ultimate ‘beacon’ for FaceBook and all the other soc-nets too!

 

When eBay shelled out $4.1 billion for Skype, it paid about $52 per user. In July 2005, News Corp. purchased the parent of MySpace for $580 million. At the time, MySpace had about 21 million users, costing $27.62 per user. Bebo sold to AOL for $850 million and has about 40 million users, costing $21.25 per user. It is entirely conceivable that social networking, like web-mail, will never make tons of money. Because lofty valuations require each site maximizing its page views, they are focused on getting users to keep coming back to the site. They are all closed, walled-in gardens.

AOL tried this, but it didn’t work. So did Compuserve and Prodigy. It didn’t work for them either. And despite some of the sites pleas for outside developers to make fun software for their sites, (like Facebook, MyspaceTV, Googles Open Social and Friendster), each site still requires us to come back. And that begins to become a bore. Its been argued that the ultimate ‘social’ network is email. Why? Because with email, you have your address book, photo’s are mailed, dates are made and placed in a calendar indicating certain personal social ‘activities’. In other words, your email knows more about what you do than ANY social network can.

“We will look back to 2008 and think it archaic and quaint that we had to go to a destination like Facebook or LinkedIn to be social,” says Charlene Li at Forrester Research, a consultancy. Future social networks, she thinks, “will be like air. They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be.” No more logging on to Facebook just to see the “news feed” of updates from your friends; instead it will come straight to your e-mail inbox, RSS reader or instant messenger. No need to upload photos to Facebook to show them to friends, since those with privacy permissions in your electronic address book can automatically get them. Personal referrals and word-of-mouth still and will always be more effective than advertising. This ‘essence’ of personal suggestions from friends permeates every single email we get in our inbox. In theory, email knows everything about us. And email is decades old. There maybe more money in knowing what we like to do, than in delivering banner ads on a web page. That is, more money can be made by simply knowing my habits, spending and otherwise and then interacting and crossing those habits with services I use on the internet. Its not the ads I see but ultimately, but what I end up doing that results in my purchasing of a service (buying movie tickets online) or renting a car on weekends if I live in a big city where transportation (NYC) isn’t an issue (for example, renting a car to get away to the Hamptons in the summer). When I plan a weekend away in the Hamptons with my friends, I’ll need to rent a car. With one email to my friends about this, I’m a potential car rental customer. And my email knew it before anyone else did. email.jpg