Saturday, July 25, 2009

While Visions of Metalic Tsunamis Were Dancing in Everyone's Heads

Another week of Google announcements and vaporware analysis. This isn't the Google of old that just shipped a beta version of something with little -to- no fanfare. This is the new microsoftized Google that announces launches of products at dates forward in the future when anyone else is trying to launch their product of service.

Among this week's examples: Another Wave "announcement" on July 20th that 100,000 invites would be released on, wait for it...September 30th (kthx for heads up, Google. I'll be sure to mark it down on my Gcal)

Meanwhile an actual working real-time communications and collabortaion app was launched on the same day. An upstart called Watchittoo that allows to you share videos together with friends in real time and chat and collaborate about them. Ironically, it's built in part on the YouTube API! (Youtube is owned, of course, by Google) Watchittoo is proudly displaying the Youtube logo/ link all over their site.

Letting these guys get some spotlight wouldn't have exactly killed Mountian View, but who knows, maybe Watchittoo's PR department sucks. It could've just been bad timing, but I'm suspect because...

There was Chrome OS annoucement on the eve of Microsoft's Office online launch. Again, a strategic PR masterstoke carefully desgined to suck out the limited attention supply of the tech press and blogesphere for a cycle or two...

Don't even get me going on Wave...I've been waiting for that. Getting Ridiculous.

I come back to Chairman Jobs's dictum (of whom Google CEO, Eric Schimdt, actually reports too in another capacity in life): "Real Artists Ship"

Watchitoo, Microsoft, Opera:
Their art is launching, not announcing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Digg break your links? Use Bit.ly instead next time.

JD Rucker aka 0boy has uncovered the story and Mashable confirmed it: Digg's URL shortener 'diggbar' - which shortened web addresses and put a digg iframe on top of their pages - is now redirecting visitors to the digg.com site instead of the destination URL that was initially shortened, once the story is posted as a digg submission that can be voted on.

This isn't exactly the end of the world, but it wasn't previously like this for users. It's being used by a bunch of 3rd party twitter clients & sites as a regular utility URL shortener- not just a digg traffic engine. The appearance is that digg got people using their shortener for its own sake, and then changed how it functions to better benefit them after the fact. In a word: Sneaky

The bottom line is the only reason to use Digg.com to shorten a link is if you're submitting the story to digg.com and want it to be voted on. Period. If you need a vanilla URL shortner, Digg (or any social network, really) probably isn't the one that you want to use.

Going forward, I'm using Bit.ly almost exclusively. I'm doing this mainly because it's not the domain of a social network's service, and because it doesn't have a toolbar that wraps the page in a frame we all know annoys at least 50% of the people who click thru. Bit.ly, as far as can be told, just wants the analytics and metadata (and shares most of it -for now, anyway- which is sweet) 

You don't even need an account to shorten a link with bit.ly, but if you sign up for one, it saves all your URLs on public page like bookmarks but with the aforementioned yummy click and conversation data.

Any bit.ly link then shared on twitter or elsewhere can be looked into further by placing /info/ in between the bit.ly/ and /xxxx hashstring portion of characters in the URL (e.g. http://bit.ly/info/1RPfXx)

Back on their site, They've got a search that's a nice way to look at what links are being shared across twitter. You can use a twitter username as a search operator along with words like " listening to: " (or 'reading,' 'must read' etc.) You can subscribe to your recent bit.ly 'bits' as an RSS feed too.

It's like I've been saying to friends, bit.ly is the new del.icio.us

Update: Here's a screen grab I took that shows off the bitly sidebar for sharing your links:




If you want to try this service out, go to a web page you'd like to shorten the URL for (this one even, ;), and in the address bar of your browser, type ' bit.ly/ ' before the ' http:// ' and hit return. The link's right there for you to copy and paste and much more.

(I have no material interest, financial -or -otherwise in Bit.Ly I just think the service is good. This stunt by digg makes all URL shortners look bad. I don't think bit.ly and some other's are.)


Friday, July 17, 2009

Brass tacks: Can Microsoft hurt Google more in search advertising than Google can hurt Microsoft in selling software?

A Microsoft and Yahoo search partnership deal imminent? According to Kara Swisher at allthingsd that's the word

Redmond is still laser-lock focused on breaking Google's grip over internet search & web advertising. Just consider the enormous launch of Microsoft's shinny-new toy: Bing. Now there's even twitter integration with "Bing Tweets" Early numbers show that Bing is making an impact is terms of sheer size and presence.

Hitting them on the other side of the advertsing equation will be the relaunch of Mircosoft's Ad Publisher "pubCenter" network. I've tried it out and it offers some pretty quick and easy-to-use tools and customizations to get some PPC ads on your site fast. The ad bloc at the bottom right is an example.

(Iroincally I've always wanted to serve Google adsense but have never been able to do it properly in 4 or 5 years that I've had an account. I tried again this week and found that the account was deleted. On top of that, I'm prevented from making a new one or contacting anyone at Google about it. Therefore, Google loses at least 1 potential publisher to Microsoft. I'm sure other people have had problems with the service and would like to look at alternatives too.)

Google's been the only good game in town for advertisers and the same goes for its AdSense network for web publishers.

With Bing off & running + a deal to be Yahoo's search partner- Microsft is finally hitting back at Google's core in meaningful way. Technology trends aside, It certainly seems that Microsoft could hurt google more directly in the pocketbook, than anything Google can do to them. (other than maybe just stealing mind share and a few news cycles with product announcements).

You don't see it being spun that way, but it seems like the case when it comes down to the business of how both companies make money.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

History repeating itself in realtime with Tweetbe.at

The entire world is re-awakening to the phenomena of real-time, short messages, ala Twitter. It was the lone vehicle to carry the news of revolutionary protest in the streets of Tehran following the failed elections in Iran. It's not only captured the attention of the global news media, but stolen it from them. Even the White House and it's State Department validated the site's role and geopolitical importance. One former Bush administration official has called for it to receive a Nobel Prize. Even Oprah's using it these days. Heady stuff.

But this isn't the first time technology like this has 'shrunk the world' and shone a light in dark places- In 1991 the news of Soviet coup d'├ętat attempt was carried over IRC despite a media blackout in the country. Reports from the first Iraq war were carried over its channels as well.

And IRC is as old as the hills. In spite of that, It's always allowed for realtime group conversation -or- private one-to-one dialog. You don't need to create an account, big personal network, or audience of followers to start-up and jump into a conversation. You can monitor channels of topics and come and go as you please. It's a pretty damn efficient twitter, way before Twitter (and cell phones, text messages, even AIM for that matter)

What Twitter's done to the individual messages of SMS (and by extension, chat & IRC) is marry them to hosted nature of the world web web. Individual statements in 140 characters, published as html documents; those documents aggregated into user profiles & feeds.

With so many documents being broadcast and so little inherent organization to it's delivery, Twitter can be very much like being in crowded room where all your friends are shouting at themselves and each other. Third party software like Seesmic Desktop and Tweetdeck are powerful tools that help manage these twitter feeds like mini-email, but neither helps you discover the rest of twitter at random or topically, like you do on IRC.

Thankfully, developer Alex Bosworth has connected the dots and come up with something that marries the two. It's a proof-of-concept alpha called Tweetbe.at.

If you use twitter, you know that putting #hashtags in your messages is a way to tag or catagorize them. The idea behind Tweetbe.at is that #hashtags represent IRC channels of tweets. You need to log-in using your twitter account (not with password, but OAuth) and then you can visit or create and participate in as many channels as you want. If you like, It allows you to fold in other search terms and user's feeds so you can develop and refine the channel. The important thing, whether you want to moderate the channel or just sit back and watch, is that you can now surface more relevant tweets you may have otherwise missed, or use it to get into @reply conversations with new & interesting tweeps you otherwise may not have ever met!

Well done, @p1bx




Saturday, July 11, 2009

"We want to push social down into every experience on the phone"

Andy Rubin, creator of the original Sidekick, driving force behind Android, and VP of mobile engineering at Google wants you to be able to see your friends photo & current facebook status on the caller ID when he calls.

That's one of the things the company's pushing as the launch of the next Andriod phone, the myTouch 3G, approaches in August.

In terms of technological innovation, the biggest steps forward are an enhanced battery life from the G1 and the Voice Search application. According to T-Mobile's site:

Search by voice lets you find what you’re looking for, hands-free. The built-in GPS knows your location. So when you say, “Pizza” you get back your closest pizza places first. Search by Voice also comes in handy to help find long or hard to spell words, like amphitheater.


Over 5,000 applications are available for Android - Contrast that with over 50,000 for the iphone, and it does seem pretty small. However over the long haul there should prove to be more applications available on Anrdoid devices than on Apple ones. Especially given that Andriod is open source and Apple is, well...Apple. Say's Andy:

With Android, there can be 1,000s of different products built, and the magic here is that all those products can be compatible and all of them can be hosted by the same [application] marketplace...it's in an earlier stage of adoption


Other enhancements to Android include a multiple desktop concept which will be familiar to linux users. Another application that looks to figure prominently will be Sherpa a GPS-history app that learns what you do and where you go, and makes search easier.

The phone is available for pre-order now, and hits T-Mobile stores in the US August 5th. It retails for $199.00

The battle for control of user experience will rage on.

Whether on the desktop, in the browser, or the mobile device - The Giants of computing technology want to control the way you interact with the digital word.

The Google announcement of an impending Chrome operating system -as an extension of their browser by the same name- drew a huge reaction this week from all quarters of the web. Speculation and conjecture were rank amongst the bloggeratti. Handicapping Mountain Veiw's strategy & the potential impact to industry titans Microsoft & Apple, was (and still is) the meme de jour.

The take here on the Grid is that controlling the user experience is central to any company making software or interactive applications.

Google's revenue comes from advertising, but they are fundamentally a (web-based) software, or user experience company. Apple's revenue comes from selling hardware and devices, but they are fundamentally a software, or user experience company (the user experience company, many would argue). Even Facebook, Myspace, Digg etc are earning revenue from advertising, but if you stop and think about it, are fundamentally software, or more generally, user experience companies. (made valuable by virtue of facilitating electronic interaction for, and being a destination of multiple users)

Big bad old Microsoft, OTOH, still makes it's money selling software, but has to do web stuff & sell hardware in addition to that just to support and defend the legacy revenue stream.

The problem for a company like Microsoft is that software (like file storage & management, apps, etc) is going to eventually move to a web-centric, subscription based model.

So is Google trying to monetize the experience, bring it out onto the web more often, or get into your machine and control it?

The answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. Ultimately the web is out in the cloud and on our local machines. It doesn't matter what the form factor is (pc, notebook, netbook, phone) or where the code running it lives.

If Google can control the experience it reinforces their other properties and future ones they roll out. It also paves the way for subscription based services, like file storage.

It's a multifaceted approach to be sure, from all players. At the end of the day, they all want the same thing: To control us, er...the user experience...and we let them, because they usually give us such cool toys to play with :)