Google+: The Anti-Twitter

We have all seen Google Wave and Google Buzz, and probably have concluded that Google won't be able to leverage its email-driven social graph through features.  They need to come up with thicker value and attempt to solve a problem, which neither Wave nor Buzz really did.

Enter Google+. At first glance, it looks like Google decided that the soft belly of Facebook is its rapidly diminishing context: bundling your college buddies, collagues, family and acquaintances together.  Add to that the very different usage of the platform in non-US geographies (read: primarily dating and mating), it seems very sensible to build a publishing platform to let you narrowcast content and online social interaction to carefully crafted buckets of relationships.  That's my read on Google+.

To me, this decision is very distinctive by the fact that it is exactly the opposite path of Twitter.  There must have been countless meetings at the Google Corporate Development group about Twitter.  For a while, Twitter looked like a fairly low-price ticket for Google to bolster its own social graph. However, Twitter's one-way, follow model must have not fit Google's strategy, seeing they are going in the opposite direction. Deep vs. broad.

I have not had a chance to use Google+.  I think the premise it holds out is interesting and valuable.  I do think there will be big pressure on the user experience for it to deliver its promise.  The smart grouping of relationships and the implicit extraction of context will ve critical.  I noticed that Gmail rolled out a people feature next to email messages that seems to work very well.  This is a technology challenge and that is not an area Google is weak in.

I am keen to see if Google will be able to turn its deep UX assets and talent into a seamlessly usable social sharing tool with Google+, or if it will join the list in the first sentece of this post.

UPDATE: Liz Gannes's post today is not too promising on Google's initial UX attempt.  Now I am more curious.

App Inventor

Google recently announced App Inventor for Android, which allows non-programmers to easily build applications for Android phones. The idea is not a new one, and as Google explains, it's been built on the efforts of many other initiatives.

However, it is critical that this is a development framework for a mass-market platform.  Imagine what kind of creativity we would have seen if the iPhone has a similar consumer-oriented app builder.  I think this is very cool.

Value of the Identity Layer – Payments Edition

Social-brand-identity Dave McClure has a fun recent post/rant on business models.  In it, he makes a simplification:

Well because as we transition to a Startup Ecosystem driven by direct
payment & subscription business models, i want to make it clear how IMPORTANT it is to make sure users don't forget their passwords.  If they forget their password, and/or can't recover it, then guess what MoFo — YOU DON'T GET PAID.

While I agree with his point, he then goes on to assert that the frequent-use models don't have this problem and therefore should win the transactions/subscriptions business models, which is where I start to get question marks.  He provides examples from his tenure at PayPal and concludes that since Facebook and Google are the most frequently used properties, this is their game to use.

I also agree with the last point.  However, I think it's a gross simplification to tie the causality to frequent use.  It's the identity layer that counts.  Not the frequency.  I play some casual games daily.  but they don't know about me nearly as much as Google or Facebook does.  It's that intimate knowledge of who I am that counts!

TBI Research is pointing out the revenue potential demonstrated by some recent data at Facebook through payments.  It's not surprising that the results are positive.  Payments are directly tied to identity.  PayPal is under huge threat here.  In fact, once the payment structures start to slip, eBay will be under threat as well. 

The identity layer is enormously valuable. The biggest contenders for it are Google (because of Gmail) and Facebook.  The identity layer will allow these companies, as well as those who will be able to grab a piece of it, to challenge some very large internet commerce areas.  Payments are a great candidate.  Others will be classifieds & listings, and loyalty programs.

I think there still is an opportunity in the Turkish identity layer, despite Facebook's domination here.  Not sure how one should play it but I continue to think about it.

Twitter & Google Starting to Date?

Googtw After yesterday's announcement of Yahoo intergating wih Facebook Connect, comes the news of Google and Twitter joining forces to allow Twitter integration with Google's Friend Connect.

John Battalle reads this as "Twitter, as in Not Facebook". On the opposite side, Marshall Kirkpatrick's take on it is "just like Yahoo bowed to Facebook, Google is bowing to Twitter".

I think I have a different view of this.  Despite the timing of both transactions, they represent different strategies to me.  Yahoo's move was a bow to Facebook, in favor of its users and the utility they extract from Yahoo, but eroding a strategic advantage Yahoo may have pursued through its massive reach.

Google's move, on the other hand, is less about bowing to Twitter.  Twitter knows surprisingly little about its users, whereas Google knows a ton – thorough clickstreams, search behavior and Gmail.  In fact, I'd say Google still owns a much larger chunk of the social graph than Twitter.  What Twitter is great at is realtime and declared interests.  And it's growing super fast.

This move by Google and Twitter makes me suspect even more my prediction yesterday.  This alliance will allow Google to observe how Twitter helps its users and evaluate Twitter as a potential acquisiton target.  It will also help Google to preserve some ground against Facebook, who has now clearly become the only contender to Google for ownership of the identity layer of the internet.

Turks on Google 2009: Sahadan and Sanalika?

Right after my earlier post today on top search terms of 2009, I saw that Google had just released their Zeitgeist 2009.  While it's difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison with Yahoo and Bing, the Fastest Rising List gives a taste:

  1. michael jackson
  2. facebook
  3. tuenti
  4. twitter
  5. sanalika
  6. new moon
  7. lady gaga
  8. windows 7
  10. torpedo gratis

And, yes, MJ tops this list, too! πŸ™‚

However, what piqued my interest the most in Google's Zeitgeist this year are the Turkish entries, namely:

Sanalika, #5 in Fastest Rising


Sahadan, #4 in Fastest Rising in Sports.

Mind you, these are Global lists…

Sahadan is a Turkish sports news website, and to me, it's the less surprising of the two.  It's a solid property, a long-time resident of the Turkish Alexa 100, and given the level of interest in football in Turkey, a top Turkish site is not a far-fetched entry in the Google list.  Also notable is the fact that it's ranked above Livescore.

Sanalika, however,is a different story.  Ranking 375th in Alexa's Turkey rankings, it's a virtual world similar to IMVU or Popmundo. It has not made much of an impact in the Turkish internet scene so far, so I had to doublecheck when I saw its name on the Google list.

I still suspect Sanalika's inclusion on the list may be a quirk of the methodology used.  Curious…

Also, note KralOyun, a Turkish game portal, #6 in the Fastest Falling list.

All in all, Turks are showing their strong online presence as we've noted before.

UPDATE: The Sanalika saga continues with comments from Arda on TC Europe and Robin on TC.

Foxes are Supposed to be Smart

Fox I've been meaning to write about the News Corp – Microsoft deal rumours of which have been afloat for a few days, but lots of traveling and two events got in the way.  The deal involves MSFT paying News Corp to block Google from accessing its content and having it exclusively indexed by Bing.

My first reaction to this is that it won't work.  I beleive that information wants to be free and we see versions of that play out all over the web. I am all for creative monetization of attention, but gaming the system with biz dev deals does not seem to me the smart way to go about it.

One area that this "shift to free" has worked extremely well is news.  There has been much said and written on how the web is killing journalism and that the news room is going to die because of the web.  While many print media outlets are being hurt by the reduction in friction in news publishing, I think the casualties have not hurt the quality of the news we consume.  If you look at the example of the reporting the blogosphere (especially Arrington) has done of the recent Scamville issue, and compare it with NYT's coverage of it (as Fake Steve Jobs did), you can see how less friction has led to better news in some cases.

In any case, my big issue with this deal is less the economics of attention but the fact that this type of one-on-one agreement for exculsivity is just unnecessary friction.  There is no value being created for the ultimate consumer of news.  The consumer has so far voted with her clicks that she's found the way Google has directed her attention to news more valuable than the way Microsoft has.  Now MSFT and Murdoch are forcing her to either go to two sources for her searches, or switch to what she feels is a lesser search engine.

Now, I also think this is something Google has had coming. In its decisions regarding the economics of attention, Google decided on a black box approach.  Albert Wenger has written a smart post on this issue: 

One of the reasons that Craigslist is so hard to attack is that Craig has chosen to the give the bulk of the benefits to the network itself (as β€œconsumer surplus”)
by operating most of Craigslist for free.  Google made a different
choice, which is to keep a ton of the economics for themselves (and
often in a non-transparent manner, i.e. it’s unclear how much of the
economics Google takes).  That will eventually create openings for
others based on a willingness to share the economics differently.

Microsoft took a first step into that direction with the cash back
for shopping.  A deal with news organizations would simply be a further
step in that direction.  It is therefore not clear that Google is maximizing long term value by hanging on to as much of the profit as they are.  That is the real heart of the ongoing conflict over news indexing.

As the attention economics gets more and more streamlined, we will see similar attempts at biz-dev'ing by incumbents.  Most attempts will be unnovation (to borrow Umair's term), and will not lead to any disruption.  The exciting developments will focus on increasing value.  I try to keep focused on those.