Setting the standard

opensocial

Is it just me, or is there something a little bit desperate in Google’s response to Facebook, Open Social? Amongst all this cooked-up debate about whether Facebook will join the Open Social platform, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the attraction of the platform.

If no one invented another application for Facebook (another annoying Spam-ridden app like Vampires or Fun Wall), would it whither and die? Hardly. Whereas, there would have to be something pretty special written for Orkut, Friendster or MySpace and the rest to get me to go back to them.

Where are all these developers who want to develop for Facebook but don’t have the time because they’re too busy developing for MySpace and Linked in?

Bear in mind that Facebook’s Event application was put together by Zuckerberg himself in one night. Photos reportedly took one week and now outguns all other online photo applications put together.

It is not a shortage of development time but a lack of good ideas which is holding applications back. And more to that point, the apps that make Facebook great, are the ones which really do extend the social graph. It’s not a coincidence that 87% of app installs come from just 2% of the apps. The other 98% are just noise.

What I want to know is why the people at Google can’t just make Orkut not shit? Or take the position they already have with documents, email, search history and everything they know about everybody and find a genuinely new way to bring people together. Competing with Facebook on its terms seems an unlikely way to win.

Update:

Just found this excellent post from Lauren Cooney which asks whether Google might have ‘complex’ motives of its own. Just how linked is OpenSocial linked to Google IDs? Just how much of that social graph juice will find its way back onto Google’s servers. Perhaps not so much doing evil, but certainly keeping an eye on the future revenue streams.

Google it

Economist cover - Google

This week is Google week at the Economist. The very funny front cover (above), the main leader (pay walled) and a three-page feature. The point they’re making is that markets don’t know what to make of a company that says it’s not there to make money – especially if it’s the most powerful force in the most revolutionary medium since the printing press.

They also point out that high-minded morals may sound great now but how will they sound if Google ever has to deal with the down times which have recently affected – for example – Yahoo!. And they tell some interesting stories about what it is actually like to work at the GooglePlex; the vision for Google’s cloud-style computing architecture, that the very famous 20% rule never really happens and that by hiring a company full of hyper-geniuses, Google has some difficult HR issues:

…everybody there is a rocket scientist, so everybody everybody is also insecure…. and the back-stabbing and politics are reminiscent of an average university’s English department.

Fascinating stuff of course, as it was when the rest of us were talking about it several months ago (:-)).

Obviously managing the finest minds in the world (there’s now almost 14,000 Google staff) is going to be tricky. Eric Schmidt is pretty clear on that: “tech companies that are dominant have trouble from within, not from competitors.”

But nevertheless Google has the crown jewels. Many of the  finest minds in the world, an amazing scalable computer architecture, the brand and the audience. Demise seems a long way off yet. 

Better by beta

macy's in google street view

From the department of ‘in case you’d missed it’.

You really can’t turn your back on the Google chaps for five seconds. The latest addition to the mapping family, street view still needs a little polish but it’s going to be quite amazing, and they just keep getting the stuff out there, as quickly as they can get it done.

Also, not sure it’s entirely a privilege to be captured on the Google cameras: “John who’s that you’re with outside Macy’s?”

11 Google 11 Google

118 118 guys

Again, with suprisingly little fanfare, Google recently launches a free, automated (i.e. computer voice recognition) 118-style service – currently only in the US. Phone the free-phone number, tell it you want a pizza (or something else in rare circumstances) and you’ll get regular-quality google information straight down your phone.

If this really works; really is free to the searcher; really doesn’t feel like talking to Stephen Hawkins; and could be made to work in the UK, it would doubtless have a very disruptive on the fierce but relatively expensive directory model we have now.

That not good enough? They’ve recently announced the service now bundles links to Gmaps to show you how to find what you’re after. Pay 15c more and it’ll actually eat the pizza for you.

Star performance

Google maps - write a review 

With suprisingly little fanfare, Google has added another feature to their maps platform. A few months back the listings were enlarged to include more structured information like pictures and published reviews. Now customers can directly review any item which gets listed, straight on the page.

Given the effect that sites like Trip Advisor have had on businesses, this could be seen as a fairly dramatic act for the search giant – especially when so many of the companies who may be getting fairly direct feedback could be Google’s own adWords customers.

Not a lot to Ask

After all the nonsense of Information Revolution, it’s great to see Ask.com doing some actually worthwhile stuff to try and improve their search engine.

A lot of the front-end changes may owe a fair amount to the big G and emerging trends in the marketplace (including “suggests” style prompting) but there’s some nice new stuff in their too. They’ve managed to do some really nice skins, as well as some quite useful little Ajax interfaces:

Ask - skins

And in terms of the results page, some very neat innovations for structured results which are a pretty major improvement over Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. See the search below for “Neil Finn” which has brought up relevant music, image and wikipedia structured listings, as well as having found good relevant related searches:

Ask.com - structured search results for Neil Finn

This is the sort of thing they should have been talking about before – customer-value driven product benefit, not marketing nonsense. This might actually make one more person use their site.

Size matters

Crowd 

The site that promised to measure the size of the internet has failed dismally. It failed for the same reason that “viral” campaigns fail on the internet and in the real world – because the message or motivation wasn’t strong enough. But this shouldn’t be suprising, messages that captivate everyone are incredibly rare. Advertising people should beware – great ideas are great but they have a limited audience. Event the greatest ideas are limited by this.

Incidentally, if the plan were working, maymapname would have 600,000,000,000,000 registrants (that’s actually more than the population of the world) but it actually has 18,000. That’s six thousand more than they had on day five. Well done to them for at least trying (if not that hair cut).

So who will carry  out this internet survey? Well facebook is looking like a likely candidate right now (some stats), or MySpace (with 10,000 times the membership of mmn (above)). Or why don’t we just take the Unique Users from Google.