Mobile Devices Are Social Networks

Without a compelling existing brand or a really innovative product with protectable intellectual property (some of the games fall into this category), the only chance these apps have for long term success is to start thinking about ways to have users interact with each other in order to build network value. I’ve long argued that social networking on the iPhone is a huge opportunity, and the fact that the big guys are ignoring it for now leaves the door open for a newcomer to get long term market share.

(From Most iPhone Apps Are Failing To Leverage The Network Effect on Techcrunch)

What it means: great insight from Mike Arrington today. I’ve also been talking about the fact that your mobile device is a social object. It holds your contact list, it knows where you are and it’s a multi-channel communication device. We’re not far away from a specific mobile device-centered social network. Is there a “Facebook” in Apple’s future? I wonder if it would be possible to integrate DiSo (distributed social networking) with open source mobile operating systems like OpenMoko, Android or Symbian?

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Open Source Facebook Platform?

Techcrunch reports this morning that Facebook might be on the verge of “open sourcing” their platform, in response to the rise of OpenSocial, the other major social network platform standard.

Techcrunch adds:

Bebo already licenses the Facebook Platform, which allows third parties to make their Facebook applications work on Bebo, too. With the new announcement, social networks won’t need to go through the hassle of doing a deal with Facebook. They’ll simply map their existing APIs to Facebook Platform (which isn’t trivial) and go. Expect to see the four major technical pieces of Facebook Platform – FMBL (markup language), FQL (query language), FJS (Javascript library) and the Facebook API to be open sourced and made available to anyone.

What it means: the arrival of another open source social network platform standard means that, if you’re thinking of building social tools within your site, you should not re-invent the wheel. Look at OpenSocial, at Facebook or even at DiSo and embrace one of those.

Update: you can add me as a friend on Facebook here.

Update2 (05/28/2008): Facebook confirms the rumor.

Update 3 (06/03/2008): you can download the Facebook Open Platform here. (via Techcrunch)

Local & Social Media Predictions for 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about what I thought were the most important news in 2007 in the local and social media space. Today, I’d like to propose my 2008 predictions, an always interesting exercise.

  1. The year of Identity. One of the big challenges of social media is having to sign-up and add your friends in a multitude of web sites. Expect 2008 to be the year where this problem becomes a major issue and gets potentially solved through identity interoperability initiatives like OpenID.
  2. Social is now everywhere and open. The last few months of 2007 have set the stage for a very social 2008. Any new major initiatives will include social elements by default and will use existing standards like OpenSocial, DiSo or Facebook.
  3. Fragmentation & personalization of media. Given the lower barrier to entry for new local/social projects, user and advertiser fragmentation will continue to accelerate in 2008. From a user point of view, this will lead to new personalization tools allowing consumers to create their own unique media view.
  4. The year of ad networks. As a corollary of point #3 above, given that user fragmentation will accelerate, an increasingly large number of ad networks will pop-up to aggregate consumers into a critical advertising mass. It’s all about advertiser defragmentation. Directory publishers will want to become ad networks themselves to push their ads outside of their core destination sites in order to increase their total reach.
  5. Content wants to be distributed. That’s the second corollary of point #3. Increasing user fragmentation requires content producers to atomize their content and push it in the fabric of the web. Think of your business in terms of content units or atoms (some inspiration came from Clay Shirky’s “fame vs. fortune” post from 2003).
  6. Social graph-based search. I am now a firm believer that social graph-based search will be the future of search (including local search) and we will see this concept gain some tractions in 2008. I think humans will always trust recommendations and advice from people in their “social network” (friends, family, colleagues, known experts, etc.) more than a machine. Online word-of-mouth is the biggest local search opportunity out there.
  7. More M&A activity in local. 2007 was quite active from a local M&A (Idearc buying Infospace’s directory business, Citysearch/InsiderPages, AT&T/Ingenio, Marchex/Voicestar, etc.) but I expect 2008 to be even more active given i) the need for directory publishers to execute on their strategies and ii) the need to aggregate traffic to increase advertiser ROI.
  8. Mobile: the year before the big bang. 2008 will be the year where a solid mobile development base (open devices, networks, platforms) is established leading to an explosion in 2009. Watch for the Google spectrum bid in January.

Local & Social Media Predictions for 2008

Yesterday, I wrote about what I thought were the most important news in 2007 in the local and social media space. Today, I’d like to propose my 2008 predictions, an always interesting exercise.

  1. The year of Identity. One of the big challenges of social media is having to sign-up and add your friends in a multitude of web sites. Expect 2008 to be the year where this problem becomes a major issue and gets potentially solved through identity interoperability initiatives like OpenID.
  2. Social is now everywhere and open. The last few months of 2007 have set the stage for a very social 2008. Any new major initiatives will include social elements by default and will use existing standards like OpenSocial, DiSo or Facebook.
  3. Fragmentation & personalization of media. Given the lower barrier to entry for new local/social projects, user and advertiser fragmentation will continue to accelerate in 2008. From a user point of view, this will lead to new personalization tools allowing consumers to create their own unique media view.
  4. The year of ad networks. As a corollary of point #3 above, given that user fragmentation will accelerate, an increasingly large number of ad networks will pop-up to aggregate consumers into a critical advertising mass. It’s all about advertiser defragmentation. Directory publishers will want to become ad networks themselves to push their ads outside of their core destination sites in order to increase their total reach.
  5. Content wants to be distributed. That’s the second corollary of point #3. Increasing user fragmentation requires content producers to atomize their content and push it in the fabric of the web. Think of your business in terms of content units or atoms (some inspiration came from Clay Shirky’s “fame vs. fortune” post from 2003).
  6. Social graph-based search. I am now a firm believer that social graph-based search will be the future of search (including local search) and we will see this concept gain some tractions in 2008. I think humans will always trust recommendations and advice from people in their “social network” (friends, family, colleagues, known experts, etc.) more than a machine. Online word-of-mouth is the biggest local search opportunity out there.
  7. More M&A activity in local. 2007 was quite active from a local M&A (Idearc buying Infospace’s directory business, Citysearch/InsiderPages, AT&T/Ingenio, Marchex/Voicestar, etc.) but I expect 2008 to be even more active given i) the need for directory publishers to execute on their strategies and ii) the need to aggregate traffic to increase advertiser ROI.
  8. Mobile: the year before the big bang. 2008 will be the year where a solid mobile development base (open devices, networks, platforms) is established leading to an explosion in 2009. Watch for the Google spectrum bid in January.

A Look Back at 2007

In business blogs everywhere, it’s that time of the year again, when we start looking back at the year that was and we start to forecast what 2008 will look like. In this post, I look back at 2007 and discuss the most significant local and social media news of the year.

1) Facebook

Clearly, Facebook was the number one news of 2007. By allowing anyone to open up an account in the Fall of 2006 (at about the same time they introduced their newsfeed function), Facebook paved the way for the arrival of tech enthusiasts and early adopters/influencers. Silicon Valley got very excited in the Spring and the launch of the F8 platform in May, allowing third-party developers to build applications, brought more excitement. I believe early adopters’ interest in Facebook has peaked (and has even started to decline) but the job is done. More than 55M active users of all ages access the site every month. The social network had a couple of setbacks around the end of the year with the beacon fracas and the launch of OpenSocial by Google but I believe it does not tarnish their luster. Facebook retaliated by opening up their infrastructure. The biggest benefit to the Web in general: Facebook is introducing people to the social web (micro-blogging, blogging, pictures uploading, “friending”), people who will eventually graduate to more complex social applications.

2) The opening up of the social web

Symbolized by the publication of the OpenSocial standard, the web is becoming more social and more open. Additionnally, the announcement by Six Apart that Movable Type, their leading blogging software, is going open source and the launch of the DiSo initiative to create open source implementations of distributed social networking are also important projects. Social will be part of the fabric of the web.

3) The launch of the iPhone and the unveiling of Android

Apple created quite a stir in June by launching the iPhone, a beautiful device that changes the way we see mobile web access. It’s not a perfect machine by any mean (still very closed) but it’s a game changer. The Android mobile platform by Google is also potentially very disruptive and paves the way to an interesting 2008 in that field. Local mobile search, the famous holy grail of local search, is on the verge of becoming reality.

4) The acquisition of Ingenio by AT&T/YellowPages.com

This purchase is a critical move for YellowPages.com and it clearly signals to the rest of the directory industry that call-tracking/pay-per-call will be the unifying standard in local product bundling, allowing a single sales force to sell multiple media formats. In the same vein, Marchex acquired Voicestar earlier this year.

5) The Radiohead “pay what you want” experiment

Even though it wasn’t as radical as industry watchers wanted it to be (Radiohead is still going to release a CD version of InRainbows), this trial by one of the most preeminent alt-rock group generated a lot of discussions in the blogosphere. Consumers were allowed to pay whatever they wanted to pay for the download including not paying at all. ComScore released some disheartening information about the percentage of people who paid for the album but that was quickly shot down by Radiohead’s management. In any case, the music industry needs more bleeding edge experiments like this one to find their future business model(s).

6) Reality check in the local search industry

The last two Kelsey conferences offered a sobering and realistic look at the realities of local search. Local is tough, hasn’t been cracked yet but offers tremendous opportunities. Stakeholders are realizing that partnerships will be needed to succeed. Two senior executives from the print directory industry talked openly about the opportunities and challenges of being a traditional media publisher and it was the first time that we heard that kind of discourse publicly. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all courting traditional local media companies that possess large sales forces to help them increase local revenues. I think we’re getting close to the “acceptance” stage of the Internet grief cycle and we should see a lot of action next year on the local search front.

I’d love to get your feedback on 2007 events. Anything important I forgot?