Much of last week’s buzz surrounding the launch of Color was justifiably skeptical about whether the world really needs another mobile photo-sharing app. But two components of Color’s vision – implicit networks and place/time tagging – extend far beyond photo-sharing, and make Color worth watching as a potential indicator of social media and data-mining trends.
While companies like Zynga, CrowdStar, and Playdom are building entertainment franchises off apps, Facebook so far hasn’t been much of a platform for business. Now BranchOut, that launched its app last summer, is attempting to apply tactics and techniques from social gaming to take on LinkedIn in professional career networking. Companies that want to build other business apps on the Facebook platform should pay attention.
Around the end of the year, the hype surrounding Quora kicked into overdrive. The Q&A site founded by ex-Facebook talent first raised eyebrows with round of financing last March that valued it at $86 million. When it went into public beta last summer, the tech and business press got excited, but lately it’s being called the savior of search and the next Facebook. Is Quora worth all the fuss?
Perhaps-premature obits for Myspace are scattered across the media. It is instructive to look at what the stories blame for the relative failure of Myspace (and Friendster before it) compared with Facebook. Was it Myspace’s complacency and lack of follow-on innovation? Is there really only room for one social network? Social networks can definitely achieve network effects, with their accompanying speedy growth and tendency for winner-take-all outcomes. But in the real world, people belong to multiple intersecting networks of interest, geography, profession, etc. Facebook knows this – that’s what Groups is all about – but it hasn’t accommodated those connections seamlessly. And there are so many other sources of social data and APIs. (Not to mention that Facebook itself is pretty good at both aggregating and syndicating that info.) It’s hard for me to imagine a single social graph. Meanwhile, here’s how Myspace can survive.
Social gaming powerhouse Zynga acquired Flock, which makes a “social browser.” The move feels a lot more like an acquisition of talent than of product. Some call Zynga a platform wannabe, and it’s true the company builds core social gaming services – and it’s been hiring talent from Myspace – but the services are for advertisers rather than for other games studios. I haven’t heard it talk about APIs for two or three years. And browsers have lost a lot of platform muscle anyway. Zynga nearly broke up with Facebook over payment systems and distribution techniques, but seems to have made peace. I don’t expect Zynga to make a big play as a distributor of third-party content or of its own social graph. Do you?
One of the keys to monetizing NewNet technologies like real-time feeds and social media will be harnessing the massive amounts of data they create. In recent weeks, there have been a handful of announcements illustrating creative ways of using this data. But most of them have not shown clear revenue strategies.
I’m seeing a handful of items that cluster under one of my favorite themes – and one we’ll be doing further research on – that is, how third parties can add value to NewNet data sources like feeds and social graphs. Google made some fairly minor tweaks to its Realtime site that searches Twitter and other social feeds, but they add context and “popularity” cues to what is a mostly velocity-driven results page. Internet video guide Clicker is one of the few sites that pulls in Facebook info via “Instant Personalization.” It may have gone a bit far in abstracting Likes into genres – it tells me it recommended a show I actually listed as a Like due to its genre conventions. Nice filtering, though: recommendations, friends, trending, editorial. And Embedly offers a Chrome plug-in that does a better job at previewing the rich media and info in Twitter links than Twitter’s re-designed site does. Plenty of innovation here, but where’s the money? None of these show ads – even Google! – or appear to have affiliate deals.
Amidst its iPod and Apple TV announcements yesterday, Apple revealed a new version of iTunes that embeds social networking functions under the “Ping” brand. Ping allows friend and band following and certainly improves upon Apple’s previously weak efforts at social music discovery. Om thinks Ping hints at the future of social commerce. I think Apple’s missing an opportunity to weave Ping or its potential feeds or social graph info into other networks – it doesn’t connect to anything. Apple appears to want to eliminate the “social middleman,” perhaps because of “onerous” terms and conditions, but that may well cripple its potential.