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Archive for October, 2007

Bzzzzzzzz

The Bzz Outside

AdAge reports this morning that holding company Interpublic Group has entered into a strategic partnership with Boston-based word of mouth marketing firm, BzzAgent. To be clear, the deal isn’t an investment, nor is it exclusive; but, what it certainly will do is grease up relationships between Interpublic’s agencies (e.g. Draft FCB, Hill Holliday) and BzzAgent.

BzzAgent’s network of volunteers is over 300,000 strong (and, for full disclosure, I happen to be one of them), so this is no small deal on the social media front. I can’t say I’m surprised– as the web shifts outside, the savviest agencies will increasingly follow.

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starbucksAkamai Technologies, our Cambridge neighbors, have landed an impressive content delivery deal with Starbucks. The program is set to roll out in San Fran, Seattle, and NYC, and will basically allow Starbucks to serve itunes downloads from Akamai’s local servers, rather than from Sbuck’s central servers (as is the case currently). This shift is said to reduce download time for customers from 30 seconds per song to 2 seconds.

Although Starbucks (and retailers in general) may seem to be an unexpected target for an Internet content delivery company like Akamai, the move isn’t all that surprising given the state of the marketplace. According to business analyst Mukul Krishna, Akamai has led this sector for years, and is only now facing competition from multiple angles. This increased traffic in the space is bound to have at least one positive side effect: the Web Outside is about to become quicker… quickly.

[via Boston.com]

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Harbinger of a Healthy Social Operating System?

When Facebook announced their open platform back in May, they urged their partners to refrain from using the words “MySpace” or “social network” in reference to the launch. Why the selectively tight lips? My best guess is that they were trying to establish themselves as the thought leaders in defining the Social Operating System; in the crowded SN space, follower has become a dirty word.

Unfortunately for Facebook (but fortunately for the developer community), MySpace now appears primed to flesh out the still incipient “Social OS” concept themselves.

Read/WriteWeb details MySpace’s plans in their recap of yesterday’s Web 2.0 Summit. The agenda starts innocuously enough: a catalog of available widgets and tools, industry standard APIs coming within a few months, an opt-in beta program for end users, and the rise of a widgetocracy– in which users can vote their favorite apps to the top of the pile.

Ok, fine…
It’s the next step concerns me: “MySpace will formally introduce the best widgets into the community, with what they term highly developed integration.”

Ehm? Does this sound eerily like another famous MS to anyone else?
Right… the “Ya’ll Create…We’ll Tweak and Take Credit” Model.

Not to be overly pessimistic and paranoid… There are certainly bright spots in this that even a doubting Jayne can’t downplay. Not incidentally, it’s the social aspect of it all that has me eying that shiny lining. Go figure, eh?

Case in point: As Richard MacManus of R/WW writes of the commingling of “geeks and media,” I can’t help but get giddy.

MacManus describes the Summit’s gala social event:

At tonight’s party it was a strange experience seeing geeks with glasses (I was one of them) mixing with trendy and beautiful people. a.k.a. technology mixing with media. Perhaps that’s a sign of things to come with the MySpace platform.

Jouissance v.2.0, oui? As long as MySpace keeps social issues in the forefront of their Social OS roll-out plan, I’ll attempt to hush my paranoia. Sounds like a given… but I’m not yet convinced.

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Okay, “gives birth” was a bad choice of phrase; please read on.

This past weekend, I stumbled upon a podcast interview with Leo Lorenzen, the CEO of Altura Ventures, a VC principally focused on funding Facebook apps. The interview proves the insane pace of the social networking world; although the conversation took place less than a month ago, the major takeaways are already severely outdated. To wit, Lorenzen is quick to draw a line in the sand between MySpace and Facebook, particularly when discussing open platforms. He posits that Facebook, as a SN open platform trailblazer, will make it much harder for MySpace to follow suit.

Well, apparently, not all that hard; it’s happening next week.

Lorenzen punctuates the divide by remarking that Facebook is more like “a proxy of how people actually interact with friends in real life,” whereas MySpace remains typically “web-like.”

The root of this dividing line, according to Lorenzen, is the concept of the Social Graph– a term rapidly becoming a hot industry buzzword (and, in true web 2.0 fashion, may already be on its way out).

So, what is the Social Graph? In a long-winded (yet alliterative) way, the Social Graph refers to the underpinnings of communication, coordination, collaboration, and commerce within a social network. In short, the Social Graph is defined not by the thousands of widgets bouncing around in Facebook-MySpace-Bebo-Land, but rather by what (and whom) lies underneath.

Put another way, the Social Graph can be thought of as a dynamic, constantly undulating Q&A session:
Who’s using all of these widgets, and how?

As I’ve been discussing in the past few posts, the idea of a Social Graph no longer belongs singularly to Facebook (even though it’s one of Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite phrases). In fact, it would even be foolhardy to apply it only to the social networking space as a whole. The Social Graph now appears to be busting at the seams and giving way to a new Term of the Moment: The Social Operating System.

It’s like Jargon Christmas! For the sake of blog space, look forward to thoughts on the S-OS later this week.

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Yesterday, I posted about the thematic overlap of the Jaiku-Google deal and MySpace’s upcoming 3rd party developer platform. The analysis left me fidgety. And, when I’m fidgety, I ask more questions:

  • Is this rapid shift toward open platforms and widget-mania resulting in thousands upon thousands of useless, hastily-hacked apps? [Okay, yes, but is there a germ of an idea somewhere in that mucky widgetpile that could actually change the way we live and compute?]
  • Is this shift a burgeoning condition of web 2.0, or have we never grown out of the “Dancing Hamster Phase” of web 1.0, and we’re just now noticing the (widgety, microbloggy) shape of the new permutation?

OR

  • Are we hesitant to assign any value to widgets because we too quickly deem them low-brow? Could the quickly expanding 3rd party developer space actually be a way out of the SN corporate mousetrap?

That said, I should bring to light another major SN player that’s part of the open platform party– following the example of Facebook, Linked In, and now MySpace. Welcome to the rager, Bebo.

Bebo has been “selectively open” for a while now, allowing a few hand-picked developers to exhibit their wares on Bebo Widgets; yet only since late-July have they jumped into this mosh pit. (Incidentally, they’re also rumored to be heading towards an IPO.)

Pete Cashman over on Mashable wonders what this means for revenue; I wonder what this means for end users.

There is a nugget of hope in this whole movement. Back in August, Facebook changed the way apps were ranked, based not only on number of users, but on how “engaging” they are – a move prodded by criticism that they were only highlighting popular, yet entirely useless, apps. This new method is still completely subjective, and doesn’t really solve anything, but at least it shows cognizance (on the end users part) that the Pick Ur Zit widget may be cool (for a second), but has no further resonance. In short, sticky is far from synonymous with useful.

So, does this simply leave us in a holding pattern? Not necessarily.

I’d be biased if I said the key to redemption in Widgetville (and ultimately culling out useful apps from the larger pile o’ bile) is some form of The Web Outside, but I’ll say it anyway. More specifically, bringing the most engaging apps into social places and making them part of the real world fabric can’t help but weed out the richest apps and weave them into our lives beyond our desks and dormrooms.

But, as I said, I’m biased… [see name of blog above]

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