Thursday, December 27, 2007

Facebook Platform, Twitter, and Ning Among "Hits" Says CNet

This time of year it's always fun to look back at the interesting (and not so interesting) businesses that have been spawned on the Web during the past twelve months. In doing so I came across CNet's "Hits and Misses" article published on December 11.

Facebook scored high marks for its open platform initiative that allows developers to create "widgets" that bring new features to Facebook users. Facebook also received a "Miss" for its Beacon initiative which CNet dubbed one of the "Creepy ad platforms" of 2007.

Twitter is given props for its easy (but not too easy) set of social features that don't ask too much of its users. While blogging supposes that the writer is giving something careful thought in most cases prior to posting, Twitter merely asks "What are you doing right now?" which is seemingly easy to answer for most... I think the toughest parts to truly embracing Twitter are 1) believing that every move you make would be of interest to an intelligent life form and 2) deciding that you want to unveil many moves each day to "Followers" across the 'net. I am personally working to become an active Twitterite but have not yet mastered numbers '1' and '2' mentioned above. However, I have found that an interesting facet of Twitter is the active engagement that it establishes between people relative to traditional blogging. On a blog, you know you have some readers and subscribers but you aren't sure who they are exactly and even when they post it is difficult to establish much of an ongoing dialog or relationship with those who post. On Twitter, you are able to "Follow" others who are notified you are following them and they are in-turn able to easily follow you as well. This simple difference is the main thing that is keeping me Twittering. I came to the realization that this was really powerful when I began following Robert Scoble and within a few minutes I received notice that he was also following me. Given that Scoble is one of the pioneers of blogging and open customer communication who I have been following for a while, it was exciting to create this active connection with him... Now if I can just bring myself to type What I am Doing Right Now into Twitter!

Ning is something I had never heard of and therefore I have nothing to offer in the way of novel thoughts about this CNet Hit. The gist seems to be that anyone can use Ning to create a private social network. The example CNet gives is the ever-important ability to "track and rate local lunch spots" which is a use CNet's staff actually has for the product. I am unsure of there revenue model but if they charge enterprise dollars perhaps this can become a viable business. If the strategy requires blogs to have more than a million users for the economics to work I would bet Ning will have trouble over time as I believe only a handful (maybe a dozen) social networks will have the critical mass required to generate meaningful financial returns.

Surprisingly the iPhone was not mentioned in the article. I am now seeing many who are cursing its issues and threatening (already) to move on to new and different gadgets. At lunch with my business partner at ChaCha Scott's iPhone spontaneously went black and would not turn back on for a few minutes. (Check out Scott's new blog when you have a chance).

So my question is whether the iPhone was a Hit or a Miss in 2007? What do you think about the iPhone and other products that debuted in 2008?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Google's "knol" Experiment Highlights Need for Credibility

Today Google's VP of Engineering, Udi Manber, blogged about a new project called "knol" Google is working on. This project is intended to "to find a way to help people share their knowledge".

This announcement is exciting to the ChaCha team because it validates for the masses something that we have believed deeply from the beginning - that leaving it up to the crowd to give you an answer is not a good idea when accuracy and authority count.

My sense is that Google has Wikipedia in its crosshairs with this initiative as Google sends millions of visitors to the not-for-profit everyday. By capturing this traffic rather than shuttling it off to Wikipedia, Google stands to grow revenue and extend its brand to include the provision of knowledge by actual authorities.