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Reactions on Facebook-Friendfeed: Robert Scoble

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on August 13, 2009

Robert Scoble, American blogger, technical evangelist, and author, profiled the Facebook’s acquisition of Friendfeed and was one of the first people to interview Friendfeed’s founders post the acquisition event. Here’s presenting his reaction and comments to the acquisition:

1. This is Facebook firing a shot at Google, not at Twitter. Twitter is mere collateral damage but Facebook knows the real money in real time is in search. FriendFeed has real time search. Google does not (although it’s bootstrapping there very fast, some of my FriendFeed items are showing up in Google within seconds now). Facebook has 300 million users. FriendFeed and Twitter do not. Google has Wave coming, along with some other things this fall and that forced a shotgun marriage between FriendFeed and Facebook.
2. FriendFeed is dead. I will keep using it until Paul unplugs the last server, which could be years, but let’s be honest, the FriendFeed engineering team will make a MUCH BIGGER impact if it gets real time search working for 300 million people.
3. FriendFeed’s social graph? Unknown what happens to that. Facebook doesn’t allow me to have more than 5,000 friends unless I move them all over to my Facebook Group, which I guess I’ll start doing now.
4. Facebook’s news feed? If I were Zuckerberg I’d keep the one they have but roll in some of the nice FriendFeed features like real time comments.
5. Places that this marriage is great?
+ Profiles. FriendFeed doesn’t have them, Facebook does, so this makes everyone on both sides of the fence better off.
+ Applications. FriendFeed doesn’t have them, Facebook does.
+ Friend management. Facebook’s management and privacy features are lots better than FriendFeed’s were.
+ Photos and videos. These are things that FriendFeed didn’t do much of, and relied on other services for.
6. Things I’m sad about?
+ FriendFeed’s groups were better for me than Facebook’s were.
+ FriendFeed’s community was geekier and more fun, for me. No (or almost no) celebrities, very few jerks, lots of engagement that I don’t get on Facebook, and no spammers.
+ FriendFeed’s rules were much looser and I’ve never heard of someone legitimate getting kicked off of FriendFeed. If there’s one part of Facebook that scares me, it’s this one.
+ This guarantees that no developers will jump into the FriendFeed pool, at least not now. Too many uncertainties. So, if you were waiting for a great iPhone app, or for Seesmic to get FriendFeed capability, I doubt that will happen.
7. What does this mean for Twitter? Well, Twitter’s search really sucks compared to FriendFeed’s, so Twitter will hunker down, I’m sure, and get its search up to par. On FriendFeed you could do far better filtering and you can look back to the beginning of FriendFeed, while Twitter only shows you the last few days. On FriendFeed the search was also true real time.
8. What would I do if I were at Facebook? I would get real time search done as fast as possible for all users. I would find a way to get FriendFeed users into Facebook (and bring their social graph’s with them, we’ve worked hard to build those graphs and they are different than the ones I’ve built in Facebook already). I would look at building FriendFeed as an R&D garden for Facebook. Let the FriendFeed team iterate and build fun stuff, but then have the 800 employees at Facebook take the innovations and roll them into FriendFeed.

The future of social media (in context of Facebook – Friendfeed marriage)

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on August 13, 2009

The Facebook and the Friendfeed marriage could have much larger future implications on social networking, content indexing and real time search. In the triangulur contest between Google, Facebook and Twitter, each of these players had one big speciality. Facebook has bad search for the vast quantity of content generated by its users worldwide.  Google has good search but is not optimized for breaking news or user generated content.  Twitter has adequate search for its content, generated by a small percentage of its users generating to keep the rest of the world up to date on breaking news; however, at 45M users it’s dwarfed by Facebook’s 250M users.FriendFeed has a powerful search engine on status and aggregates from multiple sources, including Twitter and Facebook, but doesn’t have the cache of any of the aforementioned players.

So Facebook + FriendFeed combination becomes interesting because 1) it allows Facebook to tap into the real-time stream of consciousness that Twitter does so well, and 2) it acquires a real-time search engine to further support its efforts to improve search (which has been in beta testing since June), including the recent incorporation of Microsoft’s Bing.  This, on the surface, would seem as though the “Face-Feed” combination is taking direct aim at Twitter (#1) and Google (#2). (or is it the other way around?)

It’s clear that social media is becoming a core asset that the big players want to protect and cultivate.  Once the dust settles, it will have a fundamental impact on how brands communicate with consumers.

Facebook buys out Friendfeed

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on August 11, 2009

Facebook, the largest networking site in the world is all set to buy Friendfeed, an up-and-coming social media startup, lets people share content online in real time across various social networks and blogs. The deal is worth $50 million with $15 million in cash and $35 million in Facebook stocks. Facebook had in 2008, tried to snap Twitter for $500 million.This is yet another major partnership deal after the recent Microsoft-Yahoo search deal.

What Facebook gains in this acquisition is the engineering talent at FriendFeed, rather than the actual product, which has won critical praise, but lagged in popularity compared to Twitter.FriendFeed was looked upon as close competitor of Twitter, microblogging service for the same task – sharing information online.FriendFeed’s 12-employee team will join Facebook family. The four founders of FriendFeed – Paul Buchheit, Bret Taylor, Jim Norris and Sanjeev Singh, will take senior positions in Facebook’s Engineering and Product teams.FriendFeed’s four founders are former Google Inc employees who count well known products like Gmail and Google Maps among their accomplishments.

Commenting on the post-acquisition process, Marc Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, stated that in the present  FriendFeed will work as it is as long as the founders lay out future plans for integration of both services. Facebook’s FriendFeed acquisition is buzzed as directly challenging Google and leap frogs Twitter

Commenting on the acquisition, Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang said that the having the founders of Friendfeed on the Facebook team would be beneficial for Facebook in the long run, because the 4 founders were very competenet in building scalable, social applications. Owang also commented that Facebook must make the content generated within Friendfeed more accessible to the public instead of only to closed networks of Facebook friends, so that Facebook can sell more ads.

This is in line with Facebook’s policy.Earlier this year, Facebook announced changes to its privacy controls to allow people to make their status messages and posts viewable to a broader Internet audience.

Where does that put Google and Twitter?

Twitter has been facing some problems like the recent worm and DDoS Attack, database upscaling issues. People cannot see their tweets older than two days or to a week if they don’t tweet frequently. So having that glittering five figure updates is pointless since you’ll never get to see your first update. 

In May 2009, Google was eyeing to acquire Twitter since the search giant was interested to venture into real-time search. However, the indexing of old Twitter updates for real-time search results has been quite an issue lately. If Google buys Twitter then all the search excellence can be used for tweaking Twitter’s search code. 

Facebook will now make use of ex-Google’s excellence in expanding Facebook platform to the next paradigm: Real-time search. Google and Twitter could quickly need to tie up for mutual partnership on Twitter’s search technology. Else, Facebook and Friendfeed could prove to be a more formidable threat than Microsoft and Yahoo Combine!

Ref: http://www.techtree.com/India/News/Facebook_Acquires_Friendfeed_To_Fight_Google/551-105429-643.html;

http://in.reuters.com/article/internetNews/idINTRE5794Q420090811?sp=true

Demystifying Twitter (Part II): Usage charecterestics

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 30, 2009

Contd from earlier post http://technologyandtelecom.blogspot.com/2009/06/demystifying-twitter-one-way-one-to.html

Activity levels of Twitter Users
Data collected from Twitter Grader (4.5 million users) has some interesting inferences that need to be taken note of:
1. 79.79% users failed to provide a homepage URL
2.75.86% of users have not entered a bio in their profile
3.68.68% have not specified a location
4.55.50% of suers donot follow anyone
5.54.88% have never tweeted
6.52.71% have no followers

 

9.06% of all Twitter users are inactive (less than 10 followers, 10 friends,10 updates). Of the ones, who are thus classified to be active, and have a bio, loaction, hompage URL:

 

1. Average user tweets .97 times a day
2. An average user has tweeted 119.34 times in total
3. The average user has a following to follower raio of .7738

 

In terms of content of tweets:
1.1.44% of all tweets are retweets
2.37.95% of all tweets contain an @ symbol (mentions)
3.33.44% of all tweets start with an @ symbol (replies)

 

Most users stretch the 140 character limit to the max in an attempt to get as much content as possible into every update.The distribution of postings over days and times of day shows us that business hours during the business week in the US are the most popular.
Twitter usage
The maximum concentration of Twitter use is in US, followed by Canada and UK. Australia is the next in the list.

Demystifying Twitter (Part I)

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 30, 2009

A Report from Harvard Business Publishing house categorizes and says that Twitter resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.

Twitter has attracted tremendous attention from the media and celebrities, but there is much uncertainty about Twitter’s purpose. Is Twitter a communications service for friends and groups, a means of expressing yourself freely, or simply a marketing tool?

Here’s sampling two independent studies on the Twittersphere (The Twitter eco-system):

1. A study on the user demographics and usage phenomenon by Harvard Business Publishing (Sampling about 3 lakh Twitter users)
2. Another study by Hubspot on activity levels of Twitter Users. (Sampling about 4.5 million users)

User Demographics and usage styles
Compared against other online social networks; 80% Twitter users have atleast 1 follower/following. This is in contrast to the online social portals, which register 60 – 65% single friend status. The other marked departure from social networking standards is the following/follower pattern. Most of the online social networks activity is focusssed around women, where as in Twitter, the activity is centred on men.

It might point to the fact that content produced by Men on twitter is perceived to be more compelling than a typical social network and content produced by women is less compelling (because of lack of photo sharing, detailed biographies etc)

Twitter Followers

The Twitter usage pattern is also very different from a typical on line social network and a Twitter user contributes very rarely –> The median lifetime tweets per user is one which translates to over half the twitter users retweeting less than once every 74 days.Twitter Users IIAt the same time there is a small contingent of users who are very active. Specifically, the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. To put Twitter in perspective, consider an unlikely analogue – Wikipedia. There, the top 15% of the most prolific editors account for 90% of Wikipedia’s edits ii. In other words, the pattern of contributions on Twitter is more concentrated among the few top users than is the case on Wikipedia, even though Wikipedia is clearly not a communications tool. This implies that Twitter’s resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.
Twitter Followers II

Quick Bite: Steve Johnson on Twitter

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 28, 2009

6a00d8345166f269e201157Twitter’s key elements — the follower structure, link-sharing, real-time searching — are here to stay. And every major channel of information will be “Twitterfied” in one way or another in the coming years.

Steven Berlin Johnson’s Time cover story: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1902604,00.html

A movement called Twitter

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 20, 2009

twitterFor an internet portal just two years in existence, the amount of news that Twitter has been making is like nothing ever before in the history of communications. Sample this:

  1. The micro-blogging site has featured in Time some days back
  2. Oprah Winfrey is the latest celebrity tweeting on the already huge celebrity list of Twitter
  3. Iranians turned to the service to protest the results of their presidential election and get the news out …
  4. … if that wasn’t enough, the importance of the San Francisco-based startup was underlined by the US State Department, which asked Twitter to postpone a planned maintenance shutdown on Monday because of the situation in Iran.
  5. Reacting to the Iran situation, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said, “It’s humbling to think that our two-year old company could be playing such a globally meaningful role that state officials find their way toward highlighting our significance.”
  6. Access to the popular social networking service was blocked across mainland China on Tuesday afternoon, two days before the 20th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown following calls for a re-evaluation of the protest movement that have been published on the Internet, and may have prompted the black-out
  7. Twitter has been adding millions of users a month for the past several months and its website received 32.1 million unique visitors in April, according to comScore.
  8. #cnnfail hashtag on Twitter, came out as a result of Twitter users venting out their frustration on CNN for not giving enough coverage to the Iran incident. CNN had to issue an official response to the allegations.

 

The actual number of users of the micro-blogging service is hard to figure since Twitter can be accessed using personal computers, mobile telephones and dozens of custom-built applications such as the popular Tweetdeck.

The Twitter co-founders have reportedly passed up offers running into the hundreds of millions of dollars for the service and have so far only unveiled vague plans to turn it into a money-making venture.

Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist whose firm Union Square Ventures is an investor in Twitter, made it clear at the Twitter conference in New York on Tuesday that he believes Twitter has a bright— and profitable — future.“Links are the currency of the Internet,” Wilson, who sits on Twitter’s board of directors, told the 140 Characters Conference.

“If you look at the power of Google, and why Google is currently the king of the Internet, it’s that Google drives more traffic to more places on the Internet than anybody else,” he said.

“Social media, particularly systems like Twitter and Facebook that are good at driving traffic out into the Internet the same way that Google does are very important and powerful economic forces,” Wilson said.“It’s a natural thing for services like Twitter and Facebook to eventually figure out how to inject some sort of a paid model into their systems.“It’s the obvious thing to do and if they don’t do it some one will figure out how to do it as a third-party application, and people are already doing it as third-party applications,” he said.

John Borthwick, whose company Betaworks is among the hundreds that have developed tools for Twitter, said it is this “incredibly vibrant ecosystem of applications” surrounding Twitter that is one of its strengths.

Jeff Pulver, organizer of the 140 Characters Conference, said it is too early to tell exactly where Twitter is going, but “I think what we’re experiencing is something that’s much bigger than all of us understand.We’re living in a time where access to information is available to anyone and everyone,” said Pulver, a web entrepreneur. “The advent of Twitter has democratized access to information to everyone.

“When more and more people have real-time information we’re going to see transformations happen that no one expected,” he said. “Businesses will fail, others will flourish and there will be billions of dollars of opportunity created.”

 

The impact that this 2 year old micro blogging site seems to have in real time world is scary and there is little wonder that Google wants to either buy out or partner Twitter. Twitter’s ascent would not leave Google very comfortable. Would it?

Reference: http://www.livemint.com/2009/06/17131454/From-Time-to-Oprah-to-Iran-Tw.html?h=B

http://www.livemint.com/2009/06/03121331/China-blocks-Twitter-ahead-of.html?d=2http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/5351937/Google-chief-hints-at-partnership-with-Twitter.html

http://www.watblog.com/2009/06/18/the-iran-controversy-and-the-importance-of-social-media-communications/

When will Twitter start generating money through the advertising medium?

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 19, 2009

Twitter Bird

Twitter is the million dollar baby and the trillion dollar question is “When will Twitter start generating money through the advertising medium?” . Towards this, I reproduce Biz Stone’s (Founder, Twitter) version of commercial usage, revenue generation, and advertising which he had posted on his blog.

Source: Does Twitter Hate Advertising? (Blogger): May 20, 2009

When we speak publicly about how Twitter might become a profitable business, we talk about the idea of commercial usage and then explain that we’re still exploring what that means—that’s true. We also say traditional web banner advertising isn’t interesting to us which is also true. However, to say we are philosophically opposed to any and all advertising is incorrect.For a long time, we’ve said that we think there are interesting opportunities related to commercial usage. Businesses and individuals are getting value out of Twitter and we may be able to enhance that. We’ve just begun exploring in this area—early ideas include account authentication, management tools, and discovery mechanisms. We’ll keep you posted.The idea of taking money to run traditional banner ads on Twitter.com has always been low on our list of interesting ways to generate revenue. However, facilitating connections between businesses and individuals in meaningful and relevant ways is compelling. We’re going to leave the door open for exploration in this area.Do we hate advertising? Of course not. It’s a huge industry filled with creativity and inspiration. There’s also room for new innovation in advertising, marketing, and public relations and Twitter is already part of that. In fact, next month I’ll be attending and speaking at the 56th annual international advertising festival, Cannes Lions 2009. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Essentially, Biz Stone speaks about expanding the value in Twitter (related to commercial usage). Twitter is largely exploring the value that it can create and add to individuals and businesses as a meaningful, relevant and compelling way to make monies. Traditional banner ads are dismissed as a low priority activity which is low in the list of “ways to generate revenue”.

Will low user retention cap Twitter’s growth?

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on May 8, 2009

A study conducted by Nielsen reveals that 60% of Twitter users fail to return to the micro blogging site a month later. In other words the user retention rates of Twitter languish at 40%! What’s more worrying from Twitter’s perspective is Nielsen’s forecast that at 40% retention, Twitter won’t grow its internet reach at more than 10% per annum. The retention- reach model that has been used is based upon regression analysis and the following is its pictorial depiction.

Nielsen Retention Reach model

Although a high retention rate doesn’t guarantee a massive audience, but it is a prerequisite. There simply won’t be enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point.

There are two arguments in favor of Twitter are:

1. The majority of Twitter use happens away from the site, on mobile phones and apps like Tweetdeck, and it’s theoretically possible to be an avid Twitterer but never visit Twitter.com after you sign up

2. A lot about Twitter is a huge amount of Media mouthing as well from Obama to Ashton Kutcher to Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong and more.. In essence there is lot of hype and expectation bubble around Twiter, which otherwise left to itself is doing pretty decent.

However young, it may be, Twitter’s illustrious record pits it against the behemoths: Facebook and My Space in terms of Internet traffic. But the, compared tpo the boom period of Facebook and My Space, Twitter still fails to score points on Reach and Retention.

The study clearly states that retention levels at social network behemoths was double of Twitter even in their early boom phase and that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.

The chart below shows the retention rate comparison with early years of Facebook and Myspace.

Twitter Facebook My Space

The answer to this may lie in the perception and usage of Twitter and its user profile. Poor retention, in other words — just like the characteristics Nielsen attributes to Twitter traffic. The consumer value of a social-status service like Twitter resembles the value of “news” as a service. It is incidentally important, but not always important, and never all important to any one person. The intervals between incidents that you or I might deem important defy any prediction. Hence, a Obama election may form a Twitter peak, but a economic overhaul simply may not. Is this a question on supply as well? (May be another Obama-esque Twitter centric campaign or a Hudson landing will create the refresh for Twitter. Will it? We will watch this space.

Twitter’s integration into mainstream broadcast media

Posted in Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on April 16, 2009

March U.S. comScore Media Metrix data shows that the number of visitors to Twitter.com jumped 131% in March to 9.3 million visitors! That’s 5 million more visitors than in February – a pretty astounding figure if you think about it. The chart below illustrates just how dramatic a jump it was:

twitter-trend-apr092

It appears that the recent growth in Twitter is partly fuelled by the attention it is getting from mainstream media. Twitter has now beome an active tool for news dissemination by the mainstream broadcasting mediums. A typical newscast is not “complete” without the integration of Twitter and mention of it. The latest and best example of Twitter usage as a primary media vehicle is Newst Gingrich’s criticism of Barrack Obama’s ressponse to the Somali pirate stand off. News broadcasters like CNN’s Rick Sanchez have actually incorporated Twitter into their live broadcasts, and it seems like just about every other journo these days has a presence on Twitter. Like it or not, Twitter is quickly revolutionizing the way our entire news ecosystem operates, from journalist to consumer, and blurring the lines in between.

That, the user profile is ideally suited for news cross connects is a boon for Twitter. A separate study shows a high incidence of new sites cross visits by Twitter users suggesting a strong relation between Twitter users and news consumption.

cross-visits-report1

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