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The “Like” economy and Google

Posted in Internet and Search, Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on April 15, 2012

Internet in general has stood for one philosophy: Creative destruction of standards (Brittanica for instance) and the wisdom of crowds (Wikipedia amongst others).However, Google has been one constant through out last decade of Internet which can hence be referred to as largely iconoclastic.

Google with its venerated search algorithim and its links has reigned supreme throughout the last decade of Internet. But now, as we go from a Web 2.0 to a Web 3.0 economy, even the once invulnerable Google might be in trouble. With real identities generating enormous amounts of data, the linked and sponsored economy of Internet is now migrating to the “like” economy… or +1 as Google would have it.

The dramatic shift from traditional search to social media was underlined last week in a speech by Tanya Corduroy the London Guardian’s director for digital development. Eighteen months ago, Corduroy revealed, search made up 40% of the Guardian’s traffic and social only made up 2%. Last month, however, she acknowledged a “seismic shift” in the Guardian’s referral traffic, with Facebook driving more traffic than Google and making up more than 30% of the newspaper’s referrals.

In the wake of Facebook and Twitter dominated social spaces, Google hasn’t quite been just the spectator. In fact, Google now has 4 products that it has tried to rope in the “social” space – Buzz, wave, Google+ and now Search plus your world (SPYW). Each of these are evolution of how Google is trying to make the shift from the search algorithim to the social and collective criteria. Google has also made headway into 170 million customers through the G+ (as against 900 million in Facebook), but the fact that the average user spends a total of 3.3 minutes on Google+ is testimony of the fact that Google still has some distnace to cover.

The concern here is that in trying to catch up with “social” Google seems to be violating its own matra of “Do no evil”. Google’s announcement this January, that it intended to consolidate personal data across its different products and services — from Gmail to YouTube to Google + to SPYW to Google maps to traditional search – had one concerned technology writer suggest that Google will now know more about us than our wives.

As a fact, Google is as evil or as bonafide as any other company or organzation in this world, but there is a good reason to fear Google’s bloodlust for user data across it properties.Afterall, Google’s business model remains primarily the sale of advertising around its free consumer products. Thus, Google’s desire to intimately know us is primarily driven by its core business objective of — one way or the other – selling that knowledge to advertisers.

This threat was laid out chillingly by the Center for Digital Democracy in a complaint about its new privacy policy to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): “In particular, Google fails to inform its users that the new privacy regime is based on its own business imperatives: To address competition from Facebook, to grow its capacity to finely profile and target through audience buying; to collect, integrate, and utilize a user’s information in order to expand its social media, social search, and mobile marketing activities …”. A number of governments and other citizen agancies are increasingly wary of Google. Antitrust litigations against Google is on the rise. FCC, WhiteHouse, EU have taken exception to Google’s privacy policies.

While its still early, 2012 looks to be the year when Google fortunes could begin to wane.With a global outburst against its privacy policies, anti-trust litigations piling up and decline in public trust, Google looks far from dominating the “like” economy like the way it dominated the “link” economy.

An infographic explaining the evolution and changes in Google’s search algorthim over time. Such tweaks and changes have helped Google stay ahead in the Linked internet economy.

Image Ckurtesy: Outrider

Facebook and Google on collision course (Part II)

Posted in Internet and Search, Social context, media and advertising by Manas Ganguly on June 8, 2011

Reliving an earlier post about the rivalry between Google and Facebook.

When Google was born, its advantage stemmed from its ability to collect and analyze superior data. While other publishers looked myopically at each page on the Web as a standalone realm, Google found that the link relationships between those pages held more valuable relevance data than the pages themselves. All of a sudden, the isolated views of players like AltaVista and Yahoo began to look one-dimensional. And ownership of what is now the $20-billion-plus search advertising market was cemented.

Google was envied, loved, hated, and revered. The vast digital empire that Eric Schmidt commanded has one of the most intricate monopolies of all time, the most impressive dataset the world had ever seen; the most sophisticated algorithm to make sense of it; an audience of a billion users expressing their interest; and more than a million advertisers bidding furiously to reach those consumers at just the right moment. Google had perfected its game: increasing returns to scale. Google’s business strength was simply taken for granted; so much so that even deep-pocketed competitors like Yahoo and Microsoft stopped trying to outdo Google’s massive scale and core algorithmic know-how. Google competed on being smarter. It was. And it won. And that’s why Google was unstoppable.

And then Facebook happened! Facebook focused on enabling social connections, not on search. And yet, in the process, Facebook created a platform that knows 700 million people, complete with identity, interests, and activities online. The company’s relentless and organic expansion—from an application to an emergent social operating system—has enabled it to know its users, not only on the Facebook.com domain, but also on other sites, as they travel throughout the Internet.

If Google’s business was built on choosing which Web pages, out of all those in the universe, are most likely to appeal to any given (but anonymous) query string, Facebook already knows, for the most part, which pages appeal to whom—specifically and directly. Facebook’s data allows it to do more than just guess what its customers might be interested in; the company’s data can help it know with greater certainty what its customers are really interested in. And this key difference could potentially give Facebook a tremendous advantage in search when it eventually decides to move in that direction. While Google has amassed an incredible database consisting of the fossilized linkages between most Web pages on the planet, Facebook possesses an asset that’s far more valuable—the realtime linkages between real people and the Web.

Facebook knows each individual and collective behavior patterns well enough to predict what users will like even without actively expressing intent. Facebook can apply science that is analogous to what Amazon uses to massively increase purchase likelihood by suggesting and responding to every minute interactive cue. Whereas Amazon relies on aggregate behavior, Facebook adds in the intimate patterns of each individual—along with their friends and the behavioral peers they’ve never met all around the world. And each of them is logged in and identified as a real person.


A break-up of its subscribers is something that Google will draw a nought about.

Google’s revered and unparalleled dataset is increasingly dating itself outshined by the freshness of the living, breathing organism that is the social Web. Google has almost no first-hand knowledge of any of the users who created this content—or those who are searching for it. Despite the fact that Google goes to great lengths to keep its index fresh by indexing pages that often change every hour, or even every few minutes, and despite its efforts at realtime search (including searching the Twitter firehose), its dominant dataset is dead, while the Web is—each day more so than the last—vibrantly and energetically alive.

In reality, it’s Google’s recognition that Facebook has the same kind of advantage over Google that Google is used to having over its competitors. Thus Google it appears is scared of Facebook and justifiably so. Google has tried adding dimensions to the itself and bridge the gap between social web and the search generation web. That’s where it launched its +1.But, if the truth be told, it will take far more than +1 to measure up to the whole new human dimension of the Internet. After all, the human organism is home territory for Facebook and utterly foreign turf for Google’s algorithmic machine.

Semantic Web: The Future is here!

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on April 7, 2011

Web 2.0 interposes the social domain over Web 1.0 (Plain internet: email, websites and others). It seeks to profile a consumer basis different demographic indices and make “intelligent” recommendations.

Web 3.0 will interpose lot of other things (loosely defined as context) along with Web 2.0. One important dimension that will be added to Web 3.0 is mobility and “active” nature. Active means that the Web reaches out to me basis contextually profiled information (As against “passive” where users access internet). Applications that transcend across TV, Web, Mobile, Car Screen and more will be the feature of Web 3.0 also called Semantic web. The focus in Web 3.0 will shift from data and information indexing to personal profiles and context. Thus while Web 1.0 was a well indexed library of resources, Web 2.0 is social indexing of information and resources, Web 3.0 or Semantic Web will be an “intelligent web” that learns and profiles the user and then steps up relevant information to the user as per the context.

Context here will be decided by a combination of engines: Location Based Engines,HTML5, LAYAR, Recommendations, Profiling, Scanners, Sensors and a host of other engines which will personalize the web according to user behaviour.

Computing in its next avatar will be more about media consumption. I would call it “my Media, everywhere”. Thats where Applications, Cloud Computing, High speed networks, NUIs (Like Kinect) and APIs will hold the sway. Thus the future is Semantic web, always on, always connected, always aware of the context and hence user-relevant at all times.

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Web 2.0: How it is culturally influencing the growth of India?

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on August 6, 2009

A recent nationwide survey of Urban students has some sharp revelations. Going by the trends suggested in this survey, India will emerge as a Internet super power sooner than expected. Urban students are digital natives, reveals the  TCS Generation Web 2.0 survey.

Looks like the dawn of the new Indian

Highlights:

63 per cent of urban students spend over an hour online daily

93 per cent are aware of social networking

Orkut and Facebook are most popular online destinations

46 per cent use online sources to access news; TV, newspaper users at 25 per cent

62 per cent have a personal computer at home

1 in 4 students own laptops in metros;

2 of 3 own music players

IT and engineering remain overwhelming popular career choices

Media and Entertainment, Travel and Tourism are emerging careers

USA, UK top list of international destinations for higher studies Mumbai

A new survey of India’s school children shows that ”The Web 2.0 Generation” are digital natives, with high technology savvy, global in terms of aspirations and outlook as well as being increasingly optimistic about India’s economic future. The survey, conducted by India’s largest IT solutions provider Tata Consultancy Services, is among the largest youth surveys in India, and was conducted across 14,000 high-school children between the ages of 12-18 in 12 cities across India during 2008-09.

“Nearly one out of 10 people on the planet are under 25 years old and living in India. That is the significance of India’s next generation and what they do, think and aspire to hold insights for all those who aim to engage with this Web 2.0 Generation,” said S Ramadorai, CEO and MD, TCS. “The TCS Generation Web 2.0 survey confirms that today’s students are shifting their academic and social life online and embracing the digital world as true digital natives. This societal trend has important implications for parents, educators, policy makers, as future employers as well as companies and brands that want to sell to tomorrow’s generation.”

Mr Ramadorai added, “The Web 2.0 Generation will shape the next phase of India’s growth and success. What this group does and how it interacts with others, its interests and aspiration need to be considered as we all plan for the future. TCS plans to use some of the findings to understand the next generation better and it will help us not just to find the best potential employees for the future, but also guide us to engage and communicate with them more effectively.”

The TCS Generation Web 2.0 survey, conducted for the first time in 2008-09, highlights that urban school children in the metros and mini-metros are immersed online and have the technology at hand to access information through the net at all times. Over 80 per cent have access to mobile phones, find time for the internet alongside school, classes and extracurricular activities, and are starting to embrace Web 2.0 tools like blogs and social networking sites.

The desire to study abroad cuts across students nationwide with USA being the most preferred destination with nearly 40 per cent preferring to study there. For some students, physical proximity plays a part in the choice of overseas education destination, especially in the mini-metros. Singapore and Dubai are preferred by one in five students in Chennai and Cochin respectively as top choice for overseas education.

At a relatively young age, India’s urban students are thinking about travel, learning new skills, experience and salary as when they consider future careers.

TCS has identified the youth in four categories –

The Globetrotter: Today’s students continue to express a strong desire to be mobile like previous generations. The Globetrotter has global ambitions and wants to study and work abroad. However, a growing confidence in the economic future in India is also reflected in the survey as many students, though keen to study abroad and gain global exposure, are also keen to bring skills back to India and put them to use here.

The Gadgetphile: Students from both metros and mini-metros who love gadgets and aspire to have the latest products available. The i-Pod Indian is more likely to be found with access to a web-enabled mobile, the latest gaming console, i-Pods and if he/she doesn’t have one, then aspires to own an i-Phone.

The Nation-builder: The Indian student is focused on his/her career but is as much interested in the additional benefits that careers brings, such as travel, learning new skills, experience to be gained, interesting workplace, and salary. This Career Kid is also starting to branch out of the traditional career choices and going for some new options like gaming and animation. The Nation-Builder is optimistic about Indian companies and favours them over the most popular international MNCs. The Social

Networker: A true digital native, the Social Networker is likely to have as many online friends as real ones and these friendships go beyond the traditional boundaries of gender, caste, and geographies. The Social Youth communicates with anyone and everyone as long as they have the same interests. This child could mark the start of a new democracy where he/she reaches out to more people through social networks and is likely to be more socially active, willing to gather other like-minded youths or even form social network parties.

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