2007-12-29

A few personal favorites in 2007

A few personal favorites in 2007.

Favorite blog: Futuristic Play. Original, high quality and actionable blogs posts.

Swedish Rookies of the Year: ehnbomcom.com. Personal while keeping a brand focus. Mindpark. Three, at times, (pro-)bloggers should create a good blog. It did.

International Rookie of the Year: Silicon Alley Insider. I like it more than TechCrunch & co, even though I don't always agree with Blodget & co.

Best Video: Charlie Rose. Interesting conversations.

Smart enough to make my brain hurt: bubblegeneration. Always bordering on being too far ahead of the pack. I'm grokking the 2005 posts now.

Best First Month of Blogging: pmarca. Marc Andreessen's first month of blog posts was amazing as he had a lot to say. It is still a good read, but if the current posts had been as good his blog would have been a contender for Favorite blog and it is not.

Turtle Award: Jaiku. I didn't get Jaiku at first, but once my friends got me to start using it I became an addict. If I was slow or if Jaiku is an acquired taste I don't know.

Best Music Service: Spotify (beta). It really is that good.

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2007-12-28

Feature of the Year: the Newsfeed

Looking back at 2007, one web site feature stands out in my mind. The feature wasn't invented in 2007, but it became popular with the rise of Facebook. I'm talking about the Newsfeed. It will likely become as prevalent as the search box as a way to navigate social web sites.

The name Newsfeed is closely connected to Facebook, but the "latest first" (reverse-chronological) way of displaying news (in this blog post I'll use the word news to describe what have happened on the specific web site since the last visit and not general news) were also seen on Jaiku and Twitter. In addition the "latest first" have always been the default way to display posts on blogs and the way, at least mine, to display e-mail messages in the inbox.

But why does the Newsfeed ("latest first") work? What makes it tick?

A basic service a web site can provide a returning user is the sense of change. Even a small change will stop the visitor from feeling like a schmuck that wasted time visiting a web site where nothing had happened.

Thus, it is not enough with only a newsfeed. A web site must also make sure something new has happened. Why have a newsfeed if nothing has happened? This interplay could be one reason why Facebook launched Applications this year, half a year after the launch of the Newsfeed.

However, if there are a lot of changes between two visits, a pure "latest first" way to showcase activities is not as useful. The publisher can likely provide more value to the visitor by showcasing the most important news first or selecting which items to show in the newsfeed.

So, a good newsfeed shouldn't provide too many items at each login. My guess is no more than 10 items per login. This calls for the newsfeed to prioritize which items should be displayed to each user. Is a new photo more important than the usage of an application? Is a new friendship more important than a status update? Etcetera.

I summary, I think a good newsfeed should have the following characteristics (and it is no coincidence that Facebook's newsfeed nails all of them):

* Always display something new
* Not display too many new things
* Display things that are of interested to the individual user

Please add your thoughts in the comments or in your blog.

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2007-12-27

Of note, 2007 edition

Some of the stories that were noted on this blog in 2007. Not a complete list, but one lens to view the year that was through.

January
January was "Swedish Acquisition Month" with Eniro acquiring Leta.se and MTG picking up Playahead. AOL tried to buy, and the founders and funders tried to sell, TradeDoubler, but the institutional investors turned down the offer.

February
Danah Boyd wrote about walled gardens. One of my favorite texts of the year. Twingly launched with Svenska Dagbladet and Dagens Nyheter. I noted the video Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us, which was actually uploaded to YouTube the last day of January.

March
Viacom sued Google for a billion dollars.

April
EMI got a grip and started allowing the sales of non-DRM MP3:s. Other majors followed later in the year. Google acquired DoubleClick, which started an acquisition avalanche of advertising networks and ad servers. But Google didn't get U.S. approval for the deal until the very end of the year. Allers bought Blogg.se, which got Björn Jeffery to analyze the Swedish media companies' online strategies. He also published an article on Internet currencies.

May
I was the first to blog, thanks to some good friends' benevolence, about Spotify. I still think it is an amazing program. Tomas Wennström got me involved in What's Next (thanks Tomas!). Microsoft went big and paid a fortune for online advertising agency aQuantive and CBS did what was probably the largest 'pure' Web 2.0 acquisition when it bought Last.fm. And Facebook reached Sweden, even if the fever didn't hit until a few months later.

June
Trig.com didn't go bankrupt until later in the year, but this quote didn't give great promise. Terry Semel left and Jerry Yang became new CEO of Yahoo. SUN's CEO got something right when he pointed to the difference between fighting and monetizing the future. Metro launched Metrobloggen, but hadn't given the incentives enough thought.

July
I wrote about massmedia's business models and how it changes the incentive for quality. TradeDoubler bought The Search Works, its first large acquisition. I had the idea to blog about what make Internet startups tick, but the series fizzled after a few ho-hum posts. Probably because it was to close to everyday business for me.

August
Disney shelled out 350 million dollars for popular kids' site Club Penguin, with an earn out of another 350 million dollars. Twingly got 10 million SEK, which I think I was the first to write about. Veckans Affärer went crazy and thought that the laws of advertising sales didn't apply to blogs. Facebook fever hit Sweden, and Fredrik Wass survived to tell about it.

September
This blog turned five, which surely is of note compared with the other things mentioned in this year-in-review. ;) Mindpark launched. The Swedish discussion of free versus paid in the context of newspaper sites intensified, and I admit that I like some implementations of paid services.

October
I didn't blog a lot in October, but Radiohead's "open pricing" of its In Rainbows album was notable. As was, of course, Microsoft's combined investment and advertising representation deal with Facebook. Maybe the $240 million investment valued Facebook at $15 billion, but Microsoft got a lot in addition to the shares.

November
In November I blogged even less, due to work, but one thing that caught my eye was MySpace's interest-based targeting. In addition Facebook's flawed, and evil, Beacon advertising system was launched. Facebook later made changes to Beacon, but we now have less privacy as Internet users than before.

December
I tried to figure out how to think about what Google does and what value context brings to Facebook. At InternetWorld's Top 100 Aftonbladet revealed that Facebook is a competitor. In the last days of the year, LunarStorm went from fee to free.

Quite a few things managed to happen in just twelve months, especially as I didn't blog about a lot of stuff.

Which stories do you think was the most important of 2007?

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2007-12-26

Mindpark invests in Sourze, or Thoughts on why people publish online

Mindpark has invested in Sourze and now owns 10 % of the user-created web magazine. Talk about old, and extremely profitable, media meeting new, and in search of a good business model, media.

My main issue with Sourze has been the weak incentive for individuals to, ongoing, create high quality content and publish on Sourze instead of in their own blogs or in other media. (Exposure, traffic and money would be three relevant incentives in this case.)

One problem is that Sourze's current traffic is not large enough to deliver a significant boost in readership compared with writing a blog. That is something an integration, light or tight, with the newspapers who owns Mindpark could help solve.

In some cases Sourze could give the writer better exposure than having a blog. Especially if some smart integration which make use of the allure of (paper-based) newspapers is done.

Or Sourze could use some of the money raised to pay contributors. That would surely be an reason for some to write, even though I imagine both traffic and exposure being stronger incentives.

Playing with Google Reader, or Myware and Feedback Loops

I've been a Bloglines user for a long time (January 2004), but recently I've started to play around more seriously with Google Reader. One of the really nice things with Google Reader is the myware aspect of the service, which lets you learn about your reading behavior.

For creators of web services myware is interesting, as it can be used to shape user behavior. Depending on what you track (and possibly reward), you'll make certain feedback loops stronger. As a result usage will change, possibly leading to an increased number of visits and more time spent per visit.

Feedback loops don't have to be myware that reveals each individual action to the users. In many cases revealing everything will lead to a subset of the users doing a task mechanically to gain status (if the feedback loop includes public recognition once a certain level is reached), rather than enjoying the service. And that is something you want to avoid long-term.

If the reward is private, i.e. how am I using this service?, my gut feeling is that you should give information on a more detailed level than if the reward is social, i.e. look I've been doing cool stuff on this service.

Top Internet Deals of 2007

HipMojo has done a very nice and comprehensive list of the top Internet-related acquisitions of 2007. Note that 2007 wasn't the year of great exits for Web 2.0 companies, rather it was advertising-related companies that Big Internet and Big Media companies spent money on.

Make a list and follow it

The New Yorker: The Checklist. A long, worthy of holiday reading, article in The New Yorker on how making a checklist of procedures can improve results significantly, both in terms of quality and reduced cost. The article is about hospitals, but the lessons can likely be adapted to other organizations as well. Fascinating.

2007-12-23

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone!

GoogleClick approved in the US

Google's acquisition of DoubleClick has been approved by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The deal is not yet cleared by the EU.

If the merger is approved in the EU and goes ahead, it will likely affect the market for "remnant" banner advertising more than premium branded banner advertising market. The reason being that Google can better utilize different kinds of intention and behavioral data to improve DART's "remnant" banner ad targeting, but the merger doesn't change the way media buyers buy premium branded advertising.

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2007-12-20

Daytona's 64 favorite blogs

The Swedish web agency Daytona did an interal poll and came up with their 64 favorite blogs. A lot of really good blogs on the list, including bubblegeneration, bisonblog, Martin Jönsson, Beta Alfa, Futuristic Play and Mindpark.

Which are your five favorite blogs? Leave a comment and if there are enough comments I'll compile a list like Daytona did.

Update: fixed typo and link for bubblegeneration

Stina Honkamaa new Managing Director of Google Sweden

Fredrik Wass writes that Stina Honkamaa, managing director of Carat Sweden, will switch jobs to become the managing director of Google Sweden from the end of January 2008.

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Good times, less blogging

Björn Fant wonders if Swedish IT-bloggers have gone on early Christmas Holidays. I think the answer, as he writes, is that people are working, as times are good, and have crammed schedules.

2007-12-19

Where did the paying members go?

Swedish community site Lunarstorm is closing its paid Pro service. From a peak of 100,000 Pro members, each paying 15-35 SEK/month (about 1.6 to 4 euros), the number of paying members had fallen to 10,000. It is eye-opening that 90 percent of a revenue stream in the range of 2.5-3 million euros per year can vanish in one to two years.

To reinvigorate interest, I'd assume, in the LunarStorm site, all former Pro features have been made free. The decision seems to be driven by the need to meet competition from Facebook and others, to which LunarStorm has lost visitors in 2007, and to keep the offer for advertisers strong.

2007-12-17

Will it fly?

Evan Williams, creator of Blogger and Twitter, on how to evaluate a new product idea.

He argues that there are seven areas to evaluate:

* Tractability: how difficult to launch version 1.0?
* Obviousness: why should people use it?
* Deepness: how valuable to the user?
* Wideness: how many will use it?
* Discoverability: how will people learn about the product?
* Monetizability: how hard will it be to make money
* Personally Compelling: is this what you want to do?

A good framework, especially when comparing different ideas.

2007-12-15

Thoughts on Google's playbook

This post is very much thinking out loud, so please add your thoughts in the comments.

Google is launching a lot of products and initiatives, lately Knol, OpenSocial and Android, in addition to their core search and advertising business. Often Google is given the benefit of doubt that was given to Microsoft in the 90's, i.e. Google's new product is expected to dominate the market. History indicates that such an expectation isn't always well-founded.

Google Base, Blogger and Checkout are some of the products that didn't go on and dominate their markets.

Orkut has been successful in some markets, but is not a global phenomenon.

Google Apps hasn't replaced Microsoft Office, and is not close to doing it anytime soon, but has some traction and is improving product quality.

Is there a better way to forecast, than assuming Google will always win, what Google products will take off?

First let's remember Google's "70/20/10 rule": 70 % of efforts are spent on search and ads, 20 % on nearby business areas and 10 % new stuff.

Generally products outside the search and ads area are likely to get less resources. Thus their success isn't guaranteed by Google's sheer size or its lead in search or advertising. Some of these will compete on the same terms as leading Internet services, others seem to be more experimental.

The products Google seems more likely to invest in are those that establish or fortify Google's standing as the primary search or start page of its users (iGoogle, Google Reader, Google News etc).

Then there are products that make Google's strategic position stronger, but may not directly be highly financially lucrative. Blogger is one, as blogging weakens traditional media companies strategic position when dealing with Google.

Knol seems to be an experimental product outside Google's core. Even if it had a better product design, I'd give it quite a small chances of being as big as Wikipedia or Yahoo! Answers.

OpenSocial seems like an initiative that lies in the "new 10 %". But it has the bonus of making life more difficult for Facebook. Might work, but I don't think the partner alliance is dedicated to making it a success.

Open Handset Alliance and related mobile initiatives are a mixed bag. At its core is about search and related advertising, i.e. billions of dollars of potential revenue. The things Google is doing right now seems to be strategic moves (open handsets and open spectrum) I'd put in the 10 % new box and user-behavior changing stuff which today is in the 20 % box but is moving into the 70 % box. Success is not guaranteed, but the upside is great so Google is likely to, in the school of Steve Ballmer, keep on pounding until they get it right.

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Friends and commitments

Andrew Chen: Why your friends list get polluted over time. Another of Andrew's insightful blog posts on social networks. This time he is digging deeper into the friends and social map aspects of sites like Facebook and MySpace. Recommended reading.

Don't think I ever sent an e-mail

Kids and teens might not e-mail, but on a more abstract layer their Internet usage is similar to older people's.

2007-12-14

The Giving Time

Once again it is the giving time of year. If you can, please donate to:

2007-12-12

Bring it on! Facebook vs Google

Google made a lot of noise when it (pre-)announced OpenSocial in early November. Its alliance with a lot of social networks were, supposedly, going to put some major pressure on Facebook. But announcing before you're live has its disadvantages, especially when your competitor licenses its platform structure to the sites you want in your "alliance". Today Bebo , the largest UK and third largest US social network, said it will launch a clone of Facebook Applications in addition to supporting OpenSocial.

Internet companies in general and social networks in particular might not like Facebook as a competitor, but neither do they like Google. As a third player, hedging your bets and supporting both, and making neither an automatic winner, makes sense.

Update: Or my take on this might be completely wrong.

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2007-12-05

Aftonbladet's main competitor is Facebook, says Swedish twentysomethings

Before the awards cermony at InternetWorld Topp 100, InternetWorld's Editor-in-Chief Magnus Höij interviewed Kalle Jungkvist, editor-in-chief of Aftonbladet Nya Medier. Two interesting takeaways:

1) Aftonbladet Plus has passed 140,000 subscribers.
2) When Aftonbladet.se recently did a focus group with twentysomethings, the main competitor in terms of time to Aftonbladet.se was said to be Facebook. The choice for young Internet users was to, more or less, aimlessly surf Aftonbladet or Facebook for a while. The things you learn when you ask your users...

It is always gameday, so always play to win

At yesterday's InternetWorld Topp 100 awards cermony at least two of the winners were somewhat apologetic for winning this year, as they were launching or were planning to launch redesigned versions of their web sites. They would, it seemed, rather have won next year.

This stroke a colleague of mine as somewhat odd. And I agree. People come to your web site every day. Sometimes the technology or design might not be the most current, but your content is still be good. If you manage to win an award for being the best site of the year in your category even with a somewhat dated site, don't apologize. Be happy. Be proud. And work your ass of to win next year as well.

Facebook changing Beacon for the better

Mark Zuckerberg announces the opportunity for Facebook members to opt-out from Beacon on the company's blog. Changes are made on the privacy page.

There is no elephant in the room

2007-12-03

First Internet predictions for 2008

The first set of Internet-related predictions I've seen for 2008 are from Jeremy Liew at Lightspeed Venture Partners. Worth reading.

Which Internet-areas do you believe will be the most interesting in 2008?

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A blog per day

InternetWorld runs a Blog Calendar where one Swedish blog about Internet/media/advertising is presented each day.

Facebook and the value of context

Some thoughts on Facebook and the value of context in social networks. Please add your thoughts and point to any glaring omissions. Thanks.

In the discussions about Facebook's Beacon advertising system specifically and Facebook in general there are sometimes a lack of understanding why people share personal and sometimes private information on Facebook. And given that some information is shared openly, why the Beacon type of sharing is opposed.

Facebook started out as a closed system, a walled garden if you want. Members could only see people in their own network, basically the university or college you attended, and people they knew. That effectively erected walls and created context. The important point, I believe, is that what you wrote was not open for everyone to read. The result was fertile ground for semi-public personal communications to flourish. This style of communication has been "inherited" by members joining Facebook in the last year.

In the last year Facebook, by making design changes and growing, has moved away from its relatively closed system. Two examples being the change from relatively small networks, the size of a school, to networks with one million members (e.g. the Sweden network) and opening the site to Google and other search engines. In effect Facebook has shifted from giving a relatively high degree of privacy protection, in a social network context, to giving greater leeway to digital voyeurism. (And this is not taking the Beacon power grab into account.) I don't believe that we have yet seen the changes in social behavior, e.g. less open communication in public areas of Facebook, that will likely follow these changes.

I lean towards believing these changes are bad in the longer term both for Facebook and its members. Opening the site will make the part of the social graph Facebook can see larger, as the number of nodes (people) and connections (friendships) grow in relation to members on Facebook. However, I don't believe it is the number of nodes and connections that is the key value driver for social networks. Rather I believe it is the strength of the connections and the activity between nodes that are driving long-term value for members.

A transparent system with many participants will likely reduce the semi-public activity between members. Basically there are things you will not say and things you will not do in an open, public place, but would do in a closed group or a Friday night in a bar. If certain high-value (because they are fun, interesting or something else) activities become rarer, Facebook could be less interesting even if the number of members grow.

That doesn't mean Facebook will disappear, it won't, but it highlights the opportunity for other social networks to satisfy specific needs for certain people better than Facebook.

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2007-12-01

Do Microsoft and Facebook share the same DNA?

Umair at bubblegeneration is writing great stuff on Facebook's Beacon, one example being Research Note: Google vs Beacon, Or Why Advantage is in the DNA.

Year Three Coming Up

Today is the first day of my third year with Stardoll.