Email is dead or so they said, well it seems like Facebook has another idea. A few weeks ago Facebook announced their plan for merging all your communication to be found in one place, and including a @facebook address as a way to be reached. Though they’re suggesting it’s not email and calling it a conversation hub, since they’re removing the subject line as part of the message. Regardless of what they want to call it makes a good case that email is in fact not dead, just due for an upgrade.
Despite it’s failure, Google Wave had some solid ideas on bringing email inline with modern technology. The good parts of Wave will resurface in Gmail and other services. For example earlier this week Posterous launched Groups which has number of the things I liked about Wave with simpler and prettier UI. Been testing is over the last few days and thought there are still a few odd UI issues, the overall UI is simple enough for non-geeks to use and that’s key for mass adoption. In the sample at left (from Posterous) you can see the basic layout and support for photos/video etc. Not as pretty as some of the standard Posterous themes but I’m sure that will come with time. The big question is whether the masses start adopting it, especially with competitors like Facebook Groups; though they are different offerings, Facebook already has the masses using their services everyday.
AOL is also giving email another try with their recently launched Project Phoenix. I love the paper cut-out animation they used to announce the project (see below) and for the users of Aol Mail this will be a welcome addition. They’ve simplified the UI, added the ability to import your other email services and now lets you send text messages. Another plus is I didn’t notice any ads cluttering up the interface. I assume they’ll be there sooner or later and if not, this is an even bigger plus for the consumer. I also like their “quick bar” access to multiple communication tools. Despite these improvements I’m not sure it’s enough to attract new users, though it may help keep their current customer base.
Personally, I still use email for some things, but for many things email’s formality and permanence isn’t needed. If I just want to share a link, or something else temporal email is overkill. At the same time having an archive for things is still needed at times. It’s good to see some progress in allowing us to have our cake and eat it too. Only time will tell how this will shake out but for now these are a step in the right direction.
In yesterday’s weekly recap I reported on Zynga out doing EA in their financial worth. Just a bit shocking as Zynga has been around for around 4 years and produce simple albeit social games. While EA has been around since the early years of computer gaming, and now own the rights to just about every sports franchise there is. Clearly EA has more overhead but who would’ve thought selling virtual goods could be worth so much.
This week Facebook added a new feature, called Friendships, that allows you to see the activity between friends. For many this will be a great way to reminisce, and be a nice addition to Facebook’s features. On the other hand it’s a privacy nightmare scarier then a Halloween horror flick. How can this feature be bad…think of jealous partner, this feature could easily be miss used to stalk their mate and easily read into any/all cross communications they’ve had with others. To make matters worse, it shows you activity between someone you know and people they are friends with, even when you are not. I wouldn’t have such a complaint if it was just me and one of my friends, but the friend to friend and especially the friend to stranger friendships cross the (privacy) line for me. If it does for you, check out Opt Out of the FB Friendship Feature.
Personally I don’t participate in Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook’s Places as they give me nothing I value in return for my participation. Though there are a number of crossover (online to local) services I do use like Groupon (and similar services), Yelp (for reviews) and Google’s mobile search. I also post my photos to Flickr and Pegshot with their location data turned on as location seems to be a vital part in the story that picture has to tell. More an more this cross over between the real world (local) our online one is going to become seamless. David Marcus’s editorial on TechCrunch talks about how these services need come together to really provide something useful in our day-to-day lives.
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Another buzz word these days is HTML5, this time it’s Microsoft that’s doing the talking. Seems as though Microsoft has decided to back off on the development of their Silverlight platform and focus on using HTML5 for creating online apps. This is a genius move on their part. HTML5 is the only cross platform supported technology. For those developing native mobile apps you’re now looking at supporting a growing number of iOS devices, all the flavors of Android (see more here), Symbian OS and now WinMo7. With WinMo7 being the newest of the group the quickest way to get developers to support your platform is for them to support all platforms. Joe Wilcox goes into greater detail about Microsoft’s David and Goliath strategy.
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We use our smartphones for just about everything filling it with tons of personal data but how often do we think about all that data and how secure it is. Last week there were postings on how simple it was to gain access to one’s contact list on a locked iPhone. So far Apple hasn’t acknowledged it but the method works and is simple enough for just about anyone to do. Sorry, intentionally not providing link.
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Zynga, the creators of FarmVille etc., are now worth more then EA, the second largest game publisher and makers of every sports franchise game there is. The reasons…virtual goods, lower overhead, and of course social networking. Still, both are smaller then Activision Blizzard but Zynga has only been around for four years, so who knows how long that will last. Get more of the details at Bloomberg Businessweek.
The battle for the mobile space is fierce as ever and according to Adobe’s recent survey users prefer a the mobile web for shopping and media rather then downloading apps. Though the same survey showed for single goal oriented tasks (social media, games, etc.) apps were preferred. Hopefully this will help guide companies into making decisions on where and how best to reach their customer’s needs. See the press release for more stats from the survey.
If you looking to get out there an promote your product/site you have a few options for building up the buzz, and SocialTwist’s new report on viral stats may be a good place to start. According to the report 55% of referrals come via email, 24% from social media and 18% through IM. Though that’s not the whole story, when it comes to click-throughs Social is king with 60%, followed by email’s 31%. Twitter is earning around 19 clicks per link, to Facebook’s 2.9 clicks per link. Lastly sharing is dominated by Facebook at 78%. What does all this mean? Each service has it’s strengths and to maximize your viral potential you’ll need to work them all.
Want more numbers…well Tweetdeck’s got you covered. They looked at the Android ecosystem to see product penetrations and found over 500 different phone models and around 120 different OS versions. On one side it shows how fragmented the Android market is, on the other it shows how well Android handles that fragmentation. Feels like history repeating itself (Windows/Mac).
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Search gets social as Facebook goes with Bing as it’s search partner. According to Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president for online business at Microsoft, Bing’s results will soon be biased by the number of “likes” a link has received from your Facebook friends. It’s not a surprise that Facebook didn’t team up with Google as they are reportedly working on their own social platform. Though Mark Zuckerberg points out that with Bing being the underdog they are going to work harder, innovate more. He expands on this point in the Q&A event post the announcement. The New York Times also points out that Places uses Bing’s maps rather then Google’s as well.
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Cupertino must be celebrating after winning a patent on the “pinch-to-zoom” gesture. Though the patent is very specific and doesn’t pertain to all pinch-to-zoom gestures only those that are followed by an additional gesture to continue the zooming (figure 4A in the patent application). Still this is one more weapon in Apple’s legal arsenal…along with the 17 other patents they were awarded on Oct 12.
Apple is already suing HTC over 20 patents that according to Apple the manufacturer is infringing upon. As of this week, HTC is no longer alone in this fight. Motorola has decided to back HTC in this fight and is pushing for the entire suit to be thrown out of court on the basis that they are invalid. Separately, Motorola is suing Apple over patent infringements of their own.
Aside from the patent wars there is a growing number of designers/developers questioning the app craze in favor of web-based solutions that work across all the platforms. Zeldman, a constant advocate for standards, offers a succinct argument that the iPad has become the new Flash. Personally, I don’t think he’s too far off the mark but not only from the coding aspect but as far as UI’s. Just like with Flash there are many iPad designs based solely on showing off this, that or the other thing rather then providing a good, easy to use UI. Ultimately, it was the show-off designs and poor user experience that became the poster boy for the anti-Flash community. Sure it’s not a open standard, but it is a standard that is supported by 96+% of the users out there. Every tool has it’s purpose just like the iPad and platform specific apps have there place.
Who doesn’t like to play games now every once and a while? Since everyone likes games adding game elements to your site is the latest/greatest way to build synergies with your customer/user and solves just about every business ask. So next time you’re solutioning a business problem think about tossing a progress bar in there.
What is BLADE? It’s a new anti-maleware app that blocks websites from launching their services just by you visiting their page. BLADE will be a must have for any Windows user (once it’s released). I know once it’s available I’ll be installing it on my mom’s computer ASAP.
Calling themselves the Internet DVR is a bit of a stretch, but if you like YouTube videos enough to want to keep them Dirpy maybe for you.
The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.
The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.
The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy. Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future. I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.
In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.
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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.
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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS. So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.
On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.
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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.
One of the big events of last week was Y Cominator‘s Demo Day where 30+ companies showed of their technology in hopes for securing additional funding. Last week’s Demo Day was so big it took 2 days, if you couldn’t be there TechCrunch gives a run down of a few of the presenters.
If you have Gmail, then you might want to check out Rapportive‘s browser plug-in. While viewing your email it’ll provide a sidebar full of the contact’s profile including various social services and CrunchBase. At the bottom of the sidebar is an area to add personal notes for the contact. It’s a simple addition but could be priceless once you start using it. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
As a UX lead finding out how users are interacting with a design is invaluable. There are a number of new solutions out there providing inexpensive remote testing options. But eye tracking has required use of specialty equipment. Even though we have one where I work it’s a huge hassle and the whole process makes for a very artificial environment. GazeHawk‘s offering may change all that as it uses standard webcams. Additionally, offer a service to use their network of participants to test your work. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
There was even stuff for the couch potato in all of us, Teevox showed off their iPhone app. It’s a remote control for watching Hulu and Netflix videos on your PC. The app’s UI is simple and straight forward and even better is there is nothing to install on your PC in order for it to work. I encountered a few crashes on my 3G, but that seems like standard behavior with iOS4, so I can’t fault them on that. Fore more see TechCrunch’s write up.
The merger of TV and PC is getting closer everyday. Working in the industry it’s all to clear where things are going so it was interesting to read TechCrunch’s somewhat harsh editorial on the full-on assault being staged against the cable companies. In the TechCrunch editorial they get the gist right but fails to keep in mind that not everyone is as technically inclined as the TechCrunch audience. With that in mind cable TV’s convenience, flexibility and overall simplicity (despite the poor UI of their set-top boxes) will keep it alive for years. They followed up the editorial with some put things into perspective for anyone outside the industry.
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Ok, this one’s title alone made me laugh last week, Twitter’s not stupid – you just have boring friends. Andrew succinctly states for those that think “Twitter is inane, pointless, time-wasting or just narcissistic bleating only means either a) the people you’ve chosen to follow are the wrong ones; or b) you’re expecting something from Twitter it’s not offering: passive entertainment.” Still, Twitter isn’t for everyone.
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The patent war continues. With the Oracle’s suit against Google people hypothesized that it was the patent war to end all patent wars…well last week Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen (via Interval Licensing) launched his own patent lawsuit. The list of patent violators named in his company’s lawsuit covers just about every major web player out there sans Microsoft and Amazon, as noted in FastCompany’s coverage. On first blush the patents in dispute seem horribly vague and undeserved as Amazon’s “one-click” patent.
Other news that doesn’t include Google being sued for patent violations include their addition of Google Voice into Gmail. Though I’ve read that due to high demand there has been some issues with Voice, but I’m sure that will be address shortly. In the meantime, enjoy Google’s little promo video.
Speaking of too little, too late, MySpace is finally getting on the Facebook bandwagon with their new Facebook status syncing feature. Even though this is only the first version, it’s kind of funny that it only goes from MySpace to Facebook, which would require you to actually go to MySpace in the first place. Ironically, I went to MySpace for the first time in over 18 months in order to watch this video promoting their new profile editor. It features Steven Slater, JetBlue flight attendant that went off in a rage on a customer. It’s actually entertaining, smart and even makes a self deprecating reference to being dominated by the FB.
Maybe one of the biggest announcements of the week surround Facebook Places becoming a reality. Facebook held a live, streaming event to announce they were getting into the location check-in game. Rather then take on the two biggest social location services Facebook is actually working with Foursquare and Gowalla. They will soon have an API for other location services to use as well. Almost instantaneously there were people referencing FB as Stalker’s Paradise. Clearly with Places as an auto-opt-in service it could be yet another privacy concern. If you want to block your friends from being able to “place” you Bill Cammack entertainingly walks you through the steps. If you have the Facebook app for iPhone or use touch.facebook.com you can start using Places now.
Even before iOS4 came out and crippled my iPhone 3G, I’ve been leaning towards switching over to Android. Before I make the switch I’m bringing my 3G back to life by reverting it back to iOS3, here’s how. If you want an idea of what it’s like to switch, my buddy Arpit, wrote about his first month with Android covering some of the differences between the two platforms both as a user and a developer. A concern of many developers is if Android is a viable market place, Aaron La gives details on his experience with his Advanced Task Manager app. At $10,000 a month in supplemental income I’d say he’s doing pretty good.
Verizon has been having a good few weeks. More rumors about the iPhone coming out for the Verizon network, though I wouldn’t run to far with that one just yet. They did announce their new HD guide for FiOS subscribers. I don’t have FiOS but I’m glad to see one of the biggies pushing those Motorola boxes into the 21st century. The current set top box that powers America’s TVs features technology that’s nearly a decade old.
They also boasted about there upcoming iPad app that’s will work as a second screen as part of their TV Everywhere. They also talked about updating their VOD experience. Comcast and Time Warner are also working on iPad apps. Comcast showed their prototype earlier this Spring at the Cable show and Time Warner shows theirs in this YouTube clip. If you’re not up to speed on TV Everywhere check out GigaOm’s Everything You Need to Know About TV Everywhere.
Though not everything has gone as Verizon would like. Their new “rule the air” campaign is targeting women with the chance for equality, through Verizon of course. See the commercial and a great rant from TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis.
In the most recent issue of Wired, they proclaimed that the web is dead. So of course the retorts started to follow, Boing Boing uses Wired’s own numbers to show that the Web is alive, well and growing nearly exponentially. Then again they said Print was dead, Rock was dead…Technologizer has a collection of the death of everything.
To end here’s a beautiful time-lapse video of the Perseid Meteor Showeras seen from Joshua Tree National Park and taken by Henry Jun Wah Lee .
Late last week there was an article via the NY Times asking “Could a deal between Verizon and Google destroy any chance for Net Neutrality”. Instead, Google and Verizon called for a press conference on Monday to explain what they’ve been working on. Based on Google’s (and Verizon) blog with their post titled “A joint policy proposal for an open Internet” they spell out that it’s quiet the contrary. Later in the week Google then countered the many concerns about Google selling out or undermining the system. The NY Times continues to question the proposal and “Who gets priority on the web?” What it all really means is yet to be seen but makes me wonder if this is a dig at Comcast and their win against net neutrality earlier this year.
Apple also had some patent fun this week when they published an exact copy of FutureTap’s Where To app inside one of their patents. Where To has been around since the first generation of iPhone. Apple and FutureTap have worked things out, mostly just a failure to credit rather then a stealing of ideas.
Every week I send out/post/share a number of links that I think are informative or sometimes just purely entertaining. This is my first attempt to collect them in one place. Hope you find something of worth and I welcome any comments, suggestions or links. Thanks.
Google is looking to get into the social web, they move their big idea gun Vic Gundotra from Android to all things social (Google Me) at the same time they decided to kill Google Wave, another of their social fails. Though, I believe Wave was more of a UI/workflow fail then a social failure, none the less Google has people talking. Om Malik breaks down Google’s social skills with a great analogy between cricket and baseball.
Meanwhile the current king of social media, Facebook gets some heat for their take on Yahoo! Answers, called Facebook | Questions. Based on the name alone, I’d say it’s a poor choice, who doesn’t prefer getting answers rather then more questions. Makes you question if even the mighty Mark Zuckerberg (and crew) understands his market. With that in mind here is a great rant/request for Facebook Dear Mark Zuckerberg: Ask the Question by Ellen (a Facebook user since 2007)(a Facebook user since 2007).
Last week Facebook announced Open Graph, a way for external sites to connect Facebook’s users and services. Open graph takes what was previously called Facebook Connect a bit further. First, it’s based on using OAuth rather then Facebook’s proprietary system. Secondly, it allows tighter integration with Facebook’s data as well as allowing 3rd parties to locally retain user data for more then 24 hours. This is a huge perk to 3rd party developers; on the flip side this is a huge privacy concern for members. Other additions include the ability for any site to embed some Facebook functionality without requiring OAuth or compromising user privacy, this is done through iFrames.
The OAuth connection allows for more access to user data then ever before. OAuth now has access to profile data and the ability to locally store Facebook user data for periods longer then 24 hours. This empowers developers with the ability to parse through all the user data and make analytical connections that were previously impossible. For example if User X allows access and a week later User Y allows access, if User X is friends with User Y the data is now available to make this connection and any others that come along with the increased dataset. Additionally as an admin for pages that were “liked” you can push page updates to those users.
Overall, Facebook’s Open Graph looks like it’s worth using even if it’s only for the simple marketing benefits by adding a “like” button. Granted the real power lies in the OAuth integration. The biggest winner in all this is Facebook, as all these services places Facebook at the center of it all. As Facebook’s gravity increases they can always switch to a pay system so I don’t suggest relying solely on Facebook for the future of your site/service, but until then no reason not to take advantage of all that Open Graph has to offer.