No one can deny Steve Jobs did great things for Apple. Not only was he a founder, but he brought them focus and drive to create some of the most beloved/mimicked products to come out in the last few years (read: decade). Still, Jobs wasn’t living in a vacuum and as much as Apple innovated things they also took the best features from what was already out in the market.
So when I read about Jobs vent about his deep anger with Google (or his personal vendetta against Adobe) it makes Jobs look more of a petty, spoiled boy throwing a tantrum rather then the visionary we all respect him for. And it’s true in many ways Jobs was a spoiled brat with a giant frail ego, but his personality short comings are less memorable then his contributions and I hope in memory it’ll stay that way.
“Sure, Facebook looks massively successful. With a mind-boggling 750 million users, the social site can do no wrong, right?
Look closer, and it looks like Facebook can do nothing right. The company has tried and failed to launch or integrate new services that might thrill users. But users aren’t thrilled. And now its strategy appears to be: Just copy Google+.
Don’t look now, but Facebook is quickly becoming the new Yahoo.”
Well written and catchy but if we all took a time machine back to when Google was announcing that they were killing Google Wave or when they launched Buzz the comments from the tech press focused on how Google lost it’s edge, or was confused as to where it wanted to go or simply Google doesn’t understand social.
Now that Google+ is public (beta) and making waves it seems that Google either learned from their mistakes, gained a sense of vision, everyone forgot all the shit talking that took place last year, or some combination of the three. So now it’s Facebook’s turn to feel the wrath of the tech fueled fads that are nearly as cliquish as what we see in high schools across the country. Let’s face it the popular kid can’t remain popular forever and right now Facebook is feeling the heat regardless of Google+.
With that in mind Mike Elgan makes some solid points regarding Facebook’s recent history. Their fumbled attempts to catch on to the latest trends. Their popularity shift from the wanted élite to being everything to everybody. Their struggle with the weight of their own existence. All of it dead on. Including the remarks regarding Yahoo’s struggle to find its place in the new world order. Still I wouldn’t count Facebook out of the race just yet. Google and Apple are two good examples of companies that were down but clearly not out.
Last week Google announced analytical support for multi-channel funnels. This means that you can now see the how users actually get to your product beyond the last click.
It’s long been known in the advertising industry that it takes more than a single exposure to an ad for it to be effective. The same is true online but until now there wasn’t a good place to see how a user came to click on your ad, just that they did. As such all the credit for a successful banner went to the one that led directly to the conversion.
Back when I was designing ads for clients it was hard to back them away from a direct response mentality because direct response was the only way they could prove a campaign was successful. So ads explaining the product or why product X was better, were tossed aside for their “buy now” counterparts.
Gladly, I no longer work on banners but the need to know how and why users are doing what they do is just as important to a website/app as it is for a banner. Data on user activity is essential and data like this is priceless for both sides of the ad industry (merchants and content distributors. If you’re making, designing, or selling ads online this is worth looking into.
Earlier this week Google launched their new social platform, Google+ and unlike their previous attempts (Wave and Buzz) this one isn’t a beta concept. Currently it’s only in limited release and invites are hard to come by, but beyond that, it’s anything but beta. Instead Google+ is a slick, well designed, full fledged attempt to compete with Facebook. Can they pull it off?
To improve their chances Google has created a clean and attractive UI for both the website and the Android app. Then they add features that people have been asking for from Facebook, like the ability to easily sort your friends into groups (called Circles with in G+); group messaging, think Beluga and GroupMe (called Huddles); group video chat, think iChat or Skype (called Hangouts); content recommendations (called Sparks), though I haven’t seen this is action yet; and this one is for the geeks, you can take your G+ data with you . Also with the Android app they also offer a “local” version of the news feed/stream which shows you the public posts from other G+ users nearby, they don’t even need to be in any one of your circles. Combined it’s a great feature boost, though I don’t doubt Facebook will follow suit with some of these.
So then why switch? Other then it’s new, clean, different, less noisy…at this point not much, as the critical mass hasn’t been reached but when it does it’ll be a force that Facebook will have to deal with. Which is good regardless of your participation with G+. Facebook needs a challenger, clearly MySpace wasn’t up to the task. Speaking of MySpace, think back to when it was the dominant social platform. Then Facebook was the new, clean, different, less noisy new kid on the block…so Google may still have a chance here. And just like MySpace felt back then, Facebook is feeling a backlash of interest from the fickle social masses that have OD’ed on the FB.
Overall, I have to say I’m impressed with Google+. It’s one of the most well thought out, planned and executed tools that Google has ever done. Only now has Google started to improve the design and UX of their search and email services. So I expect big things from Google here. Despite Goggle’s best efforts if the people don’t start using (or getting invites to) it, G+ will die from empty room syndrome and that would be a shame.
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).
- – - – -
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.
- – - – -
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.
Apple’s “there’s an app for that” marketing has been causing companies to go app crazy and forget that a websites are still the primary point of interaction for users. A few weeks back the folks at Twitter reminded people that despite the fact that the heavy users all use 3rd party apps (desktop or mobile) the majority of users (78%) use Twitter.com. This week the folks at Twitter launched a new version of Twitter.com that features a number of elements that were previously only available in the app world. They added a dynamic side panel to showcase user profiles and conversation view all while not disturbing the core of what Twitter.com was. They’ve brought the sophistication of the external apps to the masses and with this they may have inadvertently signaled the return to web apps. For those that haven’t gotten the (rolling) invite to the new site check out TechCrunch’s overview “Best subtle things about new Twitter“.
- – - – -
A week doesn’t go by without Google making an announcement about something or other. This week they get their Google Voice app back on the iPhone. MacRumors gives a detailed run through of the app. Looks like Google has cleaned up their UI a bit with this version and offers just about everything the phone could do with the addition feature of translating your voice-mails into text. The one thing it can’t do at the moment is MMS, otherwise for $2.99 you can double the number of phones in your pocket without the bulk.
Also Google related is the steady growth of their Android platform, which is now 17% of the smartphone market. To put that in perspective the iPhone is at 24% and RIM’s BlackBerry commands 39%. Also note that the overall smartphone market has grown and these numbers are percentages of that growing market (data from Wired).
Part of Android’s success is it promotion from Verizon not having the iPhone to promote and instead needing to compete with it. Now Verizon wants a bigger cut of the action and has opened their own app marketplace. They say it’s for improved customer choice, but I’ll go with control and money.
While Android is growing into the third largest smartphone platform Nokia held it’s Nokia World 2010 event. They boasted that Nokia has a larger market penetration then Apple and Android combined, the threat is clear (as in they’re threatened). They followed their showcase of facts with info on their latest models, the N8 being the darling of the bunch. They flaunted “they perform day in and day out no matter how you hold them,” an obvious dig on the iPhone4. Then went into talking about the latest advances in Symbian and coding for it. Sadly, for US customers as nice as Nokia’s equipment is, if no carrier picks them up they don’t exist.
Final reference to Google (for this week) is their recent site/blog conveniently called Google New where they are posting all their latest products/projects. And by the looks of it they’ve been busy.
- – - – -
FCC is looking at opening up some radio frequencies, one of the selling points for opening these frequencies is the potential for Super WiFi. The are suggesting that this new Super WiFi would be able to travel farther and through buildings due to the longer wavelengths.
- – - – -
“Flash is dead, long live HTML5/CSS3.” Ever since Steve Job’s BS’ed his reasons why he didn’t want Flash on the iPhone this mantra of many front-end developers had some indisputable logic in regards to the mobile market. Now Android 2.1 supports Flash inside a browser as well as HTML5 true comparisons can finally be made. Based on the finding of Christopher Black’s tests (the video below) and a number of others Steve’s claims are no longer valid, if they ever truly were. So once again, developers have a choice as to what the right tool for the job.
- – - – -
It’s so easy in the world of technology and tight time frames to skip some seemingly tangential steps in order get the product or design out in time. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we need to get back to the basics. I know that one thing that often gets skipped are the rough little sketches, Spyrestudios has done a nice write up to remind us of the benefits of sketching (and wireframes) in fleshing out ideas and saving time. It’s also a great way to look back and see the progress of ideas and inspire new ones.
A different way to look back and see how things progressed is BookTwo‘s 12 book collection displaying the changes to the “facts” of the Iraq War over the course of 5 years. The concept is simple enough, collect all the changes to the Wikipedia page on the Iraq War in one place. What it reveals is anything but simple, more of antithesis of the Orwellian nightmare 1984, where news/history was rewritten with no trace of what was. Then again, out side of BookTwo’s project how many people are looking into trail of changes that make today’s truth.
Returning to the temporal life where now is everything, context-aware computers will be a welcomed addition to the ever growing overflow of information. For years this has been an “up and coming” technology, now (read: once again) the researchers at IBM (and many others) are hoping the power of smartphones will provide the always on, GPS info and increased processing needed to make context-aware computers a reality. What’s interesting about all this technology and it’s promise still echoes some of the thoughts of Marshall McLuhan and Norman Mailer from the late 60′s. Beyond theory and technical abilities data sensitivity will also have to be addressed before the masses should be adopting little brother to guide them through life.
- – - – -
The value of ideas is one that seems to fluctuate depending on personal circumstance. If you’re the creator of the idea, then the idea is everything. If you’re the producer of ideas (production) then it’s the implementation of the idea that matters most. So which is it? As someone that straddles both sides it’s not any simpler to define. Like most things in life the truth lies in the gray area between the extremes. Recently, my buddy Arpit delivered his take on this topic and I think he’s on to something…iteration. A back and forth between pure concept and implementation. Love the connection to dogfighting as a example of idea->action proving iteration is the actual key to success (courtesy of Jeff Atwood’s own post on the subject).
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.
- – - – -
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.
- – - – -
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.
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).
With App Inventor, Google has put the power into the people’s hands. One no longer needs to learn a complicated computer language in order to turn their idea into something real. This is a polar opposite to the approach Apple has taken with their most recent terms of service (v3.3.1), which made for many headlines on how they cut Flash from being a potential development platforms for the iPhone. Will App Inventor empower the masses or as Job’s stated (regarding flash based apps) flood the market with substandard applications?
More then likely there will be a hundreds of quickly put together dumb and/or kitschy apps. Ideally this is where Darwin’s laws of survival will come into play filtering out the deluge of iFart type applications. On the flip side, there will also be some quality apps that may not have seen the light of day if it weren’t for the reduced skill set needed to create them. In general, I see App Inventor being used by designers and developers to quickly prototype an idea before having it developed via traditional methods.
Regardless of how App Inventor is ultimately used, it’s the democratization of technology that is the game changer.