Monday, February 09, 2009

Facebook on the Decline?

Mino HD Review: Next Week

I've been putting this off for far too long so I promise that I'll have a review for my Flip MinoHD next week. I've heard some interest for one and I keep putting it off, so I've already started shooting footage on it and on my Canon PowerShot SD 450 as a comparison of HD vs. SD to package with the review.

I want to do a review of my TiVo HD by the end of the month, but I still need a tripod for my camera to pull it off right. I'll keep you guys posted when I'm ready for that.

Everybody Loves Hates Facebook

I've covered this topic before, but I ran into too many good articles about it last week to not jump into it once again.

Facebook has enjoyed a tremendous amount of growth over the past 4-5 years, but is their ride on the gravy train over? Let's face it, at a certain point it has to stop growing as people run out of people to tell to join the site, and at that point it's all about keeping eyeballs on the site. As the article I just linked points out quite eloquently: it's like a pyramid scheme, in a way. At some point, dummies stop getting recruited in and the people at the top make all the dough. Of course, Facebook users aren't dummies (not all of them, at least), so their eyes are valuable for ad revenue. The only way to keep advertisers in this market is to prove that you're producing results through engagement (kind of like the Burger King ad campaign Facebook shut down last month), not brute force page views. They claim that their key demographic is people in their 30s, but this is an age group that's clearly LinkedIn, not Facebooking. It's an important group: the 30-somethings that have money to burn and are first adopters.

Nowadays though, Twitter is social networking's golden boy. They are the next Facebook, and Facebook's latest efforts to open up their platform further so that third parties can use wall information and status updates may not extinguish much in the fiery blaze Twitter has left in its path. First off: Facebook status updates are now public. Did its users really want that? If anything, I think all these changes that Facebook has made has only served to alienate its users from the site. If the user experience changes every few months, you're going to lose people at each iteration despite how many you also gain.

It's funny how the two services have grown to be such polar opposites. Facebook is trying anything and everything to bring in ad revenues, including telling your friends about the ads you click through. Talk about a disincentive: what if it's an ad for condoms or something and then everyone knows the brand you like? Can you imagine your boss seeing something like that about you on their home page? Twitter, on the other hand, isn't trying anything at all. This isn't the smartest strategy, but they haven't lost any users to anything other than any given user's lack of interest to twitter. Some have suggested engagement ads in Twitter could be subtle messages that appear in your feed, but that could be risky if users confuse it with actual status updates. Of course, Twitter could data mine your updates and those of your friends to really target the ads it shows you. It'll be interesting to see where they go and it's funny how many investors are willing to back them on the sheer size of their audience - much like investors were jumping on the Facebook boat just a couple of years ago. Has Facebook already failed though? Not really. This was bound to happen. Twitter was bound to see growth and popularity like this, and Facebook was bound to see a tremendous slowdown in their growth. If they want to survive, they need to really focus on keeping their users happy and not introducing advertising techniques that upset anyway. Conversely, Twitter needs to start experimenting - nothing too crazy, just enough to get the ball rolling.

Layoffs Go Global

The United States isn't the only country to get hit hard by layoffs - we're now in a global economy. A downturn in any of the bigger economies is a downturn for everyone else. Japan's Sharp, inc is going to be cutting 1,500 contract workers and is facing a billion dollar annual loss. Fortunately, none of their 55k full-time employees are facing the chopping block, but a number of managers and executives are facing salary cuts. They're actually the leading cell phone maker in Japan, and even their cell phone sales took a serious, partially due to Japan's weakened economy and partially due to the foreign exchange (FX) market.

Panasonic came out much worse: they're cutting 15,000 jobs and shutting down 27 plants worldwide. They're forecasting a $4.2 billion loss through the remainder of this fiscal year, which is their first annual loss in 6 years. They're still trying to reshape their business for this economy, but it's an uphill battle. Sony is also cutting 8,000 jobs worldwide and letting go of 8,000 more temporary workers.

If you get laid of at IBM stateside, they're giving you the option to have them move you to another country for less pay. I guess it's a cool opportunity if you want to see more of the world and you have no better prospect here for a couple of years, but it still seems like a raw deal. Of course, it's kind of cool that they're interested in keeping American labor even if they can't afford to stay in business and pay American wages.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a pink slip then, first of all, my heart goes out to you. My heart goes out to anyone who works hard and gets laid off, especially if they have a family to support. I count my blessings every day that I've been fortunate enough to work at one of the few companies still seeing growth in this financial climate. Fortunately, the Internet is around to help you dust yourself off and go job hunting. Not everyone is a fan of Guy Kawasaki, but I do like his post on 10 ways to make LinkedIn work for you. Finding hiring managers and startups and getting recommendations and such is definitely a great start, and hopefully it'll lead to a happy ending.

No More Windows 7 Betas

Microsoft has announced that there will be no more beta releases for Windows 7. They've seen a lot of great press come out of the beta with many reviewers even telling people to hold on to their sluggish Vista machines for a Windows 7 speed boost. Their next step, instead of a second beta, will be a release candidate. I doubt that it'll be public though - it'll probably be an internal milestone for no more than fatal bug fixes changed in the code base. the rest of us still have a long wait ahead of us: the earliest we'll see Windows 7's final release is this coming winter, but an early 2010 release may be a more reliable time frame to look forward to.

It's not all sunshine and lollipops though: it looks like there will be six different versions of Windows 7: Starter, Home Basic (for developing nations), Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. To be honest, there should only be 3 versions: Starter, Home, and Professional. The fact that Enterprise and Ultimate are the same, just offered in different markets, is mindboggling. Also, why have Home Premium and Professional if home users who want more features are probably going to just look towards Professional anyway? And for that matter, why sell big companies Enterprise instead of "Professional"? I'm sure they have a bunch of marketing guys convinced that this is a great idea, but I think it only serves to confuse and irritate their customers.

One more bit of bad news for Redmond: IE has now dropped to 67.55% of global browser market share, which is a staggering figure when you consider the chokehold it once had on the market. Firefox is now at 21.53%, which leaves little room for Safari, Opera, Chrome, and friends.

Of Veins and Scams

Sony has unveiled a new type of really cool biometric authentication technology: vein recognition. That's right, like the ones in your fingers. Biometrics has been kind of a bastard child of security research yielding products that seem cool in movies but are often impratical due to costs or being too easy to break. The hardest to fool, at least up til now, is ocular scanning. This new technology uses a CMOS sensor to capture scattered light inside a finger, and they claim that this is fool-proof (famous last words). I don't see why someone couldn't make a fake finger that created the same light pattern as someone else's finger if they severed it. The problem with passwords that are parts of your body is that they put your life in risk if they guard something valuable enough and they sometimes don't have another key, so once you lose your valued body part you're also locked out of the car/data/house/panic room/etc. Who knows, maybe Sony has really thought this through - I just haven't seen much more detail on it.

Social engineering scams are tricky, so maybe this list of the top 5 Internet scams will open your eyes to what you should be aware of as being possible out there. As a general rule of thumb: if it's too good to be true then it probably is. Getting something great for little or nothing is probably a red flag. Instead of reading forwarded warnings of new virus outbreaks (or forwarding them yourself, for that matter) how about using your instincts and thinking hard before volunteering sensitive information to someone or clicking on a link that seems shady? We all make mistakes, they important thing is that you learn from everyone else's mistakes and take the proper precautions.

YouTube Filtering and Popularity

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is reaching out to those of you who pride yourselves on making mashups with bits of otherwise copyrighted material to talk to them and allow them to help you stake your claim against Warner Music if you've recently had a video muted or taken down even if your use of the copyrighted content is considered fair use and, hence, legal. In a world where mashups like this and pervasiveness of the music is the key to selling said content, it amazes me that Warner Music would prefer legal fees to legitimate sales.

YouTube has done something right, fortunately, in changing the home page recommendations from "Most Viewed" to "Most Popular". Popularity includes factors like how long people watch your video for after they go to it and how good the ratings are. They're hoping that this will stop the gaming of pushing videos to the front page off of sheer page views. After all, it's in YouTube's best interest to keep people coming back for more by showing them the good stuff from the get-go.


There was so much news last week that even the following is a paring down of what I had tagged to talk about. In the end, I think this post as a whole reflects the most important and interesting news from last week.

Amazon launched a new store within the main retail site:

That's right, video game downloads. You don't have to wait for the mailman to blow off some steam. They have hundreds of games that you can try for free and then buy for $10 or less. I imagine this will appeal to children and bored businessmen. It's not quite like Gametap where you can get next-generation quality titles, but the site just launched last week so anything's possible.

Speaking of video games though, the Final Fantasy 13 trailer is online and it's spectacular. J-RPG fan, unite! You can also download it from the PlayStation Network.

Google Latitude came out last week allowing you to use your iPhone or Windows Mobile device to record your location for your friends to see where ever you are, or you can enter it in by hand. At first, I was skeptical, but you have total control over who can see where you are and how much they can see (i.e. a 1 mi. radius of where you are or just the city?). It's kind of like Twitter with GPS. I wonder if it'll take off or just be a novelty?

Intel spoke at a chip conference that the future of microchips is not in GHz but in on well integrated it is with wireless devices by including more functionality in the chip itself that would otherwise be in other parts on the motherboard. The future is definitely the increased mobility of computing, so it'll be interesting to see what Intel comes out with next after the Core i7 series.

Computerworld has a great article on why e-Books truly are the future, despite what naysayers think. People may cling to books, but they've already started shedding newspapers and how often do people buy paperbacks only to turn around and sell hem after they're done to conserve space?

The creator of MySQL has left Sun over creative differences to launch his own company. It's no secret that MySQL innovation has been kind of lagging behind competitors, and his new company will be focused on a new SQL storage engine called Maria. He's also hinted at a restaurant side project. I definitely look forward to seeing what Michael Widenius comes up with next - he's a very smart guy.

GMail added some new features like better drop downs and more auto-complete, so go check it out!

Do you know what binary is? If you don't think that 10 is equivalent to 2, then maybe this 1-minute primer will help you out. Understanding binary is one of the most fundamental concepts in computer science, and something I not only came back to again and again in school but even in industry.

The forced digital transition has been pushed back from February 17 to June 12. While I did say last time that the delay failed in the House, they re-voted with the provision that stations can turn off analog signal before June 12 if they were already planning on it, but they don't absolutely have to until June 12. This seems kind of pointless to me and just further confusing because now not everyone will have to transition and they're not going to know if they have to or not because of this optional delay of sorts.

Alright, I'm on call for one last night and this month so I want to wrap up a few things before my weekly report in the morning. Have a good week everyone and don't be too afraid of Friday being the 13th! We don't burn nearly as many witches at the stake anymore.

1 comment:

netinfluence said...

I think facebook is on the decline. By concentrating on locking people in, it failed to develop value inherent to the platform. I do not mean facebook apps, I mean platform value. Facebook does not own the tribes and shall not take profile owners for dummy CPC generators'.
Twitter on the other hand is doing nothing, or at least, is perceived as such.
The site is rather crappy and you actually get the most out of desktop clients.
I beleive that twitter understood that the value of it, is freedom and simplicity.
If twitter isn't experimenting ads it is probably because they have noticed how emotional people get about it.
I think we have to look in the direction of wefollow. This directory, created by the twitter boys, is the type of experiment that could allow twitter for developing value added services.
As a marketer, I would probably be interested in getting valuable conversation help, focused followers. Have a look at the business made around twitter. An increasing number of apps provide now paid services.
Not that I say it ought to become a marketing "old style" mass tool, but I beleive, as services like twives who help handle your tribes, or tweeteffect who help you understand how to improve your conversation, that they will come accross innovative, value added and non "invasive" plans.
I don't think they are doing nothing, but beleive they experiment outside twitter, take time to think, get feedback and work to create innovative services.

It is time for those golden bubble boys (I talk about the web 2.0 wave guys except twitter) to understand that user experience and service values are the key to business model (read your seth godin once again).
The bubble bursted a long ago, and almost twice for the same reason : absence of value.
Please stop locking people. We hated Microsoft for locking licences and now get sites like facebook or linkedin locking data and people.

Set us free please!

Relax, breathe, and please go back to work and create us some good valuable services we will be delighted to pay for ;-)

I will post an article about the facebook decline, check on our blog too ( if you like ;-)