Category Archives: Web

Making Y-connect and Yahoo Social strategy work

According to WSJ Yahoo are making an effort to take their Social Strategy seriously, again. They are launching a new service called Y-Connect, aimed at media sites and publishers with the end goal of bringing more traffic.

TechCrunch and Blogs around the web are just all over the place talking about how Y-Connect will fail, but I’m more interested in asking what they need to do to succeed. The world needs more than one social network. Competition is healthy for everybody and although Facebook are doing a brilliant job so far, competition will only make this space better.

Back to Yahoo, they are saying that: “With Y Connect, users could register with and log into media sites simply by clicking on a Yahoo button.”

OK, so authentication with Yahoo is great. Being the biggest email provider in the world, Yahoo has more than a handful of user accounts and that could help boost activity. However, social optimization platforms, such as Gigya, have already been using Y!OS for over a year to authenticate users on external websites (checkout answers.com, a really cool integration), So what’s new here?

Yahoo cannot honestly expect publishers to switch their existing Facebook Connect button (which is already on over 1 million sites) with Yahoo Connect. At best, they will add Yahoo on top of their existing Facebook and Twitter buttons. Taking into account that users only need to login once, Yahoo needs to work hard on making sure that users log-in with Yahoo first and not with other buttons.
If Yahoo gets the User experience right on those buttons and make it as seamless as possible it could work, but it has to be better than Facebook connect. It has to be “seamless”. What I mean by “seamless” is that signing into an external site using Yahoo_connect would be easier, smoother (less screens, and preferably using a dialog if possible), and overall a better experience than doing the same with Facebook connect. It has to be so good that users will prefer using Yahoo-Connect than using Facebook Connect .Otherwise, people will just go on using their existing Facebook connect buttons instead of using the new Yahoo Connect.

Yahoo goes on and says: “…Then, users’ activity on the media site can easily be shared with contacts on Yahoo.””

That is probably the key to success here. User authentication is great, but publishers need an effective social media strategy that brings in traffic. The issue is that Yahoo hasn’t been able to deliver that just yet.
Yes, users have a profile in Yahoo. Yes, they have a Social Graph (very much like Google Buzz the relationship graph is related to their email connections), but for the social sharing piece to work, Yahoo has to help users to interact with each other and interact with friend’s feed content.
If Yahoo wants to get serious with their Social Strategy (and it’s not too late to do that yet), they have to feature the feed items on the Yahoo front page (for logged in users). To me, this seems like the only way to play the game to win. I know it’s hard as Yahoo front page is one of the most valuable web assets in the globe, and I totally understand why Yahoo is sometimes reluctant to change something that clearly works, but this is what innovation is all about. Change. If Yahoo wants to play the Social Network game to win it has to adopt and promote their Social Media Strategy by doing more than PR. They need to help users discover that Social functionality in Yahoo and make it an integral and prominent part of the Yahoo services suite, just like emails, News, Finance and other successful Yahoo products.

The Social Network

Watching “The Social Network”, regardless of whether the stuff they show there about Mark Zuckerberg are true or false (or somewhere in between), you can’t help but think it’s a great movie. Also, it made my mind race with a few thoughts.

It’s one of the first movies (if not THE first) that illustrates the web 2.0 start-up world. Hollywood has been slow in recognizing the impact of web entrepreneurship on the world and even more specifically on the lives of Y-gens. I hope that the movie’s success will result in more movies about entrepreneurship in the Tech world.

Another thought is that this movie pitches, not directly, that quitting school is a good thing. Although they don’t discuss it at length, the movie signals that if you are the next Mark Zuckerberg you should quit school. Okay, so a classic counter argument would be that 99.9999% of the population are not the next Mark Zuckerberg, but as quite a few academic researches show, most people have a confirmation bias about themselves and think they are capable.

It’s interesting to note that thoughts leaders are also pitching dropping school. Last week a group of students at UC-Berkeley (including me) got quite a treat: a lively discussion with TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington.
Arrington was very direct, and said that the kind of person who wants to increase his chances of success by getting a masters degree isn’t an entrepreneur; older entrepreneurs have no chance of raising money (so they’re a lost cause).

Overall, I think that “The Social Network” is a good thing. This movie and others that could follow will help spark innovation and push more entrepreneurs to get out of their comfort zone and do what they believe in doing.

Apple vs. Adobe Flash – Round 2

Apple has been pushing web publishers and video platforms to switch to HTML5 as part of the iPad launch. Amazingly, within just a few weeks many publishers, such as Brightcove , have answered Apple’s call to arms.
it’s pretty clear that the one to suffer here is Adobe, or more specifically – Adobe’s dominance in Flash powered video players.

With the iPhone OS4 release Apple are taking this strategy one step further and are getting into both Adobe’s and the interactive ad-networks’ backyards.

Watching Steve Job’s iAd demo today asking “Have you ever seen a mobile ad like this? Anything even close?” (you can watch the whole video in Apple events) I couldn’t help but think that Apple’s app-like interactive ads look very much like, hmm, Flash Widgets.

So basically, Apple’s is aiming for the interactive ads $$ here, and to counter Adobe’s strong Flash developers community, Apple are matching another developer community to strengthen their interactive war – the iPhone developer community.
Just wait until this iAd gets adopted in the iPad and than advertiser would needs to choose where to spend their dollars in – iPad’s soon to be massively adopted ad platform or mobile browser.

Stay tuned, I’m guessing that there are yet many more rounds to come.

Facebook opens it’s stream to the world (and plans on cashing in)

It started out with Mark Zuckerberg’s letter about upcoming changes (which had quite a few blah blahs about controlling your data’s privacy) focusing on dropping the regional networks and privacy-per-post, but somehow ended up very differently.
Who knows? Maybe the plan was to have this one slip through the community by sparking up the conversation about privacy-per-post, but Facebook also included an opt-out Privacy Settings wizard, which all 350 million users saw, making user’s Status Updates and Newsfeed items public.

Anyone who has a bit of User Experience knowledge knows what a long, boring privacy settings, opt-out form does to users – they just confirm or skip, whatever is easier to click. Most users don’t even bother spending the time tweaking their privacy settings, they probably wouldn’t bother opt-out either, and whoops their posts are now open to all.
Open to all means a lot of things, it means that posts are now open to anybody who finds you through another Facebook friend, but it also means that it’s indexable – any search engine or crawler can now tap into your Life stream.

And the search engines are all over it. According to Tech Crunch Bing will be getting access to Facebook public stream in early 2010. Google will only access Fan Pages at first, but I bet they will go out of their way, including paying cash, to index users’ streams.

It won’t be limited just to search engines, many applications will follow up. Up until now, using Facebook Connect, sites and desktop application had to get the user’s consent to get to his Newsfeed items, and they could only show the data to the user in an active session. Caching the user’s private data, for more than 24 hours, is against Facebook’s terms of use. Now, they would be able to get to the user’s Newsfeed without his consent, store it, analyze, and pretty much do whatever they feel works for them with this info. It would just be out there.

I guess the very legitimate discussion about this shift in the user’s privacy would probably go on and on inside Facebook and outside it, with many who will go against it, but it’s hard for me to believe that Facebook would take a step back. This is a huge opportunity for Facebook, and an important step before shooting for an IPO. “Selling” all this data, and creating an eco-system of developer’s around it, can probably turn out as a revenue hit and may bring Facebook to a point where it’s break-even or even profitable.
It’s also an interesting opportunity for publishers and application developers, who can increase engagement by displaying and aggregating Newsfeeds, if Facebook allows them.

Age of the open Social Stream

The Social stream has already been recognized as a major factor in the evolution of the Social web, a force that is able to change the way we communicate in the virtual world (why shot an email about amazing Susan Boyle when you can easily treat all your Facebook friends with her full screen video?) and consume the most recent and relevant content out there (Honey, you won’t believe it – Ashton just tweeted a picture of pregnant Demi in a bikini!).

Now Social Networks are warming up their engines for the next big step in Social Streams – syndicating streams. Both Facebook and Twitter, arch-rivals in the real-time Social Stream arena, have lately made important progresses to help users better experience the web by taking their social connections along with them for the world wide web ride. The recent blur of the boundaries between Social Networks and traditional sites is also a huge opportunity for traditional sites to step up and make their user experience more social and engaging.

Earlier this month Facebook made an important announcement involving its “Open Stream” strategy. Facebook now enables site owners and application to tap into the user’s newsfeed stream and leverage it in their site or applications. The new set of API, which is already accessible, allows retrieving the complete user newsfeed stream, including all the data bits that are contained in a feed item (such as images, user’s information, comments made, “likes” and more). Furthermore, in Facebook’s March 2009 profile overhaul they have evolved the stream to be semi real-time and included filtering options. Both of those features are reflected in the new API set, opening up an endless number of opportunities for developers to incorporate the real-time stream in their site and applications.

Off course, Facebook are also working hard to fight one of the major showstoppers for this new (and arguable disruptive) technology – privacy issues. To avoid any misuse of the user’s data the requesting application must receive an authorization from the user, and only than can it access the user’s social stream. They have also added another restriction – applications are only allowed to get data from the last 24 hours, to stop data miners from hosting a critical mass of data about users.

How big is "connect" technology – that big !

Almost a year ago we heard quite a hype about Facebook Connect, Google Friend Connect and Gigya Socialize that are supposed to connect the Social Web with the regular website (some nice links can be found here and here).

But since than it’s been quiet on this front, and for no obvious reason. Now, you must be wondering what’s up with all those “Connect” technologies (at least I am), and the truth is pretty surprising… It’s silently creeping up everywhere!

To add some background to this post, all of those systems basically include two “killer” features:
1) Authenticating users (OpenID style, but with Social Networks). So, previous attempts at having a one “Universal identity” have failed, but Social network identity is a different story. It includes the user’s personal ID but also connected to the user’s Social Graph.
2) Virally promoting the site via newsfeed items, status updates and other tools. This is rather a new option for more publishers, with clear untapped potential.

So what about the bottom line – is it working ?

Some nice preliminary stats from CitySearch Facebook Connect implementations are quite intregin:
“In the four months the site has been testing Facebook Connect, 94 percent of reviewers have published their reviews to Facebook, where an average of 40 people see them and 70 percent click back to Citysearch. That has translated into new members: daily registrations on Citysearch have tripled. In other words, each item shared through Facebook Connect generates 40 impressions and 28 unique visitors – a lot of traffic per shared item”.

Those are pretty amazing numbers and I think the main reason for that is that it’s truely viral and is user initiated. If I were a site publisher I would seriously consider this data. It may not have the glam and glory of a hype, but it does magic in getting exactly what sites need – increasing site interaction and traffic.