The fragmenting Internet in action

Read this:

The future of the internet: A virtual counter-revolution | The Economist:

The trend to more closed systems is undeniable. Take Facebook, the web’s biggest social network. The site is a fast-growing, semi-open platform with more than 500m registered users. Its American contingent spends on average more than six hours a month on the site and less than two on Google. Users have identities specific to Facebook and communicate mostly via internal messages. The firm has its own rules, covering, for instance, which third-party applications may run and how personal data are dealt with.

Apple is even more of a world apart. From its iPhone and iPad, people mostly get access to online services not through a conventional browser but via specialised applications available only from the company’s “App Store”. Granted, the store has lots of apps—about 250,000—but Apple nonetheless controls which ones make it onto its platform. It has used that power to keep out products it does not like, including things that can be construed as pornographic or that might interfere with its business, such as an app for Google’s telephone service. Apple’s press conference to show off its new wares on September 1st was streamed live over the internet but could be seen only on its own devices.

And then read this:

According to sources familiar with Facebook’s platform, the social networking giant essentially denied Apple’s Ping access to application programming interfaces that would allow it to search for an iTunes user’s friends on Facebook who also had signed up for Ping.

 

Google Places vs Facebook Places

Google Places vs Facebook Places: It’s Search vs. Social:

On the surface, Google Places and Facebook Places would seem to have a lot in common.

Both services are out to create a landing page for every local business in the world.

Both services allow local merchants to “claim” their pages, giving the merchant some editorial control over content on the page.

And both services no doubt expect to grab a chunk of what is projected to be a $32B digital, local advertising market by 2013 by claiming the middleman position between the merchant and the end user.

But where the two services break from each other – and in a non-trivial way – is in their respective distribution strategies.

Google relies on Search.  Facebook relies on Social.

And this is where things start to get interesting.

 

Teens “getting bored with Facebook”

It had to happen, and it’ll be interesting to know how big a problem Facebook thinks it is, but the teenagers are getting bored:

Why Many Teens Are Moving on from Facebook – eMarketer:

“In Facebook’s case, decreased usage does not appear to be related to the privacy issues raised in spring 2010, or even to the influx of older users on the site. Instead, the plurality of lapsed users simply find the site boring.

Is Facebook’s death inevitable?

Thomas Baekdal makes a good point in a blog post today: that Facebook is dying from its own complexity:

Facebook is really big, it has a ton of features. But, it is also turning into the worst case of complexity overload the web has seen in years. There are so many inconsistencies that it is hard to believe – or even to keep track of.

via Facebook is Dying – Social is Not (by @baekdal) #opinion.

He draws an interesting analogy with Microsoft Project 2003 which, he argues, collapsed under the weight of its own functionality as people fled towards simpler platforms.

It’s a neat argument, and I’ve got a couple of things to add to it.

First of all, Facebook’s functional complexity is a response to a rather obvious problem: it’s pretty easy these days to set up a social network. Within three years, we’ve burned through three: MySpace, Bebo and now Facebook. Who says we won’t burn through another three in the next three years? Is it ever going to be possible for anyone to maintain a huge lead in this space?

Secondly, what do these gaggles of functionality say about Facebook’s product management processes? This is a company which should know more about its users than any other company on the planet. If it’s making bad calls on functionality, how on earth can that be? Is it perhaps because Facebook, like Apple, has a powerful CEO with a strong technical background, who acts as the internal product manager par excellence? In Apple’s case that’s led to a flurry of excellence. In Facebook’s case… well, perhaps not.

Some stuff from Inside Facebook

From an interview with someone on the engineering team (sounds like). Lots of interesting if unsurprising stuff about privacy, and this:

Rumpus: So tell me about the engineers.

Employee: They’re weird, and smart as balls. For example, this guy right now is single-handedly rewriting, essentially, the entire site. Our site is coded, I’d say, 90% in PHP. All the front end — everything you see — is generated via a language called PHP. He is creating HPHP, Hyper-PHP, which means he’s literally rewriting the entire language. There’s this distinction in coding between a scripted language and a compiled language. PHP is an example of a scripted language. The computer or browser reads the program like a script, from top to bottom, and executes it in that order: anything you declare at the bottom cannot be referenced at the top. But with a compiled language, the program you write is compiled into an executable file. It doesn’t have to read the program from beginning to end in order to execute commands. It’s much faster that way. So this engineer is converting the site from one that runs on a scripted language to one that runs on a compiled language. However, if you went to go talk to him about basketball, you would probably have the most awkward conversation you’d have with a human being in your entire life. You just can’t talk to these people on a normal level. If you wanted to talk about basketball, talk about graph theory. Then he’d get it. And there’s a lot of people like that. But by golly, they can do their jobs.

via Conversations About The Internet #5: Anonymous Facebook Employee – The Rumpus.net.

4iP and Facebook: smart

Jamie Arnold’s added some more colour to yesterday’s announcement that 4iP will be funding some applications built with the new London Datastore. And the announcement is that the other partner is… Facebook.

As Tom Loosemore said yesterday, while not trivial the development of applications and services is but the first part of the challenge. To be successful the products need to attract and retain a large audience. We feel that with the added support of the world’s biggest social network and a national broadcaster we should be able add significant value and expertise to ensure the public gets the most from this new opportunity.

via 4iP | Facebook link up with 4 The People.

Smart and interesting. 4iP needs some glue to bring its investments together, and that glue might simply be the people who use them (rather than a more corporate portfolio approach). So a hook-up with Facebook makes a lot of sense. And not just on this project, either.

Whither the digital generation gap?

Two articles, one paper:

Hadley Freeman: Oh no! My parents have joined Facebook?

and

Polly Curtis: Internet generation leave parents behind

Polly’s article is a bit of a scaremongering piece: it says some children are spending six hours on various screen-based devices a day, but in actual fact they spend an average 1.7 hours a day online (and an average of 2.7 hours watching telly – at the same time, if my kids are anything to go by).

The upshot is that the screen-based culture we did live in – goggle-box in the corner, people hunched on sofas around it – has been replaced by another screen-based culture – google-boxes everywhere, people hunched over them. This is leading to new social challenges, ones which I’ve faced as a parent. The biggest of them, for me, is that kids have got nowhere to hide anymore. The lives they create for themselves at school now continue until bedtime; when I was a kid, I could shut the door on that stuff at the end of the day and be myself for a while. That, combined with the growth of just-in-time A&R and ludicrous talent shows, means many kids are essentially fantasists. They live out a created view of themselves which is mediated through technology and deepened by media.

I’m not saying this is all bad, and I certainly don’t buy the ludicrous assertion that kids are reading less than they did when Big Telly ruled their lives. I’m just saying that parents have to change their social behaviours. Some early rules seem to be:

  • Get a text at the dining table? If you want to read it, you have to read it out
  • Keep the web-surfing wherever possible in public places – the dining room table, the sofa, wherever
  • Take the time to learn where your kids are hanging out. Set up profiles, look around. Think of it as learning how to operate a telly remote control

As for parents appearing on Facebook: this is an interesting corrective. The fact that my son knows I’m on there, and that I can see some (but probably not all) of his activity on there, is just a reassertion of the old generation order. He lives to have fun. I live to spoil it. ‘Twas ever thus.

My mother-in-law’s on Facebook. She texts me all the time. I find it strangely comforting.