Friday, 25 May 2012

The web's third age may not include facebook

Before I proceed I should probably explain what I'm defining as the third age of the web. I tend to deliberately avoid using the term web 3.0 as I’ve always felt trying to define the web with software upgrade terms is troubling. I do however believe we’ve entered the third age, or at least the third big evolution of the web.

If the first age was the passive published web and the second age - often known as web 2.0 -  was the interactive web then the third age is immersive, omnipresent and enabled by mobile. For want of a better term we’re going to call it the everywhere web.

Erik Jackson at Forbes argues that the first wave web properties failed to make it far past the dotcom bubble into a brave new web 2.0 world because of the time and way they were conceived. In a similar vein Facebook may have exactly the same problem in evolving from the second stage to the third stage.

Facebook was at the vanguard of creating the ultimate web 2.0 experience, but because they have had to back fill on their mobile experience it would appear that they are struggling to fit into a world where the web is everywhere. The mobile experience continues to be frustrating and fractured when compared with the desktop experience and in a world that is increasingly going mobile the massive focus on timeline implementation seems a little odd.

As we’ve mentioned in previous weeks the lack of mobile innovation at Facebook caused concern in the run up to last week’s IPO and the scrabbling that seemed to be going on with the purchase of Instagram and the announcement of App Centre seemed to suggest they knew it. Last night in a slightly bizarre move Facebook announced the launch of Facebook camera, an Instagram clone that appears to have been in development prior to the Instagram purchase which goes someway to explaining the huge sale price. However, at first glance it lacks many of the really good aspects of its acquisition.

The struggle that Facebook seem to be having with mobile, coupled with some of the criticism levelled at it since its stuttering IPO, about being just another ad funded site add up to problems. When MIT and Forbes are saying that you’re going to disappear and each for different reasons it’s time to start worrying.

Monday, 14 May 2012

1:9:90 - you're so 2006.

Used the 1:9:90 model for participation model recently?

Felt slightly uncomfortable with the figures as intuitively thes figures simply don't feel right?

 Enter stage right Holly Goodier, Head of Audiences at BBC Future Media. She presents the results of an 18 month study of 7,500 individuals resulting in that old model being blown out of the water.

This fascinating talk reveals that the 1:9 element - the much quoted 10% - of the stat is actually now 77%. The talk is 23 minutes long, but if you're interested in the shape of those contributing on the net this provides most of the answers you've probably been looking for.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The danger of the new digital oligarchies

Last week Samsung launched the Galaxy S3. The handset has been almost universally applauded for its innovative feature set and fantastic application of the Android OS for smartphone. What it also means is that it has effectively consigned Nokia, Sony and other former major mobile telephony players to the margins. Many are also saying it sets up a duopoly in the hardware market between itself and Apple with the iPhone.

This trend is becoming increasingly prevalent in the digital world and even more so online. If you look closely at the traffic on the web, there is a monopolistic trend emerging.

Think social networking, think Facebook, which now controls over 1 in 7 online minutes .

Think search, think Google. Think video delivery, think Youtube. Think shopping, think Amazon. Think reselling, think ebay.

This is not necessarily a huge surprise given the prevalence in Palo Alto of these huge web properties. What is more concerning is just how interconnected (or should we say nepotistic) these companies have become and how reliant successful new startups have become on those company connections. This great mashable infographic  shows just how entangled the big companies and the huge start-ups are.

If you take the recent acquisition of Instagram, Kevin Systrom was an ex. Google employee with strong connections to Facebook and the $1bn purchase price had the feel of a deal made over a chat in a coffee shop -  rather than a full due diligence led process that resulted in a realistic market value.

There is no doubt that many of these services are highly innovative and massively valuable. But, as the industry increasingly eats itself, there is a danger that the dream of an open democratic web where all players have their say and an equal platform, is becoming almost the opposite. The fact that companies are now so reliant on Google and Facebook for their future online success should be a worry. It means that companies are no longer in charge of their own online destiny.

The recent switch by Facebook to timeline is a classic example of the control the platform can exert. Companies had no choice but to spend, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars re-engineering their Facebook presence, so that it existed effectively post-timeline implementation. In turn it means that web users start to experience a very limited view of the world as their experience is controlled through a myriad of different behavioural techniques applied by these key players.

So far, so depressing. Of course there's always a positive side and in this case it comes in the form of this very interesting analysis that came to my attention last week tracking the rise and fall of the web's huge superpowers, since its inception 20 years ago.

The Rise and Fall of Online Empires

While we should be wary of these emerging monopolies,  online empires have already come and gone and as is the case with most things online, it happens far more quickly than in the offline world.