When Google Strikes: The Story Of EnjoyPerth.net

October 29, 2007

By Duncan Riley enjoyperth.jpg

Google has gone through an unprecedented upheaval this month. As we reported on October 24 Google downgraded the page rank of a broad range of blogs.

The scary thing is that they’ve done another page rank update again, the third in a month. This is an unprecedented move by Google; normally they update page rank once every three months, sometimes not that often. Never before have they done it three times in a month. We originally reported that the changes were related to link farming, but the latest change would suggest that it might be related to paid links, but with Google taking three attempts to get it right.

EnjoyPerth.net is a fairly innocuous blog that posts on events in the capital of Western Australia. The site is a couple of years old, and although it might not be doing amazing numbers, it was well targeted to its niche. Around 70% of EnjoyPerth’s traffic came from Google searches for events in Perth, not an unremarkable number in an age where Google holds 60-90% of the search market depending on which country you are looking at.

2 weeks ago EnjoyPerth was unindexed by Google. When I say unindexed I mean that it totally disappeared from Google. A site search shows that it has been complete removed; you get sites linking in but not the site itself.

So what was EnjoyPerth’s crime? I asked a leading SEO expert who asked to remain nameless, this is what he said:

In my experience Google usually won’t knock you out algorithmically for selling links, someone has to report you or an engineer has to come across you one way or another. While some of the links are travel/Perth related it’s hard to make that claim with things like games and dating. This is a text book example of the two tiered justice system that Google employs. The San Jose Mercury News can sell more links for more money but Google can’t pull them out of the index because it would make them look foolish, but they can certainly pull out lesser known web publishers.

Text link ads have been the bread and butter for many a small blog owner for the last couple of years. Even before Text-Link-Ads.com (a TechCrunch sponsor) the Weblogs Inc network was direct selling text links. In this case of EnjoyPerth sold links, and it may have killed their Google indexation.

I’ve spoken to the owner of EnjoyPerth and she’s going to drop her text link sales and re-submit the site to Google. I can only hope that they are benevolent enough to put the site back into their directory. Overall though an interesting question arises, not just for EnjoyPerth but for all of us: is it healthy that we are all so reliant on Google. Are we better off for Google’s domination? would we be better off with stronger competition? I’d think that at least in EnjoyPerth’s case that the world would have been better without Google’s dominance.

Source: TechCrunch.com


Google’s Response to Facebook: “Maka-Maka”

October 29, 2007

By Erick Schonfeld

Google may have lost the bidding war to invest in Facebook, but it is preparing its own major assault on the social networking scene. It goes by the codename “Maka-Maka” inside the Googleplex (or, perhaps, “Makamaka”).

Maka-Maka encompasses Google’s grand plan to build a social layer across all of its applications. Some details about Maka-Maka have already leaked out, particularly how Google plans to use the feed engine that powers Google Reader (known internally as Reactor) to create “activity streams” for other applications akin to Facebook’s news and mini feeds. But Maka-Maka goes well beyond that.

Maka-Maka will be unveiled in stages. The first peek will come in early November. As we reported previously, Google is planning to “out open” Facebook with a new set of APIs that developers can use to build apps for its social network Orkut, iGoogle, and eventually other applications as well. To recap what we wrote earlier:

Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.

On November 5 we’ll likely see third party iGoogle gadgets that leverage Orkut’s social graph information – the most basic implementation of what Google is planning. . . . Google is also considering allowing third parties to join the party at the other end of the platform – meaning other social networks (think Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, Digg and thousands of others) to give access to their user data to developers through those same APIs.

We’ve now learned that the original November 5 date Google is shooting for may be delayed. “They need more time,” says one outside developer working on the project. “It is a challenge for them,” confirms another. Still, the expectation right now is that some announcement will be made the week of November 5 (perhaps the 8th or the 9th), and will most likely be limited to Google’s existing social network, Orkut. The APIs will be announced, along with as many as 50 partners that have created applications on top of the APIs. (Most of the top app developers for Facebook will be included—think RockYou, Slide, iLike, SocialMedia, etc.—and a few new ones as well).

All eyes will be on Google, but don’t expect anything too earth-shattering straight out of the gate. Many of these apps will be copycats of what is already available on Facebook (just as the very first apps on Facebook were ported over from other parts of the Web). This first go-round, Google will just be trying to match Facebook’s ante. Remember, even on Facebook, the best apps didn’t emerge on Day One. And now Facebook has a six-month lead.

The bigger challenge for Google in the U.S. is Orkut itself. While there may be 24.6 million monthly visitors to Orkut worldwide, only 500,000 of those are here in the U.S., according to comScore. Cool social apps aren’t much good if none of your friends use them.

That’s where the bigger plan for Maka-Maka comes into play. Maka-Maka is very strategic for Google. Responsibility for it goes all the way up to Jeff Huber, the VP of engineering in charge of all of Google’s apps. Huber is on record as saying that the way Google plans to compete is by using the Web as the platform instead of trying to lock developers into Google’s own platform. One way it will do that from the start is by creating two-way APIs so that any app created for Google can be taken to other Websites. (Whether this will extend to actual user profile data within Orkut or elsewhere inside Google remains to be seen because of privacy issues, but the apps themselves will be portable). And data from other social sites will be able to be imported into Google’s social apps as well.

The bigger vision is to combine all of Google’s apps and services through Maka-Maka. Google already has so much data on you, depending on how many Google apps you already use. It just needs to bring everything together. Your contacts are in Gmail. Your feeds are in Google Reader. Your IM buddy list is in Gtalk. Your upcoming events are in Google Calendar. Your widgets are in iGoogle. And don’t forget about your search history. Overtime, Google will connect all of these together in different ways, along with data about you from other social services across the Web, and give developers access to the social layer tying all of these apps together underneath. The real killer app for Google is not to turn Orkut into a Facebook clone. It is to turn every Google app into a social application without you even noticing that you’ve joined yet another social network.

Source: TechCrunch.com


Strategies for Being a Platform Leader

October 29, 2007

By Annabelle Gawer and Michael A. Cusumano

In recent years, many high-tech sectors have become battlegrounds for companies bent on establishing their product as the next industry platform. Whether it’s a smart phone or a videogame console, products that become platforms dominate sales in their niches, give rise to numerous complementary products from third-party developers, and reap enormous profits.

Too many companies, though, wind up losers in platform wars because they were too protective of their technology or intellectual property, or failed to recognize the platform potential of their products. Apple Inc.’s Macintosh computer and Sony Corp.’s Betamax video recorder were excellent products that could have become industry platforms. Apple recently realized that it may miss a major platform opportunity with its iPhone by limiting its use to selected carriers and preventing third-parties from adding new applications. It has decided to reverse the latter policy.

To have platform potential, a product, technology or service must:

  • Perform at least one essential function in a product or combination of products that execute an increasing variety of tasks — the way PCs have become an integral part of Web browsing, gaming, telephony and other activities — or solve an essential technological problem for many players in an industry.
  • Be easy to connect to or build upon, allowing the system to be expanded to new and even unintended uses.

Then a business strategy is required that enables a company to make its technology or service fundamental to an emerging platform and helps the market tip toward that platform. The company must create economic incentives that encourage other firms to develop complementary applications for the platform, and at the same time protect its own ability to profit from its innovations. This balancing act is perhaps the greatest challenge to platform leadership.

Google’s Success

Google Inc. is a prime example of a successful platform builder and leader. First, it solved an essential technical problem: how to find anything in the maze of Web sites, documents and other content online. Second, it distributed its technology to Web-site developers and users, making it easy to connect to and develop upon. It also allowed for different uses, such as combining search with different kinds of information or graphics, like maps and pictures.

Where Google cemented its position as the platform leader for Internet search, though, was with its business plan. In the early years of e-commerce, there was a lot of confusion about how to make money on the Web. Google found a way by linking focused advertising to user searches. Its ad fees also seem low or modest relative to the ads’ effectiveness. In effect, the company revolutionized advertising by redesigning the relationship between advertisers and Internet users. Today, Google’s market value stands at around $145 billion, eight times that of the largest ad agencies.

GM Loses Its Way

For a less-successful attempt at establishing a platform, consider General Motors Corp.’s 1996 introduction of OnStar, a wireless system that gave automobiles new communications capabilities, such as navigation, notification of accidents, engine diagnostics and opening of locked vehicles.

Initially, GM managed to get competing auto makers to adopt OnStar for their vehicles. Gradually, however, those rivals concluded that OnStar’s capabilities, and the information it generated about customer driving habits, were too valuable to let a competitor control. Consequently, these firms decided to build or buy competing systems.

GM failed to position its technology as an essential part of a neutral industry platform, which it might have done by spinning off OnStar as an independent company or building a Chinese wall around the unit, blocking any flow of information between it and GM that could be seen as damaging to OnStar’s clients. While GM failed at the business aspect of creating an industry platform, OnStar remains an attractive service platform for GM customers. OnStar Vice President Nick Pudar says that GM’s commitment has helped the unit rapidly deliver continued innovations for “a wide range of GM vehicles,” and that customers have responded well. “A broad adoption of OnStar throughout the industry would have resulted in slower technology development,” he adds.

The ability to establish a platform is an option for small and large companies alike. Success depends not on size but on a company’s vision, and its ability to create a vibrant ecosystem that works for the leader and its potential partners.

This can be difficult when an industry is undergoing transition and its contours are ill-defined, or when technology is evolving too rapidly. But on the other hand, these are the very conditions when platform strategies can stand out — precisely because they are so badly needed.

Source: Business Insight


Profiting from Social Networking

October 29, 2007

By Maha Atal

Here are two potentially billion-dollar questions: How can you turn the Web’s social-network users into consumers? And how can you turn idle browsing into a flourishing bottom line? Back in May, marketers hoped they might have the answer when social-networking giant Facebook opened its network to external developers. This instantly allowed them potential direct access to a user group of millions who are notoriously unimpressed by traditional advertising methods. The only challenge: developing real-world applications that users might want to embed in their profiles, which would have a real-world effect beyond mere entertainment.

Three months later, it’s clear that there’s no foolproof formula for success. Companies categorize their own applications from a list of 22 options and, as such, “businesses” come from across the board. In fact, the most popular “business” listing is Total Sports Fan, a sports application run by Boris Silver, a Wharton School student who has no plans to exploit the app as a business. In fact, he says, he listed it in that category because “he just kind of wanted to.” This free-and-easy attitude is all part of the territory, and other, more serious-minded ventures need to not only understand this attitude but be willing to live with it.

Know Your Audience

Four of the most popular applications within the category include the virtual trading program Fantasy Stock Exchange, a recruitment specialist called Jobster Career Networking, an environmental activist app known as I am Green, and a person-to-person loan service called the Lending Club, which has what may be the most successful business model. Though they’ve attracted 174,000 users among them to date, capitalizing on those users is still a challenge. Here, we assess what they’re doing right, analyze what they could be doing better, and determine what their stories can teach other companies that want to enter the space.

First: This is Facebook, kids. 56.4% of users are under 35, according to ComScore. Applications need to be appropriate and relevant to that audience. Kevin Rablois, of Slide says there are two ways for a business application to grow: through exploiting its social side or by providing users with a means for self-expression.

The Fantasy Stock Exchange (FSX) application, sponsored by virtual stock trading site HedgeStop.com, is currently the second most popular business application, with 92,000 users signing up since its launch in early July. On the application, as on its mother site, users trade virtual money based on real-time figures provided by NYSE and NASDAQ. The application loads content directly from HedgeStop.com and the 18- to 35-year-old players using it represent a similar demographic to those already using the company’s core Web site.

Getting Beyond Marketing

HedgeStop.com hopes to earn money by selling banner advertising space on its application pages, promoting the idea that virtual traders can be real spenders. But since Chief Executive Daniel Carroll admits that targeted users are “mostly beginners” who don’t yet have real funds to trade, they are also unlikely to be big spenders. Not to mention that an old-fashioned ad business model rather misses the point of the forum. Young users are wary of potential manipulation, and may be turned off FSX altogether if advertising gets too intrusive. Finally, the application has yet to offer features unique to Facebook. There seems to be no reason users shouldn’t simply go right to HedgeStop.com.

It’s a common mistake, says Facebook Senior Platform Manager Dave Morin. According to him, too many companies still see applications as marketing rather than as new business. They bring users to an application either to advertise to them or to build a connection they hope will subsequently send users off Facebook and to their main business—a company Web site, say, or its online store. Instead, companies should be trying to make the application into a self-sustaining business that generates revenue through the service it provides on Facebook. “The applications that are the most successful are the ones that integrate seamlessly into Facebook,” Morin says, a model that conveniently supports Facebook’s own business ambitions.

A Business-to-Business Model

At the same time, most users expect Facebook to be entertaining and, well, free, so getting them to pay for an application directly is unlikely. Companies such as the career networking site Jobster.com are trying to get other businesses to pay for access to Facebook users.

On Jobster’s Facebook application, called Jobster Career Networking, users post résumés and declare career goals. Jobster then feeds those résumés to companies such as Nike, GE, and Merrill Lynch, which pay a $100 monthly premium fee to access résumés from Facebook. That’s in addition to the $300 they pay for résumés from the main Jobster.com database. It’s a premium they’re prepared to pay to access young workers with perhaps nontraditional backgrounds. “We aren’t after the companies that want a classic job board,” says Jobster’s Vice-President for Corporate Communications Christian Anderson. In its first month on Facebook, Jobster Career Networking moved 300 companies from regular to premium membership and brought in 50 new partners, generating several hundred thousand dollars in revenue, according to Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg.

Given that Facebook is a social network whose main function is entertainment, there’s a danger that job hunting may not be an activity users wish to load onto their profile, when they can do so just as well on Jobster.com or any other job search site. In fact, mixing business with pleasure is a concern for users who might not want their new boss hearing about their high jinks on vacation. This reality could provide a stumbling block for Jobster’s latest feature, which enables users to add endorsements from Facebook friends to their résumé cover letters.

Rablois is skeptical of Jobster’s plan. “Why would I want recommendations of my skills or a dedication posted along with drunken photographs?” he wonders. And won’t employers disregard friends’ recommendations as entirely, unashamedly biased?

Jobster’s Anderson says users have expressed the same concern. “We’ve really had to work to clarify that companies won’t see your profile, that you won’t be ‘friending’ companies.” Consequently, says Anderson, they won’t be able to judge the friends you cite as references; they’ll just know how many recommendations you have. But this means that Jobster Career Networking has to restrict its links to the social core of Facebook to function as a professional application. It’s a risky strategy. Given that the application adds little to users’ experience of Facebook, they might as well use Jobster.com or other recruitment sites. If users ultimately decide against linking their private and professional lives, companies will be quick to pull their support. For now, though, it’s paying off: 52,000 users have downloaded the application since late July.

Showing a Green Side

I am Green lets users list simple environmentally conscious choices they make in their daily lives on their public Facebook profiles. On the application’s main page, users can talk about green technology, organic produce, and environmental issues. Founder Karel Baloun plans to monetize his 27,494 users by selling advertising space and selling green products on manufacturers’ behalf. Baloun says he’ll avoid young users’ hostility to advertising by providing content only from the green companies they already like and discuss on the application page and by polling them about the brands they’d like to see involved.

Slide’s Rablois thinks this might work, because users committed to a niche cause might be eager to buy green products. Then again, potential sponsors might not pay much to participate in such a niche market. Like HedgeStop.com, Baloun is trying to bring an old media business model into a new media space.

Fees for Lending Service

The smallest of these four business applications may be the closest to developing the most appropriate business model. On Lending Club, a person-to-person lending company that launched via a Facebook application in May, the social component is at the center of its business model. Borrowers load the application to meet up with lenders from within their existing Facebook networks and social groups. They then negotiate rates directly. Once an agreement has been made, they head to LendingClub.com, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., to enter bank account details, so funds can be transferred directly between accounts. Lending Club takes a small cut, up to 3%, of each loan.

Says LendingClub CEO Renaud Laplanche, “Person-to-person lending works best in an a environment where people feel connected to one another, lending to friends and friends of friends.” He also claims that peers trust peers to give better rates than a bank. So far, the site has attracted 13,163 users. With its 3% transaction fees, Laplanche estimates that by the end of August, the company will have moved $1 million since its June launch. But the revenue for the company in the same three-month interval is only $30,000. Given the minimal costs of maintaining the Web site and its relatively small staff of 21 people, this may be enough for now, but as the application grows, its infrastructure costs will expand. Raising the company’s commission, however, would quickly jeopardize its value proposition to users.

Facebook, where users expect applications to augment their social experience with little effort and at no cost, may be a tough environment for companies whose ultimate goal is making a buck, especially since so many companies are still trying to work with traditional ad models. Ultimately, the most successful applications are those whose business model, brand identity, and natural users match the culture and demographic on the network. As such, the top applications may not provide plug-and-play solutions for every brand hoping to enter Facebook. But the lessons they teach about the need for authenticity and relevancy are universal tenets for marketers in the Web 2.0 age.

Source: BusinessWeek Online


Social Computing Moves Into Recruitment

October 29, 2007

A new research by Forrester.

Human capital management (HCM) professionals are faced with a shrinking labor pool, lower unemployment rates, vacant jobs orders that require increasingly specialized and sought-after skills, and an environment where traditional recruiting processes and systems fail to align with many job seekers’ use of technology. To combat these challenges, strategic recruiters are finding alternatives to turbo-charge their traditional recruiting programs — and one alternative is Social Computing. Younger workers — and to an increasing degree older ones, too — are embracing Social Computing as a way to consume information and build relationships. Firms must deliberately weave many aspects of Social Computing into their traditional recruiting programs to find — and ultimately hire — the best talent possible.

Read more at http://www.unitedBIT.com


5 Things Facebook Must Do To Be Really Useful

October 29, 2007

By Alexander Wolfe

1) Drag and drop onto your page. Currently, the process for accessing apps is confusing and cumbersome. Why not adopt a paradigm which allows users to freely configure their Facebook pages, and effectively turn them into their own personal Web sites?

2) RSS feeds and Twitter connections. OK, maybe these are already accessible somehow, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to, for example, post an RSS feed of this blog on my Facebook page. (I know, the world’s waiting for this.)

3) Make it completely — not almost — open to third-party apps. As Zuckerberg admitted at the Web 2.0 Summit, while Facebook is open to third-party apps, it retains the right to drop any app from its platform. When this policy is applied to malicious apps, it’s fine. But if you’re talking about an outside developer who’s poured his or her whole company into improving Facebook, it’s not so good. Hey, this even means aMicrosoft type company could be cut off. Either you’re open, or you’re not. Facebook should be open.

4) Tear down “The Wall.” Whatever the heck Facebook’s Wall is supposed to be, it ain’t. I don’t get it. Like I said in number 1, above, your whole Facebook page should effectively be your Wall.

5) Build out Facebook’s user networks. I hate to say it, but right now, Ning has got it going on much better than Facebook when it comes to connecting a group of people with common interests. Perhaps this is because Facebook started out as a college kids’ social net, where it was enough to tag yourself as going to Podunk U. to establish your group identity. Even now, when Facebook has been opened up to everyone, it’s hard to easily find the networks you want to hook into, and they’re pretty much defined along school or work lines. Facebook needs to make it easier for users to create their own groups, and there needs to be a completely separate sub-universe where these go according to one’s interests, a la Ning.

Source:


LINKEDIN TOOLBOX: Top 10 LinkedIn Tools

October 29, 2007

Following the footsteps of Facebook, LinkedIn is set to develop its API for developers soon. Until then, we can make use of some cool tools, scripts, and plugins to manage this popular social network better and easier to use.

LinkedInABox

LinkedInAbox provides a widget that displays various profile information on your blog or site in a neat looking rectangular box. Take this as a step ahead of LinkedIn’s default site-buttons that only link to your profile page. The information at LinkedInAbox is displayed inside the box without you having to leave the web page you are on.

Information that you can choose to display are your profile summary, specialities, education, experience, public profile, recommendations, connections, and ‘drop me a line’. You can choose from six color themes for the box or choose to put a background picture.

Email Linkify

Email Linkify is a Greasemonkey script that you can use on your Firefox browser. It changes all the emails in your online inbox or websites into web links. Clicking these links adds the emails into your LinkedIn Contact List.

LinkedIn Contacts Management

LinkedIn Contacts Management is a desktop application that functions as a mailing list manager allowing you to send emails to all your LinkedIn contacts at one go. The tool imports your LinkedIn contact list information complete with name, email, country, company, etc. You can filter this list later according to your requirements. You can also export your data in a CSV or text format.

LinkedIn Contacts

LinkedIn Contacts is a Facebook application that allows you to share your LinkedIn contacts on your Facebook profile or share them with your friends. So if you know someone in LinkedIn who could be of help to one of your Facebook friends, then this might be a good way to introduce them to each other.

My Company’s Hiring

My Company’s Hiring is another Facebook application that you can use to display available job positions in you organization. Does your company pay referral fee to anyone who brings in new employees to the organization? If the answer is yes, then it’s time you use the power of social networking to help you earn a part of this fee.

My Resume is another Facebook application that lets you post your Linkedin profile or your resume on Facebook. You can use this tool to request resumes from your Facebook friends. There is a listing of Top 100 resumes ranked by the number of recommendations. You can search for resume and there is a country specific listing as well.

To view resumes for professionals who are not in you immediate network, you need to earn credits by inviting your friends to see your resume, writing or getting a recommendation.

LinkedIn hResume

LinkedIn hResume is a WordPress plugin to display your LinkedIn profile in your WordPress blog in your own customized design. It does the job by using the hResume microformat block from your LinkedIn page.

You need to set your LinkedIn profile to Full View in order to make this plugin work.

LinkedIn Toolbars

LinkedIn Tools is set of official tools from LinkedIn itself consisting of a outlook toolbar, browser toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer, email signature, Mac search widget, and a Google toolbar assistant.

With the Outlook toolbar, you can update your Outlook contacts with LinkedIn profile and receive notification when your contacts make any changes in their profiles. The browser toolbar has a search form and provides access to various LinkedIn profiles. The Jobs Insider tool in the browser toolbar allows you to check out job openings at popular job sites and connect you to people in your network who work in a recruitment company.

Export LinkedIn Connections

Export LinkedIn Connections – This is another tool from LinkedIn that allows you to export your LinkedIn contacts to Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo! Address Book, or Mac OS Address Book as a CSV or VCF file. Detailed instructions for each of the services are given on the LinkedIn site.

LinkedIn Search Engines for Firefox

LinkedIn Search Engines for Firefox is a plugin that adds the LinkedIn search options to the Firefox browser’s default search box in the upper right hand corner of the browser. There are two engines available. The first one allows you to search contacts by name, title, or organization. The second one allows you to search for jobs in the LinkedIn network.

Source: Mashable.com