Nielsen: How People Use Web Video

February 15, 2008

In its first significant study of how people consume online video, Nielsen Online has found that women tend to favor network television on the Web, while men are drawn to user-created content.

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to tune into videos on TV networks’ Web sites, according to Nielsen Online’s first public release of its research into online-video viewing habits.

Reat at www.unitedBIT.com


Five Favorite Facebook Widgets for Business Users

November 20, 2007

By C.G. Lynch, CIO.com

Most Facebook developers will tell you that they create two different kinds of widgets. There are widgets of expression, geared towards harnessing the viral aspect of Facebook by getting users to share the app with other users.

These “expression” widgets often don’t have much of a goal beyond entertainment. One, for instance, lets users share movie ratings. Another helps users build “virtual scrapbooks.” The second kind is the utilitarian widget, which include clocks, weather reports and other helpful accessories.

Five Favorites

We scoured the widget libraries and came up with five of our favorites for business users based on their utility for getting the job done. Feel free to add suggestions in the comment space below for widgets that we might have missed.

1) Wikimono

Face it. E-mail has become so passi for document authoring that writing this sentence explaining that to you even seems a bit trite. The exhausting task of opening, renaming, saving and then sending a file (then repeat) leads to no version of the truth. So why not a wiki instead? The principle behind Wikimono is as simple as their website, which says, “We love Facebook, we love wikis.” You might love how discreetly you can bookmark the wikis on your Facebook profile and the decent set of editing tools that comes with it. And when we say decent, we don’t just mean bold, italics and underline. As you can see from this spec list, you can add video, math formulas, maps and all kinds of pictures. Use Wikimono to plan the agenda for your next meeting or take food requests for your holiday party.

2) MyLinkedIn Profile

Booooo-ring, yes, but necessary for the business user since Facebook still gears its site towards the consumer experience. Though you can list your professional experience under the built in “Information” app of Facebook, it still doesn’t match the depth and breadth of the curriculum vitae that you can build on your LinkedIn profile and then share with other professionals. Some Facebook Apps help you upload your LinkedIn profile to your actual Facebook profile, but this simple badge seems to do the trick just fine.

3) Sticky Notes

The first response you might get if you add this helpful widget will be “but what about the wall? Can’t you just use that?” They’re referring to the built-in Facebook app that allows friends (or people who have access to your Facebook page) to leave a messages for you publicly. The problem? Most walls tend to be a laundry list of social comments and inside jokes that eventually blur together, especially if you get a ton of them. If someone added “meet with team at 3 p.m.” to your own wall, for instance, there’s a good chance you’d miss it. Sticky Notes are big and come in a variety of colors (we prefer the standard yellow). Created by J-Squared Media, a small widget company that sprung up in large part because of Sticky Notes’ success, the app already has around 200,000 active users. You can leave notes for yourself on your own page, or you can leave them for colleagues (provided they have the app as well).

4) Blog RSS Feed Reader

Another way to keep project management away from your e-mail inbox (where it doesn’t belong) is to have internal blogs. If you’ve made that leap, why not feed them to your Facebook page? We picked this reader over several other RSS widgets on the Facebook App list because it can pull from enterprise-worthy blogging apps such as Movable Type. As updates to a project occur, the blog entries feed through the Reader and onto your Facebook page.

5) Marco Polo

If you work for one of the Big Corporations, odds are your workforce is spread across the country or maybe even the world. By utilizing this Facebook news feed with mapping technology, you can track the location of your friends and colleagues. Need to plan a business meeting? Just get a view of where everyone is currently located and find the most convenient location. If you want to let you’re friends know you’re on the road on business, check out Marco Polo‘s notification tool.

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The OpenSocial Business Model: Will the biggest social containers win?

November 2, 2007

By David Berlind

I asked two questions during the Q&A session in today’s announcement between Google and MySpace that MySpace would be embracing Google’s recently announced OpenSocial framework of APIs, with executives from both companies. The first question (which I’m really still waiting for an answer on) had to do with how two or more social networking sites will handle the thorny challenge of reconciling dissimilar identity management systems (when the integration involves the exchange of personal profile data). You can see in that post what some possible answers are, but what’s not clear is how, in the demonstration given, unique MySpace IDs are mapped to unique Flixster IDs (the demo involved the incorporation of Flixster social movie reviewing service directly onto MySpace profiles).

Another question I asked had to do with business models in an OpenSocial world. I probably didn’t phrase it during the press conference as well as I should have. But going back to the example of how OpenSocial results in the embedding of Flixster functionality into larger “social containers” like MySpace; It occurs to me that, to the extent the exporter of functionality (Flixster in the demo example) relies on advertising as a business model, the idea that a lot of people might begin to experience an exporter’s content through a container (where the container gets to serve the advertising instead of the exporter) could result in a cannibalization of the exporter’s traffic (and therefore, its ad revenues). Meanwhile, the container (MySpace in this case) benefits, doesn’t it? After all, using the demo as the example, MySpace gets to serve advertising around Flixster’s content. Today, lots of sites (eg: FaceBook) go out of their way to prevent other sites from using HTML’s frames to frame their content and serve their own ads against that content (FaceBook for example purposely “busts” HTML frames).

Therefore, could the OpenSocial network lead to a world where the biggest and mightiest “social containers” win? As you can hear in the full audio podcast we have of the press conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt answered that question as follows;

It depends on your view of how network effects happen and whether you think a single dominant player comes out in any of these spaces. The history of the Web says that that’s not the scenario that will happen. The history of the Web says that there is enormous diversity in what people are interested in and that people who are willing to take a bet on an open platform whether its a developer or leading site like MySpace get the benefit of a larger pie. It does not end up as a zero sum game. Your question can be rephrased in exactly the same question we asked 20 years ago and 10 years ago and history says that the Internet wins and that the principles of openness; that people can extend things; that in fact they end up winning because the pie gets so much larger in all scenarios.

Given the way FaceBook has come on so strong in the last few months, it would be hard to argue with the idea that no single dominant player will ever emerge so long as the platform is open. But what about a small handful of dominant players like Google, FaceBook, and MySpace. Yes, OpenSocial is also about unlocking whatever profile data you have in your MySpace vault and making it portable to other social networks.

But how often will people really switch after they’ve invested so much time in building their online personas in a MySpace, a FaceBook, or both? Maybe they’ll do it, but my sense is that they won’t do it often or lightly in which case only a few will get to rise to the top. Put another way, Flixster may indeed be a container as much as it is an exporter of data to other containers. But in which direction will most of the data flow? To or from Flixster? My sense is that people will lean in the direction of uber-containers like MySpace and FaceBook (FaceBook has not announced support for OpenSocial) to be their primary containers and specialty function sites like Flixster to serve up data into their containers.

I’m not saying that sites who primarily end up in the role of serving data to larger containers can’t win. But, if you ask me, the existence and adoption of OpenSocial will force many advertising-driven sites back to square one where they’ll have to think hard about how they’ll sustain themselves while also participating. One thing is for sure. Much the same way a day doesn’t go by when some company doesn’t carve out a niche in the FaceBook universe for itself (knowing full well that FaceBook is where the sunshine is right now), support of OpenSocial will be a checklist item for any site that’s in a position to serve data into the larger container sites. Those sites may not realize it right now. But when Google turns on its container (and you know it’s gotta have one coming or it wouldn’t be doing this), a lot of people will have their moment of clarity.

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Widget Master

November 2, 2007

By Victoria Murphy Barret

RockYou is Silicon Valley’s latest Web sensation. It exists solely thanks to the recent rise in social networking sites. RockYou creates frivolous, mini Web applications that exist on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. RockYou’s popular Superwall, for instance, lets Facebook folks put graffiti–words, photos, videos–on their “walls,” which are public sites where members post messages. Another, called Zombies, encourages people to “bite” friends. Virtually, of course. No joke.

Since RockYou’s founding two years ago, 90 million social networkers have downloaded its applications. For this, RockYou is making more than $100,000 a month in revenues showing ads alongside its mini-applications for brands like AT&T and Sony, as well as by plugging other developers’ mini-apps (for a fee). The pitch to advertisers: We are where the kids hang out. Yet RockYou doesn’t know much else about its customers. Facebook doesn’t share data about members’ ages, locations, education or anything else it might know.

Jia Shen, the 27-year-old co-founder of RockYou, sat down with Forbes.com recently to talk about how to make money selling snack-size software and what Google’s new open platform means for Facebook and MySpace.

Forbes.com: How did RockYou begin?

Jia Shen: We started two years ago noticing that everyone on MySpace was trying to “bling out” their pages. But there was no easy way to do it. We decided to put together a slide show tool. It took one week to build. I worked while I was on vacation in Japan. In one month, we had 100,000 people using it. Then in three months there were one million.

Impressive growth. But were you making any money?

None. You can’t advertise on MySpace. Facebook changed that. So now we’re like any other Web site: We make money on page views. Sony Pictures wanted to promote the film Resident Evil and used our Zombies application for a sweepstakes event.

We also advertise other applications and take a cut. Yahoo! created an application that lets you post music videos on your Facebook profile page. Yahoo! had 8,000 downloads after one month, which is pretty slow. We started promoting the application in banners above our own applications. In a single day on our network of applications, Yahoo! got 120,000 downloads.

What is your initial reaction to Google’s new open platform for social networks?

We’ve been helping Google for a while on this. In theory, it should be very cool. We tested it out with an application called Emote (This is a collection of happy, sad, flirty smiley faces). Before all these networks required different code, and it took us three days to re-write the same application for Facebook to get it to work on Orkut. With the new standards, it took us just 30 minutes to make the same application work on Plaxo. The real test comes two months from now. How many companies will really give us real estate on their Web sites?

Will Google’s open platform give a boost to less popular social networks like Orkut, Friendster and the Hi5?

Sure, if it yields them more applications, it gives people more reasons to flock to their sites. Web traffic isn’t yet a zero-sum game

Is this bad news for Facebook? Will developers spend less time on Facebook apps?

People are making real money on Facebook. So there’s risk in going elsewhere. Am I really going to spend time going after Orkut’s Brazilian audience? I’m more likely to focus on the U.S. market. Facebook is still growing nicely.

Do you worry that the social networking sites, particularly Facebook, will start launching their own applications and compete with outside developers?

It is always a worry, but something that we’ve lived with since day one. MySpace eventually built a competing slideshow, but we already had big penetration, with a diverse set of widgets. Facebook does do little feature creeps here and there. But everything they’ve done so far has been non-competitive.

What will Microsoft get from its deal with Facebook? (Microsoft announced in October a $240 million investment for a 1.6% stake in Facebook, and is serving ads on the site.)

This isn’t traditional brand advertising. But my belief is that Microsoft didn’t want only access to the ad network. Microsoft wanted to make sure no one else got Facebook. (Google was reportedly bidding.)

What were you doing before RockYou?

I came to Silicon Valley in 2000 after majoring in computer science and electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins. The first start-up I landed at failed in three months, so did the second. I thought I was the kiss of death.

But I have a short attention span, so it was fine by me. This company is changing so much I may as well be working at a different place every three months.

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Facebook Could Challenge Google And Become The Remote Control For The Web

November 2, 2007

by Stephen Wellman

On Aug 16, the blog Facebook Insider reported that TripAdvisor acquired Where I’ve Been, the top travel-related application on Facebook. While TripAdvisor later denied the rumor, the ensuing story exposed something: The exploding number of applications on Facebook. Thanks to its Facebook API program, Facebook is fast becoming the front page for much of the Web.

In July, I argued that Facebook posed a challenge to professional networking site LinkedIn. While I stand by that assessment, I think that in that post I didn’t go far enough. Given just how fast Facebook’s API program is growing, Facebook may present an even more interesting challenge to the Web. Facebook could shape up as a rival toGoogle, Yahoo, and even search itself.

By integrating more applications into its platform, Facebook is trying to transform itself from being just a social networking platform to becoming a full-interactive control panel or remote control for the Web. Unlike earlier attempts to do this — think of the portal model of Web 1.0 — Facebook has designed its API system so that users can access all the Web sites they want without ever leaving Facebook, or opening new Web pages. I suspect that Facebook will expand this functionality so that eventually the entire Web can be accessed through these widgets.

In short, Facebook wants to become the locus of control for much of the user’s Web activity, letting the user seamlessly share travel information, pull in news updates from blogs like TechCrunch, or send questions to the user’s social network with apps like MyQuestions.

If you will allow me to extend the remote control metaphor, Facebook users no longer have to go “out there” in the rest of the Web to get new sites, they can pull them through Facebook, either with invites from the app providers or, more effectively, through their social network itself. The cumulative impact of this could be huge. Just as the remote control gave birth to the couch potato (the ultimate passive TV viewer), so too could Facebook change the game for Web use.

If users no longer need to search to find new cool Web applications, they won’t need to use Google, Yahoo, or MSN as much. Instead, they can rely on Facebook for finding new applications. Now, I don’t think this would mean the end of search, but it could reduce its importance pretty significantly. If that happens, Google loses power and Facebook gains it.

What do you think? Do Facebook and its exploding universe of applications pose a real threat to Google and search in general?

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Take That, Facebook!

November 2, 2007

By Wendy Tanaka

Google got back at Facebook on Thursday, announcing that MySpace has joined the growing ranks of social networks that have committed to use its new platform for developers of applications for the sites.

The addition of the News Corp. social network heaps pressure on Facebook–which recently chose Microsoft over Google to be an equity holder in the company–to sign on to the new set of standards, dubbed OpenSocial. With MySpace, developers gain instant access to the world’s largest social network with 115 million users. Facebook, which rolled out its own developer platform last spring, has 51 million users, less than half of MySpace’s members.

At a press conference to announce the partnership, Google and MySpace executives declined to comment on whether Facebook will join OpenSocial. Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, assured reporters gathered at the Internet giant’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters that the company has reached out to every major social network. “We want to see it adopted by everyone,” he said. “We’re not announcing further partnerships now. We anticipate more momentum now.”

MySpace Chief Executive Chris DeWolfe is confident the new platform will “become the de facto standard” for application developers.

Google had been expected to officially announce the OpenSocial platform Thursday, but reports about it surfaced Wednesday.

OpenSocial will allow developers to build tiny applications that can be used across many social networks, boosting traffic and advertising on their sites. Google and MySpace said the main benefit of the platform to developers is that it standardizes how applications are created.

“Not rebuilding and rebuilding on different standards … will be great for developers and end users,” said DeWolfe, who took part in the press conference at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. “One of the big trends on the Internet is that users want to consume content when they want it and how they want it.”

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said Google and MySpace have been working together on the platform for more than a year. It had been rumored, however, that MySpace would launch its own developer platform.

Executives declined to comment on how all the companies that have said they will use the standards, which include Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn and more than a dozen other social networks, will make money from the platform.

At the conference, Joe Kraus of Google’s JotSpot wiki product said applications embedded on MySpace Web pages, for example, will foster “more interaction on MySpace, which means more time spent on the site and more ad revenues.”

Questions about privacy were also raised. Joe Greenstein, chief executive of applications developer Flixster, another partner, said Google doesn’t have access to partners’ user data. “Google is spearheading the initiative, but Google doesn’t touch the data, doesn’t own it.”

Developers were expected to gather at the Googleplex on Thursday night to test their applications on Google’s Orkut social network.

Some of these developers might also be building applications for Facebook. But if Google’s platform is easy to use, these developers might be tempted to pour their hearts and energies into one platform more than another.

Mark Zuckerberg, are you paying attention?

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Silicon Valley Crash Course: 14 Startups

November 2, 2007

by John Foley

Dream Factory makes rich Internet apps for project management, presentations, document sharing, and other types of collaboration.

Ribbit develops software that integrates cell calls with Web-based Salesforce apps. It lets you, for example, attach a voice message from a sales prospect to a Salesforce “task” and store it for later playback.

Right90 provides a sales forecasting tool for manufacturing companies. The company, which had three customers a year ago, now has 17 (including electronics giant Sharp) since plugging into AppExchange.

StakeWare has an app that lets companies track their “social responsibility.” A dashboard provides views of company performance in areas such as the environment and human rights.

Vertical Response enables e-mail marketing campaigns using your Salesforce contact list. Because such e-mail blasts tend to be smaller and between known parties, more messages get opened (“open” rates can be as high as 30%) and fewer get blocked as spam.

Aggregate Knowledge, whose discovery software makes content or product recommendations to Web site visitors based on what like-minded people have done.

Agistix, a hosted logistics application that helps companies keep track of packages and freight through various channels.

Gydget, which provides a widget-building platform for entertainment companies and sports franchises, with potential application in other industries.

Mino Wireless, which cuts costs for BlackBerry users who place overseas calls by routing calls over VoIP and providing centralized administration for groups of users. (Mino won InformationWeek‘s first-ever startup competition in September.)

Rebit, maker of a foolproof PC backup appliance that works by simply plugging into a USB port. (Not to be confused with Ribbit, the Salesforce incubator company, both of which have a green frog as their logo.)

Ruckus Wireless, whose 802.11 access points extend wireless signals greater distances and around obstacles.

Stratavia, a developer of data center automation software.

Untangle, which offers no-cost network access and spam filtering software based on open source.

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Significant workplace inroads for Enterprise 2.0?

November 1, 2007

By Dion Hinchcliffe

According to a random poll I recently conducted on Facebook, just over a quarter of 300 respondents — 27% of them in all — answered in the affirmative that they are provided with an easy way at work to post on a blog or put information on a wiki. I often ask this same question to gatherings of people whenever I get the chance these days and have been getting roughly the same answer for the last few months. Businesses are apparently starting to take Web 2.0 for a more serious spin.

A year ago, accessibility to blogs and wikis in the workplace was less than half this number in my informal sampling. The growth trend seems clear and appears to be increasing. So while this data might be fairly unscientific, I suspect the number is pretty accurate, and social media, aka Enterprise 2.0, is finally making some measurable inroads in the workplace despite a few open concerns about these mediums.

Facebook as a measure of social media in the general workplace?

Of course, Facebook users in general are probably more digitally literate than the average population, will look for blogs and wikis on the local Intranet to use, and thus some say they may be more likely to gravitate to workplaces and jobs that would provide an environment with familiar tools. However, one odd breakdown in the demographics of the poll is that the youngest group, 18-24 year-olds, reported the least access to social media. Perhaps it’s because this group also includes a great deal of students or that entry level workers don’t have as much computer access as workers farther up in the hierarchy.

Poll respondents were also pretty sure when they weren’t being provided with these tools with only 21% reporting that they didn’t know if they were being offered them. A whopping 52%, just over half, said that they had no social media tools offered to them in a way they could access.

The poll question was also carefully posed to uncover if tools were being “brought in the back door” by workers using the hundreds of free social media platforms out in the Web with their browser at work, or if the workplace itself was providing enterprise blogs and wikis. In my opinion, this makes the 27% “yes” number almost surprisingly high. But, while some respondents may not have parsed the question clearly, the trend is strong enough to stand on it’s own:

Blogs and wikis may finally be seeing fairly widespread “business approved” adoption in the workplace.

Getting good business outcomes from social media while managing downside

While blogs and wikis continue to show the potential to greatly improve collaboration, create higher levels of knowledge retention, and generate more reusable business information over time, it’s also probable that in attempts to access the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 platforms, these new platforms will incur some issues that IT departments and the business will have to deal with, particularly if these platforms are exposed outside the organization.

What are the business benefits and issues of social media? The diagram above depicts the world of traditional software and native PC applications with expanding access to the “2.0″ generation of new software models and platforms. Here’s a more detailed run down of the pros and cons that will have to be balanced in most organizations when deciding on providing access to these types of social media tools to their workers.

Notes: Social media is just one important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, but the one most likely to see near-term, widespread adoption. Also, the diagram above clearly shows the social media is a new aspect to the enterprise and will more likely to enhance existing IT systems over time rather than replace them outrighte with the possible exception of enterprise content management.

Reported social media in the workplace benefits:

  • More ad hoc collaboration between employees who can find each other’s work and team together.
  • More globally persistent, discoverable business information is made available over time.
  • Social media tends to capture more institutional knowledge that’s reusable.
  • A deep hyperlink infrastructure begins to form, built by continuously by workers using social media. tools to forge links, making business information more discoverable.
  • Tagging and other emergent organization methods allow business information to be organized and cross-referenced from every point of view.
  • More efficient access to information as more business information becomes available internally and externally via syndication.
  • Potentially higher levels of innovation and productivity as more previously unavailable enterprise thinking is available to be accessed, repurposed, and built on top of.
  • Increased efficiency in conversations: social media scales up to mostly resource and time friendly conversations among thousands of asynchronous participants, yet excludes those uninterested in them, unlike e-mail distribution lists and conference calls.

Reported social media in the workplace issues:

  • Productivity: Users employing social media tools for non-productive purposes such as socializing.
  • Security: Information that should be under tight control appearing on publicly via social media, either accidentally or intentionally.
  • Control: The level of control over what appears on an organization’s Intranet will decrease with the rise in use of social media, for better or worse. Also note that unlike e-mail, control of social media can be more successfully retroactive.
  • Outcomes: Ensuring that social media tools are generated pre-defined, specific goals is difficult when the the extremely freeform platforms of social media can be used for everything from managing projects to tracking a department’s fantasy football game.
  • Another silo: Right now social media is primarily a consumer-side invention, like many aspects of Web 2.0. Consequently, most enterprise blogs and wikis don’t have good access to feeds of enterprise data and this can encourage cut-and-paste publishing of information from traditional enterprise IT systems into social media, creating another silo of data.
  • Trust: How can the usefulness of the content in social media platforms be trusted. The Web has partially solved this with techniques such as inbound link counting, but reputation and voting systems are starting to appear, often as plug-ins such as the highly capable new comment and reputation add-on release from Intense Debate, for social media tools. Despite this, until the tools become mature, trust will likely continue to be an issue for many uses of social media in the workplace.
  • Not-enterprise ready. I’ve talked plenty about the enterprise context for blogs and wikis last year. The good news, many of these issues are starting to be addressed in the latest crop of Enterprise 2.0/social media offerings.

I’ll continue to run this poll on a periodic basis going forward and see what we can learn about the adoption of social media in the workplace. In the meantime, please share your stories about blogs and wikis at work in Talkbalk below.

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Google/OpenSocial vs. Microsoft/Facebook

November 1, 2007

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

So there they were, Google vs. Microsoft, slugging it out again. This time, to the winner, would go a small percentage of the ownership of the popular social networking site, Facebook. The real prize though was that the winner would get to decide if Facebook would continue to accept advertising only from advertisers working with Microsoft.

And, the winner was… Microsoft!

Now, Google doesn’t lose to Microsoft, or anyone else for that matter, very often. So maybe, just maybe, when Google announced today—Halloween—that it was going to offer Internet developers an open system, OpenSocial, to create applications across Web sites—read social networking sites—it was a pure coincidence. Just like, say, it was pure coincidence that soap somehow ends up on your windows tonight.

Seriously, I’m sure Google has been working on cross-site applications that will let social sites syndicate content from one site to another for a while now. Even Google can’t get a dozen partners, including the social network LinkedIn for business professionals, its own Orkut network and Friendster to all sign up in a few days… Or could they?

No, no, I’m sure they’ve been working on this for a while. After all, if you look at what Google is trying to do from both a technical and a business viewpoint, OpenSocial fits in perfectly.

Google wants and needs open systems, and, to a lesser extent, open source. Google makes its moola from selling advertising on everything and anything you can place on the Web. If the systems are open, Google engineers are fast enough and bright enough to find a way to hook an ad to almost anything on the Web. Or, if they can’t hook an ad to it, they know how to PageRank it, so that your best chance of finding a site, an application, a friend, what-have-you is via the Google search engine.

If Google can build the open system itself, which is exactly what they’re doing, it’s even easier for them. By opening it up, they insure that the open-source development process will get the new system up and running as quickly as possible, while at the same time debugging at a rapid rate.

Indeed, if you think about it, this face-off over Facebook, says a lot about both companies. Google wants to open up its advertising. Microsoft—and this is so Microsoft of them—wants to keep the advertising all to themselves.

Take this step further. Right now Microsoft really, really wants you, as a business customer, to buy into SharePoint. And, why shouldn’t they? If you really want to get the most from SharePoint’s Swiss-army knife approach to work collaboration you need to buy— take a deep breath here—BizTalk Server 2006 R2, SharePoint Server, Visual Studio Team System, SQL Server, Server 2003, and Office 2007. Oh, and Exchange. Can’t forget Exchange.

To me SharePoint is the epitome of Microsoft’s extend and embrace strategy. If you buy into it, you have to buy into an expensive complete server to desktop package. It’s not quite the same thing as selling your business’ soul to Redmond, but it’s close.

Google, on the other hand, says you can just use its open services and applications, like Google Apps Premier and Standard editions to do pretty much everything Microsoft can do for you, with one big difference. With Google, it’s either free of charge or the company charges you a pittance. Except, of course, Google doesn’t have a way for you to integrate work across networks the way SharePoint does… Hmmm… or will it soon with OpenSocial?

After all, Microsoft is already trying to link Web 2.0-type sites with SharePoint and you can use SharePoint across the Internet today. Social networking sites that are integrated with SharePoint are just one more step away. Now that I think of it, Google may have been planning OpenSocial for quite a while now.

This may look to be just another dust-up between Google and Microsoft. It may appear to be just a fight over Web advertising revenues. But I think it’s more, much more. I think it’s a fight between whose technology model is going to control the business network, and bigger even than that, whose business model is really going to call the shots in the early 21st century.

The Google/Microsoft war may just be beginning.

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Is The Web Headed For Meltdown 2.0?

November 1, 2007

by Stephen Wellman

In recent months I’ve seen a lot of anxiety in the tech marketplace. Bloggers, pundits, and industry insiders all seem to suggest that Web 2.0 is headed for Correction 2.0. Are we in the middle of another bubble?

The bubble talk started in 2005 when eBay agreed to acquire Skype. Since then, we’ve learned that Skype hasn’t earned its high price tag, with co-founder Niklas Zennstrom even admitting as much.

In recent weeks GPS firm Navteq sold for an impressive $8.1 billion to Nokia while Google’s stock price continues to climb. And to top it all off, last week Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook in a deal that supposedly gives the golden child of Web 2.0 a market value of $15 billion.

Web skeptics point to these trends and, channeling Susan Powter, scream: Stop the insanity!

During the fallout from the dot-com era, there was a lot of finger pointing and loads of general animosity directed at the Internet. But during the down years that followed, the Web exploded while the skeptics entrenched in their old-line companies watched from the sidelines. Google grew up during a down market. Key Web trends, like blogging, also exploded during the downturn.

I had firsthand experience with this. I worked at a Web startup during the downturn. When I would reveal this fact at the time, people would look at me with equal parts scorn and pity. I once had someone blame me for the stock market crash because I worked at an e-tailer during the late 1990s.

What I find odd about this Web skepticism is that it points a lot of derision at the Web. Other industries that have downturns don’t attract this much animosity. I don’t see any financial analysts out there pointing fingers at real estate agents or condo builders for the current meltdown in the U.S. real estate market.

Let’s look at the ghost in the room. Everyone is scared that the Web will repeat the mistakes of the dot-com era. Well, how about all those dot-coms that flamed out seven years ago? For all the Pets.com buzzards of yesteryear, there are plenty of dot-com era companies still charging on. Web giants such as Amazon.com and eBay have proven themselves as viable, profitable global businesses. And even though Yahoo lost to Google, it’s still around and it’s still a going concern.

A few business analysts last year pointed out that the survival rate of dot-com era companies was “on par or higher than other emerging industries” and that there may have been far too few dot-com startups, contrary to the conventional wisdom that emerged at the time of the collapse.

If you factor in that the dot-com era produced a large number of viable businesses in an era where many of these companies ran on little to no profit — if not outright losses — for years, today’s crop of Web 2.0 startups looks even stronger. Even Facebook, a site that earns special scorn from Web skeptics, is profitable. Yahoo at the same time period in the dot-com explosion didn’t look as strong financially as many of the bright, shining stars of Web 2.0.

Simply put, I just don’t think that the current class of Web startups looks anywhere near as dangerous as those from the late 1990s. And given that startups today are smaller, leaner, and actually profitable, they may do even better than their parents’ generation. And if the parents did well (much better in hindsight than most thought in 2000-2001), how much success could these Web 2.0 kids achieve?

Now, does this mean that I think Facebook is really worth $15 billion right now? Not necessarily. Does this mean that I don’t think there will be another Web downturn? Not at all. That which goes up must come down. That’s just capitalism. If you don’t like the risk, then don’t play for the rewards.

What do you think? Is Web 2.0 headed for a huge crash? Or is the Web only heating up?

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