Friday, September 28, 2007

Facebook faces the Legalbook ahead

Yet another sign that the Facebook is on a bend. The social networking site faces potentially huge and expensive legal battles with various government authorities over allegations of harboring sexual predators, same charges that Myspace faced earlier.

The New York Attorney General’s office has reportedly found objectionable pictures and assorted media on Facebook.

Om Malik says that today it is New York; tomorrow it may be any number of U.S. states.

So, may be it is true that Facebook is desperate for money to be able to pay the lawyers. In Om’s words, 'Facebook needs a sugar daddy' - Myspace has News Corp to fall back upon, Facebook needs more moolah from Microsoft, which has been subsidizing it so far.

With this cash infusion, hopefully, Mark Z. and company will be able to use the hyped Facebook Developer Platform for something really useful for a change, and convince developers to think up innovative ways to moderate and filter Facebook as un-obstructively as possible, in return getting share of the juicy Microsoft handout.

All this is fine and dandy, but how will this site make money?

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The Future of web 2.0 as a battle between laziness and vanity

Seth Porges writes that Web 2.0 may meet its nemesis at the hands of an inherently lazy human race who, one day will get tired of making friends on Facebook, writing comments on blogs that blog owners delete, sharing news stories that no one reads…and so on. (all these are my take on Seth's assertions)

I am not sure that User-generated Content is a fad and Seth makes a good point but I agree with one of the commenters who say that Human Vanity trumps over everything else.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Media Quote of the week

"People will pay for porn, but they won't pay for Friedman"

- Brooke Gladtone after NYT opens its archives and ends TimesSelect paid service

[Note: I am not sure the Times’ change of strategy and opting for a search-driven advertising-based model means the end of paid news content model. It is too much of good thing for Google to be true in the long run]

Via Romensko

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Is the Facebook the biggest Flip Play ever?

In the light of current reports in the Wall Street Journal which suggest that cash-strapped (?) Facebook is seeking about $500 million in cash and values itself anywhere between $10-15 billion dollars, I have finally come to conclusion that Facebook was nothing but a sham, in fact it might be the biggest ‘Made-to-Flip’ play of all times.

It is a perfect case for Harvard Case Study or movie, depending what your preferences are: We have a young founder who makes it a point to appear cool, spout cool new phrase (social graph), who probably took the idea from someone else and focused on making a cleaner-looking social networking site than Myspace and one who understands the value of free Public Relations ala Google.

2007 will be remembered when the Silicon Valley went crazy promoting a social network that was primarily meant for students.

A founder who knew you did not need a business plan to make money, Mark Zuckerberg has read his tech history well. Like a good history student, he knows how to benefit when the giants are at war.

Now that he is reportedly offering 5% of Facebook to Microsoft, he is only doing what Bill Gates did with IBM with DOS – IBM wanted to break big into personal computing and DOS Licensing was going to be it. Today, Microsoft (and Yahoo) will do anything to ward off Google and will go to any lengths, and why not? Thanks to that ATM called the Cash Reserve augmented daily by the Windows Cash Machine.

That brings us to the making money part. It is still not clear how Facebook will make money out of all that traffic.

I am not sure all those Facebook users (note: I have registered but am not a regular user) are ready to be guinea pigs for all sorts of advertising nonsense in the name of innovation. I am not sure whether Facebook will keep my data secure or not.

It is a virtual jungle that Microsoft is buying a pricey ticket to.

Does this mean Facebook is no more the darling of web 2.0?
How will Facebook’s greed play out for the rest of the Web 2.0 arena? Does it herald the onset of the bubble burst?

- Or, will the social networking fad will play itself out in the long run?
- Is Facebook really worth all that money?
- Is Facebook in a better position that Google was in its pre-IPO stage?
- Did the Facebook people know that the IPO would probably wouldn't sell in a subprime-beaten market, with no visible earning pattern to show?

The next generation of social networking is already happening all around us.
The web applications we use on a daily basis; the blog comments we make; our comments on social news site…it is all seamless and it needs no hi-fi plugging.

Updates 28/9/2007
1. Darnell Clayton writes in the Blogherald that instead of investing in an uncertain entity like Facebook (it may still be the next Geocities), Microsoft should invest in Digg and get itself some credentials among bloggers who are heavily into social news.

2. Writing in the Guardian, Charles Arthur says that your Facebook profile is really worth $238 to Microsoft if only it worth $237 (£117) - or even $237.99 - to Google.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Facebook’s plateuing graph

When I started reading about the ‘social graph’ I was one of those embarrassed people who didn’t get it but later I was mighty relieved to find I was not alone and it took some elite bloggers to come out and say it and bring smalltime bloggers like this writer to shore. In short, they meant this :

- The “Social Graph” is nothing but Mark Zucekrberg’s idea to coin a cool marketing phrase, pitch it to the lazy mainstream media,making Facebook look different from the likes of Myspace.

- It went along nicely with Mark’s routine to ‘copy’ the best practices of certain brands. His penchant to ape Steve Jobs is well documented now.

Hopefully, someday, someone will write the definitive book on the smart things technology entrepreneurs do to market their offerings and tactics they employ to crush rivals – and no, I am not talking about Microsoft alone.

Now, coming back to the hyped ‘Social Graph” idea which never caught on.

Nick Carr, as good a tech seer as they come, says this about the ‘mathematical’ phrase,

I tried to ignore the term "social graph" when it first started popping up a few weeks ago. For one thing, it sounded like some sort of embarrassing disease; for another, the idea of having to figure out some arcane new Web 2.0 term was depressing. But the term - or is it a meme? - kept on proliferating, so last week I tried to figure out what it meant. The definitions I found, explicit or implicit, seemed to indicate that a social graph was all the connections between people in a community or, alternatively, all the connections that one person in a community had with all other people. Why is this a "graph," I wondered to myself sheepishly, and what's the difference between a "social graph" and a "social network"? Clearly, I didn't "get it." The shame was intense.

Thankfully for Nick and many others, and this writer, Dave Winer came forward and kicked the phrase where it hurt most.

Calling all copy editors to ‘just change "social graph" to "social network"’ because ‘Social Network” was a much clearer description and less geeky and annoying to everyone, Dave says,

...before we talked about social graphs we called them social networks, and you know what -- they're exactly the same thing, and social network is a much less confusing term, so why don't we just stick with it? (Answer: we should, imho.) So if you don't want to sound like an idiot, call a social graph a social network and stand up for your right to understand technology, and make the techies actually do some useful stuff instead of making simple stuff sound complicated.

Josh Catone, who writes on the popular Readwriteweb blog also thinks “social graph” is a tired idea and “social network” was always better.

I think you should read the above bloggers in detail and the comment sections provide entertaining nuggets of opinion on the matter. For example, here.

Like most startups with billions twinkling in their youthful eyes, the Facebook management team is also inspired by Google and they thought the “social graph” was a worthy option to “pagerank”.

However, Pagerank has become the unofficial arbiter of the value of the currency of links on the web, and links are the original networks on the web.

You cannot say the same about ‘social graph”, the utility of which was never realized despite all that marketese and some die-hard silicon valley “Rising Star” Riders/bloggers – people who hoped to benefit from Facebook’s rise.

Coming November 5 2007, Google will hopefully launch the first version of its response to the challenge provided by social networks, and I think the network value in Gmail, Gtalk, Google Reader, Google Personal Start Page followed by a whole range of Google offerings, will be realized in a steady fashion, all these tools being productive tools, with huge potential of actionable intelligence on hand.

Then, we will see how the redundant, so-far unproductive “social graph” faces up to the barrage of “social networks” of so many useful applications.

And I wonder how long before an A-list blogger disses the Facebook Developer Platform and all that “Creating Internet within Internet” as 100% pure B.S.

Related Reading
Email is so in
A Listers begin to see Facebook in new light

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