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Andrew writes…

By - June 03, 2010

Reader Andrew writes: Paine’s Common Sense wasn’t a hastily put together reaction to something that happened that day (I think the personal correspondence of our founding fathers was more in line with blogging than their pamphlets).

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Short Thoughts, At D, On Apple Search

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Thanks to Andy at Beet for asking. My post earlier here goes into far more detail. I do look rather querulous, do I not? It must have been the sun.

Of Course Apple Is Going to Do Search.

By - June 02, 2010

…you just have to rethink what “search” really means. Last night Jobs said he had no interest in search. I am quite certain what he meant is he has no interest in HTML, “traditional” search. But think about what search really is, and I am certain, Apple will be in the search business.

Why? Well, as I said in the last post on the iPad (and rather hurriedly, and entirely my fault, poorly communicated to many of those who left comments), it’s all about the link. Perhaps I should have said, it’s all about the signal.

Let’s think about the allegories between search and the web as we knew it, and apps and the app platform that Apple controls, as we know it. Last night Jobs said that we’ve never before seen such an explosion of apps as we’ve witnessed on the iPhone platform – 200,000 and counting, up to 20K new ones a week.

That’s true, never before have so many developers created mobile phone apps in such abundance. But think back to the last great platform where hundreds of thousands created value by making new services, content, and places where consumers might interact: yep, that’d be the web. A website is an app. And the platform of the web – it’s open. Anyone can build on it. And anyone can create signals from their “app” to another “app” – a link from one site to another. And anyone can share any data from any site to another site, or mash up those data streams to create entirely new kinds of sites. Yep, it was rather a free for all, but over the past 15 or so years business rules have emerged, social norms have developed, an ecosystem has flourished.

Take yourself back to the early days of the web – just as now we are in the early days of what I’ve called before, and will call here, AppWorld.

Remember what a mess it was? How much noise there was, and how precious little signal? And what application emerged that found that precious signal, made sense of it, and helped us find our way? Yep, it was search, and the signal was the link, interpreted, of course, through PageRank and ultimately hundreds of other sub signals (click through, freshness, decay, etc.)

Now, think of AppWorld. Where’s the signal? Short answer is, we don’t have one. Yet.

The beauty of the link was that it became a proxy for engagement. It was where consumers were declaring their intent – signaling what they wanted from the web. That signal became the basis for a massive marketing economy. Google ascended. And content models were turned upside down (much to my delight at FM, I will admit).

So then, what is the proxy for engagement in AppWorld? Before you argue that “we don’t need one,” let’s not forget Jobs’ stated goal of getting into advertising so as to give his legions of developers a business model, to reward them for creating value on Apple’s platform. That’s the whole reason he’s creating iAds, he declared last night. To get his developers paid. “We won’t be making very much money on advertising,” he said. (Let’s watch and see…)

Well, if marketers are going to find value in AppWorld, they’re going to need a proxy for engagement, a trail of breadcrumbs, some signal(s) that show were consumers are, what they are doing, and ideally, predicts what they might do next. And we as consumers also need this trail – we need smart navigation tools to figure out which apps to use, which apps our friends recommend, and how best to navigate the apps we are using. It was easy when there were just a few apps. Now there are hundreds of thousands. Soon there will be millions. Don’t tell me a Google like metadata play isn’t going to evolve inside such an ecosystem. After all, search did all those things for the web. But so far, we don’t have a similar signal for AppWorld.

But we will. The data is already there. It’s the data we all create when we interact with apps – when we jump from one to another, when we navigate within pages, when we execute a command in an app and then ask that app to store that execution “up in the cloud” also known as the web. And as far as I can tell (Apple won’t answer questions on this) it’s that data which, if shared with others besides the developer and Apple, Apple then labels “third party” and forbids (based on a smokescreen of privacy issues, which I believe can and must be addressed).

I believe such a policy cannot stand, because it will create a fragile ecosystem devoid of feedback loops and external innovation. No matter, whether or not Apple allows third parties to consume AppWorld data, Apple will do search. It won’t be search as we understand it on the web, but it’ll be search for AppWorld, and if done right, it will be extremely profitable.

**Dashed off as I am running to lunch at D….will update soon…**

Steve Jobs at D: A Master…

By - June 01, 2010

…and I mean that. Watching Jobs work his way through nearly 90 minutes of interview and audience questions, I really felt, for the first time, a sense of how strongly the guy feels for his work and his products. Then again, I found myself angry, several times. Angry when he championed the press as crucial to democracy, and implied the iPad would save our country from “descending into a nation of bloggers” (my view: we started as a nation of bloggers – pamphleteers like Thomas Paine). Angry when he defended Apple’s data practices – to an investor in Flurry, no less – as protecting users’ privacy, when in fact it’s clearly about controlling data to Apple’s benefit to win advertisers, developers, and market share (you can certainly protect privacy AND share data. That’s the basis of the web, and, by the way, the basis of culture. But that’s another post). Angry when he claimed that Apple was the only company doing mobile ads that didn’t suck, when in fact they’ve been done the way iAds is doing it for nearly a year by third parties.

But I was also inspired. Inspired by a guy who decided to tear up the playbook of how computing works, and rethink it all so as to shift the interface from stylus or mouse to the human finger – and doubly inspired by a guy who reinvented the personal computer, then declared it essentially dead on stage tonight. Inspired by a guy who answers emails at 2 am and passionately defends his own way of doing things, and claims the market will decide, one purchase at a time. Inspired by the fact that the company I loved and defended back in the late 80s and 90s, which nearly died at the feet of Microsoft, eclipsed that giant in market cap last week, yet he genuinely seemed to believe that “market cap doesn’t matter.”

Read my Twitter stream for real time thoughts, but two things aren’t in there that are worth noting: one: Jobs said he was not going to do search, and two, Jobs said TV was too complicated to get into. Mark my words: He’ll be in both, big time, in the next few years. Why? Because he’s been on the record, in the past, saying he had no designs on tablet computing and phones. With Jobs, history has a way of repeating itself.