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Eric Schmidt, Opening Coversation at Web 2: So Much To Discuss, So Little Time

By - October 21, 2010

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(photo) As I do each year, I’ll be thinking out loud here about some of the key interviews I’ll be doing on stage at Web 2 next month. Opening the conference is Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. Given our theme of “Points of Control,” I can’t think of a better way to start – of all the major players in our industry, Google stands alone in both its ambition as well as its power. It’s also got a rather large target on its back – everyone, from Microsoft to Facebook, Apple to Hollywood, everyone competes with Google.   

Google’s ambition is breathtaking, as you can see from the image at left, taken from our interactive Points of Control map. From its base in search, Google has pushed into cloud computing, operating systems, television, mobile platforms (both OS and hardware), social media, content, and advertising. That’s not to mention its rather serious dabbling in energy, transportation, gaming, commerce, and just about everything else.

So there’s a lot to talk about with Dr. Schmidt when we take the stage Nov. 15th. Some key questions include:

- Where is Android going, and will Google see direct revenue streams from it? Will the company take a more central role in driving quality app experiences a la Apple?

- Apple. Thoughts on the company, the competition, and the history (Eric was on Apple’s board).

- Why develop both Chrome OS and Android?

- What exactly is Google.me, and will Google ever make peace with Facebook and start to share data?

- Google TV will be just a few weeks in market. How is it going, and will Hollywood really play ball?

- M&A: Google has purchased two dozen or so startups in the past year. What’s the philosophy and

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thesis here?

- I wrote Stop It, Google won’t buy Twitter. Was I wrong?

- China. Robin Li from Baidu is speaking the same day. How did Google come to the decision to retreat from the world’s largest market?

- Core search: Are we worried about Bing yet?

- Privacy and data control. We’re getting mixed signals from Google (and others) on how this issue will play out. What’s Google’s framework for data controls and how might it differ from, say, Facebook or Apple?

- Self driving cars?!

What else do you think I should ask Eric? And what’s the most important, given the limited time we have? Please leave comments or tweet your response, but make sure to put @johnbattelle in the post!

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The Mac As Just Another i-Screen in an iWorld. NO THANKS.

By - October 20, 2010

wired-pray.gifToday Apple announced a move that, on first blush, seems to push the Mac, its seminal and defining product, into the iWorld. You know, the world of Apple-controlled, closed, manicured gardens a la iPhone, iPod, iPad, and iTunes.

There’s going to be an “app store” for Macs, and the iPad OS is going to be integrated in the next release of the Mac.

If anything, ever, will make me leave Mac for good (and the companies I’ve started have purchased literally thousands of them), it will be the integration of the Mac OS into Steve Jobs’ vision of where mobile is going.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this once I’m well and truly smart on the announcements. But given the trajectory of Apple, which is now driven far more by iWorld than by Mac, I’m not holding out much hope for the Mac continuing to be a computer in any real sense of the word. You know, where a computer means you have choices as to what apps you run on it, what apps get developed for it, and how you express yourself using it.

Feh.

The Points of Control Map: Now an Acquisition Game – Check It Out

By - October 13, 2010

Screen shot 2010-10-13 at 7.52.40 PM.pngAs you know, part of visualizing the them for this year’s Web 2 Summit included a map I dreamt up with a crew of possibly inebriated fellow travelers. I’ve been really pleased with the response to the maps’ first iteration – we’re closing in on nearly 100K unique visitors who have spent nearly six minutes each playing with the maps various features, which include two levels of detail, threaded location-specific commenting, and a cool visualization of key Internet players’ moves into competitive territories.

But when I brainstormed the map, I always wanted one feature that was a bit difficult to execute: Acquisition Mode. In the Internet Economy, there are there those who acquire, and those who dream of being acquired. This has always been so, but in the past few years it’s been less so. My sense is that is about to change.

To that end, we’ve added a layer to the map that allows anyone to suggest an acquisition, anywhere on the map – and it also allows us to vote for those ideas. My goal is a heat map of acquisitions, a collective intelligence layer, if you will, over the chess moves companies small and large are making in the battle to control key areas across the map.

So if you think it’s a good idea for Twitter to acquire, say, Foursquare, well, suggest it. And see who might vote for it. If you run a startup, hell, tell us who you want to be acquired by – and if you think you’re the acquirer, so much the better. Tell us that as well.

So far, folks think Amazon should acquire Netflix, Facebook should acquire Zynga, and eBay should acquire Yelp, among many others. Check it out, and suggest your own.

I love the web.

Mayer to Location: Big.

By - October 12, 2010

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Today I was in a meeting with a number of consultants to a very large technology company. Their job: market research, essentially. They called to ask me my thoughts on the media and technology world, in particular as it might play out in the next five or so years. They were responsible for helping the Fortune 50 company navigate an increasingly complicated world.

I love these kind of free association tasks, because while it’s not easy to be right, it’s also pretty easy to not be wrong if the questions are smart. I’ve been a student of technology cycles for a couple of decades, and often times what’s directly in front of you is, in fact, the next big thing.

So when I got this question: “What’s the next big thing after social?” I didn’t lose a beat in answering: “Location.”

Now, many, many folks before me have been saying this for years. I’m in no way first. But I’m an early convert, in particular, as it relates to what I call the conversation economy. And the reason is simple: Once someone can declare where they are, they add extraordinary context to both search and social, and to their expectations of what a search or a social connection might yield. For an example, see The Gap Scenario.

In short, location is a key factor in the future of search, social, commerce, and media, among a lot of other things. And that’s why the news today that Google’s Marissa Mayer, long the VP of Search Products at Google, is taking over responsibilities for the location business, strikes me as a Big Deal.

Some have argued this is a demotion for Mayer, a Google stalwart and press favorite. But if in fact Google is “parking” Mayer in a “non job” due to her status as an early and long standing employee, I can’t imagine a more strategic area for her to park. And given Mayer’s success and wealth, I can’t imagine she’d stay at Google if she weren’t committed to a new role that she believes will be game changing. She has way too many other options, including, well, not working for as long as she’d like.

I for one don’t think that’s what is going on. Local is the most important signal to emerge in the database of intentions since the link. Once a consumer demands that businesses respond to their intent in the context of where they are, right now, well…the first to get that response right, wins.

"Digital Birth" – By Age 2, 92% of Kids Have an "Online Record"

By - October 07, 2010

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(image) I’m fascinated by the tracks we leave online, and their implications both in real time (better search results, real time advertising ecosystems, new forms of social behavior etc) and in the long view. Those of you who read my book may recall my epilog, where I opined on the concept of immortality through the Database of Intentions.

This study (via CNet) is fascinating – it shows that nearly every kid in the US has an online record by age two, thanks to parents posting pictures. What I’d really like to see is how many grandparents are online. I sense my father’s generation is on the bubble – some percentage of them appear when one searches for their names, but a larger percentage does not. They are the final generation of non digital natives, and it’s really only pointing one way in the future – more and more of our lives exist online, and more and more of our social assumptions about who we are and what our value is will as well.

In a sense I kind of mourn for that last generation. It’s why I posted about my Dad on his birthday a few years ago, to ensure he had a record.

Facebook Addresses Instrumentation & Trust – Goal: Win In the "Non Facebook Web"

By - October 06, 2010

63999_492208846728_20531316728_6755172_4414657_n.jpgToday Facebook made several announcements that begin to address key issues I’ve written about many times: With “New Groups” the company is providing a more nuanced instrumentation of your social graph, and with “Download Your Information” Facebook is addressing issues of both lock-in and the “Data Bill of Rights.”

You can read all about the news at other sites, but here are the basics: Through a new groups feature, Facebook is allowing its members to share information with selected subsets of friends. This is an issue that was widely discussed after Google engineer Paul Adams called Facebook out on it back in July.

Facebook also announced a service that lets you download “everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook and all your correspondences with friends: your messages, Wall posts, photos, status updates and profile information.” As the blog post continues:

If you want a copy of the information you’ve put on Facebook for any reason, you can click a link and easily get a copy of all of it in a single download. To protect your information, this feature is only available after confirming your password and answering appropriate security questions. We’ll begin rolling out this feature to people later today, and you’ll find it under your account settings.

In a related move, Facebook is changing how users interact with applications, and how we all see and can instrument permissions around our data:
..we’re launching a new dashboard to give you visibility into how applications use your data to personalize your experience. As you start having more social and personalized experiences across the web, it’s important that you can verify exactly how other sites are using your information to make your experience better.

Taken together, these changes create a framework for Facebook to further expand its reach and depth into the “non Facebook” web. The major impediment to increased off-site engagement for Facebook have been instrumentation, on the one hand, and trust, on the other. They go together. Give me more instrumentation/control, then I’ll trust you to be part of my non-Facebook interactions across the web.
This has significant implications for the adoption of Facebook Places, for example, which CEO Zuckerberg called out in his presentation today. Expect more from me on these moves in future posts…

Stop It. Google Won't Buy Twitter.

By - September 30, 2010

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(image) Today I landed from a trip to the world of the non-tech obsessed (PA and OH) to find my newsfeed was full of speculation that Google MUST buy Twitter, or be damned to obscurity in a race it’s already losing to Facebook.

Not so fast.

Here’s my simple reasoning for why Google won’t buy Twitter: Twitter won’t sell.

Those who decide whether Twitter goes to Google pretty much come down to a handful of folks: Founders Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone, with COO Dick Costolo and Twitter’s investors and other Board members (Fred Wilson, Peter Fenton, and Bijan Sabet). I know most of these guys well enough to say this with confidence: They don’t want to sell, and even more importantly, they don’t need to.

Now, sure, Google can write a ridiculous check, and perhaps, that might sway the key folks (management). But I doubt it. Why? Because nearly all of them have already sold a company to Google – Blogger (Evan and Biz) or Feeedburner (Dick). And, well, they didn’t stick around, did they?

They’ve got a tiger by the tail, the chance to build an independent, lasting legacy that will cement each one of them forever into the immortal tablets of business history. It’s really, really hard to pass that chance up, especially if you’ve already gotten a score or two under your belt. Why not swing for the fences if you’re already batting over 300?

In short, they’re not in it for the money. They’re in it for the immortality. And that’s a much, much bigger deal.

But there’s another reason Google won’t buy Twitter, and it’s this: Google is learning to be patient. Twitter is a big deal, but if you accept it as part of an emerging landscape, there’s no reason you need to own it. Given Twitter’s natural competitive positioning against Facebook, Google can partner with the emerging service in ways that provide both companies advantage against a shared enemy.

And should Twitter prove to be a world class company, prove its revenue model, and go public, things get a bit easier down the road in terms of M&A. The public market will set a price, and Google can negotiate a merger later, when, perhaps, the speculative bloom is off the budding rose, the founders have proven their point, and Twitter is run to satisfy shareholders who crave a buyout price.

Last Week of Signal

By - September 27, 2010

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For those of you in RSS land who often ask, here are last week’s Signal roundups – a daily dose of what I’m reading and thinking about each day, posted on the FM site, usually late at night. You can get the RSS feed here, or get it via email here.

Monday Signal: This Is Only An Eye Test

Friday Signal: All Is True, And Quite Fictional

Thurs. Signal: Bubble, No Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Weds. Signal: Shake a Stick at This, Apple

Tuesday Signal: A Potpurri of News

Monday Signal: The Battle Heats Up

Happy Bday, Google

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Google is 12 today, as Sept. 27 marks the anniversary of the company’s actual incorporation. Of course the company has roots prior to the date, but ya gotta pick a date. Happy birthday Google, as they say in China, may you live in interesting times….

Currency

By - September 21, 2010

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I’m very proud of a new platform launched today by American Express: Currency. Sometimes when a brand embraces the concept of truly being a publisher, they align with strong voices around the web, underwriting existing properties and helping them create new sections or services. But every once in a while, a brand realizes that its marketing goals align with a very real need in the marketplace, one that for whatever reason hasn’t been addressed. That’s how Currency came to be.

Yes, Currency is an ongoing FM partnership, just as Open Forum is, but this one is a bit different – it’s for young adults just starting to grapple with financial issues (I wish it existed when I got out of college), and it’s got a lot of social media chops, including a game (called Social Currency natch) built on top of Foursquare that helps you track purchases. It also features tons of coursework to help folks get smart on important money matters, and everything – from reading an article to completing a course to checking into purchases – earns you Currency points.

Now, I know my demo here at Searchblog, and let’s face it, most of you are a bit older, wiser, and richer than Currency’s core constituency. But I also know you’re interested in all things web and media, so check it out, and let me know what you think.