Here’s the link for those of you who like to keep up with my media/marketing reading over the weekend.
Each year at the Web 2 Summit, Tim and I try to focus our program on an overarching theme that we believe best sums up the year ahead. This is never easy to do – the event is still eight months away. But this year I feel better than I ever have about our focus, because it’s a return to our roots, as it were.
If you know my work, you know I’m fascinated by the interplay between the entrepreneurial culture of our industry and the giants who have emerged from within it – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, to name a few – as well as those who have joined it from other industries – Comcast, GE, and Newscorp come to mind.
For 2010, Web 2 will focus on the chess game in which all of these companies are now engaged, a battle to gain the upper hand in crucial “points of control” across the Internet Economy. The idea sprang from Tim’s “War for the Web” post last Fall, but we’re taking that riff and broadening it, identifying chokepoints on an increasingly crowded chessboard.
Fifteen years and two recessions into the commercial Internet, it’s clear that our industry has moved into a new competitive phase – a “middlegame” in the battle to dominate the Internet economy. To understand this shift, we’ll use the Summit’s program to map strategic inflection points across the Internet landscape, identifying key players who are battling to control the services and infrastructure of a websquared world.
The stakes are high. As the Web and the world intertwine through mobile and sensor platforms, the decisions we make – as leaders of this industry, as entrepreneurs, and as consumers – will determine the fundamental architecture of our society.
Will distribution, for example, be locked in, or left open? While the Web was once considered to be an open distribution platform, access to content is increasingly becoming a key point of control. The rise of iTunes and Hulu, the vertical integration of the iPhone and iPad, and the promise (or threat) of paid content have brought the model of free media into question.
Another battle is brewing for control of the social graph. While we’d argue that no one “owns” your social graph, Facebook may beg to differ, at least in practice, and Google has clearly laid down its own gauntlet in the form of Buzz and social search. Related, of course, is control of identity services – will Facebook become the one ring to rule them all? And is that a good thing?
Throughout the program, we’ll be talking to leaders, upstarts, and unexpected new players in these and many other key “points of control.” Payment systems, location services, voice recognition, hardware and mobile platforms, content management, data transport, commerce and advertising ecosystems: We’ll unpack them all.
We’ll look at the calculus behind entrenched platforms like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, of course, but we’ll also feature companies who are changing strategy and moving into new fields of battle. Apple as an advertising channel? Comcast as a content network? Cisco as a social network? Adobe as an online marketing company? And of course, as we do every year, we’ll feature the insurgent upstarts and disruptors who hope to replace them all.
I’m proud of the role that the Web 2 Summit plays, once each year, in gathering leaders of the Internet Economy to debate and determine business strategy. With this year’s program we’re redoubling our focus on this critical discussion. I hope you’ll all join Tim and me this November 15-17 in San Francisco – we look forward to the conversation. Early registration for those of you who have invitations can be done here. If you want to come, simply fill out a request here. See you there!
From my Friday Signal over at FM’s blog:
….It’s a very big year for Microsoft, in terms of the initiatives the company is launching, in particular in the consumer space (its business/commercial space is already cranking out tons of products, but the company’s focus on consumer products has hit a tipping point). Natal, Bing (updated version is coming soon), Windows Phone 7, Office 2010, the company’s cloud initiative (which has sigificant consumer angles)…it’s quite a lot.
…Recall three of the major trends that I predicted for 2010: One, that someone will create an open gaming platform; two, that Microsoft will take second place in search share (from Yahoo); and three, that we’ll see a major advance in the user interface of the web.
Here’s how Microsoft might address those opportunities, in order: Xbox, Bing, and Natal (not to mention Pivot and stuff like PhotoSynth). Now, imagine how these all might work together. Xbox is more than a gaming platform, it’s a major portal to social networking and engagement in the living room (there are more than 20 million users of Xbox Live, for example). Combined with Natal, you’ve got a new gestural interface to the digital world. And there is no reason why you can’t use Natal to surf the web on your TV (and, in time, your PC), given the right UI and apps. Were Microsoft to decide to open up a web-savvy API and SDK into the Xbox and let its legions of developers innovate on that interface, imagine what might occur. And, of course, Bing would be the search engine of choice for this living room environment, driving share. Sounds like a stretch? All the pieces are there. It’s now about whether the company can take many hands, and make great work. (more)
Over at SEL Gord Hotchkiss has published an interview with me on the future of search. From it:
We’re going through a shift in how folks are understanding what search really means to them. And what it means to them is “I have a need and I need it fulfilled, and I’m going to use the online medium to fulfill it in some way.” We had a very, very basic, well-understood use case for 10 years, which was Google or “like Google”—you put in a couple keywords and you get a response back. And that framework of searching and coming back with the best document to answer a query is morphing. People are asking far more complicated questions now and they’re demanding far more nuanced answers, simply because they know they’re out there….
…Search as an application where your first search isn’t the search itself but rather the search for the right application is a very, very different use case. You have the market influence and dominance of one player splintered into tens of thousands of players. You or I sitting in our office over the weekend could come up with the absolute best structured search application for determining who should be your arborist to cut your trees. And that’s a threat to Google Local Search. If the best application to determine a plumber is the plumbing app on an iPhone—you download it and it automatically pulls all the local results from Yahoo!, Bing, and Google, then pulls all the reviews from Yelp and Angie’s List, then cross-compares that with complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and Diamond Certified—if that’s the app you use, where’s Google in all of that, right?
….is the topic of my Thursday Signal over at the FM blog. From it:
….the architecture of “apps” is broken, and marketers can have a role in fixing it.
Broken? But it’s just getting started, right? Well, yes – and no. Apps are great, but they lack any number of characteristics that we’ve come to expect from a truly “Web 2″ world. First (and certainly foremost), apps are not connected, in the main, to other apps. They are single use-case driven – a fact that often makes them compelling. But however useful a focused app may be, it can only get more useful if it could communicate with other apps, the way that great web services do. After all, a core tenet of the Web 2 movement was APIs and web services. YouTube would never have become a signal service of the web without being embeddable onto blogs. And blogs would never have risen without RSS.
Second, apps, for the most part, live in “AppWorlds” that are closed and vertically integrated (at least for Facebook and Apple). That means they don’t live in an open, market-driven environment, and are taxed by the owners of distribution channels even before they reach the consumer. That’s not an ecosystem that will drive second and third orders of innovation.
Third, apps live in a world of clutter….. (more)
Two Apple and one Microsoft posts are begging me to be Thought Out Loud, and yet I am so damn busy I can’t write. yet. So here they are in shorthand form.
….Apple is creating a closed advertising and distribution system that taxes all publishers and retards the Internet. Discuss.
….Apple leveraged open development operating systems – in particular Windows – to get iTunes into a position of distribution lockin. Ironic? Discuss.
….The only company that could execute a defensible acquisition of Foursquare is Microsoft. Discuss….
Now if I can get some time to write, I’ll unpack each of these…
Over at the FM blog…forgive me the light posting here this week. A lot of offline writing and travel keeping me busy. Stay tuned for more regular posting shortly….
I’ve long said that I’m a fan of social networks and media, of course, but I’ve also pointed out that most of it is artless and ingenuous in comparison with the sophistication each of us has when it comes to “being social.” So far, our technologies lack the instrumentation each of us employs when interacting in the simplest social situation. We have the benefit of hundreds of thousands of years of social evolution – not to mention millions of years of biological evolution. Yet as social creatures we flock to technologies that allow us to express that fundamental need, even if it fails to truly reflect our nature.
What’s heartening is how our culture has begun to ask interesting questions about what this all means – for our businesses, as marketers, as citizens, and as individuals. As Danah Boyd states in her opening keynote at SXSW: “ChatRoulette may be a fad, but the idea that publicity and privacy will get mashed up in new ways will not be.”
Tens of millions have flocked to ChatRoulette - and while it may well be a fad, the impulse which sent so many to “only connect” is not. Understanding who we are as private and public beings will be a fundamental component of what it means to be literate in a modern society. And marketers who make a practice of understanding this will succeed over those who do not.
I predict a punctuation mark in this conversation over the coming months, in the form of Facebook’s public data firehose. Expected at their F8 developer conference this June, the Facebook firehose will allow developers to create all sorts of unexpected applications and services which leverage Facebook status updates, wall posts, and more. Twitter should get the credit for pushing this open architecture, but Facebook’s implementation of it will be revelatory – and not necessarily in ways that might be positive. I predict one of the first applications created will be a site publishing Really Stupid Pictures You Probably Should Not Have Posted To Facebook, for example. Cue media frenzy and….well you get the picture.
I’ve posted Monday’s Signal over at the FM blog. From it:
What I find interesting is the media’s response to the iPad (and I include tech blogs in the category of “media”). Overwhelmingly, the media wanted to believe that a hip magazine like Wired (caveat, I was a co-founder) would, natch, have the hippest iPad demo, a demo that, natch, would prove the viability of … the media’s own threatened business model!
The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.
The Wired demo was pretty much the starting gun for a month of media frenzy about how great the iPad is going to be. Wired’s own posting about its demo is titled “Wired Magazine on the iPad”.
However, the truth is this: This demo was made using Adobe software (not available in native runtime on the iPad) and run off a Dell laptop. I’ve confirmed this with Adobe. Also true: the software used to create the demo will absolutely NOT create or compile apps that work natively on the iPad. And this is due to decisions made by Apple. Yes, there is a kludgy workaround that Adobe has authored, but it’s handicapped, to say the least. As much as the Apple would like to claim it has banned Adobe for technical reasons, by all accounts outside of Cupertino, Apple has banned Adobe due to control and economic issues: It simply doesn’t want developers able to create software from which Apple won’t profit.