free html hit counter John Battelle's Search Blog | Page 58 of 546 | Thoughts on the intersection of search, media, technology, and more.

Is Apple's iWorld "The Web"?

By - June 27, 2010

I spent a fair portion of today at the O’Reilly Foo Camp, as eclectic an assortment of smart folks as you’re likely to find anywhere. I wrote perhaps the first ever piece on Foo back in late 2003, and I’ve been trying to make it every year since. It’s quite a confab.

Today I asked a number of the folks I ran into the same question: “Is Apple a part of the Web?” The answers I got were nearly unanimous – no, Apple’s iWorld is not part of the Web. Apple’s approach to the world – one of control, limited APIs, top-down control, the utter lack of…dirt…well, that’s not the web. One researcher working on a large scale Web problem dismissed Apple to me in this way: “Oh yeah, Steve’s managed to repackage pieces of the Web and resell them to people, good for him. But that’s not the real Web, so who cares?”

Does Apple represent the same kind of threat to the Web that the Web itself represented to the PC/Windows hegemony ten years ago?

I went to Foo with my son, a fellow who is not averse to running a Tor relay (even as he’s not entirely sure what the heck running that relay really means. Regardless, he met a Tor employee at Foo and was deeply impressed). As we drove home this afternoon, listening the Giants fall yet again to the Boston Red Sox, he asked me this question: “Why does Apple try to control everything?”

“Well,” I responded, “Apple believes that to create the best user experience, it needs to control that experience, at least in terms of what developers can create inside Apple’s environments.”

“That’s stupid,” my son responded.

“I’m not sure,” I said, even as I admitted that in my recent musings, I’ve been pretty partisan on the topic. “It’s true that Apple makes some incredible experiences, right?” After all, my son was pretty much addicted to his iPod Touch, and I knew he was at his wit’s end trying to install Windows 7 on his two year old Dell.

“Yeah, but it took them three years to let people change their background on the iPhone,” he countered. “That’s just lame.”

“Well, you jailbroke your iPod as soon as you could…”

“Yeah!”

“…and as much as I’d like to believe that the entire universe of computing device users were 14-year-old boys, the fact is, most folks don’t want to think about jailbreaking their devices. They just want them to do whatever it is they think they are supposed to do, and if they surprise and delight them in the process (as Apple devices do), so much the better.”

My son thought about that for a tic, then said. “It’s still lame.”

Then he fell asleep, and I listened to my Giants continue their pursuit of a losing cause.

But the question stayed with me – What is the essence of “the Web,” or “The Internet”? Does Apple’s approach to the world we’ve built together over these past 15 years qualify as part of the Web? I’ve argued in the past that it does not. But perhaps I’m being too dismissive. Perhaps, after 15 years of noise, and dirt, and half steps, perhaps we all really want the Web packaged and delivered to us in neat Apps, ready for consumption.

But what do we lose when that becomes our framework for consumption of “the Web”? And what do we gain?

I think this is an important question. Clearly Google falls on one side of this question, and Apple on another. It’s easy to claim that in the end, Apple will repeat its precious history, and end up with a small percentage of the market (Mac vs. Windows, all over again).

But then again….

What do you think? Is Apple’s AppWorld part of the Internet as you understand it? And who would you like to see onstage at Web 2 debating this question?

  • Content Marquee

A Slow Week Or So

By - June 14, 2010

I’ll be traveling this next ten or so days, both for work and vacation, and not posting much here. However, I want readers to know I’ve read all the comments on my last Apple post, and plan a pretty detailed response once I come back. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in these pages soon.

It's Official – Apple Kicking Google Out of iWorld

By - June 09, 2010

I’cover5_06.gifve written extensively about iAds here and here, and one question I raised has to do with Apple’s policies with regard to third party data and ad networks, in particular AdMob.

As All Things Digital notes today, Apple this week “clarified” its policy with regard to third party networks, and it’s hard to read it as anything other than a direct declaration of war with Google. In short, third party ad networks can run in AppWorld, but only if they are “independent”. Put another way, sorry AdMob, you’re not welcome here. (I interviewed AdMob CEO at the CM Summit Monday, and asked him about this. This was before the policy was clarified, but he seemed pretty certain Apple would do this.)

I think this is shortsighted and wrong. I also think it’s classic Apple. It’s a re run of the Us vs. The World mentality that forced the Mac into a corner back in the late 1980s. This time, Google plays the role of Microsoft, but it really doesn’t matter. Apple won’t let anyone play in their iWorld who might pose a competitive threat.

This is all we need now – a major platform war, with marketers and developers having to pick sides, cost of development, ad serving, analytics, and marketing services at least tripled (one process for Android, one for iPhone/Pad/Touch, one for Microsoft or Palm/HP or…. ). That’s not what the web is about. It’s disheartening.

AdMob’s response is here. From it: “This change threatens to decrease – or even eliminate – revenue that helps to support tens of thousands of developers. The terms hurt both large and small developers by severely limiting their choice of how best to make money. And because advertising funds a huge number of free and low cost apps, these terms are bad for consumers as well.

Let’s be clear. This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it’s clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.”

What do you think?

CM Summit: Help Me Interview Amex CMO John Hayes

By - June 04, 2010

American-Express-John-Hayes_medium.jpg

The CM Summit kicks off next week on Monday morning with an interview of John Hayes, CMO for American Express. I’ve come to know John through my work at Federated, and I am certain this session will be lively and full of insights.  

American Express is one of the world’s premiere brands, consistently ranked in the top 25 by marketing and business publications. Hayes has overseen the brand for 15 years, or put another way, since the Netscape IPO and through the rise of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m looking forward to our conversation Monday. Here are a few topics I plan to cover:

- Hayes has said “the chief challenge for brands today isn’t customer awareness; it’s customer engagement.” What does he mean by that?

- Has the American Express brand changed in the past ten years? How?

- How has the rise of digital changed American Express’ approach to marketing? What mistakes does he see brands making in the context of digital?

- How does Hayes keep American Express “in the conversation” when that conversation is increasingly dominated by online chatter, as opposed to popular culture tent pole events like sports and cultural events?

- The past two years have been particularly challenging for financial services brands. But Amex seems to have come out pretty well. Why? And what has American Express learned in the past two years?

- American Express purchased Revolution Money late last year. Why?

- Along the same lines, how has the rise of online payment – Facebook Credits, Google Checkout, PayPal – challenged or spurred American Express?

- American Express has launched a number of new online services for card members. How do they play into the brand promise?   

- Open Forum has been a major success – winning awards, growing traffic. Why? What has American Express learned from that program?

- Stepping back, what do you make of the economy right now? What are your card members telling you, in aggregate, through their purchases?

- What do you expect from your agency relationships? What lessons might you impart about how to work best with agency?

- Publishers and content creators are in the midst of a major disruption. What are you looking for from your publishing and content partners?

So what do you want to hear from John Hayes?

And don’t forget to add your comments for Dick Costolo, Hilary Schneider, Arianna Huffington, Tony Hsieh, Tim Armstrong, Omar Hamoui, and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. See you in NYC, or online!

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).

Short Thoughts, At D, On Apple Search

By -

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.