Holding the balance of power Saturday, June 30, 2007
As I finished posting about Prince's new album, I was reminded of the balance of power game.
If you want a radio station to promote your product on air, you pay them. Radio stations pay royalties to artists to play their music. The Mail on Sunday has paid Prince to distribute his new album to their readers. Advertisers pay newspapers to include inserts in the newspaper.
Spot the contradictions.
Since 1978, Prince has released more than 30 albums. Most were as "Prince", some with The Revolution or the New Power Generation and some as . Not all of these albums were major releases or are still in print.
However, it's his new album that will probably be the most notable in music industry history. Why? Because, he will be the first major artist to both distribute his latest album via a newspaper and do so free to the consumer.
It has drawn not unexpected outrage/horror from the industry, most notably the record store sector as has been reported here in full by the Guardian.
"It's all about giving music for the masses and he believes in spreading the music he produces to as many people as possible," said Mail on Sunday managing director Stephen Miron. "This is the biggest innovation in newspaper promotions in recent times."
One music store executive described the plan as "madness" while others said it was a huge insult to an industry battling fierce competition from supermarkets and online stores. Prince's label has cut its ties with the album in the UK to try to appease music stores.
The Entertainment Retailers Association said the giveaway "beggars belief". "It would be an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career," ERA co-chairman Paul Quirk told a music conference. "It would be yet another example of the damaging covermount culture which is destroying any perception of value around recorded music.
"The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores. And I say that to all the other artists who may be tempted to dally with the Mail on Sunday."
High street music giant HMV was similarly scathing about the plans. Speaking before rumours of a giveaway were confirmed, HMV chief executive Simon Fox said: "I think it would be absolutely nuts. I can't believe the music industry would do it to itself. I simply can't believe it would happen; it would be absolute madness."Wooooooooh, scary threat - we may not stock your albums in our stores if you do this. Perhaps they've not realised that a) there are alternate distribution outlets such as, say, iTunes for Prince, who will stock certainly it b) if I want the Prince album, I'm unlikely to be dissuaded from buying it because HMV don't stock it.
But the HMV CEO raises an interesting point, why is the music industry doing this to itself? After all, Prince's record company, Sony BMG, is one of the big guys, and not a scrappie indie looking to get noticed with a stunt.
Well, lets take a look at Prince. His album will get tons of publicity for this. A new audience may listen to an album that they would have never bought and in the process may be enticed to buy his back catalogue or go to his shows (he's staging an unbelievable 21 shows in the O2 in London - that's over 420,000 seats to fill and every seat will also get a free copy of the album). He's also "sold" the album to a newspaper - they don't get it free, so there's revenue there. As I understand it, these album copies won't count towards the album charts because they haven't been sold (I once discussed this with a big record company based in Hammersmith, as I was curious if the charts could be manipulated by giving tracks away free to get the star the publicity from having a No.1)
Clearly, if every artist did this, the publicity element would be lost because it wouldn't be newsworthy any longer. But is it a sustainable business model? I'm not sure, but today's model isn't working that well, so the industry has to experiment.
Ad funded is a model being tested by We7. Could "pay per as you go" be another model", in which you could perhaps pay the same royalties as on-air radio stations to listen to tracks in full? Before dismissing out of hand, remember the mobile phone companies saw enormous growth from pay-as-you-go, which was a model they never foresaw would be so successful. Likewise, who'd have imagined that people would pay a substantial premium for ring tones of their favourite songs e.g. £3 for a song chorus v 79p for the full track.
Perhaps Prince really is head of the Revolution in both word and deed.
Wot, no Facebook app? Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Unfortunately, the Facebook app api may be turning into a millstone for some web ventures, rather than utopia..
I've been privy to a number of conversations recently where amongst the first three questions asked was "have you got a facebook app to go with this" - as though it is a "must have" if you want to be in the game. However, focussing energies here may be a distraction from getting the actual offering right.
It's all too easy to follow fads and fashion. Of course, smart entrepreneurs respond to opportunities but they also have to remain focussed on the core objective/target.
According to a recent academic paper that has been widely reported, Facebook is class ridden, appealing to educated WASPs (white anglo saxon protestants).
Well it's also noisy, albeit views diverge on whether this is a good thing. My friend, Nic Brisbourne of Esprit, posted that he liked it but would appreciate a few more noise filters.
I confess that I'm not contributing much noise - I haven't acquired the habit of logging in and updating my status etc but lots of my "friends" evidently use it to a significant degree.
Lots of noise has been generated from people signing up for apps & then delisting ie browsing. Sadly, when delisting there's no feedback on why they've delisted which be helpful.
Whilst it's easy to add Facebook applications, I've found few to date that have been compelling. Likewise wading through the directory is arduous.
Any ideas on how to get a better experience from it?
Many entrepreneurs I meet increasingly work as remote teams i.e. each person works from a different location, but is able to easily interact via devices like IM, skype, whiteboards, collaborations tools etc. Facetime together is limited to maybe a few half days or days per week.
Whilst I too use such tools, there is much to be said for "looking the other person in the eye" when chatting a concept over. So I will opt for video chat whenever I can (assuming meeting in person isn't an option).
For person-to-person video chat, skype is fine or MSN. But neither of these support multi-person. Hence, I usually opt to use userplane in these situations, which can be fiddly.
However, there has been a rush of new players recently, focussed on live broadcast from webcams, that I suspect could also be used for meetings and video conferencing.
Operator11 is one such free service, providing a fairly simple method to hook up a Webcam and get going. It also lets you upload video clips but it's the capability to have multiple people drop in and out of a live broadcast, controlled from the browser, that most interested me.
You can also record, embed, and share their shows with others with 40 minutes recording time per "show"/meeting available for free.
The main problem I've encountered is that only the controller appears to have the option to see everything that's going on in one screen, and swap back and forth between Webcams on the fly ala TV show producer. I've yet to determine how to have all participants visible to everyone, rather than flipping the camera shot between people.
If this works, it would also make an excellent solution for most corporates too - most big companies rarely have enough meeting rooms for all the meetings people want to hold. If they gave everyone a webcam (leaving bandwidth issues aside), people needn't leave their desks to participate in meetings and voila, space problem over. It would also make impromptu meetings far easier to hold, not to mention the recording feature would ensure there was a record of decision reached (or is that an unlikely outcome at a meeting in a big company?)
World's longest zip line.
Google News get the picture Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Google have introduced a new means of delivering their news pages as illustrated here - news items are returned using photos and as you hover over the photos, so the related stories are served up in the right hand panel of the page.
Presently it only works for news from certain countries. The UK isn't included but the US is.
Women often joke that men find the word "again" to be terrifying in certain circumstances.
Repeat performances of the same quality are rare, yet investors will often back an entrepreneur that has succeeded in one venture in preference to a first timer or one that "failed". This suggests that they believe that the performance is repeatable or perhaps that successful ones are more likely to repeat their success. I've also had it suggested that investors prefer such entrepreneurs because it provides cover in case their venture fails i.e. saying I backed the founders of lastminute/skype versus a first timer won't land you in as much trouble.
Yet entrepreneurship is not a science. Ideas can fail to achieve traction or strategies be poorly executed. Sometimes successful ventures just got lucky.
In many ways it's no different from movies. If a film stars could guarantee hits, movie makers wouldn't have flops, but they do as the graph below shows.
I mention this only because in recent weeks, I've sat in a few meetings where I've heard people sharply inhale and adjust their posture when the entrepreneur has said it was their first attempt. It was almost as if this meant the venture was doomed. Worrying.
I was astonished by this video - no idea if it works as yet, but if it does............mine's the new SLK parked over there.
Blondie Unlocks Car - video powered by Metacafe
No wait, they only show you how to get in to it, not start it.
This link is to a short but fascinating clip that provides a visualisation of USA flight traffic on a given day. When pictures convey more than words.
Chelsea's Special One Thursday, June 21, 2007
I try to make a point of listening to Radio 4's Comedy shows on the BBC's Listen Again service, as they tend to be scheduled at 1830h on week nights. Many great British comedy shows on TV began life on these slots and they continue to output some of the best comedy around.
As a sports fan, a recent series, "Look away now" completely grabbed me. It was a topical look at the week's sports headlines and incorporated some excellent impressionists that took on the roles of the headline makers.
To hear how good it was, this link should take you to hear "Jose - The Musical", the Jose Mourhino story.
Whilst at Mashup this week, I overheard someone gushing about Microsoft's Surface development and what a fantastic user interface it represented.
But here's another take on it. Amusing.
The Econmist this week has reported on what it describes as "the most important securities-litigation case for a generation" that has gone before the US Supreme Court.
The case involves a cable company that used a transaction with two suppliers to inflate its' revenues. Shareholders are suing the company but also the suppliers claiming they were complicit in the fraud, even though they may not have been aware of the misreporting. Going after third parties is known as "scheme liability".
Of key note to companies worldwide is that if this case establishes that third parties can be dragged into class actions, then merely doing business with US firms could unwittingly ensnare you in a transaction that could later be portrayed as fraudulent or deceptive by US litigators.
Just like telling your new date that you were late because you had to go to the STD clinic, there are somethings entrepreneurs say that turn off investors.
Sean Wise has a good article here, highlighting five such phrases and why they throw up "red flags".
1. We have no competition
2. Our financial projections are (and/or valuation is) conservative
3. We know more about (software / search / media) than (Microsoft / Google / Fox )
4. This will be our last round of funding
5. If we only get 1% of the market, then we will all be rich
My favourite passage from the piece is
This is what bugs uber-investor and investment media guru, Kevin O'Leary:
"The thing that pisses me off most about pitches is when the entrepreneur values his pre-revenue startup at $10M. I mean, I've seen this movie before and I know how the movie is going to end. They get my money, and I get worthless stock."Hear this almost everyday.
The Times ran a story yesterday that Murdoch is offering MySpace to Yahoo in exchange for 25% of Yahoo. This would put a valuation of $12bn+ on MySpace at current prices, not bad for a company bought in Summer 2005 for $580m.
The general consensus is that Yahoo would be mad to accept the deal at such a crazy valuation. But more interesting is how such a proposed price makes an alternate purchase i.e. Facebook, look such a steal at say anything less than $3-4bn. I've blogged in the past about how by introducing a competing item at a crazy price can influence choice.
So, let's assume I was sitting in Yahoo HQ. I might now conclude that I should go buy Facebook, as this will be a better deal than accepting Murdoch's terms. Why, Murdoch has already commented that he is worried about Facebook growth affecting his portfolio.
However, Murdoch is not stupid and you can see how he might win in many ways here
- They accept his offer and acquire MySpace for $12bn. RESULT. What a return on investment.
- They reject his approach and buy Facebook. Great, coz he just forced them to probably pay more than they needed by putting an overly high valuation on MySpace that upped Facebook's perceived "value". Moreover, the price Yahoo pays re-enforces the value of MySpace i.e. if Facebook sells for $3bn, then MySpace must be worth more, and so must Murdoch in turn!
But an additional cunning plan might be that he has persuaded an investment bank to sell him a synthetic long position on Facebook's value or, better yet, a synthetic pairs trade with a long position in Facebook and a short position on Yahoo. Such a deal would give him a payoff if the value of Facebook went up and the value of Yahoo declined. Consider how he could do this:
- Buying an interest in Facebook. An exising holder could "sell" their interest in Facebook at a pre-agreed price (call it $2bn equivalent price, which would have appeared to be a good price a week ago) thereby locking in the price they will receive. Murdoch "buys" at $2bn and keeps any upside above this, when it eventually sells. Putting this trade on ahead ahead of his manoeuvres this week would create an impressive profit.
- Selling an interest in Yahoo. Yahoo is a quoted stock, so getting a short position would be straight forward enough either through the options market or selling and then borrowing the shares. He clearly only profits if the price falls. It might do so if Yahoo buys Facebook at a price considered over the odds. It seems certain to fall if they accept the MySpace deal. In this latter case, if Murdoch took the 25% of the company shares and they fell in value, these would cover his short position and crystalise his short. As it happens, Yahoo could even look bad if they do nothing and see their stock price fall!
Has he really done this? Probably not and if he had it might be questioned whether he was insider trading. But what a strategy!
Mashup Location 2.0 Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I've just left tonight's Mashup event which was focussed upon mapping & location.
This was the 7th such event since inception a year ago and already over 900 individuals have been to an event. Interestingly, different crowds are showing up based on the event topic, hence the number of uniques.
Organised by Simon Grice and Tony Fish, it was a great event. About 120 people were in the audience who participated in a lively discussion, alongside a panel session and a presentation slot from Tele Atlas (company which provides the map data to most of the major players including Google and which is Belgian based, with a Dutch holding company).
The panel. Included representatives from Google, ononemap, Tele Atlas, MyNeighbourhoods amongst others.
The Google Maps api was cited by many as the biggest catalyst to the revolution underway in the delivery of map related services, with mass deployment of GPS enabled phones likely to prompt the next wave of innovation.
The discussion on privacy covered well trodden ground, with most of the audience recognising the benefits that could flow from broadcasting your location. Comments made acknowledged the issues of trust & the need for opt out/in.
One person from a surveilance company rightly pointed out that our digital footprint was already massive from using oyster cards, bank cards, from CCTV footage & our mobiles, none of which had opt outs.
The next event is going to focus on TV 2.0 and is scheduled for July.
Disclaimer - I've recently been appointed to the new advisory board of Mashup, which is pro bono role. Other members include Saul Klein of Index Ventures, Nic Brisbourne of Esprit, Neil McCarthy of McCartney Media, Mike Dixon of Computer Minds and Philip Sheldrake of Fuse PR.
Some while ago, I was invited to participate in the private beta of Zoho Meeting and blogged at the time, how great I thought it was (free web conferencing that was easy to use)
Well, it's finally being made open to everyone to use from today.
This video demo: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXPrIwGPHsY> by Zoho's Raju Vegesna provides a brief overview of the app.
Only the organiser needs to install any software to operate a web conference; everyone else uses the browser to view the "show". All the organiser has to do is send an email invite which contains a web link personal to the invitee.
I've used it a number of times and have yet to hit any problems with corporate firewalls preventing viewing.
I'd used Vyew (http://www.vyew.com) previously for web conferencing but, so far, I've found Zoho easier/faster to use for impromptu sessions..
Working alongside apps such as skype (audio) or traditional phone conferencing, or userplane & heycosmo (video conferencing), it makes virtual meetings really easy. And FREE.
This week's Economist magazine has an excellent survey on air travel with some scary figures
- since 2001, the industry has incurred losses of $40bn collectively, mostly in the USA
- it owes $200bn
- Last year, the industry broke even & is forecast to make $1.5bn next, which means a 1.1% net margin on gross revenues of $473bn
Aside from a few star financial performers, most of the industry fails to cover its cost of capital, despite the industry reaching a record 76% load factor average.
Worried about crashing - who'd be an (long position) investor in most airlines?
Live video conferencing service that's free Sunday, June 17, 2007
Heycosmo is a new service that launched yesterday that supports up to ten live, web-cam participants and another fifty people can enjoy from a more passive manner, listening, watching or chatting during the broadcast session.
It offers a much broader set of facilities to users, enabling them to broadcast content in a multimedia platform that can display videos, photos, games and even has a blogging facility. However, I suspect the most popular facility will be the "Texas Hold'em card game tables" where you can play poker live with your chums remotely, or indeed with anyone online.
But I reckon that you could easily use this to hold video conferences, or even seminars with a panel and an audience. I've not yet had chance to try out the conferencing in anger, but looking round the site, it seems possible. If I get it working, I will report back.
Sadly it doesn't work in Firefox (only IE)
Labels: web conference
My 500th post - a pause for reflection Wednesday, June 13, 2007
When I started blogging here on June 22 2006, I didn't start out with any particular agenda or expectations. In part, I wanted a scratchpad to record thoughts about interesting stuff I found on the web. I'd also learnt much from other blogs which had unselfishlessly shared the things they'd found, their opinions and news.
I never anticipated that I would complete 500 post in less than 12 months, nor that I would meet so many great people, some purely as a consequence of blogging. Nor that I would encounter so many great apps and witness so much innovation.
In looking back, the pace at which things go "mainstream" has continued to accelerate. Many features I blogged about a year ago, are now considered obvious "must have" features, having quickly moved from cutting edge. Perhaps that is why so many apps have begun to look "samey" and "me too". Far fewer apps of late have left me thinking "Wow", and motivated to blog about them, but that may just be that I am becoming more selective.
I'm definitely skimming posts on Google Reader at a faster rate and drilling into less these days. Again, I'm perhaps more selective (or have to omany feeds) but am I becoming more blase about content? Perhaps.
It's also true that a couple of ventures I'm involved in have led me to post more about certain subject e.g. music (these will be announced soon), and which may have led me to stray "off topic".
However, the best thing from the last year is having encountered some ventures and entrepreneurs that have gone on to enter mainstream consciousness, about which I can say "hey, I knew them before they were big!". Some of them I confess have shocked me with their success but others were clearly destined for great things.
One such person clearly destined for success was Kieran O'Neill, who I met around the time I began blogging. He and 3 chums had travelled up from Bath University for the first drinks party that Techcrunch held in the UK. They were hoping to meet Arrington and to network with "the right people". It was held in a crowded bar in Soho and by chance we struck up a conversation. An impressive guy, Kieran told us about his venture, Holy Lemon. Well, BBC News is carrying a report here about him and his sale of that business. We've bumped into each other a number of times since, which has always been a pleasure. I'm delighted for him and for those others too numerous to mention that have taken their dream and made it happen. Being amongst these people here in London is a joy and a privilege. They are why I'm looking forward to the next 12 months.
Barbarians got past the gate (and onto the wicket) Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Churches are normally considered sacred, not to be entered/violated/harmed by invading hordes.
So the news that ESPN has bought Cricinfo is sad indeed. It perhaps does explain why Andrew Hall, the Product Manager at Cricinfo, kept cancelling our after-work drinks in the last few weeks. Sure, ESPN will be able to make considerable investment in the brand to further develop this veteran of the online world, which launched in 1993, and which has a huge global following (7 million unique visitors per month and is ranked in the top 300 sites online according to Alexa). But, you have to worry that soon the commentaries from Cricinfo may get editorial interference from across the Atlantic, looking to spice up a game the Barbarians have never understood
So Gabby, we're at top of the 4th innings with WI needing 63 off 90 to level the series with 2 batters left to get to the pitching zone! Monty pitches and it fizzles into the mitt of the defensive guard.
Fellow members will be tutting in the Lords Pavilion. Sacrilege indeed.
How to legally print money Friday, June 08, 2007
Honest. It's not a hoax, albeit it can be a little tricky to do, but what do you expect.
Get granted a government monopoly that people are forced to use/pay.
If only I had shares in a business like Sound Exchange, I could sit back and enjoy, as this story makes evident.
Latest internet traffic and travel news coming up! Thursday, June 07, 2007
Associated Press have a report about on Akamai Technologies Inc. who have opened up an incredible window into the web. Based on the huge chunk of traffic they see, which they claim is 15-20% on any given day, it provides a "Traffic" report via a visualisation that highlights "jams"/bottlenecks, attacks and spikes in activity.
It's a really well designed site and with visually impressive reporting tools. Must have cost a few dollars.
This link takes you to see real-time traffic analytics, reporting on geographic areas with the most Web traffic (traffic density).
This one shows a network performance comparison.
They even have one that monitor music streaming on the web here
So, if you are finding the net a bit slow, tune in for your traffic report. Not sure it will help you avoid the jams but you may derive some odd pleasure from knowing had bad things are (or that someone else is worse off than you) just like when you are listen to the car radio in a 5 mile queue on the M4 coming into London.
Thanks to Smartmobs for spotting it.
Pirates of the High "Cs", stealing notes Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Chris Anderson recently blogged about Music Week's report that
MW’s detailed study of quarter one trading patterns (Q107) indicates that, while sales of the Top 200 sellers plummeted year-on-year by more than 20%, the rest of the market dropped by little more than 3%. It indicates that, as the top titles suffer the biggest falls in a clearly tough market, sales are being spread out more widely across a greater number of titles.
Is it that people aren't interested in music any longer? No. Sadly, leaving aside that there are increasing numbers of outlets to consume, piracy is likely to be the chief culprit.
Popular albums are most likely to be the easiest to find on file sharing networks allowing people to get the tunes they want - this is exactly what the music industry is fighting to contain.
In contrast, folks may be forced to actually go out and buy less popular titles!
Am I contradicting my past posts about the industry being forced to change? No. If you don't like the price, then don't buy the goods and force the industry to reconsider its' pricing policy. But resenting the price is not an excuse to steal the goods, be they Middle or (High) C on the piano or a base line of notes.
It's frustrating but I just cannot get Google Gears to install. I click the link which downloads the file, accept the T&Cs, open it and everytime I get the message "Install Failed. Error code = 0x80040800" of which there is no trace anywhere in Google help to tell me where I am going wrong.
I am using Firefox 126.96.36.199
When writing about Facebook the other day and the possibility of crowds moving off a social network, I suggested such migrations were increasingly possible outcomes.
Michael Zang at Folksonomy has posted about Xanga.com highlighted the apparent falloff in their traffic.
Of course, they haven't lost the members. It just seems that they aren't coming back as regularly. You can also see on the graph that there were some reversals in the decline in Q106
but these weren't sustained. Can these users be attracted back?
Labels: social networks
For whatever reason, the new venue for Open Coffee London just doesn't seem to have the same buzz. It may just be acoustics or the layout, but whenever you approached the old venue at Starbucks in Esprit there was "noise" and the sense of something happening.
Sadly the new venue's coffee isn't up to much and the free wifi hasn't materialised either. I know we can't go back to Esprit, but maybe we should look around again.
By cheap, I mean less than the interbank rate.
Who on earth would lend risky ventures money at such a rate? The BANKS.
According to the Daily Telegraph.
The data shows that average lending by UK banks to non-banking institutions in April dropped to 5.24%, against the then-base rate of 5.25%. The rate was even further under LIBOR, the wholesale cost of money between the banks themselves and traditionally a good deal cheaper than any corporate borrower would get, a full 34 basis points below, as it happens.
The paper attributes most of this lending to involve lending to Private Equity firms. This is a major reason why Private Equity firms can be aggressive bidders for listed companies - their cost of capital is so cheap relative to others. The banks seem to be literally throwing money at such companies. Odder, is that it's not just those that are benefitting from adviser fees eg Terra Firma are reportedly racking up £150m of fees on the EMI deal.
Assuming you are a corporate buyer e.g. Warner looking to buy EMI. You face a sizeable problem when the opposition can borrow much cheaper than you can and hence afford to up their offer on their higher anticipated returns post interest.
One has to question how much longer the banks can afford to be offering such rates to such ventures when factoring in matters of profitability / return on regulated capital.
Anyway, if you are looking to raise cheap money to fund your venture you may want to call yourself a private equity fund and go to a bank - calling yourself an entrepreneur and approaching a VC is way too expensive by comparison.
Labels: private equity
Worlds apart, divided by miles Tuesday, June 05, 2007
There are many examples in the world of contrasts that abut each other. Sparkling skyscrapers next to slums in China; rich dwellings in London, next to crime ridden areas.
My immediate contrast is between my usual City haunts, filled with bankers & traders and Soho, several miles across London, populated by media luvvies. I was meeting someone yesterday for a chat in The Soho Hotel. Around me in the bar were conversations about film productions between a couple of actresses I recognised; a discussion at the bar between Alan Pardew (Charlton, ex West Ham Manager) & his agent (presumably); and someone who was evidently in the music business.
Different worlds and languages.
Newsflash: Businesses are not run by IT departments Monday, June 04, 2007
Hugh Macleod, who is an excellent bloke, blogger and mate, is an astute observer of many things and a great cartoonist. This is one of my favs of his:
The Guardian has reported about a band, Crimea, which is going to give away downloads of its new album. It views the album as marketing expenditure with the album as a loss leader, and hopes to make money on touring, merchandising and licensing deals.
They clearly must hope that they won't be emulating what most people in the UK think of when mention is made of the Crimea - an ill-fated plan that recalls a charge of the British Light Brigade in the 19th Century Crimean War (historians argue as to whether it was an ill-conceived plan), which resulted in many of the cavalry troop being wiped out by Russian guns (118 dead, 127 wounded out of an initial 673 that charged 50 cannon).
Just before you think about illegally sharing tracks that you bought from the iTunes Store, you should be aware that the tracks contain metadata with "the full name and account information, including e-mail address, of who bought them."
This is true whether they are DRM-free or not.
The recent announcement by Facebook regarding their Developer API was greeted with delighted, astonishment and horror by different constituencies.
Facebook with its 20 million+ users looks to be a heavenly place in which to build a business, and is reminiscent of the early days of the AppExchange from Salesforce. It too launched with what was then a free and open API with few restrictions on what use developers could make of this service.
However, as Ivan points out on Vecosys, the T&Cs raise some potential issues that could be exploited down the line
1. Facebook can limit you or terminate you at any time at their sole discretion (Section A.3)
2. Facebook reserve the right to impose fees at time and in any manner (Section 3)
3. Facebook can copy and distribute your Application, and analyse the content in order to target advertising (Section 4)
4. Facebook may create similar applications to yours, with no obligation to you (Sectition 4)
5. You can’t use any name or domain name address containing ‘facebook’, even at the third level, eg.g “facebook.xxx.com” (Section 6. C)
6. Be careful what ID you use for your developer account - IDs can’t be transferred or sold on, but nor do there seem to be corporate IDs. (Section 7)
7. Facebook can change the Terms and Conditions at any time, your only recourse if you don’t like this is to STOP USING THE SERVICE
(all sections below)
A cynic might suggest that Facebook could exploit the R&D being undertaken by developers and simply replace the most popular widgets with Facebook ones, and thus avoid their own experimentation. Obviously this might create a serious backlash, but as you may recall it didn't stop MySpace turning off Photobucket widgets recently, albeit as a device during negotiations to buy Photobucket.
Certainly, and as I forecast at its launch, Salesforce has now commercialised the AppExchange and shares in the revenues generating by those offering services on it. For Facebook, why shouldn't they share in the success of those companies that might make great revenues within their realm?
In the meantime, the most immediate question for other social network sites is how to respond - should they maintain "walled gardens", copy Facebook or muddle on with ad-hoc arrangements/facilities. Whilst the first of these provides maximum control, it may leave their users disappointed / frustrated with the offering. The second leaves them looking "me-too" like yet will require considerable effort to implement in most cases, whilst the third suggests lack of managerial vision/clarity (not a quality investors generally seek). A couple of such sites I've spoken to since the Facebook announcement privately concede they were caught on the hop and have yet to determine their strategy.
Do Social Networks really need to engage in an arms ("widget") race? Will users be likely to hop networks for better facilities? Certainly there are barriers to migrating (getting your friends to move too), but increasingly, and as I found recently on Facebook, most people already belong to many such networks and so there's a good chance that you'll find many of your friends already belong to "better" sites.
Actually Fred Wilson and I are not related (we just share a surname and a profession) but we certainly seem to be thinking along the same lines about the music industry. In his blog, he has written some provocative pieces recently about "The Free Music business" that have prompted thumbs ups and downs in the comments section. Fred makes the case that musicians will be remunerated in ways other than direct music sales, including receiving advertising related revenues and highlights examples of where his thinking is already in practice in the real world.
So that's where all the kids went when they left college
The Pied Piper clearly has a new approach to grad recruitment - worth watching all 4 minutes. Wonder how many "takes" it took?
The MIT Technology Review has a feature piece discussing whether Zoho can beat Google in the online applications race. They've even been kind enough to quote me in it.
Perhaps a more relevant debate is who will buy Zoho. They must surely rank as a target for a number of companies.
Whilst Zoho makes most of its products available for free, it claims to have 250,000 people using its' paid for software.
For me, the most noticeable point in the MIT article though was this quote from Zoho
"In India there are eight million new computer users per month, and a similar number of new Internet users," he says, "and they've never heard of Microsoft Office."
Even for those that have heard of it, I wonder whether the price tag of Free will push them in Zoho's direction.
Like many others, I've been astonished by the ingenuity of developers in thinking up ways to use Google maps. The google maps mania blog lists over 1,000 sites that have employed them to great effect.
To their credit, Google have continued to make the developer's job of using google maps increasingly easier. Their latest beta release is enables multiple data overlays to be employed on a single view, each of which can be individually toggled on/off. To help illustrate, Google have produced the introductory video below.
Colbert salutes the digital age Saturday, June 02, 2007
A very funny Colbert video - assuming it hasn't been taken down already. Filmed as the intro to a Viacom corporate event.