Archive for May, 2007

Facebook Classifieds- The GOOD and the BAD

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Facebook new logoLast week, Facebook launched an internal classified ad system. All new listings are free. For this reason, the launch appears to be more a marketing avenue than a revenue stream. Posting a new listing is extremely simple. The inteface is intuitive to the point that my 5 year old cousin could use it. As is the case with any newspaper classified ads, the major categories include:

  • Jobs
  • Housing
  • For Sale

Using the system, you can view your listings, as well as your friends. In addition, you can also list things you want - like a reverse marketplace.

At first glance, my initial thought was… Aha, another Craigslist competitor. But upon further analysis, I do not think this is the class. Facebook is STILL a social network at its core. This new launch simply provides a value-added service to the main offering. On the other hand, Craigslist IS a classified ad system and although community plays a huge role on the site, many users prefer to remain anonymous and avoid the social features.

Another major difference is around the actual posting process. With Craigslist, a poster can remain anonymous and there is no need to register. Whereas with Facebook, an account must be registered. This is much more of a barrier to entry for some.

In any case, I see some definite advantages and some small disadvantages (or short-comings) to this new Facebook offering. First of all, the “For Sale” section is ingenious. Students/young adults are always buying and selling textbooks, furniture, bikes, electronics, etc… For this reason, there is a stunning value proposition. There is also a case to be made for the “Housing” section as well. This demographic is akin to living with others and is usually frequently on the move. Therefore, creating a strong communication tool to facilitate the process is powerful.

Where I see short-comings is in the “Jobs” section, and to some degree, the “Housing” section. As we all know very well, the Facebook demographic is young for the most part. Having said that, most employers or company executives tend to be of an older age bracket. There is some incongruence here. Most of the employers looking to hire students and/or young adults will not possess a Facebook account, nor will they want to have to go through the steps. This is of my opinion. Some call this added security or an extra layer of protection that Craigslist does not have. I call it a barrier to entry.

Furthermore, the same can be said for many potential landlords looking to rent their places. Facebook needs to streamline a process for these individuals to quickly and easily post listings without a registration. Otherwise, these potential posters may be missing out on a huge market and Facebook users may be missing out on potential job opportunities or housing.

Humans Vs. Computers: The Editorial Debate

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Directories versus search engines. Editors versus algorithms. Quality versus quantity. However you want to break it down, the age old dilemma remains.

Google has risen to stratospheric levels because of its ingenious link-based search engine algorithm. Wikipedia, on the other hand, has achieved fame following a different path - an editorial-based path. Now Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia) is looking to launch a search engine of his own. In contrast to Google, this new engine will be human-powered, as opposed to algorithm-powered. The trade-offs are very apparent. Nevertheless, a case can be made for either side - there are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies.

The most obvious trade-off is with respect to quality versus quantity. Search engines can crawl a lot more pages and websites than a group of editors can. However, quality and relevance can be maximized using humans. Furthermore, this effort would also eliminate parked and advertising-laden landing pages from the search results.
Speed and frequency are also an issue. Automated search happens at a very fast pace. Updates are always ongoing. An editorial effort would be much slower and less likely to produce updates at a high rate.

I am very interested to see how the search engine model of Jimmy Wales takes shape. This PR darling will undoubtedly grasp a loyal following from the get-go based on the success of Wikipedia. But I am still not unconvinced that a human-led search engine endeavour can keep up to the computing power of a multi-computer, algorith-based system.

Could there ever be such thing as a hybrid?…

Joost Ridiculous - $45 Million A Round

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

First, Joost logoNiklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis created KaZaa. Next, they re-invented the wheel and developed Skype. Today, they announced a $45 million round of financing for their newest venture - Joost. This number seems a little ridiculous for an A round, but who am I to talk? Their track record says it all. These guys could have started a social network for poodle owners and still raised the same amount of money.

After two big successes already, investors lined up to finance their newest endeavour. I’m sure they were all drooling and itching to get in on this new project. Furthermore, I’m guessing that the Joost boys got everything on their terms, including a premium valuation. Successful players in the deal included Sequoia Capital, Index Ventures, Viacom, CBS, and Li Ka-shing. Perhaps Ka-shing will change his name to KA-CHING if this investment pays off. I just hope I can get a chunk of the IPO one day…

Hey… I have an idea for a series that could be streamed via Joost. The series would be focused around two superheroes who like causing chaos, re-inventing the wheel, and making a lot of money in the process. They would call it ‘The Disruptors’. Need I say who the main characters would be?

These European boys have a passion for disrupting the party and stirring up sh!t. Nevertheless, their strategic intuition, superior branding skills, and forward-thinking abilities cannot be ignored. I can’t wait to see their fourth venture. And this time I want a piece…

Twitter is the Future of Blogging

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Twitter logoThere… i said it. Twitter is the future of blogging. Why do I say this? Because Twitter prides itself on the downfalls of blogging. It streamlines the process and simplifies the concept.

What are the biggest downfalls of blogging? Why do people stop blogging or just give up on it? The two main reasons, in my opinion, are:

  • Not enough time (i.e. can’t post on a regular ongoing basis; too time-consuming)
  • Run out of material/content/topics

Twitter overcomes these two main hurdles, albeit not directly. People have been waiting for something like this to come along. And now they have something to sink their teeth into.
Obviously, posting a one-liner isn’t exactly an in-depth, researched blog post. But this is something different. Instead of posting quality content on a frequent basis, you are posting lesser quality content on a much more frequent basis. But let me backtrack and rephrase that. The ‘lesser quality’ content isn’t necessarily useless or without merit. It is all about reference points and relevance. By that I mean that the closer you are to the publisher and/or the better you know them, the more relevant the Twitter tidbits will be. Those unfamiliar with the publisher may likely find little value in the content.

In essence, Twitter is only useful as a personal blogging tool. Value is derived from relevance. Only if you are familiar with the Twitter user does the system provide usefulness. An exception is centered around celebrities and famous people, whom everybody wants to know what they are up to at any given point. But even then, we can relate to them as we see them on TV, hear them on the radio, or browse them on the Internet.
Having said that, traditional blogging is not dead. But the blogosphere will evolve into a much more editorial space. Fewer ‘personal blogs’ will be appearing. Instead people will turn to the most efficient and effective tool for such communication - Twitter, or something similar. Piggy-backing of the trends of text messaging and SMS have vaulted this start-up into the stratosphere.

Twitter will reign supreme. They took a simple concept and didn’t cloud it with extras. They kept it simple. People don’t have a lot of time in their day (or so they say), nor do they want to write a long, tiresome post. Twitter takes no time and no thought. Just tell us what you are doing RIGHT NOW.

Google Launches iGoogle - No, It’s Not an Apple Thing…

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

iGoogle logoLast week, Google officially launched iGoogle. This is nothing overly dramatic. It was a simple rebrand of the old Google IG with some added features, including comprehensive widget support. Google is looking to make a splash in the personalized, AJAX homepage space, which is dominated by such players as Yahoo, Netvibes, and Pageflakes.

What intrigues me the most is the new name… iGoogle. Of all the names Google could have chosen, they went the ‘Apple route’ and chose to throw an “i” in front of their brand. A smart move? Or a blatant attempt at jumping on the bandwagon? Who knows… but don’t tell me they hadn’t thought of the potential consequences or discussions that would come about before choosing the name.

I will say that placing an “i” before any word or name has been around on the net for quite some time. In these cases, the “i” was meant to signify “Internet”. But nowadays, everyone attributes the “i” to Apple products such as the iPod or iPhone (lawsuits aside).

Is Google looking to cause a stir and build PR? Is the “i” simply meant to convey the idea of a personalized page? Am I entirely crazy and this post is a waste of time? Any one of these may be plausible. But I would never underestimate or overlook the foresight of this search engine powerhouse.