Facebook and Twitter Dominate Social Scene: Google+ Losing Momentum

  • The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Google+ may be losing momentum in its foray into social networking, citing data analytics from Chitika recently published in The Next Web. Facebook and Twitter are currently maintaining dominance in the social space.
  • “Our monthly referrals from there are down 38 percent since their peak, while Facebook referrals are up 67 percent and Twitter referrals up 51 percent over the same period,” reports TNW.
  • After Google+ attracted 10 million users in less than a month, expectations rose. But according to Chitika, Google+’s initial spike in traffic was short lived, leveling off just four days after its launch.
  • As one Google engineer stated on his Google+ page, the social network is “a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms” and “a knee-jerk reaction” to Facebook.
  • “Bottom line: Facebook is still the king of social networks and will be for the foreseeable future,” adds THR. “Plan your marketing campaigns accordingly.”
  • In a related post from Gizmodo, Google+ claims 40 million “users” — but the question remains regarding how many are actually using it: “‘Users’ here, being loosely defined, since Google+ is a relative ghost town of privately shared links about how Google+ is a ghost town.”

Spotify Reports Significant Losses, Despite Increase in Subscribers and Revenue

  • Streaming music service Spotify, which recently partnered with Facebook, saw its revenue more than quintuple last year. However, the British company still showed losses totaling $42 million, an increase from $26 million in 2009.
  • “Spotify’s performance has been closely monitored by the music industry, which sees it as a kind of litmus test for the viability of digital music by subscription, which pays labels each time a listener streams a particular song,” reports The New York Times. “That system brings in lower royalties per song than downloads, but with a large enough listener base could in theory bring in substantial amounts.”
  • Spotify subscriptions cost about $10 to $15 per month and includes an ad-supported free version. Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, recently announced that the service had reached the 2 million mark with paid subscribers, although there are believed to be more than 10 million total users.

Facebook Unveils New Features to Keep You from Using Other Networks

  • Facebook has announced a few new features to help users organize information and friends, “features that could, put simply, eliminate your desire to use any other social network,” reports The Next Web.
  • New Friends Lists are created automatically based on similarities in profile information (people you work with, go to school with, etc.). There is also a Close Friends list and Acquaintances as well as Suggestions that allow you to manage friends lists easily.
  • Facebook also features the Subscribe button “eliminating your desire for any other network.” Similar to Twitter’s “follow” you can subscribe to non-friends and select what specific information you’d like to receive from them (like updates, photos, and/or games). Users can post information publicly or just to friends (so subscribers won’t see).
  • Latest from Facebook, The Next Web reports in a related article, is the ability to tag non-friends in comments and posts.
  • These changes may help users to navigate information and target certain groups of friends more easily.

Facebook Shares Designs: Will Cloud Hardware Get Cheaper and More Efficient?

  • Facebook launched its Open Compute Project as an effort to open-source the technology of its 147,000-square-foot data center that opened in Oregon in April.
  • “It published blueprints for everything from the power supplies of its computers to the super-efficient cooling system of the building,” reports MIT’s Technology Review. “Other companies are now cherry-picking ideas from those designs to cut the costs of building similar facilities for cloud computing.”
  • Although the concept of sharing designs and allowing other companies to build similar cloud-computing facilities at a lower cost may seem altruistic, it also serves as “an attempt to manipulate the market for large-scale computing infrastructure in Facebook’s favor,” suggests the article.
  • “The company hopes to encourage hardware suppliers to adopt its designs widely, which could in turn drive down the cost of the server computers that deal with the growing mountain of photos and messages posted by its 750 million users,” explains Technology Review. “Just six months after the project’s debut, there are signs that the strategy is working and that it will lower the costs of building — and hence using — cloud computing infrastructure for other businesses, too.”
  • Frank Frankovsky, Facebook’s technical operations director and a founding member of the Open Compute Project, notes that the project opens the flow of ideas necessary to improve cloud technology. He is encouraging others to contribute new ideas and improvements to the current designs.

Rhapsody is Betting on Napster Purchase to Grow Subscriber Base

  • Subscription-based music service Rhapsody has acquired Napster from Best Buy in a deal expected to be finalized the end of November.
  • “There’s substantial value in bringing Napster’s subscribers and robust IP portfolio to Rhapsody as we execute on our strategy to expand our business via direct acquisition of members and distribution deals,” said Rhapsody president Jon Irwin.
  • Rhapsody and Napster have the two largest music service subscriber bases and the acquisition could impact other music services such as Rdio, Spotify and MOG.
  • Irwin emphasized the importance of a strong subscription base: “This is a ‘go big or go home’ business, so our focus is on sustainably growing the company.”
  • “Apparently it takes more than Facebook sharing to win the subscription war,” comments Gizmodo. “Too bad I haven’t seen a Rhapsody or Napster song actually shared on Facebook.”

Social Brand Engagement: Facebook Offers New Marketing Tools

  • In the wake of Google’s announcement last week regarding new real-time analytics, Facebook is introducing changes to Insights, its marketing product.
  • A new feature called “people talking about” combines all the stories generated about the brand — Likes, comments, tags, etc. — across Facebook, and provides a raw number to gauge overall buzz.
  • Also new, Premium ads serve stories generated by a brand to fans’ friends. This ad unit isn’t currently available on the self-serve ad platform, so most likely won’t be accessible for those brands with a smaller budget.
  • The obsession with the number of Likes on Pages will likely decline. “Now brands will be judged not just by how many Likes they have, but through their talkability,” suggests The Next Web, as the new number generated by Insights becomes public.

Are Popular Online Brands Leading to the Rise of Digital Monopolies?

  • France recently banned TV and radio show hosts from naming Facebook, Twitter, or other specific sites unless directly referencing a news story involving the companies. The regulation was created to reduce bias for the popular social networks over other striving, lesser known sites.
  • Apple’s iTunes has benefitted from the phrase “Now available on iTunes” commonly tacked onto advertisements where it was previously customary to simply say “Now available in all good music stores” — which could today be updated to say “online music stores” in order to include other music providers.
  • Additionally, the phrase “Now available on Amazon.com” has become standard for book promotions, which basically provides free advertisement for the site while ignoring other providers.
  • Similarly, “Follow us on Twitter” and “Like us on Facebook” have dominated commerce. “Social networks only work when people use the same ones. In other words, they naturally lend themselves to being monopolized,” suggests The Next Web.
  • Some brand names have now become part of everyday language. Google, for example, has grown so popular that it is commonly used as a verb when describing the act of searching online. TiVo is also regularly used as verb, and sometimes replaces “DVR” in conversation.
  • The article casts doubt on the actual effects regulation would have on social media monopolies: “…users will typically go where all the action is taking place.”
  • “The Internet isn’t a monopoly though. It’s an oligopoly consisting of multiple monopolies from different digital industries, and the reason this is happening really isn’t all that complicated,” adds The Next Web. “Success breeds success, something which underpins most monopolies, whether we’re talking about dominant languages, biological species or, indeed, Internet technology companies. Hegemony stems from success, and it’s certainly not unique to the Internet age.”

Social TV Network Launches: Now Youtoo Can Be a Television Star

  • Producer Mark Burnett and the team at Youtoo is hoping to kickstart the first age of social TV by “putting 500 people on TV each day — providing more Americans than ever before with a real shot at their 15 minutes of fame,” according to the press release.
  • Burnett’s production studio VIMBY (Video in My BackYard) and online distributor KoldCast TV have joined Youtoo CEO and founder Chris Wyatt in the venture.
  • “VIMBY will be producing content for the network asking users to submit video ‘FameSpots’ or ‘Social Shouts’ via the Web, iPhone, iPad or Android to insert themselves into the content,” reports Lost Remote.
  • Youtoo’s patent-pending software and cross-platform technology stack enable users to record an HD broadcast quality video, or a “FameSpot,” which is filtered by the software and if chosen, will be put into the live broadcast feed.
  • “Youtoo is the world’s first social TV network,” says Wyatt. “Since millions of people want to be on TV, we created a website and app for that. Youtoo is a social network, television network, and the technology to make them all work together. Just like a social network, you can interact with your friends or followers. However, you can also interact with a national audience on TV. Think of it as Facebook for TV in concept.”
  • Youtoo launched September 27th in beta and is currently live. According to Wyatt, the network has distribution to 15 million households through Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Verizon, Service Electric, Bright House, National Cable Television Cooperative and Insight Cable.

Facebook: Is Frictionless Sharing the Future of Social Networking?

  • In a recent GigaOM article, Matthew Ingram provides a compelling alternative viewpoint to the recently publicized complaints regarding Facebook’s philosophy of “frictionless sharing.”
  • The concept — which essentially allows apps and online publishers to post a user’s activity to their wall without permission — has raised a legitimate concern in terms of whether the feature is a worthwhile addition or an invasion of privacy.
  • “Consumer advocacy groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are arguing the latter, and have even asked the government to step in, while some users have deleted their Facebook accounts in protest,” reports Ingram. “But there’s an argument to be made that Facebook isn’t forcing anyone to share; it’s simply adapting to the increasingly social way that we are living our lives online.”
  • While it’s easy to see the concerns regarding privacy, there are clear benefits to this type of sharing. Ticker, for example, can often provide “serendipitous experiences” such as finding interesting music, video clips, or articles based on the activity of friends. “It also fits right in with the concept that underlies Facebook and most social networking,” suggests the article, “which is what user-interface designer Leisa Reichelt has called ‘ambient intimacy’: the idea that there’s something to be gained by having transient and lightweight connections to people in your life.”
  • The article points out that the news feed was also originally heavily criticized when it launched in 2006, but eventually became immensely popular.
  • Zuckerberg’s “law of social sharing,” which notes that the amount of data people share doubles each year, is a “good predictor of what people will do, regardless of what they say they will do or how much they criticize features like frictionless sharing from social apps.”
  • “And soon, the idea that apps are sharing a continuous stream of our activity will seem just as commonplace and uncontroversial as the original news feed,” contends Ingram.
  • The article argues that “social sharing online isn’t going away any time soon; it’s not just the core of Facebook, but the organizing principle of the modern Web — Facebook is just a symptom of that change, not the cause.”

Google+ is Google Itself: Social Network will be Identity Platform

  • Google intends for Google+ to become an identity platform for its other services such as Android, Chrome and YouTube to develop an “understanding of who you are,” Brad Horowitz, VP of product told Wired magazine.
  • “This comes on the heels of comments that Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt made earlier this year about how Google+ was intended to be an ‘identity service’ for other projects and services that the company either had in place or was planning to launch,” reports GigaOM. “It wasn’t clear exactly what Schmidt meant by those remarks at the time, but putting them together with Horowitz’s comments, it sounds like Google wants to make Google+ the central repository of everything it knows about you.”
  • GigaOM compares Google’s desire to “aggregate as much as it can about you and your interests via all the services it offers” to Facebook’s recent improvements in accumulating data through social apps and “frictionless” sharing.
  • The article contends that “all of this social-activity data and these ‘social signals’ are crucial information that Google needs not only to make its search better — since socially-influenced search is becoming a larger and larger part of how people find things online — but to make its advertising more targeted as well. Google’s giant market share in online advertising has been built on the back of its understanding of ‘intent’ when it comes to search, and without access to the Twitter firehose and Facebook’s walled garden, Google has to effectively create its own sandbox for social activity.”

Privacy Watchdog Groups Ask the FTC to Investigate Facebook Features

  • An association of privacy groups, led by the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, has asked for a federal investigation into Facebook features that broadcast new information about users. The new partnerships with media platforms allow Facebook to acquire extensive data about user behavior.
  • “That information could also be made available to marketing companies for use in focusing advertisements, and potentially to government agencies interested in tracking people’s behavior,” suggests The New York Times.
  • In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, privacy advocates wrote, “frictionless sharing creates several privacy and security problems for users.”
  • Facebook responded by explaining its users have more control than what is being suggested. “Some groups believe people shouldn’t have the option to easily share the songs they are listening to or other content with their friends,” company spokesman Andrew Noyes communicated via e-mail. “We couldn’t disagree more and have built a system that people can choose to use, and we hope people will give it a try. If not, they can simply continue listening and reading as they always have.”
  • According to the article, “the FTC does not comment on whether it is investigating any company unless it has some results to release.”

Tout is Like Twitter for Video: Is This the Next Chapter in Social Media?

  • Social startup Tout offers a Twitter-like microblogging service, but enables users to publish 15-second video clips instead of 140-character text fragments.
  • “In other words, now anyone can be famous for 15 seconds,” suggests San Jose Mercury News.
  • When asked how it’s different from the Facebook feature that lets users post video chats, CEO Michael Downing explained the “abbreviated and near-instant nature of ‘touts’ makes them like mini-conversations.”
  • Endorsements from high-profile users such as Shaquille O’Neal, Mitt Romney and ESPN are helping the service build momentum.
  • O’Neal is one of many celebrities who have taken to communicating via Twitter (he currently has more than 4 million followers). “But what I’ve been noticing about Twitter lately is that you don’t know who the person you’re talking to really is,” he said. “When you can see my picture, you know it’s me.” O’Neal is so impressed with Tout that he took an ownership stake.
  • Since launching in mid-April, the San Francisco-based startup has attracted 4 million unique visitors. “It took Twitter two years to hit 1 million visitors,” explains Downing. “We hit it in under 12 weeks.”

Justice Department Memo Tells Which Telecoms Store Data the Longest

  • “People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been… The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance,” an ACLU staff attorney said.
  • A newly released Justice Department internal memo reveals the retention policies of Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint.
  • Verizon seems the most privacy-friendly, but is the only company that retains text message content. Messages are stored for 5 days; other companies don’t retain message content at all.
  • The retention of “cell-site data” (information of a phone’s movement history based on phone tower usage) varied the most among the four providers.
  • “Verizon keeps that data on a one-year rolling basis; T-Mobile for ‘a year or more;’ Sprint up to two years, and AT&T indefinitely, from July 2008,” reports Gizmodo.
  • Senator Patrick Leahy proposed to alter the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to “protect Americans from warrantless intrusions.”
  • To see your provider’s retention policy, check out the graphic featured in the Gizmodo post.

Editorial on Kindle Fire and Silk: Forget iPad Killer, Amazon is Targeting Google

  • Chris Espinosa, a longtime Apple employee, gives his impression of Amazon’s Silk and Kindle Fire announcements.
  • “Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet,” Espinosa writes in his blog. “People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here.”
  • “Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web,” he adds. “In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.”
  • “They use a back-revved version of Android, not Honeycomb; they don’t use Google’s Web browser; they can intermediate user click-through on Google search results so Google doesn’t see the actual user behavior. Google’s whole play of promoting Android in order to aggregate user behavior patterns to sell to advertisers is completely subverted by Amazon’s intermediation. Fire isn’t a noun, it’s a verb, and it’s what Amazon has done in the targeted direction of Google. This is the first shot in the new war for replacing the Internet with a privatized merchant data-aggregation network.”

Facebook Deals Shutdown: Is There a Future for the Social Coupon Biz?

  • Facebook Deals, which offered coupons for local businesses in Facebook users’ main news feeds, officially shut down on Sunday.
  • While some assume the shutdown suggests a failure, sources say that Facebook cut the program because of limited engineering resources the company wanted to place elsewhere.
  • “Groupon and rival LivingSocial are no doubt pointing to Facebook’s withdrawal as evidence that the business is harder to replicate than people previously thought,” reports All Things D.
  • Groupon and BuyWithMe have introduced technology that attempts to track consumer loyalty following their first voucher purchase. Other companies in this space, including Google, are ramping up their coupon platforms, creating mobile solutions that “will recognize when people are close to a deal and allow them to redeem it immediately,” suggests the article.
  • “Last week, Microsoft launched Bing Deals, which is aggregating deals from other major providers to help users browse, find and purchase them in one place,” according to All Things D. “Ironically, that site is being powered by The Dealmap, which Google acquired in August.”