2007 predictions

January 1, 2007

Techbiz

1) YHOO will remain an independent entity, and will not merge with either AOL or MSFT
2) Yahoo! Search will close most of the search monetization gap with Google
3) In May 2007, journalistic coverage of Yahoo! will be more positive than negative
4) At the end of 2007, the search engines ranked by share of U.S. searches will be the same as it is today: 1) Google, 2) Yahoo!, 3) MSN (Live), 4) Ask.
5) Despite #3, at least one general web search engine will emerge during the year that is a quality disruptor – acknowledged privately by the major engines to be better than one or more of the majors, and a danger to the current engines, whether or not it is acquired in 2007 or remains independent.
6) In December 2007, Amazon’s move into the webservices business will be seen as a good move by the techbiz press.
7) On December 31, 2007, myspace.com’s three-month-average Alexa traffic rank will be greater than 10.
8) Renkoo.com will take off, and become the 2nd most-popular social-event-arranging service, behind only evite.com. If it is not acquired before then, its three-month-average Alexa traffic rank will be 2000 or below on 12/31/07. [Disclaimer: I have a stake in Renkoo, by marriage.]

Politics

1) The front runner and presumptive Presidential nominee for the Democratic party in December 2007 will be Barack Obama
2) The front runner and presumptive Presidential nominee for the Republican party in December 2007 will be John McCain
3) In December 2007, climate change will be a top-5 issue in polls of likely voters in the ’08 presidential elections.
4) On December 31, 2007 there will be fewer U.S. troops deployed to Iraq than there are today (Jan 1, 2007).

Sports

1) Michigan will beat Ohio State in their 2007 football matchup.

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Renkoo launches public beta!

December 15, 2006

Renkoo.com, my absolute favorite social-networking service 🙂 is done with the friends-and-family-only beta phase, and is now out in public for anyone to try. Check it out, and invite that friend you haven’t seen for a while out for a coffee, or maybe a playdate.

Congrats to Joyce, Adam, the Renkoo crew, and the Fembot Army.


Continuous partial attention and notebooks

November 2, 2006

In an earlier posting I whinged about a conference that had wifi internet available only in certain areas, and implicitly assumed that this was either about cost or logistics. A follow-up comment pointed out that speakers might actually prefer that the audience didn’t have their noses in their notebooks all the time, and the policy might be _intentional_, to compel attention.

Well. That idea had never occurred to me, but I think it’s probably doomed to failure. Take cellphones as an example: at the start we had no cultural norms at all, and had to develop them, and there was a chance that cellphones might have a limited sphere of influence, with cell users as oppressed as smokers are today, in “designated cellphone areas”, or huddling together furtively outside the entrances of their office complexes in winter, sneaking their miserable hasty ration of mobile conversation. But no – mobile phones have essentially won, despite the odd cranky letter to the etiquette columnist. That is, the etiquette has evolved and it’s: turn off the ringer when you’re in a movie, at the opera, or in certain very high-end restaurants and … that’s it.

As wifi becomes more ubiquitous, I think you’ll see continuous partial attention in the workplace become more and more normal and accepted. And so, if you are giving a talk and I am in the audience, you can be assured of my full and undivided attention just so long as you meet one minimal standard of quality: be more interesting than anyone I could be IM’ing with. 🙂


Firefox annoyances

August 17, 2006

I love the tabbed browsing in Firefox. But if you’re like me, you launch your browser and notice a couple of hours later that you’ve got 17 browser windows open, each of which has somewhere between 3 and 11 tabs. So how do you go back to a particular page you were looking at before? Each window only lists its own tabs; the Window pull-down only names windows by the title of the forefronted tab. Somewhere, buried in a back tab, is the page you’re looking for….

Take the other day when I launched a podcast (a long Jon Udell interview), then did some other stuff, then had to leave for a while. The podcast was still droning on, and I wanted to find the page and stop it. But where is it? Sure, I could have just quit Firefox, but I actually like the are-you-sure question about killing windows with multiple tabs, so I would have had to answer that question a bunch of times, and I thought there was something I wanted in one of those windows anyway, and I was kind of in a _hurry_ and … I turned the sound off and left. 🙂

(Yes, there’s no feature so nice that someone (like me) won’t find something to complain about. 🙂 )


MySpace: first-winner advantage, or this year’s model?

May 13, 2006

As of today, myspace.com is ranked #6 in Alexa’s Traffic Rank system, behind Google and Yahoo!, but not behind by a lot. Do you think this will last?

There’s a lock-in/winner-take-all/positive-returns view, which says that there was a furious race for the social-networking allegiance of the young, and that that race is over now, and MySpace won (sorry Jonathan A). Soon it will be to online teen sociability what ebay is to auctions: sure, you could start another site devoted to that, but why would anyone go there, when everyone who cares is already playing at the dominant site?

The opposite view says that the web is about the most fickle thing there is … except for fashion. And that myspace is the nike/adidas/timberland of 2006 – cool right now, but therefore incredibly unlikely to be cool in two years (and you can see the backlash happening already – not just in the press (which wouldn’t matter) but with 15-year-olds).

Which view do you favor? Me, I’m in the fad camp, not the lock-in camp, but only weakly. So I will make a really weak but definite prediction: two years from now, on May 11, 2008, myspace.com will not be in the top 25 domains as measured by Alexa traffic rank. But it will still be really popular. Anyone have a different prediction?


Perils of the web roll-up strategy

May 6, 2006

Here’s something that I suspect is happening at a number of bigcorps across the U.S.:

o Bigcorp decides that it wants to be in a whole bunch of Web2.0-ish consumer businesses.

o Bigcorp knows itself and decides, intelligently, that it doesn’t have the technical bench strength to build Web2.0-ish products in all these niches (or, truth be told, probably in even one of these niches).

o Bigcorp decides to build-rather-than-buy, and assembles war chest and M&A experts to begin hoovering up small innovative web startups. The synergies after integration are going to be fantabulous.

[This is the present time.]

o Bigcorp now has acquired 8 startups – the LAMP dating service, the Windows/IIS/Coldfusion travel site, the Ruby-on-Rails karaoke hot-or-not smackdown …

o Bigcorp decrees that all sites will be rewritten in Java, with Bigcorp single sign-on.

o Bigcorp begins to discover that integration requires almost as much technical bench strength as building from scratch.

o Bigcorp remains a balkanized set of web properties, with unified P&L and disjoint userbases.

[Believe it or not, in this post I am not talking trash about the particular bigcorp I work for (even though I talk trash about it in most of my other posts. 🙂 Although there have been successes (like Inktomi (IMHO), the acquisition that brought me in) and failures (which I won’t list), in general my bigcorp has done a good job with acquired companies and (some would even argue) has made acquisition-integration its forte (it has certainly had enough experience to get good at it).]


Print vs. online newspapers

March 15, 2006

A very close friend of mine from college is a newspaper guy – he’s been a reporter at a number of papers, including the Wall Street Journal, and is now an editor at a major metropolitan paper (that will remain nameless). We spent last weekend hanging out in San Francisco (yes – on a “man date” 🙂 ).

He said that his paper is going through interesting times working through their print vs. online strategy (and he suspects that it’s like that all over). A lot of it has to do with deadline structure and work cycle – even though most papers have had online editions for some time, they have typically been either replicas or add-ons to the “real” paper, which comes out once (or in some cases twice) a day, with corresponding well-defined daily deadline hell. (The Wall Street Journal famously replicated even the multi-column typographic look of their print version.) But (my friend says) as his paper contemplates the print readership (eroding by only a few percent every year) and the online readership (doubling yearly?), they’re finally contemplating a phase change where the online edition drives the workflow and the deadlines.

In this model, the “real” paper is the online edition, and the thing that gets tossed on peoples’ porches is some kind of enshrinement of it, possibly with follow-up commentary, constructed at comparative leisure. The online edition is updated continuously, as stories break or assignments are completed, making all sorts of journalistic traditions about shared deadline crunches sadly obsolete.

The final interesting kicker was this: my friend’s online paper gets a lot more traffic than its competitor. Though all sorts of happy explanations have been proposed in-house for this, he believes in a simpler one: his paper happens to have the name of the city in its own name, while the competing paper doesn’t. You guessed it: the power of search engine referrals. It sounds plausible to me, actually; if you search for [city] [news-topic], his articles are going to have a lot of anchortext and body text containing the city name, and the competition’s articles won’t. What’s in a name? Retrievability, for one thing.