Archive for July 7, 2011

Google Hangout gives the “Alive Web” a big boost

A few weeks ago when I fell in love with, I wrote about the emergence of a web that was alive. Driven by constant connectivity, this “Alive Web” is a web that is experienced when and if we want. It was about immersion and interactions. It was about having social connections based on an all familiar offline behavior of engagement with other humans.

On this new Alive Web, what we miss doesn’t matter. What matters is the connection and the interactions. We get online to socialize instead of posting status updates, just as we would when we would go to our favorite club or a neighborhood bar.

Last week when I first saw Google+, it became obvious that Google Hangouts was the next big killer app of the Alive Web. Jenna Wortham gets it right when she deems Hangouts as a killer feature of Google+. Having said so myself, I am not going to disagree.

Why? Because Hangouts is about having a conversation, albeit over video. It isn’t a chat (in the traditional Internet sense) and it isn’t a conference call. Hangout with folks you want to connect, even for a few seconds, enjoy an immersive interaction and then move on. It is just for hanging out — just like some of the early killer apps of the Internet such as BBS, IRC and AOL Chat Rooms. And for that precise reason, Hangouts is very different from the video chatting offered by Skype and Facebook.

Having spent nearly a day with the Facebook/Skype video chat, I have to say, that it is shockingly predictable and conventional, two words I rarely use in the context of Mark Zuckerberg’s baby. I have a theory why Facebook wasn’t daring enough with its video offering and chose the safe route — it is worried that it would distract from Facebook’s core behavior of sharing. I mean if you are all hanging out with your friends, why share photos, links or video clips or random status updates?

As I said earlier — if Google wants to beat Facebook, it would have to do social differently. It would have to circumvent Facebook’s two main behaviors — sharing and use of activity streams. In so doing, it would have to figure out a way to encourage interaction, immersion and engagement, both on web and on the mobile. Hangouts is a good start. And for the Alive Web, it’s a big boost.

Recommended reading: How Google+ Hangouts works.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

Microsoft Ditching the Term "Native HTML5"

HTML5 logo Microsoft is already ditching is much criticized “native HTML5″ term. “I don’t know that you’ll see us refer to native HTML in the future,” the company’s new Internet Explorer Evangelist Ari Bixhorn told The Register today.

Other than a change in terminology, nothing else is changing. And Microsoft is sticking to its guns regarding WebGL, so I still fear that fragmentation will continue.

Taiwanese telco commits to boosting Internet speeds tenfold by 2015

Chunghwa Telecom, the largest telecommunication service provider in Taiwan, announced in a press conference its ambitious plans to boost Taiwan’s telecom infrastructure to a ridiculously fast minimum speed of 100 megabits-1 gigabit per second by 2015, reports Taiwan tech blog TechOrange.

At the news conference, Chunghwa chairman Lu Shyue-ching said that “The 10-fold growth in data transmission rate is fertile soil that can nurture Taiwan’s industry sector.” To make it a reality, the company will invest 200 billion NT (US $6.94 billion) for the broadband project, with sixty-five percent of all network equipment to be purchased from local manufacturers.

Taiwanese Internet users don’t have to wait for 2015 to experience the benefits of the infrastructure upgrade. According to the report, in this year alone, Chunghwa will install 2,000 Evolved High-Speed Packet Access base stations to increase Internet speeds of wireless broadband users.

According to Digitimes, the construction of a better broadband infrastructure further aims to hike Internet-access download speeds to 500Mbps-1Gbps for home users and 1-100Gbps for business users by 2020, CHT pointed out.

“Blazing fast Internet” seems to be a hot trend in Asia, with China and Korea leading the way. With this initiative, Taiwan surely won’t get left behind.

Meet YikeBike, the Segway-killer from New Zealand.

Meet YikeBike, the Segway-killer from New Zealand.

How To Use A Ridiculously Early IPO As A Weapon

Rod Drury

Image: Wiki Commons

See Also:

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Peter Thiel


AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Rod Drury is a serial entreprenuer from down here. He sold his first tech company a dozen years ago. He’s founded and sold few since.

His latest company, Xero, is an accounting software-as-a-service company. It’s a “cloud” company.

Despite that, it’s actually very interesting.

Here’s why: In age when $60 billion companies like Facebook are still waiting to float, Drury took Xero public extremely early in its history – basically on day one.

He sold 20% of the company for $35 million on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.

We sat with Rod here at the Ice Ideas conference a few moments ago, and he explained to us how Xero has used its public status to its advantage.

  • The “fat” funding gave Xero a huge resources lead that helped it develop software faster than competitors could.
  • Being a public company burnished Xero’s reputation with potential partners.
  • Because he only floated 20% of the company, Drury was able to tell potential customers that Xero was less likely to be acquired “in the next 2 minutes.” The software cycle in accounting firms is about 8 years, so it was helpful for him to be able to point out that some of Xero’s venture-backed competitors would probably be owned by different people in the long term.
  • Liquid stock made several small acquisitions much easier to complete.

It looks like in-flight data and calls could be coming to Australia at last.

Like in the United States, Australia has always prohibited in-flight phone use, but that changed last July when the Australian Communications and Media Authority cleared airlines to allow flyers to use their phones on aircraft.

Flightglobal reports that Virgin Australia has fitted its most recent craft with AeroMobile connectivity suites that allow voice calls, SMS and 3G data in the air. Currently, the airline is using these units for crew communications, but it’s said that these units will be switched on for consumers soon after a delayed launch earlier this year.

It’s no surprise that Virgin is the first to jump on board in-air connectivity in Australia. They were the market leaders in bringing Wi-Fi to flights a few years ago in other countries.

While Australian regulators have beaten the United States to clearing in-flight phone usage, Americans have enjoyed Wi-Fi on aircraft for quite some time — something still uncommon in Australia.

The Business Impact of Social Media [Infographic]

Visit the Qwest resource center for relevant briefs and reports to help you better manage your enterprise. Learn how smart businesses harness the power of customer data to improve satisfaction and sales: Unleashing the Power of Customer Data.

Socialcast (which was recently acquired by ReadWriteWeb sponsor VMware) ran an interesting infographic these week visualizing, among other things, a social media study conducted by the Center for Marketing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on the use of social media in Fortune 500 companies (we covered part of this study back in 2008).

The majority of companies studied found social media – such as blogging, social networking and online video – to be successful. Even as far back 2007 (why does that seem like so long ago?), a majority of the companies surveyed found social media to be at least somewhat important.

Socialcast infographic on the business impact of social media

You can find the full sized graphic here.

Photo by kioan

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Socialcast (which was recently acquired by ReadWriteWeb sponsor VMware) ran an interesting infographic these week visualizing, among other things, a social media study conducted by the Center for Marketing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on the use of social media in Fortune 500 companies (we covered part of this study back in 2008). nnThe majority of companies studied found social media – such as blogging, social networking and online video – to be successful. Even as far back 2007 (why does that seem like so long ago?), a majority of the companies surveyed found social media to be at least somewhat important.
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Steve Jobs look-alike sells tea in Taiwan [Video]


With Google+ (And A Tweak For Analytics), The Social Sharing War Is Fully On

Google and Facebook are at war. This is old news. They both want to be the center of the Internet — but there can be only one center. For a while, it looked like things were quickly shifting Facebook’s way after years of dominance by Google. Then Google+ appeared — already the most compelling social experience Google has ever offered.

While it’s still far from clear what the actual impact of G+ will be on the Internet at large, it’s pretty clear already that it’s something Facebook is going to have to take seriously. And they are. Despite Mark Zuckerberg downplaying it, Facebook did just launch a video chat feature a week after Google did in G+. And last summer, Facebook rushed to get the new Groups done in time to beat Circles to the same punch.

But where things are going to be really interesting is on the social sharing front. Facebook has long been in the lead here — and is proud of it. But after just a week, it sure seems like Google+ is seeing some impressive numbers as well (with only a fraction of Google users using it). And a small change Google quietly made yesterday shows just how seriously they’re taking this.

As we noted a couple days ago, it is possible to track the referrals coming in to your site from G+, but it’s not straightforward. Yesterday, Google made it much more straightforward.

When you click on a link now in G+, it redirects it through the domain. Why? Because Google+ uses HTTPS to be more secure, but that strips referrer information that would normally be passed to sites like TechCrunch. So they have to redirect to another non-HTTPS domain to pass that data. Previously, it was simply through a domain (which we were tracking). Now it’s a domain — much easier to track for a casual analytics user.

And sure enough, as of yesterday, is showing up as a referrer to TechCrunch — and yes, a big one despite us not actively using it to send out articles just yet (and again, the limited number of users).

Facebook does a similar redirect to ensure that the pageviews they’re sending others’ way are correctly counted. Others, like Twitter, do not generally do this, which likely makes their sharing stats appear lower than they actually are.

I suspect we’ll begin seeing all three of these Internet giants begin to more actively monitor and showcase this data. Others, like StumbleUpon and LinkedIn are in the mix as well.

Remarkably, StatCounter says that StumbleUpon now sends more traffic to sites than Facebook in the U.S. Meanwhile, LinkedIn is showing massive growth in terms of referrals (to TechCrunch, at least) — though, to be fair, their popular LinkedIn Today feature is powered by Twitter data (which again, Twitter doesn’t get the referral credit for at all).

Nearly two years ago, I noted that the social sharing war was tipping heavily in Twitter’s favor due to the fact that it was far too slow to share content on Facebook. The quick rise of the Tweetmeme button (since replaced by Twitter’s own Tweet button) all over the web showcased this. But things have changed in the past two years. Notably, Facebook has gotten much better at facilitating sharing — hello Like button. And when you do that with 750 million users, sharing will happen.

Meanwhile, posts like this one show Google already has a team working on a strategy for how brands and companies (like TechCrunch) can best facilitate sharing on Google+. They expect to begin testing this shortly — believe us, they’re rushing to get this done ASAP.

The Google assault in this social sharing war is now well underway. They’ve failed in the past with Buzz, but Google+ is clearly much better than Buzz. And while the +1 Button on the web seems fairly useless right now, when they further tie it into G+, the sharing situation will get really interesting.

With another party actively engaged, the question will turn to which of those sharing buttons will you choose to click on? Some people do all of them now. But that won’t last forever. The social sharing war is on.

Google Plus Feature Request: Automatic Circles

Automatic Circles Wanted

What do I mean by “automatic Circles?”

Just think of how many signals Google could borrow to make intelligent choices about surfacing content, auto-creating Circles or recommending users. There are the people I email with, the things I star or share in Google Reader, the (Blogger) blogs I’ve commented on, read, or followed, the +1′ed items from Google Search, my friends on Picasa, the videos I liked or shared on YouTube, the places I’ve searched in Maps, the music I stream on Android, the people I chat with, the people who phone me on Google Voice (and those I ignore) and so on.

Google, if you think about it, knows a heck of a lot about you.

And I’d be willing to opt in to sharing data from one part of Google with another, especially if it meant making my life easier. That wouldn’t be creepy – it would be amazing.

You may disagree, of course.

The Circle Management Burden: Not Just for Power Users

I’ve been concerned about the overhead in dealing with Circle management, and have been called out for being an edge case by some previous commenters. No one follows thousands of people, I’m told.

But that’s not true.

Google Plus is the first social network that actually encourages you to follow more people, not less, because of its categorization capabilities. 200 “friends” in a Circle called “Favorite Bloggers?” Not a problem. A hundred more who share gorgeous photos? Sure, why not? The beauty of Google Circles is that you can keep the streams separate, sharing with the appropriate ones at the appropriate times, and consuming this stream or that one, as you like.

As the network grows, you won’t be duplicating your Facebook experience here – that is, to friend or not to friend – you will be creating a more layered network of your relationships. It’s why something like (the still bare-bones) news reader Sparks even exists within Google Plus. It’s to facilitate and inspire sharing based on interests. This, proclaims Google, is the future of socializing.

Ideally, the end result of all this categorization is a network where you don’t have to be as choosy about friendships because of concerns over cluttered streams or News Feeds. However, it’s also a network where taking the time to develop and manage the Circles that could enable that vision becomes too time-consuming and cumbersome to manage on a day-to-day basis.

Circles Google Builds for You


The obvious fix: automatically, algorithmically created Circle suggestions…based on all the other stuff about you Google knows. These would be opt-in, of course, as invasive dives into your personal data always should be.

Automatically suggested Circles would be like Twitter’s recommended users, but better. It would be more like recommended lists, and yet, even better than that. Unlike public Twitter lists, these Circles could be used as starting points for customization, or merged with other Circles, as need be. Oh yes, Twitter should be very scared.

Will Google develop such a feature: these intelligently created, highly personalized Circles which I crave? Will it take the step of burrowing deeper into our data to make a next-generation Facebook built on top of both interests and interactions? I hope it will. I think it should.

Update: I discovered the first automatic Circle creation tonight – a Circle dubbed “Latitude Friends.” Read more about it here on Google Plus.

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