Can Google create another Android with Plus?

Since the launch of Google Plus, one question that I keep asking is whether Google can replicate the success of Android by disrupting the social realm.

After the iPhone set the pace for what a smartphone is supposed to be like, Android came over and disrupted the market such that established leaders like Symbian were virtually torpedoed out of the market.

This time around Google has Plus, its third major attempt at entering the social space. Though the smartphone market is distinct from the social space, it may not be far fetched to stick one’s neck on the line and make the Android claim for Plus.

From how I understand Plus, Google’s fundamental goal is to force Facebook to open up so it (Google’s) crawlers can access the vast store of user data behind the Facebook walls. And what better way to do this than offer a far superior platform that has everything Facebook and more?

Of course Facebook will not sheepishly open up just like that, something evident from its doing its utmost best to frustrate any attempt at exporting one’s “friends” list.

To pull aother Android with Plus, Google would need to iterate faster than Facebook can copy. Not long ago we wrote here about how Google could take on Facebook simply by straddling the latter. Well it seems Google did that and more, so Facebook is the one to now do the straddling, or copying from Plus.

Also Google would need to make Plus as open as possible to as many other social networks as possible. For instance, I should be able to post from my Plus account to Twitter and vice versa. The Liberate your data feature of Plus is already a good sign of how open one can expect Plus to be.

Of course Plus is not even public yet, so it’s too early to say what form it will take regarding inter-operability. However, if Google wants to really pull off another Android- which I expect is going to happen with time- in the social realm, it’ll first need to make Plus as open as possible, putting the end users in at the center before advertisers.

[VIDEO] What Google and Facebook are Hiding

Eli Pariser of the progressive organization MoveOn says the Internet is hiding things from us, and we don’t even know it. In this TED Talk he calls out Facb, Gog. and other corporations who are transforming the Internet to suit their corporate interests. Very well worth watching.

“A squirrrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests than people dying in [sic!] Africa” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

RE: Should Google Worry About Facebook? Yes!

A rejoinder from Ebenezer Gwumah originally posted on his blog.
This post is a rejoinder to my good friend, Luqman Saeed’s post: 3 Reason why the Google proponents get Google wrong. In his post, Luqman explains [to me] why Facebook poses no imminent threat to Facebook like I believe. Here’s why I believe he needs to reconsider.
Before I begin, here are three facts about Google from their investor page that we should have in mind:
a. How do we make our money: Today, the majority of our revenue comes from advertising. (Many articles have estimated this majority to be around 96% of Google’s revenue)
b. Who are our customers?: Our customers are over one million of advertisers […] who use Google Adwords to reach millions of users around the world.
c. Who are our competitors: We face formidable competition […] particularly from companies that seek to connect people with information on the web and provide them with relevant advertising.
From the above, we can deduce that Google is effectively dead without advertising. And companies like Facebook, could kill their advertising revenue. In his post Luqman gives these three reasons to support why Facebook cannot topple Google, and here are my responses to them.

a. Monetisation: Google has a formidable monetising machine that works for them perfectly. [..] Google has hundreds of thousands of sites that sell ads for it. The point here is that, even when you don’t visit any of Google’s platforms, chances are they will still make money from your visit online.

Well good for Google! But there’s a reason Google is recruiting more and more people at breakneck speed to improve its ad system and losing share value as a result. Google’s ad system, which works based mostly on the content of the website I’m reading or identifies Keywords in what I am searching for or viewing on Google.com, YouTube et al., will ultimately be churning out a lot of irrelevant ads to me. And the savvy marketer should know this. Here’s why.
Google’s adwords page says: For example, an ad for a digital camera may show up next to an article reviewing the latest digital cameras. This was / is a great move by Google and it may have been one of the best targeting systems when they first begun it. But sorry Google, just because I’m reading a review of the latest digital camera doesn’t mean I’m interested in one. I have read whole reviews on Nokia phones, not because I’m interested in getting one, but only so I know how to respond to Luqman when he takes swipes at the iPhone’s popularity (*chuckle*).
In addition, Google does not tell you which websites your ads would show up on when you use their Adsense platform. This is undisclosed data. So in effect, you have no idea who is seeing your ad. You just keep your fingers crossed and hope you got your keywords right – which still doesn’t guarantee the right people are seeing your ad.
On Facebook however, the ad system works very differently. I have a whole list of interests and hobbies. And none of them is on there just because. They are my real interests, even if some may be more dominant than others. I am “liking” stories and brand pages and content all over the web, that tell Facebook more and more about my psychographics. I am putting up statuses on how I wish someone would buy me an iPad2 and how I like Benz cars.
Make no mistake, the talk of Facebook’s incredible data is no mere ruckus. It is fact. And with more and more people using Facebook and being teased into sharing information about themselves with subtle tools like the Facebook “Like” button, platforms like Facebook are kings of targeted advertising. Facebook’s psychographic data is its competitive advantage.
All it would take is for Facebook to begin a system like Facebook adsense (which is already in the works by the way), and Google could lose customers big time. Facebook’s ad platform, even at this early stage, offers incredible targeting options (see here) that Google can’t hope to beat with their keyword strategy. The growth potential is massive, both for Facebook and for advertisers. Currently, advertising is restricted to the actual Facebook alone. Yet, this year alone, the Facebook ad market is expected to grow by 118%, to $4 Billion. Last year, Facebook advertising alone accounted for 14% of UK’s online advertising market.
Should Google be worried? Google does not tell you which websites your ads are showing up on but Facebook allows you to define exactly which users you want to see your ad and how they should see it. Facebook gives you Google’s keyword and location targeting, and then some more.
Now compare the two options. Which would work better for the advertiser? Should Google be worried?

b. Diversification: Again one thing people forget is that Facebook has only one product – well it’s Facebook. Google on the other hand, has YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Chrome OS, Android and Search. Now compare the two.

c. Strategy: All Google will need to do to beat Facebook on the latter’s own turf is well elucidated by Professor Micheal Porter thus: “[a] second and far more common type of imitation is straddling. The straddle seeks to match the benefits of a successful position while maintaining its existing position. It grafts new features, services, or technologies onto the activities it already performs.” The point here is that it’s easy for Google to copy Facebook.

A common error most people make. Check the Facebook support page. Facebook does not have only one product. Facebook has Photo sharing, Video Sharing, Credits (JC Penney already allows Facebook users to shop with credits), Games & other applications, Places (Hello FourSquare!), Chat, Notes (For Blogging), Pages and others. And that’s what Luqman failed to identify. There is nothing Google offers right now that Facebook cannot offer. So yes, that argument about “straddling” is actually what Facebook is using against Google.
Facebook can do search. Actually scratch that – it does, with help from Bing. Facebook can do YouTube. FaceBook can do Blogger. Facebook can do Gmail. Facebook, as far as I can see, has no reason to do an OS, on PC or mobile – but it can. Facebook is working on features that allow you to send text messages from inside your message inbox. Facebook can do PayPal. Facebook can take on Amazon. And it has 641 million plus users, and counting, to sell it to. And the impressive part of this is that a lot of these products, even though not fully developed, are already enjoying good usage.
Facebook has also been tweaking and improving their system a lot recently, adding several subtle features and products that many a user misses. What Facebook is becoming, is what some refer to as a “mini-internet”. Luqman explains that Google can take on Facebook easily. But history has shown that this has been an almost impossible feat. Google Wave? Google Buzz? Facebook competitors. Have they hurt Facebook’s numbers? Erm, not that I know of. Wave had a very weak 1 million user population at the time it was scrapped. And now, Google has launched “+1″ to counter Facebook’s “Like” button. Let’s not get our hopes up.
Luqman goes on to say that Facebook’s PHP platform is too mediocre for Google to draft strategies around. But should Google ignore the fact that Facebook went from 150 million to 640 million plus users in just 2 years? Should Google forget that Facebook has risen, beaten Yahoo, and is now only second to Google in the U.S when it comes to website traffic and users?
And why do we we keep comparing Facebook to MySpace and Hi5? We shouldn’t! MySpace, big as it was, was never even close to what Facebook is now. Facebook beat MySpace on both worldwide members and traffic – in 2009! We keep saying that Facebook will die like hi5 and MySpace. But Facebook is reporting record usage. Currently, the website averages about three hundred unique site visits – everyday. And time spent on the platform has also shown no signs of letting up. It is rising.
So am I the only one noticing Facebook’s growth? No. Advertisers are paying attention too. Facebook / Social Media marketing is now taught in schools. There are whole courses devoted to marketing brands on Facebook. Advertisers are moving to Facebook in numbers. And Facebook has not even begun to scratch the surface of their advertising potential yet.
Should Google be afraid? I really can’t answer that. I believe that’s a question we should leave for MySpace to answer.
*Note: For the sake of keeping this post short, I have not discussed several factors that work in Facebook’s favour when it comes to the ad market. This includes Nielsen’s research on the value of social media ad impressions: on how Facebook’s social ads increase brand awareness and purchase intent; and also how Facebook’s 1 year old “Like” is recording incredible usage and how websites are fast adopting other similar tools like Facebook comments and authentication which are massively increasing Facebook’s psychographic data. 

3 Reasons Why the Facebook Proponents Get Google Wrong

The question of whether Facebook is an imminent threat to Google IMHO is a misnomer in that I see Facebook as a subset of the massive “platform” called Google. Commenting, posting pictures, “Liking” are all activities already carried out on some Google services. For my friend Eben who believes Facebook is a clear and present danger to Google, here’s why I think not, at least for the foreseeable future.
Monetization

A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve

Google has a formidable monetizing machine that works for them perfectly. It can be summed up simply in the Akan phrase “Yen kyendi” which roughly translates as let’s all share in the booty. Basically Google says look, we’ll give you a slice of the cake if you sell our ads to your readers. Other than showing ads next to search results which I hardly see anyway, Google has hundreds of thousands if not millions of sites that sell ads for it. Some of the biggest sites/blogs on the web sell Google ads. The point here is that even when you don’t visit Google.com or any Google owned service, chances are they still will make some money from your visit online. And let’s not forget how easy they’ve also made it to place their ads on your site. Blogger- the fifth most visited site on the Internet- actively encourages you to sell Google ads and made it just a matter of clicks to do so. Now do the math.
Diversification

The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do.

Again one thing people forget is that Facebook has only one product- well it’s Facebook. I never cease getting amazed at how quickly folks like Eben can forget about MySpace, Friendster, Hi5 and other social networks that preceded Facebook. Unless Facebook can find a way to evolve to meet any future trend, only one end awaits it; it will die a slow death like MySpace. Sometime back Facebook promised its users a new, unified inbox that some claimed would be a rival to Gmail. An eternity later and I’m still waiting to test it. Google on the other hand, has Youtube, Blogger, Gmail, Chrome, Chrome OS, Android, Search. Now compare the two.
Strategy
It doesn’t take much to develop a Facebook clone. Elgg and Dolphin are two CMSs that anybody can just grab and build a Facebook clone. Of course they’d not attract oodles of people, but this goes to show you that it’s easy to imitate Facebook. And any business whose cardinal product can be easily copied is not safe strategically. All Google will need to do to beat Facebook on the latter’s own turf is well elucidated by Professor Michael Porter thus “[a] second and far more common type of imitation is straddling. The straddler seeks to match the benefits of a successful position while maintaining its existing position. It grafts new features, services, or technologies onto the activities it already performs.” The point here is that it’s easy for Google to copy Facebook’s competitive advantage than the other way round.

A second and far more common type of imitation is straddling. The straddler seeks to match the benefits of a successful position while maintaining its existing position. It grafts new features, services, or technologies onto the activities it already performs.

Now one might ask OK Luqman, if Facebook can’t beat Google, why is Larry Page so obsessed with it? The answer is simple: because if the future of the web is “social”, then Google needs to be there, big time. Android, YouTube, Chrome, what do all these have in common? Pat yourself on the back if you said “market disruptors.” A careful study of Google’s DNA will tell you that whenever Google believes something is the future, then it becomes incumbent upon the company to be there, in a big way.
When they believed video was going to be a vital component of the Internet, they snatched up YouTube. Same with Android. Today what do we see of these two products? Google does not need to win. Google just needs to make sure that no single player has a monopoly in the market.
So yes Page is certainly looking closely at Facebook because if the future is social, then Google will need to be there as well. And if that means directing resources at beating Facebook, then so be it.
I am under no circumstance underestimating Facebook and their numbers. No. What I believe is that the idea that Facebook will imminently beat Google and overnight replace all Google services with theirs thanks to the massive amounts of data they have is far fetched.
With change remaining the only constant however, only time will tell in the very, very long term which of these two companies survives. But for the foreseeable future, Google can and will easily beat Facebook on the latter’s own turf.
Edit
I did not want to go into the financial aspect of the argument for the sake of brevity and a cohesive presentation of my argument.

Is Facebook the new Apple?

The ‘fanaticism’ with which Apple loyalists follow the company has always boggled my mind and I’m sure that of those who live outside most of the company’s reality distortion field. Nowadays however, Apple seems to have a competitor for unrelenting loyalists: Facebook.
The coverage of the recent announcement by the company (Facebook) of its new messaging system was a typical example of the Apple fanboyism in overdrive. Suddenly there were headlines screaming how the Facebook all in one messaging was going to be a Gmail killer and all sorts of hyperboles. 
Honestly, nothing Facebook has announced recently deserves all the media headlines it’s been getting especially from the North American giant tech blogs. But a service with a supposed more than half a billion *registered* users, every word from them is news. 
This brings me to the question, is Facebook the new Apple? With unrelenting press coverage and a desire by some bloggers to see everything get killed by Facebook, are we witnessing a new ‘cult of Facebook’ in the making?

Then too with a desire on the part of both companies to control every facet of your interaction with their respective platforms such that you only take what they think is right for you, I see a growing resemblance between the two companies.

Yawn- Facebook reaches 500 million users

Unless you just descended from out of space, you’ve probably been bombarded enough with the news that Facebook has reached 500 million users. I am also very much impressed no doubt with the growth of the site.
I’m just a bit curious about the relationship that the number of users of the network have with the bottom line of the company. Last year for instance, revenues were estimated to be around $800m US.
Taking that figure to be true, we then wonder how much it costs to keep the servers running that power this behemoth of a network. The number of users- which does not take into account multiple account registrations- will only reflect true success if it shows improved profits and revenues.
In as much as I am impressed with the numbers, I very much prefer to see a direct reflection of those numbers in the bottom line of the company. Until then, the massive numbers to me will only be what they are- just numbers that are impressive but not necessarily producing a comparable profit.
Then too it will be interesting to see how the numbers continue to grow when Google finally comes out with their much rumored social network dubbed Google Me. I also wonder how much money Google would make if people spent all those billions of minutes on Google’s Orkut.

What is Ubuntu’s future plan if the desktop OS is dead?

According to Canonical’s Matt Assay,
“…[T]his shift from local bits to web bits derives in part from the market leaders’ inability to get excited about their desktop products anymore.”
First question that comes to mind is really? The COO of Ubuntu‘s Canonical argues that the desktop OS is virtually dead, replaced by “a new breed of “desktop” platform.” He contends that the big players that have our attention like Google and Facebook are increasingly OS agnostic, thus making the base OS more and more irrelevant.
Being part of the company that sponsors the most popular Linux distro out there, I am tempted to wonder what strategic plans Ubuntu has in place for the future Matt is predicting when the OS is irrelevant. The time when “the petty squabbles over Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux no longer resonate like they once did.”
If more than 85% of computers out there today are running Windows, and we all claim one of the biggest weaknesses of Windows is security, will Linux make any headway then when local applications also become extinct? Where we do everything on the “desktop platform” as Matt refers to it. 
What plans are being put in place to ensure that Ubuntu does not become irrelevant when the time comes when we are all in the proverbial cloud since almost all of the strengths of Ubuntu (Linux for that matter) that we tout today will be obliterated?
Are there future plans for more cloud oriented features and functionality in Ubuntu releases? I know there is Ubuntu One and other cloud based services currently available in the Ubuntu desktop offering, but are they enough to survive in the future Matt Assay predicts? 
The future may be Google or Facebook or even Twitter, but that could also mean the end of the relevance of the OS and for that matter Linux on the desktop.

5 very useful Facebook applications worth installing right now

Facebook is the necessary evil of today. It is a mediocre product with not so much respect for its “products” which is we the users. But if you have developed friends from all over the world, your best bet for keeping up with them is through Facebook, that is, until there is a better alternative.
The following 5 applications should help you make the most of your time on Facebook
Facebook keeps nagging at you to add friends, but for some very weird reason, there is no way to know which of your “friends” has “defriended” you. This application at any given time will show you a list of people who have defriended you on the network. Very useful for a follow up mail to ask them if you probably offended them in any way whatsoever.
For the marketers, a platform with over 4oo million registered accounts is a goldmine. If you have some products to sell, you might as well do it right on your fan page with this application. “Payvment’s Facebook app gives you everything you need including a full-featured admin area built directly into Facebook to manage your storefront, inventory and sales. Plus, when you launch your Facebook store, your products can be discovered across every storefront on Facebook.”
For writers who want to post their latest to Facebook, there is Networked Blogs, and there is RSS Graffiti. I personally recommend RSS Graffiti for its simplicity and customizability. You can choose how often to the application should check for updates, the level of updates to be posted among others. It is also easier to set up as compared to Networked Blogs.
If you are paranoid like I am on Facebook, this application is for you. “Delivered via the Websense global Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, the Defensio Facebook application provides security and controls to manage what type of content can be posted to personal or commercial Facebook walls.

“With Defensio, users gain superior security against new threats and management and control of content posted within Facebook, on a blog, and on personal or corporate websites.” It has a detailed settings page that helps you take charge of your personal and business profiles on Facebook.

Organizing an event is no small task. This application helps simply the process by publishing events you organize on Eventbrite website to your facebook wall complete with the event page and links to purchase tickets. The application is free to use if your event is free, but a “small” fee is charged per payable admission tickets.
Facebook has a lot of applications for varying purposes, but the above 5 are my best pick for a productive and fruitful time on the service. The very first one I highly recommend you install right now!

Could inorganic growth be Google’s Weakness?

Google Inc., probably the most enigmatic company on Earth today is rumored to have pressed the Facebook panic button with its up and coming Google Me social network, that is if internet rumors are to be believed.
It is very surprising that a company the size of Google with its vast array of products and services still lags behind in the social networking realm. Given services like Blogger, Picasa, Youtube among others, one would expect Google to be at the heart of social networking. That unfortunately is not the case.
One factor that I strongly believe has contributed to this is Google’s inorganic growth. Whether it is part of their corporate growth strategy to grow inorganically, I’m not so sure. But it seems the divergent business services that Google has acquired over the years don’t seem to somehow integrate well into one unified whole.
And there are times when I wonder if Google actually takes some of its own products that serious. For instance, in this slideshow by Paul Adams of UX, where he talks about how people use social media, I find that he hardly makes any reference to Orkut, instead preferring to use Facebook.
There needs to be some form of convergent of services from Google into more or less one user interface. This is essentially what “social networking” is all about: having the plethora of services I use to keep in touch with friends packaged together. If this is what Google Me is going to be, all the better.
I’d like to log into Orkut and have my friends activites on Buzz, Youtube, blog posts from Blogger, see any changes to their Profiles all streaming onto the current interface. This is where the problem will come in though. Who then heads what? To what extent is there going to be overlapping in duties?
Growing by buying potentially viable businesses is a great way to expand, but can result in some form of disintegrated pieces of the same company which might not auger well in the long run. It would be very interesting to see a well organized (for lack of a better term) Google come out to challenge the increasing popularity of Facebook.