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Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

As a technology scout, I often look for new behaviors of consumers in order to predict technology evolutions. After some time looking into the GroupOn trend, I have started to form a mental understanding of sorts. The stakes are high and the social shopping trend presents a new prosperous businessmodel and most large online companies are making the move to harness the trend. Let me explain the separate parts that forms my picture and what it all means.

1. eBay – the online fleamarket.

Looking at what today is widely accepted as a stunning success and moneymachine – eBay took the private entrepreneur online. Craigslist and similar services continue to provide broad audiences for the private seller. The shift from paper to online generated a larger audience and more interest for the second-hand market.

2. Facebook – networking our life.

Through the introduction of online social networks like Friendster, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter and Facebook, personal networks got joined together online. The effects of “Faceboking” you social life is a transparency that newer been visible before. New “check in” services from GPS enabled mobile devices further expose our location and automatically connects us with unknown people on the same location.

3. iPhone – making applications smarter.

As mentioned above, “check in” services like “Places” on Facebook, Loopt, Gowalla and Brightkite brought the social context to the mobile device though their “check in” features. Together with Twitter and Facebook mobile, the social and contextual dialogue is more and more becoming a way of using the technology.

The New, New Market!

So, based on these three separate innovations,a new market is emerging – Social Shopping. Sure, not all new in its core – Amazon have for long had recommendation and 3:rd party providers of used products. But, if I look closer on the trend, and take into consideration the companies that have announced that they are testing similar products – it will be a fierce battle ahead.

GroupOn is the one stealing all the headlines right now, IPO rumors are spreading and the race is on for becoming the leader of the pack. Nr. 2 on the market – Living Social are playing catch up. Recently I was invited to sign-up for Facebook Deals, a service originally launched last year and currently going through updates similar to GroupOn and Living Social. Goggle is testing its Google Offers. Microsoft is using it´s Bing to for similar services.

What does it mean?

What does all this mean you might think. I fell it’s a contextual shopping trend that moves the web 2.0 into a truly social value experience. If you are shopping for something and have the mobile device, you will be able to utilize your location and seek out good deals close to where you are, when you want it. The technology evolution exemplified by iPhone and Android phones with location awareness embedded is the technology enabler. Facebook networks are the social context and audience for spreading the word and eBay entrepreneurs can chase deals and post them on the social shopping sites to generate a self-serving ecosystem that becomes a machine in it self.

One might think that this technology trend, contrary to social networks of relationships (which are personal and limited) like Facebook, have enough room for more than one or two major services. As the trend relies on action rather than relation, its a active usage and active user who drives the equation – on Facebook, it’s all a matter of who you know.

Implications

The biggest question for me is if Facebook will succeed in incorporating their Facebook Deals service into the private social networks as a natural extension of smaller, often local groups of a few hundred people, as seem to be the norm of the personal networks on Facebook. If they succeed, they will steal the market from the pioneers like GroupOn and Social Living and further solidify their position as the premier social destination on the net, if not Facebooks value will decline as a result and focus might shift. Google, Amazon and Microsoft will steal their fair share of the market place, as they own large audiences and often “host” a mature audience searching for little less cool and less hip offerings – with high trust and reliability.

The race is on!

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Article from NyTimes.

“With Facebook’s membership approaching 600 million, and more features and apps continually being added to the site, it sometimes seems as if it’s the only social network around. But it’s not the only one, even if it’s dominant. Specialized networks are catching on with users who prefer a more focused way to share photos, videos or music, or who simply don’t want everyone on Facebook looking at their pictures.

Some of these networks leverage the existing huge audiences of Facebook or Twitter to let their users reach the maximum number of friends. But if you’re worried about Facebook’s potential privacy holes and want to steer clear of them, there’s a network for that, too.

INSTAGRAM Instagram, a photo-sharing network based around a free app for Apple’s iPhone, is the breakout hit of specialty social networks. The service, which was introduced in October, says that more than a million users have already signed up.

Instagram’s secret weapon is its built-in photo filters, which modify your pictures before you upload them. Some effects are corny, but some — like the sepia-inspired Early Bird filter or the soft-color Toaster — work wonders at removing the often harsh lighting and jarring colors of cellphone photos. With the help of the filters, the images may look better than those uploaded to other social sites, like Facebook.

Davin Bentti, a software engineer in Atlanta, uses Instagram to control where he posts photos.

“Instagram lets me share photos on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Posterous, Tumblr and Foursquare,” he said. “When I take a photo, I can put it everywhere without having to think much about it. But I can also put it only where I want it to go.”

For example, Mr. Bentti said, he skipped Twitter when posting a recent photo of his dog, because his Twitter followers are mostly professional colleagues.

To get started, download the free Instagram iPhone app, and sign up for an account. If you own an Android phone, be patient; an app for that operating system is in the works, the company said.

To find friends to share your photos with, start the app and tap the Profile option at the bottom right of its screen. Instagram offers several ways to find people: log in to Facebook or Twitter to see lists of your friends there who are already signed up with Instagram; search your phone’s contact list to match the e-mail addresses with existing users; send invitations to those in your contact list who have not yet signed up; search Instagram’s database of users and usernames; browse a list of suggested users whom the company has deemed worth following for their photos.

“We don’t see ourselves as an alternative” to Facebook, said Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s chief executive. “We see ourselves as a complement, to allow for sharing on multiple networks, all at once.”

PATH Path, a photo and video sharing network, also sees itself as an enhancement to Facebook; users can log in to Facebook to find Path users to share with. But Path limits the sharing to 50 friends at most, rather than with everyone you know. And you can’t post your Path photos to Facebook itself. Your friends need to check their Path app or Path’s Web site to see your images.”

Read more here.

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Here is an article from SF Gate.

“Susan Choe, head of the San Francisco-based online video-game startup Outspark Inc., figured she’d found the right strategy when a family of four spent $35,000 for virtual goods on her site.

“We actually called their bank to make sure they could afford it,” said Choe, 40, who serves as chief executive officer. “Apparently they can.”

Outspark offers free Internet games and then makes money by selling extras, such as $2 magic potions, $200 rings with special powers, and even $5 licenses that let players get married virtually (divorces are free). Several hundred families have now spent tens of thousands on the site.

The company is tapping into the so-called freemium model, where people play for free but shell out for premium features – an approach that is spreading to the United States after taking off in Asia. Outspark is relying on a different tack than Zynga Game Network Inc., the maker of freemium titles like FarmVille and Mafia Wars, by offering more involved games that coax individual users into paying bigger amounts.

The average paying Outspark customer spends about $55 a month, or as much as $400 during the life of a game. That compares with the $10 to $20 that paying customers typically spend monthly for a game like FarmVille, the most popular title on Facebook, said Atul Bagga, an analyst for ThinkEquity LLC in San Francisco.

Though most freemium players don’t spend a dime, the less than 5 percent of gamers who do buy items will generate revenue of $1.6 billion in the United States this year, said Justin Smith, founder of Inside Network, which tracks social games and virtual payments. That’s up 55 percent from last year.

“The virtual goods market will be a multibillion-dollar industry,” Smith said.

Outspark’s titles, such as Fiesta and Fists of Fu, rely on elaborate fantasy quests to keep players engaged. Customers also tend to be more hard-core gamers than those who play most Facebook games, meaning they’re more likely to spend money enhancing their characters or improving the chance of advancing.
Stiff competition

Outspark is competing for online gamers against larger companies, including makers of traditional video games. Electronic Arts Inc., the world’s second-largest game publisher, expanded into the market last year by buying Playfish Inc. for about $400 million. Last month, Walt Disney Co. agreed to buy Playdom Inc., another maker of online games, for $563.2 million.

Zynga, which is also based in San Francisco, leads the market for social-networking games. It may record more than $450 million in revenue this year selling virtual objects, ranging from tractors for FarmVille to machine guns for Mafia Wars, according to people familiar with the company.”

Read more here.

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Here is a SF gate story that talks about high-tech growth.

“The technology industry is playing the white knight of San Francisco’s struggling office market, as startups and growing companies ink deals and scour the market for space emptied out by the financial meltdown.

Many of the tenants are swelling homegrown businesses like Twitter, while others are relocating from Silicon Valley or outside the Bay Area. As of June 15, 83 technology companies were in the market, seeking 1.5 million square feet of space, up 51 percent since the financial crash in fall 2008, according to brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which regularly tracks the market.

To be sure, that demand alone won’t turn around a market facing more than 13 million square feet of total vacancy, according to a first-quarter research report from Cassidy Turley BT Commercial. But it’s a big step in the right direction for San Francisco’s office market and employment.

“The greatest areas of job growth in San Francisco and the drivers for economic activity across a whole host of related sectors will come from those innovative industries,” said Michael Cohen, director of the mayor’s office of economic development.

One of the largest potential deals in the market is Zynga, the maker of popular social-networking games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. The company is looking for anywhere from 150,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet of space, according to various industry sources, who asked to remain anonymous because disclosure of such information could affect their business.

Zynga was on the verge of signing a lease for approximately 140,000 square feet last fall, but that deal fell apart.

“Zynga doesn’t have an update on our expansion plans right now,” a spokeswoman said in an e-mail response to a Chronicle inquiry.

Expansion

Twitter, the popular microblogging service, expanded its San Francisco space by nearly six times in the past year. It had been looking for still more space, as much as an additional 100,000 square feet, but that effort seems to have gone quiet, sources say.

An especially encouraging trend for San Francisco business boosters, who have long lamented the exodus of companies to surrounding regions, is the relocation of a handful of Silicon Valley firms to the city in recent months.

Industry blog TechCrunch and video-streaming site MetaCafe moved up from Palo Alto, while Webcasting service Ustream and tech-consulting firm Encover Inc. arrived from Mountain View. Mobile application company Booyah Inc., also of Palo Alto, recently signed a lease to shift its headquarters to San Francisco.

In addition, gaming companies like Playdom Inc. and Playfish opened satellite offices in San Francisco, and Yammer Inc. moved to the city from Los Angeles. Meanwhile, there are a handful of out-of-state, and even out-of-country, companies touring space in the market right now, sources say.

Real estate and technology observers believe San Francisco is becoming a more attractive place to start a company or move to for a variety of reasons, including: South of Market rents that are about half of Palo Alto’s right now, the desire to cluster near success stories like Zynga and Twitter and the broader shift to the Web 2.0 world.

As Internet companies become as focused on social media and entertainment as they are on underlying technology, they want to locate near a different set of partners, customers and talent pools, several executives said.

It’s all about layering

“Tech is still the core of what we do, but you’ve got to add layers on top of this,” said David Rice, chief operating officer of MetaCafe Inc.

The company’s new address, at 128 King St., with exposed brick and a view of AT&T Park that puts their previous business-park space to shame, made it easier to tap into marketing, media and advertising expertise in the city, he said.

Other companies’ leaders say they opted for San Francisco because that’s where today’s engineering talent wants to be as well.

When David Sacks, chief executive of Yammer, asked his developers whether they should relocate the microblogging service for businesses to Palo Alto or San Francisco, the latter won hands down. This represents a distinct shift from a decade earlier when he was chief operating officer of PayPal in Palo Alto.

“There’s a lot more engineering talent living in San Francisco now,” he said. “The balance of power may have shifted.”

Web 2.0 firms also don’t need the massive research and development facilities required by the computer manufacturers and chipmakers that gave rise to Silicon Valley.

“Companies like Twitter can have incredible reach with a relatively small workforce,” said Kelly Pretzer, director of new media for the mayor’s office of economic development. “San Francisco has been able to complement that development in the industry nicely.”

Read more here.

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Here is a good piece from FierceMobileContent

Social networking is now the most popular web activity, surpassing even email, according to a new study issued by information and media firm Nielsen. Active reach in what Nielsen defines as “member communities” now exceeds email participation by 67 percent to 65 percent, the firm reports–among all Internet users worldwide, two thirds visited a social networking site in 2008. Facebook now leads the pack: Three out of every 10 web users visit the site at least once a month, and in all, Facebook experienced a 168 percent increase in users in 2008, galvanized by growth among the 35-to-49 demographic.

Mobile social networking is most popular in the U.K., where 23 percent of mobile web users (about 2 million subscribers) now visit social networks via handsets–the U.S. follows at 19 percent, or 10.6 million subscribers. Mobile social networking usage increased 249 percent in the U.K. in 2008, and grew 156 percent in the U.S. Nielsen notes that the most popular social networks via PCs and laptops mirror the most popular services on the mobile web–Facebook is the most popular in five of the six countries where Nielsen measures mobile activity, with Xing proving most popular in Germany. In addition to the mobile web and dedicated mobile social networking applications, users are also interacting with their social networks via SMS–according to Nielsen, at the end of 2008 almost 3 million U.S. users were texting Facebook on a regular basis. For more on social networking’s growth: – read this Nielsen report

Related articles: Social networking tops mobile search queries, Facebook in mobile social networking talks with Nokia

Other blog  comments: techblips, USA Today

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Tony Fish, a Board Of Intellectual capital member and Web 2.0 authority have recently posted a new entry on his blog.

“I met Susan Crawford when I spoke at Supernova 2008 and was impressed by her talk and passion for the idea of the One Web day. So, I have decided to support the idea of One Web day through our blog. If you are also interested in doing the same, please contact Susan as per her blog.”

Click here for more.

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At WWDC yesterday, Steve Jobs confirmed what have been rumored for a while – iPhone will support 3G, and prices will be cut. Starting at $199 for the smaller, 8GB version and $299 for the 16GB, color option version – iPhone is now destined for the broader audience.

With an open application environment and a clean business model – mobile content will now find its true audience through the unified window of iTunes. Offering a 70/30 split to developers, a open SDK and low entry fees for the firmware unlocking the phone – developers will have a chance at actually making money on mobile content.

Here is a good summary from NY Times from the WWDC

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