Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Google Goes Open Social

John Battelle appears to have scooped Google by releasing a draft of Google's Open Social press release. Google Operating System gives a pretty good rundown of what it's all about so I won't rehash that here. What I do think is interesting is the defacto social network that Google's just created.

The launch partners (Orkut, Hi5, Ning, Friendster, LinkedIn, ...) are an impressive collection of social networks that aren't Facebook or MySpace, but the biggest launch partner hasn't been listed.

Google already has a massive social graph, it's all your contacts in GMail and friends in GoogleTalk. Google already uses this social graph to show you a news feed created by your 'friends' in Shared Stuff. Google have said that the GMail contact manager is going to be migrated into Google's other services, and your Shared Stuff profile has already been re-used in Google Maps.

Now we have Open Social, and it doesn't take too much imagination to see iGoogle supporting Open Social widgets. Suddenly you can create an iGoogle tab that displays Shared Stuff feeds and Facebook style social apps that use your GMail contacts as friends. Want to know more about a friend? Just view their 'social profile', and with Open Social you've got a world of 3rd party developers ready to go.

Without having to release a 'new' social network Google already have. Friends, profiles, social apps, picture albums, news feeds, IM, inbox messaging -- just by adding a social layer on top of their existing properties, Google has scooped Facebook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Could Facebook Hitting Critical Mass Lead to a Meltdown?

Having your siblings friend you on Facebook is one thing, getting poked by your parents is something else.

Then your boss comments on your weekend activities and Facebook's ubiquity gets a little creepy. It's not a new observation, people have been bemoaning Facebook's lack of domain separation ever since the platform expanded from college kids to the general public. It was then that the aforementioned co-eds realised their booze fueled girls-gone-wild party-pics might not play so well when they got friended by the CTO at their graduating 'first choice' investment bank.

Clearly just not friending these people won't work -- the solution, of course, is silos -- an invisible barrier that lets you put each friend in the right bucket. Friend. Family. Workmate. Then each posting / app / status update only gets pushed to the people who should be seeing it. It's perfect but it also adds complexity. Facebookers rarely go to the trouble of rotating portrait photos in their photo albums, you think they're going to think through the implications of each status update and photo post?

But what's worse than information leakage? Your mother uses Facebook. That's not just an insult my friends, that's death for any online application that values 'cool'. Trendy stores keep unwelcome adults out by playing loud obnoxious music and strobing their lights in a way sure to induce seizures in anyone over 30. MySpace works pretty much the same way. Part of Facebook's problem is its elegant design, the same feature that has helped its monumental growth may now be encouraging too many people to join.

How long before the sheer uncoolness of a social network your parents are part of and your boss reads daily leads hipsters to seek out a less 'parent friendly' alternative? Then again, the propagation of vampire-werewolf-ninja-pirate 'apps' might be enough to distract nosy parents and employers from the incriminating kegger photos.

Facebook wants to win market share from LinkedIn, but maybe we'd all be better off if our social networks and professional networks kept their distance.

It's hard to argue that a social network's astronomic growth is a bad thing. But how Zuckerberg and his increasingly talented team are going to deal with these issues should be of supreme interest to those looking to invest in Facebook's estimated 15b valuation.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Anyone for Cricket?

Both forms of the World Cup are over and the Northern Winter looms over Great Britain. But for those of us you a little further South, a sensational summer of cricket is just getting started.

Domestic competitions have kicked off in Australia, South Africa, and The West Indies (and starting soon in Pakistan); and one-day and test series are already underway in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, and Australia. With so much cricket spread so far around the world, what better time to launch a mega cricket maps mashup?

Live Cricket Map
See exactly where every game is being played with links to live ball-by-ball commentary.

Cricket Calendar Map
Shows you all the upcoming cricket fixtures, mapped out around the world.

Cricket Venue Map
Find out more about cricket grounds around the world. These lists are updated and growing every day as we get more details about more grounds around the world. Want to help? Send us the details on a ground near you.

iGoogle Gadgets
All the cricket-map goodness in convenient gadget form. Add the Live Scores Map Gadget and Cricket Schedule Map Gadget to your iGoogle homepage.

Hit for Six was written entirely in the Google Mashup Editor with data coming from Dapper, Google Calendar, and Google Spreadsheets. It makes use of a few cool new GME tricks (like real-time geocoding) so I'll write a follow up post early next week explaining some of the tricks I learned putting it together.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Google Finance Gets More Financials

As of this morning Google Finance is providing price information (including pricing graphs) for stocks listed on the Australian (ASX) and New Zealand (NZX) stock exchanges. Great news for market sleuths in the Great Southern Land (and its neighbor).

This comes a week after Google Finance started providing real-time pricing information on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges in China.

Google Finance still lags a little behind Yahoo Finance, both in terms of global coverage and userbase; but these updates, and a promise of real-time updates on the US exchanges as soon as the SEC gives them a green light, suggest they've not given up the chase.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Google Updates Its Mobile Offerings

While we're yet to see a real-life GPhone, Google's mobile development team has just released a flurry of updates.

Monday saw GMail for Mobiles get bumped up to version 1.5. The shiny new version is 30 to 80% faster, lets you save drafts, and supports GMail keyboard shortcuts. The most impressive feature in the new version is a 'Contact Manager'. It displays your contacts' GMail pictures and their (click-to-callable) phone numbers -- as well as email addresses of course. Download on your phone from

Saturday saw Google Maps for Mobile get tricked out with version 1.6, with the bonus of native app support for the S60 OS toting crowd (Nokia, SE, etal). This is particularly cool as it provides GPS support for S60 phones (like the Nokia N95). Other updates include a touch-screen friendly zoom in / zoom out and menu options.

Today we get to view our Google Docs on our phones as Google release a mobile friendly view of Google Docs. Google Blogoscoped has the scoop, but in a nutshell mobile Docs supports a read-only view of both documents and spreadsheets (no presentation view yet).

We've now got Maps, GMail, Docs, Picasaweb, Reader, iGoogle, News, and Calendar all available on our mobiles. GPhone or not, Google is serious about moving to the mobile.