Tag Archives: Yahoo

My Big Prediction for 2008: A Mid-Year Check-In

Will 2008 be the year in which we shift from the “walled garden” model of social networking to a more open and Internet-oriented approach of the “Social Web”?

That was certainly my prediction in a December, 2007 post, entitled Why I Love Facebook and a Prediction for 2008. What I said then:

Mark Zuckerberg and team have built a really great experimental testbed that shows us what can happen when you mash up applications and the “social graph.” When you bring who-you-know to a web application, it gets turbocharged and transformed. It’s so exciting to watch Facebook’s innovation, from the News Feed, to the F8 platform play, and now to the bold (albeit controversial) Beacon initiative.

But what happens as these ideas get turned into capabilities of the web itself, thanks to a combination of community efforts and commercial efforts like Google’s OpenSocial? Here’s my prediction: in 2008, we will see the true beginnings of the “Social Web,” as open and vibrant as when the first incarnation of the Web that emerged in 1994 and 1995.

In Internet time, that prediction was ages ago. Things have been happening so rapidly that I confess I missed the literal halfway mark. But before the month of July is finished, I thought I should take stock of my prediction and see whether I am likely to be proven correct (or whether I need to begin hoping for a year-end miracle).

So, what has transpired since my prediction? Here are some of the major milestones on the road from last year to the Social Web:

– January 3: “Scoblegate” kicks off the debate over who owns your friends list
– January 8: Google, Facebook, and Plaxo joined the Data Portability Working Group
– January 17: Yahoo! gave support to OpenID, a “massive win for the project
– February 1: Google launches Brad Fitzpatrick’s Social Graph API
– March 5: Google launches Contacts Data address book API
– March 19: The Economist makes opening the Social Web a mainstream topic
– March 25: Microsoft launches the Live Contacts address book API with Facebook
– April 15: Facebook totally “gets” the Social Web; becomes an “aggregator”
– April 24: Joseph Smarr articulates a comprehensive vision for the Social Web
– May 8: MySpace announces “Data Availability,” kicking off an “open” wave”
– May 9: Facebook announces “Facebook Connect,” saying “watch this space”
– May 12: Google launches “Friend Connect,” to “socially-enable” any website
– May 15: Joseph Smarr discusses Portable Contacts initiative publicly
– June 4: Yahoo! launches their address book API
– June 11: A “Social Graph Provider” was spotted in the wild
– June 26: MySpace ships Data Availability
– July 11: Joseph, David, and I launch Episode 1 of “The Social Web TV”

From my perspective in the middle of all of this is that the pace is picking up. I think all of the major players are now racing to “out-open” each other. Why? Because we’ve all see this movie before, and we know how it ends. And nobody wants to end up as the Compuserve or Prodigy of the 21st Century.

So, I’m cautiously optimistic that my prediction for 2008 will come true. In fact, I think the next few weeks will give us all a reason to believe. Stay tuned.

Also, if I missed anything on my list that you think is an important milestone, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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State of the Web 2.0 Union

Joseph Smarr and Pete Cashmore
Caption: Joseph Smarr and Pete Cashmore “Partying Like it’s 1999”

I’m back in the office after two action-packed days and evenings in San Francisco for the annual Web 2.0 Expo. It was a huge gathering at an historic point. Are we on the cusp of the open Social Web or the brink of a “nuclear winter” — or both?

I loved this quip in a piece by CNET’s Caroline McCarthy regarding a pre-launch startup, Chi.mp, co-hosting an open bar party with Mashable:

“Amid the drunken revelry and pulsing electronic music, one prominent tech-industry veteran at the party was asked exactly what Chi.mp is. ‘I’ll tell you what Chi.mp is. It’s venture money getting set on fire,’ the jaded observer replied. Surveying the buoyant crowd, he added, ‘This feels a little like 1999.'”

But over-the-top partying aside, the vibe for me was tectonic. I could feel the strain of enormous tension built up along the traditional intersections of the industry’s continents. Microsoft introduces and demonstrated their bold “Mesh” initiative, which pits their cloud computing against Google’s. Yahoo! announced a sweeping makeover as on open platform, but is fighting for its independence from an unsolicited takeover bid by Microsoft. Will Yahoo! have the time to see its open efforts blossom. And if they become a part of Microsoft, how will such efforts “mesh”?

Tim O’Reilly reminded us all that there is something really big going on, and that we should not get distracted by the business headlines. I found his talk inspirational, and I agree with his thesis that the Web, especially the Social Web, is a driver of change in human capability that will have as dramatic an impact as the development of writing or the creation of cities. “Are we done yet?” he asked the crowd, with the fervor of a preacher or Presidential candidate. “No!” came the response.

And in what was one of the most well-received talks of the Expo, here Joseph Smarr of Plaxo articulates with great clarity one area in which we clearly are not “done yet,” deploying a new service layer that will remove the friction of the Social Web:

Here’s one of the key slides from Joseph’s talk that shows the Social Web services layer that we believe is about to emerge:

Emerging service layer for the Social Web

I also had the privilege of having meetings with most of the big companies, and I heard things that would have seemed impossible even a year ago. The commitment to opening up, to open standards, like OpenID, and to interoperability, is really quite amazing. 2008 is going to be an historic year, for sure.

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Three “Data Portability” Related Events for Your Calendar

IIW 2008


The last year has been an amazing time for building momentum for the emergence of the Social Web. We’ve seen the “open” and “data portability” memes move from the periphery to the core, picked up by Plaxo, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Facebook, among many others. We’ve seen major advances in the embrace of open standards, including OpenID, OAuth, and microformats. And we’re also beginning to see a swell of public awareness and the stirrings of demand for users to have ownership and control of their data, and the freedom to take it with them, wherever they go.

So where do we go from here? And how can you jump in an help turn the vision into reality? My recommendation would be to add one, two, or even all three of the following events to your calendar:

Data Sharing Workshop, April 18 – 19 at the SFSU, Downtown Campus

Internet Identity Workshop 2008, May 12-14, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

Data Sharing Summit, May 15, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

Here’s a link for registration for Data Sharing Workshop and Data Sharing Summit.


Great things have happened at previous versions of these influential grass-roots events. Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington co-authored the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web for debut at the Data Sharing Summit, where the document generated vibrant discussion, conceptual buy-in from some of the biggest companies on the Internet, and a ton of signatures from the people who are working on the building blocks of data portability and the Social Web.

Bill of Rights

And to be clear, these are not stiff, formal, traditional conferences. They are all highly collaborative events, with no one setting the agenda except the interesting people who show up. I advise you to become a part of them if you are passionate about bringing about the open Social Web!

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Yahoo!, Where are You?

As the industry was shook by one earthquake after another (first Microsoft’s deal with Facebook, then Google’s OpenSocial move), many asked, “Where’s Yahoo!?” Well, it turns out that “where?” is an important question to the folks at Yahoo!’s Brickhouse. I learned about the impending news via Michael Arrington’s Twitter post this evening, which I saw in my Plaxo Pulse. Minutes later, TechCrunch broke the news about what looks like a very exciting and open play around geo-location APIs and services. This is, indeed, a critically important piece of the open social web. Will be interesting to see how/if it hooks up with the Google OpenSocial stuff.

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Facebook/Microsoft Deal Analysis: Part 2

The Wall

The talk around many water coolers today is of the “incredible” or “crazy” deal that valued Facebook at $15 billion. Yes, $15 billion — for a three-year-old company that is just hitting cash flow positive on a mere $150 million in revenue. People ask, “Does this mean we are now formally in a Bubble again?”

My answer is, “No.” Why? Because Microsoft is Microsoft, not a VC firm. Microsoft couldn’t care less whether their investment valued Facebook at $1 billion or $100 billion, because this wasn’t a venture capital investment decision for them. It was a purchase, not of a piece of Facebook, but of a very unique and strategically important asset — the run of ad inventory on the Facebook network through 2011 (minus some portion reserved by Facebook), plus some undisclosed amount of access to user profile data essential for “social targeting” of the ads.

There is only one Facebook, and somebody was going to end up with the exclusive right to sell its ad inventory and leverage its user data. In the end, it came down to a question of which of the three big players needed it most — Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo. It is not at all surprising that once the bidding got high enough, Yahoo got priced out. Nor is it surprising that Google stayed in until the end, ensuring that if Microsoft had stronger need to win, it would have do so at the highest possible price.

For cash-rich Microsoft (they have over $20 billion on hand), this was not a terribly costly deal. For their $240 million, they get something that just might help them leapfrog Google in battle for supremacy in the huge and growing market of online advertising.

Oh, yeah. And one more thing. By agreeing to a deal that effectively values Facebook at $15 billion, they have made sure that neither Google nor Yahoo will buy the company. All in all, I’d say a very smart play by Microsoft, and a very well played hand by Facebook.

And, no, we are not in a Bubble.

To read what I think are the implications for others in the space, like Plaxo and LinkedIn, here’s a post I did yesterday

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