Posts Tagged ‘google’

What’s the benefit of merging your online lives?

July 25th, 2011

John Ason, one of our investors at SocialFeet, forwarded me this interesting link about the presentation that spawned Google+. In the post, Paul Adams explains the problem of how facebook’s social graph works. On Facebook, you have one pooled set of friends, regardless of what your relationship is with each person (shown on the left). In real life, you have separate circles of friends based on common interests, geography or life stage. Here’s the graphical depiction of it:

A lot of the innovative “circles” for groups on Google+ stem from this concept. Based on interest, geography and life stage, you have different circles of friends that you want to exchange different information with. Fair enough.

But embedded into Google+ is the notion that you want to have all of these circles on a single platform. But if this diagram is to be believed, each of these circles has little or no overlap. So what’s the benefit of merging your online lives?

In contrast, there are lots of costs associated with a single platform. Complex privacy. Harder to innovate in each specialized social network space. Greater exposure to the risk of privacy violations. In other words, I think that the very analysis done to spark Google+ has the data to show that multiple platforms will serve people better than one unified platform.

[Hat tip to Rebecca Tadikonda for the inspiration for the title of this post.]

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Google+: Does it have a shot at being successful?

July 5th, 2011

No doubt, Google+ is pretty slick, from a tech/UI perspective. It combines good elements from both Facebook and twitter, with a spartan google feel. It is powerfully integrated into google’s suite of products, like picassa and gmail. It is a major improvement over buzz. Google plus should get more interesting as more people use it.

Still, I think it may be too ambitious though, which will eventually cause it have unworkable privacy issues. They want to provide a master social network, which requires a complex, granular privacy model. They have created such a privacy model with the “circles” implementation of groups.

However, my thesis is that consumers will opt to belong to have 6-12 specialized social networks each for a specific content or activity vertical. For example, FB for photos, twitter for interests, linkedin for resumes, zynga for games, SocialFeet for commerce [disclaimer:I am a founder], etc. Each of these networks will have appropriate (but highly differentiated) privacy models, and users will basically adopt the default privacy model for each in a binary yes/no decision. As Fred Wilson blogs:

You either want to be totally public or totally private, but never sort of private and sort of public. It’s just too complicated to be semi-private. That middle ground is treacherous.

Could it be the one social network to rule them all? Fairly unlikely. My guess of what happens to google plus: it gets co-opted by some geography (like urkut) or vertical segment and becomes a niche social network of some sort that survives. So far, the most interesting segment is about google itself (like Sergey Brin’s kite boarding pics from Alaska) and the twitter-like public discussions.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out, especially as Google continues to experiment with social at such a large scale.

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How Facebook can attack Google’s Ad Words castle

March 25th, 2011

Bill Gurley has posted a great piece about Google’s business strategy that has turned into today’s “must read” post. In it, he accurately describes Google’s ad words as its “castle” and its open source strategy as its “moat.” Simply put, Google creates, supports and gives away platforms like Firefox and Android that enable Internet access in order to ensure its lead position as the default search engine everywhere.

As Bill rightly points out, direct assaults on Google by land look pretty hopeless. It looks pretty dark for direct competitors like Bing. It also creates collateral damage by destroying any business that wants to make money building a phone operating system or browser. But does that mean the castle is perfectly defended?

I believe that Google has a massive vulnerability, but it isn’t from a direct search competitor. Essentially, Facebook is substitute for search, not a direct competitor. As people discover products and services socially, they will go directly from intent to purchase–bypassing search entirely. This threat is not theoretical; indeed, one of customers at SocialFeet has truly zeroed its SEM budget in 2011. While dramatic, I think this move is a leading indicator of where smart merchants are moving. If so, this is very bad news for Google’s adwords castle.

This dynamic is an air attack, and Google’s castle, despite its incredible land moat, looks entirely defenseless against it.

1. technology , ,

The alphabet according to google

September 9th, 2010

Robert Scoble tweeted this: “Heh, @techcrunch’s @Arrington must be proud. If you go to and type “tech” it suggests “crunch.” #thenewSEO.” That got me thinking: what is the alphabet according to google?

So, here is the google alphabet as of today on my computer (while logged out of google):

a – aol (then amazon, aim, apple)
b – bank of america (best buy, bing, bed bath and beyond)
c – craigslist (chase, cnn, costco)
d – dictionary (droid x, dell, drake)
e – ebay (espn, expedia, eminem)
f – facebook (facebook login, fifa, fandango)
g – gmail (google maps,, glee)
h – hotmail (hulu, homedepot, hostop)
i – ikea (iphone, imdb, inception)
j – jetblue (jet blue, jfk, jersey shore)
k – kmart (kayak, kohls, katy perry)
l – lirr (lowes, lost, linkedin)
m – mapquest (myspace, msn, mta)
n – netflix (nj transit, new york times, nordstrom)
o – orbitz (oovoo, old navy,
p – pandora (paypal, petco, people)
q – quotes (qvc, queens college, quest diagnostics)
r – realtor (rite aid, run, radio shack)
s – staples (sears, skype, sprint)
t – target (twitter, td bank, ticketmaster)
u – ups (usps, utube, univision)
v – verizon (verizon wireless, victoria secret, vlc)
w – weather (walmart, white pages, wikipedia)
x – xbox (xm radio, xe, xkcd)
y – yahoo (youtube, yahoo mail, yelp)
z – z100 (zappos, zilllow, zip codes)
1 – 105.1 (1010 wins, 103.5, 101.5)
2 – 2010 calendar (24, 2012, 25 to life lyrics)
3 – 311 (30 rock, 3ds, 3m)
4 – 4chan (411, 4th of july, 4shared)
5 – 50 cent (50 cent weight loss, 500 days of summer, 5 guys)
6 – 60 minutes (6pm, 6th ave, 6 flags)
7 – 7zip (7online, 7chan, 7 eleven)
8 – 8 mile (80’s music, 800 flowers, 808 drum)
9 – 92.3 (97.1, 90210, 92nd street y)
0 – 007 (0, 02, 0-60 times, 06880)
@ – @kingjames (@font-face,, @bpglobalpr)
& – &nbsp (&lt, &, &hearts, &amp)
. – .net (.rar, .net framework, .mkv)
-,+,!,#,$,*+,=,{,},|,[,],\,?,/,<,> — “your search did not match any documents”

Apparently these results are supposed to be based on frequencies of past queries, with some sort of time element too, and surprisingly to me, your physical location. In other words, the alphabet according to google may evolve over time–a new element of the “google dance”.

Some quick impressions:
– don’t expect to win the letter “g” easily! droid x also looks like intentional self-promotion
– who is katy perry? what is xe?
– some interesting local results: mta, 1010 wins, queens college, nj transit, 6th ave
– potentially “dangerous” results: 4chan
– some shoutouts to competitors: bing, .net, twitter, facebook, etc.

I have to say that the feature can be a little bit distracting too, but I suppose that is part of the point. In any event, very interesting. Go to to check it for yourself, and please comment if you find anything interesting in your google alphabet.

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Will the US Govt support Google in its battle vs China?

January 13th, 2010

It is exhilarating news that Google is going to step up to bat against China for the case of freedom of information. I think that Jonathan Zittrain has a great take on the situation:

My hope, and expectation, is that Google engineers who might have been a bit halfhearted about implementing censorship mandates in could be full-throttle in coming up with ways for Google to be viewed despite any network interruptions between site and user. There are lots of unexplored options here. They’re unexplored not because they’re infeasible, but because most sites would rather not provoke a government that filters. So they don’t undertake to get information out in ways that might evade blockages. Here, Google would have nothing more to lose, so could pioneer some new approaches. Circumvention of filtering (or other blockages, for that matter) tends to happen on the user side of things, seeking out proxies like the Tor network, or

I love how Zittrain examines the situation from a strategic perspective, with moves and responses. I also find it provocative to consider what a massive organization like Google could do to help Chinese citizens workaround government filters.

But I think that Zittrain does not follow his chess game to its ultimate conclusion. If Google can help a large minority of Chinese citizens to get unfettered access to information, the Chinese government will press the US to enforce its policies. Presumably, Google can win the spy-vs-spy tech game with China. But China has a lot of political chips to cash in to try to win the support of the US government to rein in Google.

Already, the State Department is recognizing that this issue is extremely important (although they have not yet announced a policy or substantive statement). But when push comes to shove, will it support Google in its battle vs. China?

I certainly hope it does. Go google!

1. technology, 2. politics , , , ,

Insights by Hal Varian

February 3rd, 2009

McKinsey has published this terrific interview of Hal Varian, the Chief Economist of Google. (Why does Google need a Chief Economist and what does he do?!) The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ll highlight two quotes that I esepcially enjoyed.

First, he has a nice way of highlighting how digital distribution has reshaped the economics of intellectual property:

Back in the early days of the Web, every document had at the bottom, “Copyright 1997. Do not redistribute.” Now every document has at the bottom, “Copyright 2008. Click here to send to your friends.”

No longer is the Internet about ‘browsing alone’–the value comes the social activity of sharing.

Second, he validates my decision to go back and get a PhD (or at least the portion of the time that I spent studying statistics):

I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s? The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.

Unlike computer programmers (who are valuable for creating programs), statisticians are valuable not for creating new statistics algorithms but in the ability to apply statistical analyses to business problems.

I hope that Hal is right!

Via Aleks Jakulin

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