Monthly Archives

April 2008

Twitter has 1+ million total users

By | Blogging, Social networks, Social software | 7 Comments

Techcrunch reports the following March stats for Twitter:

  • Total Users: 1+ million
  • Total Active Users: 200,000 per week
  • Total Twitter Messages: 3 million/day

These are apparently not official figures, but they are consistent with the rumours I have been hearing.

I’m a big Twitter fan and it is one of the few services I use every day, but given all the hype and the rumoured $15-20m new round of financing I have to say these are not big numbers.

Berners-Lee on the new-new-thing

By | Entrepreneurs, Innovation, Venture Capital | 6 Comments

In a week where we have been talking about the New-new-thing it is good to see Sir Tim Berners-Lee chiming in with his thoughts on the future of the web – courtesy of the Beeb. Like most of us (I suspect), he thinks that the internt driven wave of innovation still has a long way to go and that the web is “still in it’s infancy”.

His thoughts on the future are a bit higher level than those I made yesterday and so not very helpful from the practical perspective of figuring out where the next hot startups will come from, but if anything resembling his vision comes to pass there will have been a lot of innovation and successful companies created on the way.

For him:

What’s exciting is that people are building new social systems, new systems of review, new systems of governance

and:

My hope is that those will produce… new ways of working together effectively and fairly which we can use globally to manage ourselves as a planet.

VRM – requirements of a good service

By | VRM | 8 Comments

For a reminder of why marketing is broken and a detailed set of requirements for a good VRM service to fix it check out this post from leading European VRM thinker and practitioner Iain Henderson – Hard Re-set Required for Direct Marketing to Re-invent Itself.

In summary Iain argues for total control of customer data by the customer, 100% opt-in, and control of when, where, and how advertising messages are received.

The New New Thing

By | Casual Games, chris anderson, Entrepreneurs, Innovation, Music, TV, Video, Virtual Worlds | 14 Comments

Last week Jeff Nolan wrote a post entitled Incrementalism and “The New New Thing” where he bemoans the lack of true innovation and the state of venture capital generally. He is talking about Silicon Valley, but what he writes applies equally over here in Europe.

He correctly observes that a lot of money is still flowing into startups, and that too many of them only offer incremental improvements on what already exists. He is on the money with the belief that incremental innovation is rarely a sufficient foundation for a big new business. In his own words:

As I survey the landscape of consumer- and business- focused software and  service providers I am struck by how much incrementalism there is at the moment. Something like Twitter is ground breaking in terms of breakout adoption, but what about the other 10,000 startups? There are few bold “aha” ideas, lot’s of social “-this or -that”, and mostly a bunch of companies hoping to draft on the perceived success of a few gorillas. Will we suffer through yet another “Year of the Mobile Web” or “Year of the Semantic Web”?

He then goes on to draw a couple of conclusions I don’t share. First:

What is coming to a close is the notion that all online services need to be free and paid for with advertising; there are too many startups that are dependent on a business model that has yet to prove itself for tech companies.

I agree that there are many web businesses with advertising models that will fail, and probably more of them than we had when semiconductors or enterprise software were the big investment themes, but that is because barriers to entry are really low. It costs next to nothing to get a web business started and it is getting cheaper by the day.

So the higher than normal number of startups doesn’t cause me to fret about the health of the ecosystem. Nor would I say we are reaching the end of the line for ‘ad-supported’ as a business model. Online advertising is still growing at double digit rates, and whilst innovation in that market is required I think it will continue to thrive, and the best web businesses will succeed on the back of it. (Although I also expect that innovation in business models will become more important as the trend towards free accelerates.)

Second:

What’s frightening is the inability to answer the basic question “What’s next?” The Valley thrives on “The New New Thing” (possibly one of the most poignantly titled books ever) and with every turn of a generation, there is an awkward moment where we’re just figuring out where we’ve been but have yet to see
where we are going… Right now is that moment.

Knowing what is coming next is always a difficult business, but I am more sanguine than Jeff on this point. When I read the paragraph above I asked myself what it was that excited me at the moment and the answers all had the common theme of entertainment. Regular readers of this blog will know I am into virtual worlds, social games, music and online TV. All of these areas are about delivering new or enhanced forms of entertainment via the web.

That is the path I think we are headed down at the moment, and we are still nearer the start than the end.

Yahoo! moving to single profile – and everything goes social

By | Content, Facebook, Social networks, Social software, Yahoo! | 4 Comments

In more stuff from the Web2.0 expo Techcrunch reported Yahoo!’s announcement that they will integrate all their services to be accessed via a single unified profile, and that they will make everything social.

For me this is a big deal – if you have one profile, you have one friends list which suddenly means everything can go social. 

The awesome part of that is that suddenly what my friends do can help me figure out what I want to do, across a whole range of services – from reading blogs, deciding what music to listen to or films to watch, or where to go on holiday.  That is what a single profile used across My Yahoo!, Yahoo! Music, Yahoo! Movies, and Yahoo! Travel could do. 

Plus they will be fully open to third party services, including making user data available.

I also like that they will be able to work out who your friends are
from Yahoo! Mail – the social graph derived from who you email is much
richer than anything Facebook has.

As Ari Balogh, Yahoo! CTO, says in the video on the Techcrunch post the social dimension adds community, relevance, and virality.  I agree, that is why I think it is so powerful.

It will be interesting to see if they get it right though, because I think the user interface will be very tricky.  There are two sides to this issue:

  1. Privacy – I need fine grained control over which parts of my activity are exposed to which of my friends, and
  2. Information overload – I will want an equally fine grained control over which parts of each of my friends activity goes into my feeds and filters.

That means we need a more sophisticated notions of groups than we have seen to date and then a way to set topics against those groups.

For me that would mean defining groups for family, friends and work – with some people featuring in more than one group.  Then I might share all my photos with the family group, some with the friends group (I don’t want to overwhelm them with the baby pics…) and probably not too many with the work group.  I’d share my music and videos with anyone who was interested, and pretty much the same with my blog reading and general web surfing, although I would need to be able to remove stuff from my history, so for example it isn’t obvious to the whole world when I’m about to make a new investment, or sell a company.

Then, to the second point, I want to be able to say ‘ignore everything apart from football’ from friends I put in a ‘football group’, select friends with similar taste in food to drive the relevancy of my restaurant choices, and so on.

Those are some pretty significant interface challenges.

The other obvious point relates to open-ness.  I don’t use many Yahoo! services right now, and I’m unlikely to switch en masse to their stuff, so unless they are as open as Ari claims they will be, and that open-ness is reciprocated by other services I want to use, then it may never get off the ground.

Exciting stuff!

Venture investment in Europe holds up

By | Entrepreneurs, Venture Capital | 9 Comments

The following data is courtesy of James Brocket of Headhunters CallibreOne. They do a lot of work for VC backed companies and compile stats on activity in the sector:

  • More venture capital was put to work in Europe in Q1 than ever before – the $1.3bn total was way higher than the previous peak in Q107
  • UK was leading the charge with $592m of deals – which is more than the previous three quarters combined
  • The average deal size for Europe broke $10m for the first time – largely on the back of some big deals in the UK, including $100m in Spinvox
  • The average deal size in the UK was $11.9m which is higher than the US figure of $11.6m

Facebook maturing as a platform

By | Casual Games, Facebook, Social networks | 12 Comments

I was pleased to read on Techcrunch yesterday a report on the the Web 2.0 Expo entitled Facebook Platform Faces Rough Road Ahead, Despite Successes – it is good to see some reality kicking in.

It seems the conference is concerned about the fading performance of early star Facebook apps (e.g. Zombies) and by the way that Facebook is cutting back on application spam:

The panelists also agreed that Facebook’s recent moves to block viral distribution channels have made life harder for the developers of low engagement apps such as Slide’s FunWall. These apps suffer most because they depend on Facebook’s viral channels for their adoption, having given users little reason to invite their friends proactively.

Rather than being concerned, I see this as a positive development. As any user of FB will know invite spam was ruining the experience and low engagement apps are by definition not that interesting. In a sense all Facebook is doing is demanding higher quality apps from developers, which is obviously a plus for the overall health of the platform.

The panel also made this point, although in a slightly different way:

In the long run, more engaging apps such as Scrabulous are set to do better not only because they attract more dedicated users, but because they  rovide better opportunities for direct monetization, even if their CPMs are also quite low. Ravikant made a point to say that travel, dating, book, and game-related apps have the brightest futures whereas “everyone else is kinda screwed”.

I think what we are witnessing here is Facebook growing up. The future of Facebook apps, and probably the company itself depends on our collective ability to produce the kind of high engagement apps that will keep us all coming back for more. The bumps in the road are a by-product of FB’s recognition of this point. The flip side of encouraging high engagement apps is penalising low engagement apps.

This analysis applies equally to all other horizontally focused socnets – and, as I’ve said before, I think this is why they are all embracing open strategies.

One other piece of (potentially) interesting information in the Techcrunch post is predictions of revenues to Facebook app developers this year. They ranged from $10-100m+ – i.e. not much (particularly in light of Slide’s $500m valutioan). Further, as RealityCrunch points out “when people are trying to convince you there is money being made, run the other way”. Note though, that these predictions are focused on low engagement apps as the higher engagement apps are still new to the scene.

State of the nation in social media

By | Social networks, Social software | 8 Comments

Check out this deck on Slideshare for an awesome update on where we are in social media. Here are some of the headline stats:

  • 57% of internet users are now part of a social network
  • There are now 184M bloggers worldwide
  • 72% of “active Internet users” (or 346M worldwide) regularly read blogs (up 20% in two years), with 22% reading a blog every day
  • 80% of active Internet users regularly view video clips online (394M worldwide), up from 30% in Sept 06, with ~ 22% viewing online video daily?

And a couple of interesting nuggets about Europe:

  • The UK is the most active blogging country in Europe, from a reading (17.8m Brit’s read blogs) and writing point of view (4.3m Brits write blogs). I was surprised that France didn’t come out on top.
  • There is a similar story on social networks

Finally, they call the big trends for 2008 as:

  • Niche social networks (roll on WAYN),
  • DIY socnets (a la Ning),
  • Reputation management
  • and finally social network aggregators (like FriendFeed)

Credit to Bill Bryant for the pointer.