I had had the wonderful opportunity to address ForumOxford’s Future of Technologies conference at the University of Oxford yesterday, an event brought to life by Tomi Ahonen and Ajit Jaokar, and that is proving year after year as a fantastic forum for discussion, learning and networking.
The following are the slides to my talk there (yes, I kept the title image of a previous one I held but the deck it is a new one nonetheless). I hope you will enjoy it.
Everyone who is in London next week Monday and Tuesday should be checking in for the Social Networking World Forum and the Mobile Social Networking Forum, which are held concurrently at Olympia in London. Everyone from MySpace, Bebo, Sulake/Habbo Hotel via LinkedIn and Yahoo! all the way to Coca Cola, MTV and British Airways will be there, so should be interesting!
See you there? Ping me… Twitter me… Whatever works.
Another week, another carnival of the mobilists, and my post on mobile social gaming is amongst them. So go head over to Ram Krishnan’s Mobile Broadband Blog and read up on what else was hot last week!
Would you believe it? The marriage of what was seen only a short while ago as the quintessential businessman’s phone and the latter’s presumed opposite, the music-centric, young, urban web 2.0-type has is complete. I am talking of course of the Blackberry client of social network MySpace: only a week after being released, the two partners, Blackberry maker RIM and MySpace, reported a rather staggering 400,000 downloads of the application and, perhaps even more staggering, 15 million messages sent and received through it, accounting for 2 million status and mood updates (that’s an average of 5 for every user).
The stats in themselves are impressive. However, what it does show is that a) Blackberries aren’t only for the cold-nosed investment bankers anymore (or maybe those investment bankers now have the time to go off on a social networking frolic of their own) and b) social networks are not only for the wild at heart anymore (or maybe they never were but we only never realized behind those nicknames).
It might only be a footnote in the mobile applications space but it is a noteworthy symbol for those two things: both smartphones and social networks are very much mainstream. The always connected worlds of both smart(er) phones and social networks always were somewhat akin to each other: both grow in value when availability is pretty much always there. So this shows once more the power of the concept of contextual and relevant connection and connectedness. Hats off!
Here‘s a really good piece of analysis of the landscape of mobile social networks. I will not recount the findings in detail here but they reckon that the Internet biggies Facebook and MySpace rule the mobile social networking world already. MySpace is said to have had 1.4bn visits last month alone. Facebook also is beyond the 1bn mark. Impressive numbers! The largest pure mobile-play, Mocospace, a predominantly US-focussed company, recorded 1bn visits.
The article does mention GoFresh (with their ItsMy service) and Peperonity but fails to point out UK company Yospace who power the combined O2/3UK community.
Whilst the mobile-only players all point out that they’re not worried because their offering was better (“he would say that, wouldn’t he, your Honour?”), but advertising muscle may well be an issue: MySpace recently said that they would expect about half of their total traffic coming from mobile within 5 years, and reaffirmed that mobile is one of the most important strategic initiatives for MySpace. I am sure there will be loads of niches in the sector but the bulk of 1.5bn visits (probably steeply rising) is a tough proposition to beat when it comes to ad revenues!
I have been dealing with Jaiku and Twitter, the micro-blogging machines, a lot recently (see here, here and here). Today though, I stumbled across an article that put a rather different twist to it, and it makes you wonder… The piece is written by a mother of 3 daughters who tries to use Twitter as a mass communication tool (broadcast SMS) only to be utterly frustrated as none of her “super-communicating” daughters takes it up – too complicated, too onerous, too cumbersome, too – as one academic has it – surveillance-style.
Now, is that so? It would counter my (borrowed) argument of the intrinsic attraction of objects to social circles around such objects. It doesn’t seem to work with daughters though… Well, I wonder: The mom, a tech-savvy NY Times journalist, tries to put Twitter to a use, namely to shorten communication with her 3 daughters (no need to having to tell each of them – separately – that she is on the way to XYZ). However, the object of interest to each of the daughters is very different to the ones of the others (cardigan, pizza, shopping, …). So, no stumbling block after all: Twitter, et al are for people who group around a common object, which must be of common interest (e.g. the status and availability of black cardigans in the NY youth scene), not around one that only seems to be common (mom). Mom only happens to be at a point of interlinking circles, different objects that all touch her; she is not – at least not in the examples elaborated upon in the article – the central object herself.
Adoption-wise, this does of course not make things easier as the Twitters of this world need to migrate user behaviour: fans of Cheshire golf clubs or the NY indie music scene, Parisian vernissage goers and Seattle jazz fans will all have had ways to communicate prior to Twitter’s entry on stage; they need to be convinced that this is a superior tool to keep the community buzzing. And because there is slightly less vanity space involved (Twitter doesn’t allow you nearly as much room to put your wares on display), the communication bit must be utterly compelling to pull people across. It is the only USP the concept has. And this explains why the take-up is not as quick as for other social media: this is the raw core of it, and the simple truth is – as we know never simple.
I am hopeful though that they’ll find a way: object-centered sociality is the way!
A nice piece of rumour was brought out by the fine folks at MoCoNews: allegedly Nokia is in talks with Facebook to cooperate on mobile. And if this was not enough, there is also talk about the mighty Finns taking an investment in Facebook, and this would arguably be somewhat more significant (in cash terms at least) than the $10m stake the Samwer brothers of Jamba-fame acquired last week.
MoCoNews speculates that this could involve something as prominent as the YouTube button on the iPhone. This of course would appear to be a challenge given that most carriers will determine themselves what is and what is not on the handsets that are being sold through their retail outlets. But then Nokia has recently made strides on that front recently (as will be shown below).
A move with Facebook would fit in seamlessly with Nokia’s evolving strategy towards providing entertainment services rather than only being a hardware vendor (albeit the world’s largest by far with a whopping 38% market share globally): 2007 marked a year were Nokia acquired a number of companies and announced a number of initiatives and products that push the company way further down the service provision end than ever before: it acquired digital map specialist Navteq (Finland’s largest acquisition ever), bought the mobile marketing and advertising folks from Enpocket, it struck a content deal with Telefonica and another one with Vodafone, all gearing towards its comprehensive content offering Ovi (see here).
Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s multimedia guru, went on record in saying that the Internet will be the tool that will tear down the carriers’ walled gardens. He continues to preach his ongoing theme (I heard about this the first time 2 years or so ago) that carriers are no entertainment companies and should therefore not fiddle with content. That might well be true, I guess. Now, if it comes to the Internet opening those walls, well, Facebook ranks #7 on the Alexa traffic charts. And, distinct to the (few) higher-ranked sites, Facebook’s clean set-up and approach would seemingly make a conversion to (higher-end) mobile handsets easier than with, say, MySpace (#6).
Finally, Nokia tried to coin the phrase of “circular entertainment” (I blogged about it here where I mocked their “survey” approach) where they hold that, by 2012, 25% of all media would be created and consumed from within a circle of peers rather than from traditional media. If or if not the numbers were correct, the concept is very convincing (read e.g. Jaiku-founder Jyri Engstrom‘s rather insightful thoughts on object-centered sociality). Enter Facebook… ‘Nuff said, I guess…