The last decade, 2000-2009, flourished with new content creation tools: blogging, tweets, videos, personal pages/profiles and many others. One thing that did not catch the speed of innovation on the content creation side is content discovery tools.
We are still mainly using Google's interface of search results to find stuff interesting. There were few tryouts for visualizing things differently but none of them prevailed. The feeling of something missing always happens to me when I try to look for some info on the web – If I dive shallow on Google then it seems like it is a topic never being discussed before but once you persist (and waste some good time on the way) things start to pop up.
The problem of content discovery lies on physical limitations of people's perception combined with the set of tools available today. Search results or category based navigation are only effective when they work on small datasets. Once the dataset grows beyond some limit they just don't help. You can see it while looking for an app on iPhone app store or when you try to catch up with tweets or news/feeds.
I propose to focus this new decade on Content Discovery:) Enough with new data, give me something to use what already exist since I do not care for more that is not "accessible" to me.
I have been reading about the whereabouts of News Corp., Google and Microsoft in recent two weeks and I noticed something weird happening here about but could not put my finger on it. To those who do not know the storyline here is a short description posted on Hitwise today:
Two weeks ago we posted on Rupert Murdoch's threat to block Google from Indexing News Corp. content. While at first it seemed as though Murdoch was merely posturing with hypotheticals, reports continue to indicate that News Corp. is seriously considering choosing Bing as the exclusive "indexer" of their news content.
At first I thought Mr. Murdoch was playing tricks on Google but when Microsoft entered the picture with their proposal to News Corp. to exclusively allow indexing of their sites on Bing only things got clearer. I am not talking about the not surprising tactic from Microsoft's arsenal but on a total different thing.
The new phenomena here is the change of balance between publishers and Google. The status que until today was that everyone just wished Google would index their websites and the more the merrier. Indexing meant traffic which summed up to more revenues from advertising. Industries has been created on this raw desire to be indexed on Google, for example SEO and SEM were millions of dollars have been poured into it. News Corp. as a big website with big assets understood that Google is no less important to them then the opposite.
I am not sure whether Bill Gates got it and talked to News Corp or the other way around (though it smells like Bill's way of thinking) but something has changed here.
Now that this has happened we can contemplate on few directions. For example what will happen if other websites will follow through and will deindex themselves from Google? And also is this happening because Google is no longer the main hub for getting users to websites where social bookmarking and tiny urls on twitter fill the gap? Is this the reason Google is developing operating systems to grab hold on users while they know they loose ground in the pure web market?
I think this is a serious topic for Google to think on.
After many long years of development to both MS Windows platforms and Linux platforms and especially lots of frustration in recent days trying to install/uninstall software on my WinXP to solve a problem I have few conclusions on proprietary vs. open source development.
One of the nice things about development in Microsoft world (or at least seems so until you get into trouble) is that everything wraps up so nicely as if you were in a candy store. There are very nice tools for development and there sophisticated mechanisms for code reuse such as DLLs and libraries as well as well documented APIs and examples. Microsoft as a sole owner of the MS Windows platform has created a complete eco-system of dev tools to enable you as a developer to rapidly develop your own applications. One simple MS-Windows application usually relies on many, many dependencies such as other products installed/service packs/specific operating systems/DLLs and actually when you wrap your application as a setup package you usually rely on these to exist in the target computer and to be (hopefully) compliant with your specific application requirements. To package all dependencies into your application is not relevant and some do package unique extensions that are required but most just deliver their own app relying on Microsoft to handle dependencies.
This mechanism works very nice in a controlled environment world where you fully control the setup of your test machines but once you go into the wild where the variety of combinations of configurations are enormous, things usually break. Especially after few install/uninstalls of few apps where each one leaves its trails of broken dependencies. Actually as I see it a MS-Windows PC that has received a normal "dosage" of installs/uninstalls becomes actually chaotic in terms of what is actually residing in it. Here the lack of awareness to what your application actually needs and depends on works to your worst.
On Linux/Open Source world when you develop you usually know what you are depending on and the approach is more minimalistic in terms of depending on too many components to already reside on the target computer unless it is a specific runtime platform like perl or python. This approach makes your dev/packaging process seem at first more "dirty" and requires hands-on experience but the end result is a way more stable deployment then what you could achieve in MS World. Usually install/uninstall of software on Linux does not affect the rest of the system and the instructions on how to make your software work can become very clear. This is attributed to the way Linux and open source in general has been developed by different independent minds who found an effective integration approach unlike MS "integrative" one.
I am not sure whether it is MS goal to achieve perfect automatic/transparent platform but still eventually the more hand-on approach seem to work better. This opens up some thoughts on APP store like approaches for iPhone for example where there a similar simplistic approach to handle deployment automatically is being taken. Currently in the App store frontier with the low amount of software packages and low complexity of available apps nowadays the problem does not seem to exist but still time will tell how it will deal with complexity similar to MS variety.
That is also why people like web apps a lot where no "apparent" setup happens though this environment goes also through changes that make it "stickier" to te target platform such as Google Gears and native code implementations. Actually within browsers the setup happens on demand and new code deployment happens automatically where dependencies are minor since the browser separates automatically dependencies between domains.
I found today a news on Cnet titled Ballmer dismisses Google Android where the content of the news item is clearly described in its title. This kind of titles always attract to read further since usually when Microsoft dismisses something, I believe that something has a great future. It is amazing that Microsoft's CEO still holds the same position of disregarding things he does not understand (and his own words – "I don't really understand their strategy. Maybe somebody else does."). As far as I remember the last time he did not understand what Google does with search, that was the day he lost the battle on the search field.
Later on there is also another "funny" quote of him in regards to Google and here it is – "If I went to my shareholder meeting, my analyst meeting, and said, 'hey, we've just launched a new product that has no revenue model!'…I'm not sure that my investors would take that very well. But that's kind of what Google's telling their investors about Android," – again, if he would raise his head, he would that most of the things google does are free so why does he think their shareholders would be surprised or non supportive. he might be reflecting his own shareholders attitude where they are use to revenue based product and that is actually where they fall short.
As for Android (although my case above relates to anything Microsoft dismisses in vanity) did he maybe think, it can be their alternative OS for MS Windows with one difference – free. I know it is for mobile devices right now and a bit limited, but well, all devices are becoming mobile and given enough time it will have a laptop version as well.
Google having their own browser is a move I did not anticipate and is actually a brilliant idea in terms of os replacement for other proprietary operating systems, hence microsoft. I think it will actually be very successfull for two reasons:
– being open source
– being powered by a web state of mind (and no one is such as google is)
The fact it is open source I think means a killer for IE since having one propietary browser and one open source (mozilla) is one thing. Having two major players with open source browser and one propietary means the propietary is bad.
As for myself, I think it means a big change in terms of web based application and their bright future to become the dominant development platform for new products and services. I find it hard to rationalize now developing platform specific applications while the ability to cross platform them is so easy.
Anyway, I am very glad on this. As for chrome, I played with that a bit this morning and after a while it stuck my laptop but I guess this is only early stage problems.
Google announced a faster browsing experience via their website – Google App Speeds Up Web Surfing. I was a little bit puzzled on why would Google do something like that while apparently it seems a solution for a non serious problem with some implications for user privacy.- An Ever Impatient Google.
If we look at it from a Microsoft – Google competitive point of view then it might reveal a little bit about Google's strategic intentions. Since the start of commercial internet, web applications regardless of the level of productivity they offer were always inferior to desktop applications due to lower response times as well as richness of UI. Microsoft as the main owner of the client side experience (browsing experience and the underlying operating systems) have always used this fact as a basic competitive edge (And maybe that is why Internet Explorer hasn't evolved so much) for deepening their foothold in every computer uses.
The gap of response time and application diversity is closing in and Google's effort to make this gap narrower or even reverse it towards their side creates a situation where users have a new alternative of Google applications vs. locally installed applications.
This makes Google, although not a "classic" operating system provider, a real alternative to local desktop computing power.
Update: Information on other posts on the subject siliconvalleywatcher.
Update: The Internet Stock Blogs discusses a counter attack from Microsoft The Browser Wars begin: Microsoft targets Google? (MSFT, GOOG) .
An analysis of recent moves by Adobe and Microsoft – NewsFactor Network – Enterprise – Microsoft on Collision Course with Adobe
"Still, Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia is most likely a pre- emptive move against Microsoft, said Steven Ashley, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. "
I agree with this observation. Microsoft Longhorn and Metro although being presented nowadays are subjects that Microsoft works on for a long time and Adobe is just responding. What I am missing in Adobe's moves is a move that will regain them control on an operating system or any underlying infrastructure that serves masses of users such as Google.
Duncan Riley write on Blog slayer: Microsoft and the future of SixApart about the threats Microsoft poses on standalone blogging platform companies; including potential threats. Although the post relates to SixApart I think it is relevant for any other company that provides similar tools.
Although a direct competition with Microsoft is probably not the most pleasant experience for smaller vendors:), especially when their PR drums announce a full blown charge on a new emerging market. Still, I think that automatically deducting from any new competitive scenario where Microsoft is involved a predictable end of story where the smaller vendor is the loser may not always be right. Even when contemplating on the lessons Microsoft and Netscape wars has brought us.
Today there are different variables that affect the current competitive landscape that didn't exist before, which in turn can lead to different outcomes.
A big difference in the competitive landscape is that blogging platforms and blogs reading software are tied in a loosely coupled manner unlike the strong link web servers and web browsers has. The competitive edge Microsoft had while controlling the browser (and its underlying operating system) as well as the server side no longer exists. Blog readers can consume content in many different ways. Blogs are read via different web aggregators, personal aggregators, iPods, mobile phones and other mediums that highly depend only on readers preferences.
Innovation in blog reading mediums is at high rates and will grow even higher thanks to the simplicity and accessibility of blog content. The lack of dependency between the client side and the server side makes competition less intensive and less critical even when Microsoft is your competitor. Actually it makes Microsoft a competitor that has to follow the same rules every other competitor works by and this makes competition more fair.
The loosely coupled nature of the RSS in general has been built thanks to many different factors, including way XML is architectured, the concept of web services and open source technologies and state of mind.