Monday, May 30, 2005

Say goodbye to Google, here comes the new web

You might think that I am crazy to say that it is time to say good bye to Google. However, think about it. How useful is Google really? When you think about it, there are many occasions when Google is probably not your best first option. Here are a couple of use cases where I think Google does not offer users the best experience:

Product search:
- Do you really use Google to search for products? Why? It makes absolutely no sense, except for habits or for being lazy. You should go to a major shopping site like eBay or to a shopping aggregator like shopzilla or shopping.com. These sites offer a far superior experience.

- What about facts and figures. Sure, you can and should go to Google if you are looking for obscure information but if you just want to know the population of Germany, go to Answers.com. It is a great answer engine that gives you the facts straight. No way to game / spam that engine with commercial results.

- What about travel? Here the Google equivalent is expedia. Why in the world would you want to go to Expedia? Sure, they might have the best brand and so for now it might still be top of mind. However, you would be far better of using a specialty search engine like kayak.com

What is my point?

First, the web is going to pieces. What that means is that it will become more and more fragmented with many wonderful sites at the long tail. However, what is needed is a much quicker, simpler, and easier way to find, and get access to these wonderful specialty sites.

This is what we are working on. Stay tuned to learn more. We will soon be launching our first new sites in beta mode any day.

Mike
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Skype seeing exponential and accelerating growth!

Here are some very impressive stats on Skype:







This is one hell of a trajectory that this company is on. So far, it does not appear to be slowing, despite the fact that Yahoo! and MSN are making waves about their enhanced VOIM product.

Well, time will tell if Skype can keep up. For now they are great. I cannot believe my other family members have yet to install this app. They are so frustrated from having tried Yahoo! and MSN in the past that they just don't believe that this actually works!

Mike
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Skype - building the standard of telecommunications

How is Skype going to fare now that everyone has decided to want a piece of the next big thing?
If you think about the online competitive landscape there are 4 major online players that will want to get a piece of this market:
1) MSN Messenger - just got enhanced VOIP capabilities
2) Yahoo! Messenger - just got enhanced VOIP capabilities
3) AOL - just launched a VOIP subscription service
4) Google - will likely want to round out product portfolio and offer IM, and VOIP in addition to email. After all, they are the only major player without a major desktop communication client

Vonage and the major telecom carriers. I think as of right now they are like the newspapers. They will not see the light of day until it is too late. Vonage? They are a hardware based vendor with a higher cost structure.

So, what about Skype? Can they go it alone? What other standars have been able to go-it-alone? The only application that comes to mind is PayPal.

So far, PayPal is on a roll in building the standard for online payments. However, there is a huge difference. PayPal really is going it alone, where as Skype has plenty of other competitors that offer PC-to-PC VOIP.

Granted, Skype is the only player that is offering PC-to-phone and now Phone-to-PC but for how long will they be the only player and is that enough? What else could give Skype a sustainable competitive advantage just like PayPal?
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The world goes gaga over Google

We are living in a momentum driven world. Why is it that currently anything Google does gets covered a million times with glowing reviews? Is it because people want a success story so bad? I guess everybody loves a good story but why loose all sense of objectivity?

Currently it seems that Google simply can do no wrong. Am I a Google fan? Yes, absolutely. I admire the company and the innovation it has unleashed upon the world. I love Gmail, I love Google maps, and above all I love the Google search engine. However, that does not mean that I love everything Google does.

It seems to me that currently they get applauded for doing anything no matter whether the product is great or poorly executed. After all, take a look at the GWA and MyGoogle. Are these breakthroughs? No by all means. They might be down the road, after all, we all know that Google does not stop innovating but they definitely do not deserve all of the attention they have been getting. Or if they deserve press, then it is negative and a critical look. Instead, the press is just nuts and gaga over Google.

First, GWA has some serious privacy issues and had a few defaults set that could disrupt whole web applications. MyGoogle, that is not even worth talking about. How hard is it to add a little bit of code and customization to a page? It is utterly unoriginal and yet it has gotten more press than most innovative new sites could ever hope for? Why? Well because it makes a good story. MyGoogle goes after MyYahoo! That is major news!

I guess at the end of the day, Google should try to milk its momentum for all its got. They definitely have an incredible PR engine. You have got to leave it to them. Congrats on getting applauded for doing something entirely unoriginal.
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

MyGoogle - Personal Google homepage now available

You can now access the personalized Google home page here:

http://www.google.com/ig

I am underwhelmed. I thought they would do something brilliant. This is unoriginal and not all that interesting. Hmm... is Google loosing its magic?
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Google expected to launch MyGoogle any second

Wow, this does not happen often. Google accidentally leaked information about a new product - MyGoogle.

Looks like Google is trying hard to make their site more sticky and drive users to their site for more and more occasions. I am going to bet that MyGoogle is going to be far better than MyYahoo!. I find MyYahoo cluttered and I am quite annoyed with all the online advertising on the site. In fact, I stopped going to MyYahoo! along time ago but MyGoogle might be a great way to navigate the net. The screen shot below looks compelling.

Darn, soon we have to ask what does Google not do. They are everywhere!






Source: http://www.pandemia.info/archives/2005/05/google_personal.html
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When (will?) Google enter VOIP race with Skype Yahoo! and MSN

First of all, I have to disclose that I am the biggest fan of Skype. They are the first true VOIP player that have delivered an awesome customer experience and I continue to be a huge enthusiast.

In fact, I think VOIP has huge implications. I have now benefited from the service for two years and it has saved us thousands of dollars in phone bills. In fact, at our startup we used to just rely on email and instant messaging until Skype came along. What a liberating service. It truly brings the world closer together.

However, Skype's success has not gone unnoticed. MSN beefed up its offering and Yahoo! just announced in a misleading way that they entered VOIP. Sure, they entered VOIP but it is really just VOIM (voice over instant messaging). That is great, good enough for me to use Skype initially but will it be enough to catch up?

Google had a lot of people at the last VOIP conference and I am wondering what they have up their sleave. They already entered email and are the only major player without an IM or VOIP client. However, how will they do? Do people want to create yet another buddy list? Google succeeded with Gmail because both Yahoo! and MSN stopped innovating their email applications. This can hardly be said about Skype.

If (when?) Google enters this space, and I am sure they will given the compelling strategic rationale, who will end up winning?

Can Google compete against a nimble fast moving startup? This is going to be an interesting race to watch. My gut tells me that Skype is going to do pretty well, however, they will need a big war chest and strong partners to survive a battle with Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, and the telecoms. Talk about a competitive market.

I guess that is what happens when hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake. The US telecom market alone (fixed and wireless) is already $200+B per year.

Mike
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Google maps - find cheapest gas in town!

Yesterday I wondered what other new types of sites would start popping up that combine some great information with Google maps. Today I found another site.

This one combines the listings from gasbuddy.com with Google maps. The site is VERY useful, especially in times of rising gas prices. You can very quickly pinpoint where the closest and cheapest places are to fill up around town. Amazing to see the difference in gas prices within just a few miles. Here is the link:

Cheap Gas Prices

Hopefully this can save you a few bucks or two. Alternatively, just get a hybrid and start saving big time.

Mike
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Google maps - clever site and brilliant marketing by Google

I thought this was pretty clever. Someone combined the Chicago crime reports with Google maps so you can see what crimes are being reported. You can browse by area, type of crime, date and hour. This could be pretty compelling for anyone moving into a new city.

I guess this shows one of the benefits of Google making their mapping engine easily accessible to developers. They can innovate much faster than Google can on its own. First we got craigslist plus Google and now this. I am sure there will be dozens of great new applications and sites emerging in the near future. It’s also a brilliant marketing strategy because Google gets a ton of free publicity that way. There are even sites devoted to spotting great images items via Google’s satellites images.

Here are the two sites:

1) Chicago

http://www.chicagocrime.org/2005/may/05/8am/

2) Google Sightseeing

http://www.googlesightseeing.com/

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It's a tagging world - Yahoo! News Tagged

I guess I did not promise too much when I said that we would be seeing more and more people playing around with tagging and tagging clouds. Today I found another site (Yahoo! News Tagged) that is noteworthy for a few reasons.

1) So far, most tagging sites rely on user generated tags. This one is fully automated
2) Via web services, greasemonkey, MySQL, and PHP, this developer was able to hack something together in less than 5 hours! Wow, that is impressive and shows how in Web 2.0 just about anyone can start to re-organize and present content in a new and creative way.

Well, I guess this is just the beginning. What is next?

Mike
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Tagging - Your are it! - When will it go mainstream?

Over the last few months, I have been doing a lot of reading and research about tagging and I am delighted to see that a group of experts has launched a new blog dedicated to the topic.

The blog is appropriately called "Your are it - a blog on tagging."

For anyone that wants to learn more and read more about the subject, I strongly recommend taking a peak. The postings are very insightful and the discussions and comments are very rich.

The more I read about tagging, the more I have the sense that we are close to a tipping point. So far, while tagging has been making the rounds with early adopters lots of people still ask "what is tagging?" I think this will change in 2005, for better and for worse.

1) I think tagging is truly coming of age and demonstrating that it is a great archiving tool for unstructured / user generated content.

2) Unfortunately, I think there will be too many people entering this space and like social networking before it, I think it will initially be over hyped.

In fact, this might already be happening. I cannot blame them because I have to admit that we are working on a few exciting new websites that will also take advantage of tagging among many other useful tools.

As the race to tag the web unfolds, it will be interesting to see how this space evolves before the dust settles. Fortunately, I get to work with a set of super bright and talented folks so it should be a fun ride.

Mike
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Monday, May 09, 2005

Craigslist - a future model of journalism?

There was much talk this week about craigslist moving into citizen journalism. If you want to see what Craig actually said you can find the info on his blog.

Regardless of what Craig decides to do, I think this is a tremendous opportunity for craigslist. After all, what better company is there to go after local journalism than the most trusted local community site on the net?

Craigslist has played a tremendous role connecting people in one local community after another. There simply is no better company than craigslist that can help us renew our interest in journalism and help us identify promising new local writers that are not afraid to report in a frank, honest, and open way with their audience. I personally would love to get my daily local news from craigslist.
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Del.icio.us and Flickr are demonstrating Live Chaching - The next big thing

Live Chaching is a major new trend that is about to explode.


What is life chaching?

It is a new trend that was just coined by Trendwatching. Trendwatching is a great site that is definitely worth reading and checking out. It has given me lots of ideas for new products and web sites.

Human beings are just getting started with collecting and sharing ever more content. As we approach unlimited storage (practically speaking) and ever faster access to the web from anywhere, sharing information is rapidly becoming main stream.

When you combine that with tagging, RSS, social networking, online communities, digital media, and user generated content, you have a lot of powerful trends that will drive significant innovation online. In fact, I would call that an understatement. What we are about to see in the next 5 years is going to be a huge shift on the Internet.

Stay tuned, if we are lucky enough we will get to be part of this next wave of innovation!

Mike

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Google web accelerator - the future of search?

Many of you might have heard or perhaps even tested the new web accelerator from Google (GWA). It is a pretty good tool and so far two areas have been largely discussed:

  1. It makes browsing faster for users
  2. It can crash web-apps that don't conform to all standards. This can be a big problem because the GWA might accidentally delete users accounts. Here is a great discussion on what to do about it. http://37signals.com/svn/
There is another less obvious reason why GWA might be a really big deal. To keep it's index fresh (blogs, user generated content, etc.) and to crawl more and more pages (the deep web) Google will need help. In fact, they need lots of help. They simply cannot add enough crawlers to both have a very fresh and a very deep index. That is why you see more and more specialized search sites (Feedster) etc.

So, what Google might be doing with GWA is enlist the masses to help them crawl. If millions of users start using GWA, this could give Google a big advantage to find out what pages people are surfing on, and what pages have changed / need to be re-indexed.

So, Google might actually be tapping into distributed computing as a competitive lever. That is a brilliant move. The other company that has succeeded with this is Skype. Perhaps Google is borrowing something from their playbook.

Here is a great article if you want to read more:
Google accelerates search

Mike
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Saturday, May 07, 2005

My first blog entry

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mike and I am one of the co-founders of MindValley. Vishen, the other co-founder, and I will be posting on this blog. Sometimes it will be me, sometimes it will be Vishen, and other times it will be the two of us.

Just so you know, this is going to be a very informal blog. I will simply write about whatever is on my mind. I will write about what is going on at our company, about some of the ideas we are thinking about and also about some of the trends online that I am following closely. Plus, I am going to write about how I am doing and my own experience.

So, we have a very casual atmosphere here. Right now, I am reading a lot about:
- Online communities
- Social networking and social software
- Tagging and folksonomies
- Online communication
- Online classifieds
- Blogging and the future of media

As you can see that it a big list and there is a lot of exiting developments. I have not seen the internet change this much in a long time. I think that we are at the beginning of the next big wave of innovation and hopefully, if we are lucky enough we can 1) take advantage of it and 2) if we are really lucky we might even play a role in shaping how the future Internet will evolve.

In either case, I am sure we are going to love the journey and enjoy the ride!

Mike

PS: A great place to stay in touch with what is going on in the valley is by checking out three blogs that I really enjoy. There are more but I will share those in a seperate post.

http://www.buzzhit.com/buzzblog.html
http://tagsonomy.com/
http://www.micropersuasion.com/

PPS: We have a lot of exciting projects under development and hope to be launching a couple of new sites in beta mode over the next few months so stay tuned for more!
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