Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Siri Semantic Search Acquired by Apple

While it was inevitable that someone would snag this great technology …

Siri and their Virtual Personal Assistant were just acquired by Apple. 

The acquisition  is being positioned in the trade press such as arstechnica as an attempt to compete with Google and their search capabilities including voice recognition.  But that is not where the huge value is hidden.  Siri’s secret sauce is determining intention, not the search algorithms or even voice recognition.

Siri uses artificial intelligence to determine intent.  Using semantic search a spoken sentence is parsed and context overlaid on the query to return not just a set of links but an action taken on your behalf.

For example “dinner for two on Saturday at 7 pm”  Would get you OpenTable restaurants near your current location which have availability on the upcoming Saturday.  If you added “in San Francisco” to your query it would have given you restaurants that meet the criteria.  With a couple of clicks to choose and confirm, you would have reservations set up.


Where do they go from here?

Apple almost inevitably buys technology companies to use the technology rather than as a blocker for others to get the technology. 

The V1 version of the product for iPhone is a fabulously usable product.  And the technology holds great expansion potential as more types of activities are integrated beyond the core services offered today – restaurants, movies, events, local businesses, taxis, weather, twitter, reminders, flight status, …

Siri had focused on just the mobile market with their targeted application, Apple does not have the constraints in capital or resources and can take this into the mainstream of their products.

Expect interesting developments.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Facebook Moves Outside the Walls

“the Open Graph puts people at the center of the web” – Mark Zuckerberg

Instantly Social, Personalized, Simple

During Facebook’s f8 keynote (Video Here) yesterday (April 21,2010), CEO Zuckerberg redefined the web as a single interconnected fabric of people, brands, and experiences with Facebook as the fabric which knits it altogether.

Facebook will offer social metadata for everything. This web-wide experience allows your social connections, likes, activities to come together in a new way which prioritizes semantic understanding and interconnectedness. Instantly social by sharing information about what my friends and others “Like” without requiring that I login or authenticate at any Open Graph enabled website, not just Facebook Fan pages. All of the information that I respond to increases the systems semantic understanding of me and the experience can serve up personalized recommendations and experiences. Simple interfaces for the user and simple code paradigm for the developer allows ease of adoption.

The relatively short and simple message will cause profound waves throughout the internet.

So what exactly did they announce?

Social Plug-ins

All of these are simple HTML, usually a single line of code that can be easily added to websites/blogs of even the non-tech savvy

Like button - built with the philosophy that if you make sharing easier and more people will share. This takes the “Become a Fan” of a Facebook page and replaces it with a “Like” button which is available across any enabled web page. I can see what other Facebook users and what my friends have liked when I visit a web page without needing to give that website any information about me. And when I hit “Like” my information, and my social graph is shared with the site. Semantic data about the site is shared back with Facebook and becomes part of what shows up in my profile and informs personal experiences for me.

Facebook Feed - bring your feed to another site

Recommendations - Personalized based on your previous Likes and your friends Likes

Login with Facebook – this previous functionality which many 3rd party websites had embraced as a low barrier to getting people to sign in. It was becoming a major trend amongst sites which require a signup. The new and significant improvement is the ability to now show friends who have already joined before asking you to join

Social Bar - one simple bar to rule them all. Locked to the bottom of screen, it gives you all of these new social features as well as chat

Open Graph

Protocol with semantic information

Objects which are liked are represented in Facebook with a deep semantic knowledge

Connections persist over time and are updated constantly

Graph API

Server side API has been significantly simplified from a developer point of view

This has been completely rearchitected for simplicity, stability, and the Open Graph

All developers need is a Web browser and cURL. Instead of archane code constructs there is a hierarchical web-style reference mechanism to find and retrieve information about a user. This API is extensible and as new types of ID’s are invented, the old code continues to work and it is just a new hierarchical reference.

Search across all public updates across Facebook

Call-backs create real-time awareness means that applications do not need to keep continually checking, they can get updated when changes occur.

Authentication is moving to the OAUTH industry standard.

Policy changes

Facebook also added one step permission during signup to ease drop outs and simplify how people understand and choose what they want to share.

Facebook has had a policy that external sites could not save Facebook user data for more than 24 hours. This was a serious impediment to using Facebook as the sign-in mechanism and inhibited productive usage of user data. This policy is now revoked (which brought cheers from the developer crowd). External sites can keep and use data which has been shared by the Facebook user. This will now drive deeper engagement without the need for incessant updates on their user data.

30 partners announced including (amongst others):

Microsoft for simple file sharing of Office docs

Pandora, iMDB

Yelp, CNN, ESPN,

Brett Taylor, former CEO of FriendFeed and now Platform Lead at Facebook, shared insights on social media networks gained from FriendFeed. They found that for FriendFeed the magic number of friends to discover on the service which turned a user into an active user was five.

When the way of discovering these friends was searching, browsing for them it was difficult to do. So they added Address Book importing and found that if folks did that, they most likely made it to the magic five. However there was a large barrier to entry to ask people to share that level of data with FriendFeed. Next they added in Facebook Connect and found that this was the secret sauce. Users which came in via that mechanism discovered their friends and were 2X more likely to become engaged. The barrier there was that coding for Facebook Connect was cumbersome and difficult. These new announcements directly address all of those issues.

Zuckerberg pointed out that your friends are already on Facebook, or soon will be. They have grown from 100M to 400M users in a year. They are seeing steep usage gains on the mobile front (and separate information released earlier shows that those who use mobile Facebook are their most engaged users).

The buzz on social media streams has been torrential I the last 48 hours. A small sample:

How Facebook won the web

Social: Universal Like Button Spreads Facebook Across Web - Advertising Age

Facebook May Not Be Skynet, but It Is Getting Smarter, and That's Bad for Google - Advertising Age

Ultimate Guide To 11 BIG Facebook Changes--And What They Mean

With Open Graph, Facebook Sets Out To Make The Entire Web Its Tributary System

Facebook Wants the Web's Default to Be Social - PCWorld Business Center

Zuckerberg: “We Are Building A Web Where The Default Is Social”

How To Protect Your Personal Information In Facebook (Privacy)

With Open Graph, Facebook Sets Out To Make The Entire Web Its Tributary System

Facebook Wants the Web's Default to Be Social - PCWorld Business Center

@Scobilizer: Like whoring has already started: this band giving away free album in return for a like

Brightcove Announces Support for Facebook's Open Graph and Social Plug-Ins

Levi’s Integrates Facebook Social Plugins into Online Shop

WSJ: Facebook wants to know more than just who your friends are...

HUGE insights on the future of the web from Zuckerberg's implications today at f8 conference

I Think Facebook Just Seized Control Of The Internet

Zuckerberg: “We Are Building A Web Where The Default Is Social”

Facebook Partners With Pandora For Social Music

Facebook's Open Graph Personalizes the Web

Monday, March 22, 2010

YouTube - Giving the People what They Want

Despite the overall impression of YouTube as the world’s leading source of cat videos (which it undoubtedly is) – the most popular content on YouTube is NOT UGC.  (note that this does not necessarily mean what is most viewed by overall category)
Take a look at this chart from Silicon Alley Insider.
Of the top 100 content most-viewed on a daily basis 78% is either Partner content or Pirated pro-content.  Only 17% is UGC.

This certainly meshes well with the aggressive push for content partnerships that we’ve seen from Google.   That push extends both into studio deals as well as plays for niche content from such varied sources as Univision, Bollywood, …
YouTube has also recently launched new initiatives with Filmmakers Wanted, and Musicians Wanted, which reach out to artists by providing a way for them to easily create custom homepages or channels and share in ad revenues generated by their content.
Their partnership with Sony and Universal Music Group on Vevo vaulted the neophyte site into a top 10 debut in streaming video sites.  Note that this was aided by the fact that Vevo content which was initiated from YouTube was counted as Vevo traffic.
Obviously YouTube is not resting on their laurels as the undisputed leader of online video and is continuing to look for ways to increase the value of the content that they offer up – both in the breadth of the offering and the quality.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Google Media Shorts February 2010

Rumor places Google in acquisition talks with Catch Media about their Play Anywhere ™ service which provides a cloud-based service for personal and purchased music which plays across, mobile, car, set top box, …


Is Google preparing to challenge iTunes in the cloud? | Media Maverick - CNET News

YouTube continues to improve stickiness is to automatically go into a playlist mode after you search for and start playing a video.  While you can opt out, it is likely that this will aid engagement.  Users can also add their own selections to the queue.

A look at the New Design

New YouTube Design Makes Everything A Playlist ...


According to Comscore,  Google has a resounding lead (26%) of total video minutes viewed. This is more that numbers 2-25 combined (22%) It is very interesting to note however that over half (52%) of video minutes are spent on long tail sites. This likely points to a fragmentation of sources for niche content.


Source: comScore Video Metrix


YouTube Safety Mode rolled out, allowing users to set the rating of the content that can be accessed.  If only it worked for offensive comments too.

YouTube, the G-Rated Edition - Gadgetwise Blog - 

YouTube Adds “Safety Mode” to Keep Videos PG -

In an interesting legislative twist, will governments start to hold the hosting service liable for infringement of the content that is uploaded by users? This would point to Google going after pirated content in a more aggressive way.

Italy preparing to hold YouTube, others liable for uploads -


There was a lot of blog traffic on Google’s announcement that they will offer Ultra-Fast Broadband to 50K homes. It is likely however that in this they can be taken at their word that this is to test services and to put some pressure on the infrastructure folks to rollout faster networks rather than a play to enter the broadband business.   It is certainly true that Google is not afraid to make moves which potentially antagonize their existing partners (Just look at Nexus One).

Google to Test Ultra-Fast Broadband -

Update: Google tell us they have no plans to build nationwide broadband network - Google Plans To Deliver Fiber-Optic Broadband Network To More Than 50,000 Homes -

Google Getting Into the ISP Business With Ultra High-Speed Network -

Google Buzz was turned on and promptly started a huge backlash as folks found themselves automatically friended. Google very quickly jumped on the concerns and has already released an improved privacy solution. The morale of that story is you can’t assume that everyone is as open to sharing details of their life with everyone.  This is just a small sampling of articles:

Google Explains How It Blew Buzz Privacy

Google Buzz Privacy Fixes Are Now Live For All Users

Dear Google Buzz: 4 Features You Need to Add Now -

Google Buzz: What It Means for Twitter and Facebook

Despite Mobile World Congress being during this timeframe, there was much less attention on the Android phones than there was on Windows Phone Series 7. One thing that did get press was the Android Multi-touch announcements

Motorola Droid's next update to be Android 2.1, includes multitouch browser

Nexus One Gets Live Phone Support, Sort Of -

Did Google Just Multi-Punch Apple In The Face?

Google Nexus One: Now With Multitouch -

A predication that “Mobile data traffic will roughly double each year from 2008 through 2012” and some thoughts on that that means for “unlimited” data plans.

Big Growth for the Internet Ahead, Cisco Says – GigaOM

YouTube Will Kill Flat-rate Mobile Broadband Pricing Forever

Depending on how you define success, YouTube’s trial with Movie Rentals for Sundance either “..definitely exceeded our expectations given all the barriers,” or “YouTube Users Pass on Paying for Movies” .  YouTube is currently expanding the rental program to take in a variety of niche content providers.

YouTube Expands Video Rental Program

YouTube’s Take from Movie Rentals: $10,709.16 -Bits Blog -

YouTube Users Pass on Paying for Movies

Some concepts for a Chrome netbook

Don’t Think Chrome OS Will Compete With iPad? Watch This Video.

A look at a mashup of Google Goggles image to text combined with Google Translate

Google Goggles Getting OCR Translations

Search results showed Google growing but slightly losing share to Microsoft

comScore Releases January 2010 U.S. Search Engine Rankings

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

YouTube pilots Movie Rentals

As predicted, YouTube is rolling out Movie Rentals.

Google is not afraid to experiment with business modes and indeed to make use of multiple revenue streams in the same content.  


Coverage from Mashable

‘The Google-owned video site debuted online movie rentals today on a very limited basis, allowing users to rent five different flicks from the Sundance Film Festival using their Google Checkout accounts. The company says “a small collection of rental videos from other U.S. partners across different industries, including health and education, will be made available in the weeks ahead.”’

Full article here


Coverage from NewTeeVee

“YouTube just announced on its blog that users will be able to rent movies from the site starting this Friday, but don’t hold your breath for streaming The Hangover anytime soon: The initial offering will consist of just five independent movies featured at this and last year’s Sundance Film Festival. The movies, which include the 2009 Sundance Audience Winner The Cove, will cost $3.99 a pop and are available until the end of Sundance on January 31st.”

Full article here