Google Launches A Distributed Media Cavalcade

The entertainment industry has to date taken somewhat of a field of dreams approach to creating content – build it and they will come.

But Google, which up until this point has avowed not to be a content player, is taking a different approach that leverages its existing adsense infrastructure beautifully.

Rather than creating a new comedy series and hoping the audience will come, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has teamed up with Google to distribute his new comedy series exclusively via the web.

Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy will be syndicated to sites that are determined by the Adsense system to be the right profile for the demographic the series is targeted at. Cavalcade video clips, with a variety of pre-roll, banner and other ad formats will be streamed instead of static Adsense ads.

This Google Content Network is both a brilliant way of leveraging an existing infrastructure and a great example of a distributed content model at work.

[via NY Times]

Mobile Content World: Deer In The iPhone Headlights

This morning I attended the first day of Mobile Content World in Sydney.

It’s an interesting time to have the mobile industry talking about content in Australia, given the pending arrival of the Apple iPhone, especially since it will be supported by no less than three carriers.

The first panel session, after the usual keynotes, was a cacaphony of carrier reps. I couldn’t help feeling, that as much as they tried to stay off the path, they were deer in the iPhone’s headlights. The full browser experience is going to shake their businesses to their foundations.

As Google‘s Nick Heller pointed out to me in the break, they are experiencing 10x the amount of search queries via the iPhone compared to any other mobile browser. That is a significant difference and one that will radically shape the user experience and concomitant ARPU for all of the players moving forward. Walled gardens, however much players like Telstra try to argue that they are open gardens, remain… well, …walled gardens and consumers will leave them in droves for the open web.

The mobile browser situation, however, is far from settled. A case in point is the $13M in Series B funding SkyFire has picked up in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners to develop a downloadable browser to work across all mobile-device platforms.

This Mountain View company aims to replicate the PC experience on mobile handsets with an everything works mantra – Flash content, Web 2.0, Ajax etc.

Kleiner Perkins-iFund backed Pelago has also raised a $15M Series B to continue developing Whrrl, its mobile social network. MocoNews describes Whrrl as:

a mix between Facebook, City Search and Loopt. The social networking element is that you can share this information with friends, the directory part is that there’s a list of restaurants and events that your friends can rate and say whether they are going to or not, and the Loopt part is you can see what your friends are up to.

Clearly there is much afoot in this space. I’ll watch closely to see how the Australian carriers and mobile players shape up over the coming months as the iPhone permeates their ecosystem. Stay tuned…

[Picture courtesy of heritagefuture]

Flushing The Data Portaloo: The Looming Portability Squareoff With Users

How close are we to true data portability? It depends who is asking the question as to how it gets answered.

As one of the chief catalysts for the current wave of discussion and (some) action, Chris Saad, points out none of the current high profile implementations are completely true to the overall understanding of portability.

Writing on his blog, Chris sees Facebook Connect, Google’s Friend Connect and MySpace’s Data Availability as important first steps. They are the first shots across the bow to the industry that a data portability battle is coming.

That battle will involve a squareoff between the user: me, you – and the networks collectively.

I like Chris’s address book analogy:

DataPortability is about a different social contract – a contract more closely resembling the one found in the email address book.

My address book is my own. When you email me, or when you communicate with me, you are revealing something about yourself. You define a social contract with me that means that I can use your information to contact you whenever and however I like – I could even re-purpose my address book for all manor of other things.

If, however, you violate that trust, either directly or indirectly, you break the social contract and I will tend to not deal with you again. We can not perfectly engineer these sorts of contracts into systems – we can try, but in the end social behavior will be the last mile in enforcing user rights.

Also, the dichotomy between who ‘owns’ the data is false. In my mind there is shared ownership. While you use a service, it is a shared custodianship of the data. By giving the service your data you’re getting something else in return – utility. In many cases free utility.

You personally, however, have shared (and overriding) ownership over your data. This has been declared as universally true by all the vendors I’ve spoken to.

The question is not one of ownership though, it’s one of control. If you own your data but can’t control it as you choose then ownership is a mute point. Further, the question is not one of if you own it, but rather how much of it you own.

For example, do you own your friends profile data since you have access to it via the social tool you are using? Or have they only granted you access within that social context and under that social contract. These considerations blur the analogy of the purely personal address book.

So where does this leave us. The industry continues to engage in discussion and analyse the meaning of both data portability and the current implementations. As long as this dialogue continues the looming squareoff will remain just that – looming. We are in a honeymoon period in which users are coming to grips with their rights and freedoms and comparing the various networks to determing whether and to what extent they are being violated.

For now, data portability continues to have relevancy and I do not believe our rights have been flushed away. However, I would encourage all players to listen very carefully to the conversation going on.

As I’ve said many times: the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away – and it can do both with blinding speed. This is especially relevant for Facebook, given the current meme around its intentions started by Umair Haque.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble has a sound analysis of the situation, after an initial misunderstanding on his part. Have a read, the best part is him putting his participation on the Gillmor Gang on mute, having a shower and then coming back on the show. I know it’s been hot in the Bay area the last few days, but this is hilarious and about all the GG seems good for – cooling off.

[Picture courtesy of willgrant]

Metarand Unplugged: Chris Saad Evangelizes DataPortability

Chris Saad, the CEO of Faraday Media and a Co-Founder of the DataPortability Group, talks about the Group’s journey over the past few months…from logo wars through to an impressive impact on the technology majors like Google and Microsoft.

We also asked him about the amount of time he is spending on DataPortability versus his other projects and he gives a hint of some interesting Faraday developments.

Lastly we discussed how the mobile landscape interfaces with DataPortability’s roadmap.

Stream the session in Quicktime:

Click here

Facebook to rename as Openbook?!

Facebook has made its move in response to Google’s Open Social by offering up its platform for other social networks. Bebo has adopted this and I suspect there will be others who will follow suit.

This may prove to be a catalyst for getting Open Social up and running – so far it has been a bit of a damp squib.

More coverage on these and other “Openbook” endeavors can be found here and here.

Always On Virtual Worlds: Mobiles to increase presence

Chris Sherman Joey Seiler over at Virtual Worlds News has written an insightful piece about how the virtual world arena will intersect with the world of mobiles.

The vision of always on, ubiquitous virtual worlds is a compelling one and will make itself known through what I call the QuadPlay — web+mobile+virtual+real world. Think real world map overlays, sensor networks and embedded systems and you will begin to see the future in this area.

For now though, I point to Google’s move onto the mobile stack and the interest being shown by companies like Alcatel, Cisco, Qualcomm and IBM and as I commented on Chris’s article: it’s not too much of a stretch to see these guys making a play for embedded virtual world/gaming capabilities on mobile handsets in the next now.

Google set to outopen in face/space race

Application developers are the clear winners of Google’s pending release of Open Social.

Richard MacManus explains:

Open Social is a distributed social network framework…a ‘third place’ of social networks…a set of three common APIs that allow developer to access the following core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (News Feed).

 The following companies/social networks have apparently signed up to be a part of Open Social – Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, Orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce and Viadeo.

So far a bunch of  Facebook app developers, including Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide, have also signed up.

Richard rightly points out that this is an example of Google playing to its strengths – namely creating a distributed system and owning a chunk of a space through its own platform. It will be interesting to see how Facebook and MySpace react.

While some commentators are expressing doubt that they will come to the party, it is possible that this move by Google will lead to some de facto standardization across open APIs. Standards would assist app developers greatly by reducing the friction inherent in mastering the intricacies of every set of open APIs and should lead to a much wider distribution of apps across various social networks.

Om Malik feels that Open Social is attacking Facebooks achilles heel – its quintessential closed nature. A standardised Social Networking Markup Language far outweighs a closed Facebook-only ML.

Hedge Fund 2.0 – what’s the footprint of a next generation fund

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Paul Kedrosky commented that “hedge funds are the new software companies”. It’s certainly no stretch when applied to funds like DE Shaw. They have computer scientists beavering away on new algorithms to drive their investment methods. They opened up a VC arm (operates out of Apple’s old offices in Cupertino). But is this enough?

Should hedge funds expand their opportunism – the analogy is the Facebook “fund” that Accel is participating in. Would a hedge fund that allocates a small team and capital towards a Web 2.0 Platform “fund” clean up the space (given the alleged expansion of Google into opening up its platform the space will grow exponentially).

Should hedge funds invest even more into tech development – for example would a hedge fund with order of magnitude better machine learning algorithms be able to steal a march on competitors?

[Picture of Wall Street courtesy of Stuck in Customs]

Google Seeks Your Attention, Or Does It?

attention-on-flickr-photo-sharing.jpg

According to an unverified, leaked Google video, the search engine giant’s Reader product is intent on recommending feeds to users based on their other activities and previous subs.

Attention economy advocate, Chris Saad, has weighed in on this development here.

While this remains a “purported” move on Google’s part, it would not surprise me at all. Leveraging attention data has been on the cards for a while now. The key moral question remains: will the world’s corporates and, eventually, governments use it for good or as a way of shaping perceptions.

Anyone who has lived through an oppressive regime will readily understand the slippery slope.