Hyperlocal Websites

The New York Times writes:

Across the United States, citizen bloggers and deep-pocketed entrepreneurs are creating town-specific, and even neighborhood-specific, Web sites where the public can read and contribute items too small or too fleeting for weekly newspapers. Suburban towns across the greater New York area are joining in, giving residents a new way to avoid traffic snags, find a lost dog or just vent about a local hot-button issue.

It replaces the guy from 200 years ago who rang the bell in town, said Chris Marengo, a lawyer in Pleasantville, N.Y., who visits www.Pleasantville.AmericanTowns.com every few days to stay abreast of local events. Its as provincial as it gets.

Search and Clustering

Alex Iskold writes about Clusty and its search clustering technology. He starts by discussing what is perfect search.

It is interesting to ask: What do we expect when we enter a term into a search box? Ideally, we’d like to get the perfect answer right away. Often, we have an idea what that perfect answer should be, and when computer does not get it for us we are disappointed. But are we being reasonable? Can we expect the “perfect” answer all the time?

Consider for example, our interactions with an Information clerk at the mall. When we ask for a location of a store, she may or may not give us the “perfect” answer. She might not know where this store is, she might not understand us or we may not understand what she said. So for many reasons we may not get the “perfect” answer right away.

What is qualitatively different between our experience with the Information clerk vs. a search engine is that with the clerk we have a dialog. When she does not understand what we asked, she has a chance, to say Excuse me, what do you mean?. Google does not do that, it just gives us the results. If we do not like the answer we have to start from scratch.

The problem is that human interactions are fundamentally iterative, while our interactions with computers are mostly stateless. Perhaps we could get to the perfect search results if we could have a dialog with the computer? Clustering technologies, particularly the one offered by Clusty, give computer a chance to clarify: Excuse me, when you searched for Alex Iskold, did you mean to look for Read/Write Web or AdaptiveBlue or perhaps you where looking for static analysis tools that Alex worked on while at IBM?.

The Venice Project

WSJ writes about The Venice Project (now called Joost):

“The Venice Project,” promises to let users watch professional video such as TV shows and movies whenever they want on their personal computers with better image quality than many popular video sites. The free offering combines elements of traditional TV, such as channels that users can flip between, with Web functions such as chatting between users and keyword search for programs that consumers can then pull up on demand.

“We want to merge the best of TV with the best of the Internet,” says Mr. Friis. The Venice Project’s chief executive, Fredrik de Wahl, says its aspirations are grand: “We’re going after TV-like audiences on the Web.”

Like TV, the service will be financed by advertising that will be shared with the video-content owners.

StubHub and eBay

eBay bought StubHub for $310 million. Ryan McIntyre discusses the deal:

StubHub’s strategy of partnering with teams coupled with heavy advertising on sports radio (which can be a very cost-efficient media buy) enabled StubHub to build inventory, traffic and transaction volume quickly. Eventually the site grew large enough that it no longer needed to partner with the sports teams to build inventory and transaction volume, and it started growing quite well organically as buyers and sellers of tickets recognized the superior experience that StubHub provided. The company grew quickly and is said to have sold over $400m worth of tickets in 2006, netting the company about $100m in revenue last year.

StubHub’s success can be attributed to the power of vertical specialization. While eBay may have a lock on generic merchandise auctions and Google may own generic web search, these markets are so vast that there are often extremely rich verticals that can be better served by specialization, be it shopping search, travel search, ticket auctions, or other as-yet-unidentified verticals. When vertical specialization offers a sufficiently more compelling experience than the generic approach, real value can be built. The trick is figuring out which verticals are ripe for this type of mining. Clearly StubHub found a rich vein to mine.

Messaging Technologies

Joshua Porter writes:

I think that SPAM does cause fatiguebut actually isnt powerful enough to get us to switch technologies. I think usability has a lot to do with actual switching. Simply put, we message in the easiest way possible.

In the current situation, social networks and text messaging on mobile phones are primary ways that teenagers message. They dont use email or IM as much as they used to (of course they still use it). I think the rise in the use of social networks and text messaging stems from them not only being easier and faster, but more contextual. For example, when you sign somebodys blog on MySpace (or wall in Facebook), the message shows up right where you spend a large part of your day. You dont have to fire up an email application and get mail to check to see if something is there. Its a crapshoot. In addition, there is no threading or linking that goes on in email. In social networking you can see so much more if you want toby simply clicking on the avatar of the person who sent the message.

So, what comes after social networks? Well, I think it will be a migration to socially-enabled features within existing applications that were already using.

TECH TALK: 2007 Tech Trends: 2. Mobile Everything

The mix of improved devices and better data networks (2.75G, 3G and WiFi) is turning mobiles into multimedia computers that we can carry with us everywhere. 2007 will be the year when all the ideas which have worked on the Web will be applied to the mobile. So, the three big ideas of the Internet portals, search and ads will make their way to the mobile. Then, there will be others: user-generated content on mobile, mobile social networks, mobile video, mobile web 2.0, and so on.

As C. Enrique Oritz puts it:

I see 2007 as having the right ingredients for the birth of the next generation of mobility. Below are some of these ingredients:

* Advanced feature-and-media-rich handsets and APIs, including the next generation of Java on handsets: MIDP3 and MSA
* Fast and robust wireless networks everywhere
* Personal or near field networks
* Services, services: Services on the web, location-based services, open methods for service publish and consumption, collaboration
* Open tools, platforms, protocols and APIs, services, Internet, Web and Mobile Web, including W3C standards for Widgets and W3C WICD Mobile
* Messaging, and next generation messaging
* The mobility community continues to grow: from developers to investors
* People are getting it! User participation, user-generated content, collaboration, mass messaging/texting, high penetration of mobile handsets, the mobile lifestyle is happening!

From m-trends:

More user-generated content will become available to the phone; opening the way for mobile users to start using new web/mobile 2.0 services on their phones, such as podcasting, RSS feeds, more user-generated content to upload and use.

Big Media Youth Networks going mobile – MySpace, YouTube, MTV and many more players will resolutely go mobile; allowing users to upload pictures, videos and create/consumer content straight from their mobile phones. And to share with friends (including mobile forwarding functionality).

Mobile search – the big players will start positioning seriously in the mobile market (watch out for deals with carriers/operators and device manufacturers)

Mobile ads – the market is growing at a rapid pace (just watch AdMobs ad views ticker box daily)

Multiple network download hotspots become available in urban zones – enabling on the spot mobile download and internet access possibilities via wi-fi/wimax/bluetooth/nfc/etc. (all build in or available immediately)

I dont think mobile search will be as big as it is being thought about currently. Mobiles are better suited to a different information access model and that is subscriptions. RSS and mobiles are made-for-each-other. The key is to now think not of advertising, but of invertising (invited advertising) in the mobile context. So, my thinking is that instead of search and advertising being the primary drivers on the mobile, it will be subscriptions and invertising. One will see these ideas first not in the US, but in emerging markets where mobiles are more central to peoples lives.

Tomorrow: The Rise of Widgets

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