Microformats

eHub points to Why Microformats: “Microformats are small HTML additions to your webpages, used to make your data readable by machines as well as humans. [This site offers a description] of their immediate benefit to you, and a high level view of both the essence and the applications of a Microformatted Web.”

The New Internet

The Guardian writes:

It is when people stop thinking of something as a piece of technology that the thing starts to have its biggest impact. Wheels, wells, books, spectacles were all once wonders of the world; now they are everywhere, and we can’t live without them. The internet hasn’t quite got to that point, but it is getting there.

People are growing up with the internet, and the internet is growing up with them. It is evolving. Email was once a marvel of practicality and utility; people under the age of 25, though, never knew a time before it was broken by spam, and prefer to use instant messaging or texting. In the corporate world, as a publisher once told me, “email’s main function is as an instrument of torture”. In civilian life, I increasingly notice that people don’t actually read their email; they sort of skim it, and get the gist, and any fine distinctions or crucial information are usually best communicated in some other way. So the heroic period of email is already in the past. No one could have predicted that, just as no one could have predicted the extraordinary, dizzying multiplying of the number of blogs being written. (I don’t say read.) That number has been doubling every six months for the past three years: there are now, as of July 31, more than 50m blogs on the internet; 175,000 new blogs are created every day – that’s two every second. The dominant languages (they jockey from month to month) are Chinese, Japanese and English. There are 1.6m blog posts a day.

Will Wright’s Spore

GigaOM discusses a New Yorker article on game designer Will Wright and writes:

[Spore is a] groundbreaking god game in which your goal as player is to shepherd your custom-designed creatures up the evolutionary ladder, from protozoa all the way to space-colonizing civilization.

Set for a mid-2007 release, it will almost certainly be a masterpiece, and expand the potential of computer games beyond measure. That plus Wrights track record with the The Sims and Sim City games is why Spore publisher Electronic Arts has invested so much money and promotional effort on this one title. Its also because, as The New Yorker notes, the companys stock has declined by 30% since April, and has seen a 20% drop in overall sales from last year. In plain terms, as the article puts it, EA is counting on Spore to help shore up its bottom line.

Social Shopping

David Beisel writes:

Social shopping is about sharing the act of shopping itself with others, and I view it as a subset of social commerce as a whole. Just as some people enjoy shopping with others in the real world, some will enjoy doing it virtually within a social network. Nearly all of these players have promoted a meme of three activities which people can do collectively: discover/find, collect/organize, and promote/share/connect/recommend/publish. It is these three acts which compose the endeavor of shopping together with others.

An element of social input in online shopping services augments the experience, even if it isnt central to it. There are numerous opportunities to add a layer of social features to an existing set of commerce functionality or to new services which arent primarily social.

Semantic Web

[via Atanu] Andy Carvin writes about the applicability of the Semantic Web to online education.

One example that clearly comes to mind is embedding metadata to content that connects it to specific education standards. For example, lets say you find a website about the history of India and Pakistan that contains stories of families forced to flee their homes and cross the border when the countries split apart. These stories might fit nicely in a lesson plan youre doing for your geography class on human migration and refugees, as part of the National Geography Standards. The Semantic Web would allow you to tag this page as being connected to the specific standard on understanding human migration, embedding a URL into that website that links into to a machine-friendly definition of that standard. From that point onward, any other teacher searching the Internet would be able to make the connection between that specific website and that specific standard. And the same principle could be used to link online content with lesson plans and the teachers who use them. Suddenly, what started as a search for an educational website leads you to a social network of educators using that site in their classroom to meet a specific standard.

Of course, you may think we wont want to spend our days tagging websites to connect them to standards. But wait a second – millions of people are tagging websites every single day. The very idea of Web 2.0 is built upon people volunteering their time to create content and add richness to it, making connections between ideas. Even if only a small fraction of us spend our time charting out these connections, that still adds up to huge sums of people.

TECH TALK: Two-Sided Markets: HBR article

While reading the latest issue of Harvard Business Review (Octover 2006), I came across an article on Strategies for Two-Sided Markets by Thomas Eisenmann, Geoffrey Parker, and Marshall W. Van Alstyne. The title was intriguing. It was the first time I had actually come across the phrase two-sided markets even though as I realised later, I had experienced these markets closely over the past decade. The article was interesting enough for me to think and delve into the topic some more.

Here is the abstract for the article:

If you listed the blockbuster products and services that have redefined the global business landscape, you’d find that many of them tie together two distinct groups of users in a network. Case in point: The most important innovation in financial services since World War II is almost certainly the credit card, which links consumers and merchants. The list would also include newspapers, HMOs, and computer operating systems–all of which serve what economists call two-sided markets, or networks. Newspapers, for instance, bring together subscribers and advertisers; HMOs link patients to a web of health care providers and vice versa; operating systems connect computer users and application developers. Two-sided networks differ from traditional value chains in a fundamental way. In the traditional system, value moves from left to right: To the left of the company is cost; to the right is revenue. In two-sided networks, cost and revenue are both to the left and to the right, because the “platform” has a distinct group of users on each side. The platform product or service incurs costs in serving both groups and can collect revenue from each, although one side is often subsidized. Because of what economists call “network effects,” these platform products enjoy increasing returns to scale, which explains their extraordinary impact. Yet most firms still struggle to establish and sustain their platforms. Their failures are rooted in a common mistake: In creating strategies for two-sided networks, managers typically rely on assumptions and paradigms that apply to products without network effects. As a result, they make many decisions that are wholly inappropriate for the economics of their industries. In this article, the authors draw on recent theoretical work to guide executives negotiating the challenges of two-sided networks.

When we think about it, two-sided markets are all around us. Newspapers and magazines are often sold at prices below cost. The publishers make the money from advertisers. TV programming, for the most part, comes for free, with advertisers again paying the channel to reach the audience. Google has taken the notion of free to extraordinary heights (quite literally, with services like Google Earth!). As users get an increasing number of services for free, advertisers have been spending money to connect with the eyeballs.

So, what are two-sided markets? What are the business opportunities around these type of markets?

Tomorrow: Overview