Q&A about the Future of Social Networking

Future of Social NetworkingUsing Microsoft’s recent acquisition of a $240 million stake in Facebook as the point of departure:

1. What does Microsoft’s stake in Facebook practically translate into for the company? And for the site’s users?

Facebook now has a partner who can fund further expansion and growth as the need arises. Microsoft gains a very strong foothold into the Social Networking industry, which it has been lacking for a long time. Most user activity is now taking place online and not on the PC Desktop so this was crucial for Microsoft. For Facebook users it does not mean much because its only an advertising relationship which has been confirmed and solidified by the investment from Microsoft. Most people, and especially Facebook users, have become very savy in avoiding online advertising.

2. Why the interest in social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace by internet giants like Microsoft and Google? What is the motivation behind buying/attempting to buy stakes in these sites? Is it straight access to a demographically-specific marketing database?

Yes, part of the reason is the detailed demographics available so advertising can be customised in a very specific way. The bigger reason is that next to search engines, social networking is where the majority of Internet users are starting there online journey. Google already owns Orkut, which is very popular social networking website in Asian countries like India. And that also explains why its not well known in South Africa.

3. One of the views I’ve come across suggests that the social networking space will tend to move towards a monopoly because people need to communicate with each other in the same “language”. Basically, if most of your friends are on Facebook, then it makes sense for you to join that as opposed to MySpace to communicate with them. Others argue that users of social networking sites are non-specific. If you have a Facebook profile, you probably have a MySpace profile and you use both. What do you make of the debate?

Social networking sites can either be specialised on generalised. The roots are always in a niche community. For example MySpace started out among independent music scene in San Fransisco to allow their fans to connect with the bands, sample music and get a full gig guide. So MySpace has and will continue to have a strong foothold in the music and entertainment industry. Most of my MySpace friends in South Africa have moved to Facebook. Facebook started among university students and has spread from there. MySpace is a behemoth with over 207 million registered profiles while Facebook only has about 45 million users. LinkedIn on the other hand is the #1 social networking website for business people with over 15 million users worldwide and almost 40,000 users in South Africa.

There is a trend towards websites that allow you to tap into all your social networking profiles from one place.

4. Do you think fears of a monopoly within the social networking space drive the market price?

Yes, there is a vicious competition between Microsoft, Google and Yahoo for control of the Web. They are the biggest online publishers by a far margin because they control 3 biggest search engines. Microsoft in particular is paranoid as more and more user activities takes place online and not on the Desktop.

5. Why has Facebook taken off in a way that MySpace never did? What are the key differences?

As I said before it’s a myth in South Africa that MySpace is not important. You may consider that MySpace has been around since August 2003 and Facebook launched in February 2004. And until late last year Facebook was limited to university students only. It does seem like MySpace’s growth is slowing down.

6. What is the future of social networking? A Datamonitor report estimates social networking sites will enlist 230 million active users by the end of the year, continue attracting new users until 2009 and then plateau in 2012. What do you make of this?

That Datamonitor report is wrong because MySpace is over 207 million and Facebook is over 45 million alone. That is excluding Orkut with about 67 million users and LinkedIn with over 15 million users. Even with some overlap of users the is at least 300 million active users worldwide. We currently have 1.1 billion Internet users and almost 3 billion cellphones users. My view is that by 2010 the grow in the Web will come from people using cellphones to access search engines and social networking websites. Most social networking sites already support access via a customised mobile interface.

7. The same report suggests social networking services revenues will reach $965 million this year and $2.4 billion by 2012. Is this income generated purely through targeted advertising on these sites?

Yes, most of the revenue is from advertising. Some websites like LinkedIn is generating 1/3rd of its revenue from paid members. Most of the rest do not have any paid subscription options – just yet. Google struck a deal in 2006 that guarantees MySpace $900 million over the next 3 years for exclusive search and online advertising rights. Remember Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million and everyone thought he was crazy.

8. Google’s own social networking site, Orkut, hasn’t gained as much popularity as MySpace or Facebook. Do you think Google’s launch of OpenSocial is aimed to popularise it so it can join the big social networking players?

OpenSocial is a application programming interface (API). What that means its an easy way for programmers to develop applications on social networking websites. Google wants to be the interface to all the social networking websites. Most users still do not know how to get directly to websites. What they typically do is Google words like “Facebook” or even “Yahoo” to find these websites. So Google will remain influential. They are appealing to the technorati, the early adopters, to built loyalty to Google, not necessarily to Orkut.


Bobby Fischer, chess legend and badboy RIP

Most you have likely never heard of Bobby Fischer. Well lets recap why he’s an hero of mine…

Bobby Fischer American chess legendBobby Fischer is the 1st and only American to win the World Chess Champion. He has been described as having a higher IQ than Albert Einstein and even comparisons with other geniuses like Beethoven. Recognised a child prodigy he becoming the youngest American champion and Grandmaster. However, its the 1972 world title match in Reykjav?k, Iceland against Boris Spassky, for which he is always remembered. This was at the peak of the idiotic Cold War and this event is often described as the Match of the Century. Bobby Fisher demolished Spassky to become the world champion for 3 years after refusing to defend his title against Anatoly Karpov in 1975, the year I was born.

He disappeared from the public eye until 1992 when he resurfaced for a controversial rematch against Spassky, again in Iceland.

Anyway it’s not so much his genius at playing chess that has impressed me over the years. What has made a real impact on is how he rebelled against authority. He pointed the middle finger to the United States after 1992 because he went against an executive order from George HW Bush, implementing a United Nations resolution, not to engage in economic activities in Yugoslavia. Yes, he is the rebel without a cause. The David against the Goliath. The underdog in every sense of the world and completely misunderstood.There’s way to much to discuss in this matter and you can read for yourself on this Bobby Fischer fan website from Japan, which also contains many radio interviews. I must caution you that he has been accused of incoherent diatribes against a Jewish world conspiracy and the American government. However, one thing I believe completely to be true is that he was exploitation for various purpose like his name being used, without permission, in the movie Searching for Bobby Fisher, loosing his patent for the Fischer clock, now a standard item in world chess and other misfortunes.Throughout all of his eventful life Bobby had many affairs, but never married. Being the enigma that he was it seems understandable that he is and always will be the bad boy of chess. His legend will only grow after his death at age 64, the same number of squares on a chess board, in Iceland. And even if he was just half the asshole he was in chess, with women, he would inadvertently create the type of attraction we know other bad boys like Marlon Brando did. It seems like matter where he went in the world, he found woman willing and attracted to him and his Japenese partner, Miyoko Watai, who stood by him since 2000 to the end.In conclusion, like Bobby Fischer, you can be more self reliant, stop caring about other people’s opinions and being true to yourself. No matter how crazy people think he may have been, I believe he never sacrificed the freedom of being himself. Remembering Bobby Fischer…


Deleting my MySpace profile and loosing faith in Facebook

Facebook Friends social powerThere is a idea that I know is true. That idea is that I prefer to speak to a friend face to face. Maybe over a cafe latte or a glass a wine. Why do I prefer this type of interaction over social networking? Because I can SEE the person, I can READ their body language, maybe I can SMELL their perfume (if its a woman); I can TOUCH them and of course if there’s chemistry with someone from the opposite sex I can TASTE (kiss/bite) them.

What do I mean by all of this? It means I am using all of my 5 senses. And there’s much more to social interactions like banter, flirting, reading body language or non-verbal cues like touching of hair along with a certain statement or question, the movement of eyes, etc. I think you get my drift that MySpace, Facebook or any other online social network is severely limited in allowing you to fully and completing interact with people.

So it comes as no surprise I’m extricating myself from most online social networks beginning with MySpace. I joined MySpace a few years ago, when exactly I don’t have any records, so it may even have been before Rupert Murdoch bought the company in July 2005. There’s been some very interesting people I’ve “met” on MySpace. For the most part I connected with people I know and as many women as possible, evaluating it as a possible replacement for paid online dating websites.

Tom HodgkinsonThis past week I found an article by Tom Hodgkinson, who is fast turning into one of my favourite media critics: With friends like these… – a real scathing attack on the false premise on which most online social networking is built. When people are blogging about their Facebook interactions you know there’s something wrong with the world. There was a time when people used to blog about parties or interesting things that happened in the office. But now you more and more people writing about their online exploits more so than real-world exploits. It’s a sad state the world has come to when virtual interactions (read The Matrix) is preferred to sensory stimulus from other people.

Well deleting my MySpace profile was easy because most of my South African friends and many others have moved Facebook. Those who were never on MySpace, like Arthur Goldstuck, actually created a Facebook profile. Removing my own Facebook profile may be more of a challenge because I’m using it for marketing and promoting events.

You may be interested in downloading and reading this short little guide I’ve produced for HR managers and small business owners on the productivity dangers of Facebook use by employees and staff.


The Future Doesn't Need Us: Web 3.0 the Good and the Bad

First the good:
Along with automation, customisation of content will continue to be refined and personalised. This is best illustrated by the Orwellian future vision in the Epic 2014 video clip:

Maybe the biggest gold rush for the next 100 years is the integration of the Web with the human mind. Sony has already taken out a patent on a game system that beams data directly into the mind without implants. It uses a pulsed ultrasonic signal that induces sensory experiences such as smells, sounds and images according to a CNN article from July 2006.Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web has dedicated the rest of his life to the development of the Semantic Web also known as Web 3.0. The Semantic Web is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which web content can be expressed not only in natural language, but also in a format that can be read and used by software agents, thus permitting them to find, share and integrate information more easily. It derives from W3C director Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web as a universal medium for data, information, and knowledge exchange.

Each and every device in a typical household will be able to access this new Web 3.0 through the interoperability that will be built into the software and the hardware.

The Bad:
The arrival of Web 2.0 has seen an unprecedented increase in people giving up personal privacy. This will only continue with Web 3.0 because as your household appliances or computers learn your every mood, behaviour, desires and needs it has to interact with the global Internet, and you are willingly giving away personal privacy. For more see Electronic Frontier Foundation and Web 3.0 the first step towards computer takeover.


Al Ries on why the iPhone will fail because it’s a convergence device

This is hilarious to watch even a year after it was originally posted because the Apple iPhone is not coming to South Africa. What makes this valuable is the great overview of his concept of divergence and how he applies it the technology industry and specifically the cellphone industry. In the words of Al Ries the iPod is a divergence device and the iPhone is a convergence device – doomed to failure over the long term. What he means is that it will never become a market leader in its industry. And this goes for all smart phones – doomed to a fraction of the global market and nothing more.

If you enjoyed this video I highly recommend all the video archives in the Ries Reports on Youtube.


KAIROS – Where Time and Destiny meets

Now and again we stand in front of a crowd to do a little motivation!

But what do you do when there is just nothing left – and all these words fly by – like a super highway?

What works for me is –
You know when you look back on your life and certain moments’ just jumps out at you.
Moments that really changed your life?

Life defining moments – these are called Kairos moments
The name Kairos is explained as a suitable word for a company that is able to identify growth opportunities and through astute management, magnify the benefits to investors

(a Greek word for – time that stands separate from other periods)

Why Kairos and what does it mean for us?

We all meet people daily, people who are tired of where they are right now and who have a dream or a vision of where they want to be.

And without realizing it – we can be part of their Kairos – and this becomes our Kairos – that moment – that magic!

It doesn’t matter for how a short period; or how many years we spend at a company.

YOU – whether a senior person or not – have the opportunity to create Kairos moments on a daily basis

We have a profound impact on people just by listening and making them feel understood.

(As Mike Lejeune said – Ahh – someone gets me)

Every call that you take, every conversation with colleagues, clients and candidates is a possible Kairos moment.

Treat it as such!


Give an A

Have you ever felt that doing your best is just not good enough? That the effort and dedication you have put in is not recognised by your manager, team or even in your personal life by your partner?

I think we all do at some stage….

You are your own worst critic.

We constantly compare one consultant against another, one child against the other and even one partner against someone else’s or previous partners

What if it would be possible for us to change this and shift our attitudes by giving ourselves all A’s.

Ben Sander calls this practice – giving an A. And it can be given to anyone in any walk of life. You can give this gift to yourself or someone else. Even your mother in Law.

What do you think will happen when you give your most difficult client an A and treat him/her exactly like the client you like and climb mountains for?

A freely given A changes our perception of relationships.

Frightening isn’t it!

An A is not an expectation to live up to but a possibility to live into…..