Startup Review Profiles Userplane
Nisan performed a full review of Userplane, its growth from inception through acquisition. You can read it here: Userplane Case Study: Vertical market entry strategy pays off
So the rumor mill continues. The most often question asked is why AOL as a now "technology" company striving to be more product centered is bringing in a NBC exec to the CEO chair? The best answer I have heard so is AOL is gaining speed as a advertising based business - and thus Time Warner is bringing in a seasoned advertising executive to cut the right deals and steer the ship. Right or wrong from a strategic approach - my guess is the logic holds true. Unfortunately I think AOL needs to be more of a technology platform company than a media company to be successful in the long run - it will be interesting to see if the new CEO feels the same. Regardless, losing Jon, Tina and Jason will be a culture shift - and one I was personally not hoping for!
3. Oh no, there goes Miller!
So the first few months at AOL have been an exciting one - I always though that the drama at startups left as companies became more mature - I guess at the end the drama only really magnifies with size.. Jon Miller has been a great proponent of ours - identifying Userplane as an acquisition candidate, helping Marcien drive our deal - and supporting us as a remote entity working on progressive tactics to build AOL. I only hope his successor will be as forward thinking! All this plus losing Tina - the world changes quickly!
4. Finally reading The Search
I finally got around to reading The Search - a tale by John Battelle which reviews the history, growth of primarily search and Google. The debate on Google as a media or content company is compelling and seems to be echoed throughout the tech community. I am only about half through the book at the time of this post. Ironically I originally though of Google as an ad network - they simply have strong technology that provides the most relevant and fraud-preventative ads to external site partners - which accounts for roughly 40% of their revenue. The point the book reinforces for me is just how relevant search ads are. Thinking back to the days of Webcrawler (an AOL acquisition) - user driven search has always been the launch pad for the user. Personally I am finding Googles search results less and less accurate - seeing how aggressive promoters have become in Google spamming the index is constantly being bombarded by malicious marketers. What is more impressive is even though I might be dissatisfied with Googles specific results - their distribution channels are so well established I find the as a lazy person i default to using them regardless.. Looking into the future, social search seems to be the answer - a index made for me from my peers, and the system would most likely anticipate my needs based on search history, time of day, schedule, etc - so that instead of me inputting my needs into a small box, it would simply predict and deliver me the specific results that were most probable for me at that time. That concept ties AI to search - and my guess is the next "big" thing in search is not search - but computer driven results delivery. Putting search beind the scenes and simply surfacing the results - which is all we are really searching for in the first place.
5. Web 2.0 - quick summary
As well pointed out by many of the attendees at Web 2.0 2006, it was a bit less inspiring than Web 2.0 2005. Interviews not quite as hard pressing, less shocking announcements, all this despite the fact that the speakers were at the top of many of the largest media companies pushing the internet forward. With a $3500 entry fee - it filtered out some of the very early and most interesting innovators. On the flip side, Monday I attended Widgets Live - which showcased some very innovative companies and technologies - YourMinis.com being one of my favorites. Om and Niall did a fantastic job - I look forward to the next one.
Om + Niall's Widgets conference was good today - potentially even more forward thinking than tomorrows Web 2.0 conference. A long time ago my partner Javier talked about Userplane as a company without a consumer website, that talked to millions of users daily through distributed "apps". We built that company over the past 3 years - and ironically now that company's distribution strategy has a name - widgets. Overall the widget market has two faces: 1. Places to Put Widgets (personal homepages, start pages, profiles, etc) 2. Actual Widgets This all ties back to the further customization of the personal web, my personal information aggregator - and the incredible trend of the personal profile. Originally I felt this trend was completely the responsibility of MySpace trends - but now I feel the genesis is greater. Personal homepages have been around for quite some time - now maybe since the web world is open that was the shift that allowed these secondary markets to be created. It could be argued that there really are two types of widgets: 1. Widgets for me 2. Widgets that represent me to others Although I am sure there is overlap - my guess is each widget will really live in one of those two primary categories.
7. Testing out the YourMinis beta release
8. Sonific Google Gadget
Check out http://www.gerdleonhard.net/2006/10/now_live_google.html
9. AOL to offer Web API for its IM
AOL to offer Web API for its IM AOL, a division of Time Warner, will make its AIM instant messaging network web-friendly, making web-based application programming interfaces (API) and widgets available to anyone who wants to incorporate AIM functionality right into their Web sites and online communities, company executives say. OpenAIM was announced earlier this year, but was restricted to desktop applications. “There are various folks who have ideas and needs to adopt it for their own specific use,” said Stephen Benedict, Principal Product Manager for the AIM Service at AOL, said in an interview today. AOL wants to encourage people to build businesses around OpenAIM, and is now extending the functionality to the web. “We will provide tools around this and extend the concept of presence and identity,” Benedict added. This web API move can be viewed as a rearguard action for AOL – increasingly developers are beginning to center their IM/real time communication strategies on Jabber/XMPP platforms. The SIPphone-LiveJournal collaboration, which was reported on GigaOM earlier this summer is a perfect example of the new found affection for these open platforms. (XMPP approach entails primarily building out your own server locally and federating whereas AIM is about easily integrating with hugely popular IM service out there.) By offering OpenAIM and its web APIs, AOL is trying to stay relevant in the IM ecosystems. The recent Userplane acquisition is also part of company’s platform extension strategy. OpenAIM, so far has been restricted to desktop applications – PlayLinc and Doppelganger being two examples of such applications that use AIM’s authentication, IM and presence information. The web version of OpenAIM is an effort by the company to rally web developers to its platform. The company is betting that its web APIs will result in many mash-ups and extend the utility of the AIM network, estimated to have 63 million users. For developers the lure of the AIM user base can be pretty alluring. Kust like Google Maps API allows you to easily plug in a map without worrying about the cartography details, OpenAIM gives you messaging capabilities integrated with a developer ID. The installed base can easily log into new applications, try them out and become converts if the service meets their approval – no complicated sign-on process. Theoretically, the OpenAIM web APIs could be used to develop a social network build around the AIM authentication system that uses the IM network for communication. AOL is hoping that many other use case scenarios will emerge. “We cannot be all things to all people,” says Benedict. AOL, till recently an access provider decided to morph into a web-services companies earlier this year, betting that it could race against time, and retain its dwindling dial-up user base by offering them free web-based offerings. The company’s biggest advantage is that it understands the average users. But it also needs to adapt and compete with the more nimble competitors such as Google. The service is essentially free if the number of daily logons to the AIM doesn’t exceed 250,000 a day and tops out at 2 million logons a month. After that company says it will enter into a commercial agreement with the developers, but the terms are going to be pretty reasonable. We aren’t clear on how this will apply to existing businesses built around AIM, such as the web-based multiple-service instant messaging interface from Meebo. Amongst the widgets to be offered, there will be an IM widget, the Buddy List widget, and a Get Info Widget, which provides buddy info by way of a separate window. These will be offered as APIs along with a Presence API, which would allow AIM users to get and set their availability, away messages and profiles. The web-version of OpenAIM is likely to be announced later today tomorrow at the WebGuild conference in Santa Clara, California. As part of announcements, the company is going to offer an AIM widget that can be put on your blog, or on your personal space.
10. Nice Boba Mashup
From our friends at POF: http://www.alexaradar.com/fast/country/ca
Sent to me by Javier - in case it interests you! http://journal.planetwork.net/article.php?lab=reed0704=1
Userplane is exploring a new payment platform - if you are a SNS and interested in participating in a beta group - please let me know!
13. Blurring the lines between social networking and online dating
Looks like Friendster was one of the first to cut a direct deal with True - on you Friendster nav they list "Love" - which brings you to a co-branded Friendster/Dating page..
14. Chad Hurley should really send some cash to Tom + Chris!
In the wake of the YouTube acquisition someone really needs to examine the network effect of MySpace. The fact is YouTube saw a substantial increase in their business due to both illegal content + widget-style distribution within the MySpace universe. No question that YouTube is an industry changing application - and now in Googles hands with their interest in Apple as Tom Bray points out - one could speculate Google is positioning to displace both video content and distribution!
15. All week in LA
Finally, a week without travel. I have been out and about quite a bit recently - so if there are any meetings that we were not able to schedule - please email me so we can get them setup!
16. Linked In's Hollywood Deal!
Dear Michael , ABC Television’s hit reality television show, The Bachelor, is searching for its next star. After viewing your profile on LinkedIn, the casting producer has selected you as a potential candidate. ABC is using LinkedIn to find its next Bachelor because this time around, they’re looking for an accomplished professional. LinkedIn is about your professional life instead of your personal life, so we don’t know if your marital or relationship status qualifies you for the show. However, your professional profile fits the bill. If you think you’d make a great “Bachelor,” please let me know by reply (XXX@linkedin.com) and I will contact you regarding next steps. LinkedIn respects your privacy and will not release your contact information, so you must reply to the email above for us to pass you along as a candidate. If you know anyone else that would make a great “Bachelor”, feel free to let us know about them – ABC will pay a $5,000 reward for
17. @ Carson in San Francisco on Wednesday
If you are around - drop me an email!
18. Thanks August Capital!
I had a fun night at the August Capital mixer on Thursday - seemed like a repeat of the TechCrunch party - only with people dressed a bit nicer and and slightly better food. I took Kelly from Dandelife as a guest - trying to expose a bit of soCal to the noCal tech scene.. He posted his opinion on it here.. Other than the normal stuff - it was great to bump into everyone. Loved hearing things like "We really missed out on your deal" - : ) - maybe next time. And good to hear Jeff finally got a new car - that old 3 series he drove as aggressive as any Parisian but frankly something faster might fit his style better!
19. Illegal Features on Legal Sites
Initially when we worked with MySpace for hosting and distribution of MySpace Music - the concept was simple, allow a band to upload their songs - allow users to play them securely. Now it is all so much more complicated. The labels are asking for 50% of all advertising on media players and working to put themselves (and license solutions) between social networks and their users with massive restrictions on audio playback. While you could argue MySpace became big off of illegal music playback (just as YouTube is with "illegal (?)" video playback) you begin to wonder is it in the best interest of your social network to build illegally with the hopes of getting big, bought then have to deal with the labels on media distribution - or dealing with it upfront and potentially creating a inferior product?
20. Thinking about Interoperability
I often bring myself back to the days of Prodigy mail not talking to AOL mail, and then I think about IM. Ironically the challenge AOL and Prodigy faced previously when deciding to interop mail is the same challenge mail faces today - MySpace as many have pointed out gains substantial page views from forcing users into their web-based mail clients - as do many other social networks. Will these communities be forced to go the same path as AOL in the long run? Or allow out of website mail access to better their user experience - yet lower their ad views? Userplane has built a business on creating private IM networks within social spaces - we spend a lot of time thinking about connecting those spaces. There is no question what is best for users - a presence system that allows them to be "online" in all their favorite places and receive messages and alerts - consolidated into a single application or experience. So its time to interop - we all know the change is coming. Userplane is a network of bridges - holding no namespace of its own - yet monetizing others and sharing back that revenue. The value can be the network not only the namespace...