Facebook IPO? Um…

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Does Facebook really have a future?

 

 

Would you invest in a fad? (Fox news POLL )

 

Facebook is priming the news cycle, setting Wall Street a-buzz with the news of its pending IPO. Stocks may have an initial value of $34/share. Investors are lining up for bidding war. Is Facebook a good investment? In the short term, probably. Further out? I’m not so sure.

Facebook, a come-out-of-nowhere success story, has relied on venture capital for years now. Venture investment is optimistic and holds to a longer view on returns. Once Facebook is fully public, it must submit to the quarterly earning cycle, reporting on to shareholders on short-term forecasts. ‘Shareholder value’ trumps ‘vision.’ Does Facebook, a broker of other people’s information, have a future? Will they as profitable as they would like Wall Street to believe? Maybe not.

The tech world is less in love with Facebook than the mainstream press. Facebook came onstage five years ago when ‘social’ was the new thing.’ Facebook’s strategy orbits their original success, continually refining their social sharing model.

Facebook stopped innovating years ago.Worse for them, the company has failed to find any success in the mobile world. It faces a future of obsolescence and  the risk of a new entrant like Instagram. ‘Mobile’ worries Facebook.  Why? ‘Mobile is a Web-less Internet paradigm. Mobile apps don’t have Facebook ‘Likes.’ But ‘Mobile’ is going to be big, very big.

Marginal innovation. Faddish product. Troublesome reputation. Weak customer loyalty. Treating people like ‘product.’ Media hype. Does this sound like a good investment to you?

Interested in the Facebook phenom? There’s the Facebook Project, a video channel of social media experts sharing their opinion. I also recommend reading last week’s Forbes article ‘Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years.’ Good points, though I disagree about Google’s prospects.

 

 

 

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Google Plus Has Arrived And It Is Brilliant

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Will G+ send Facebook to MySpaceLand?

 

Makefbpic

Buh bye, Facebook

 

I’ve had a chance to test drive the new Google Plus (G+ for short) this past week. I think Google finally has a serious entry in the social media oeuvre. G+ will be an additional social media venue, not a replacement. It will take time for humanity — each person, really — to decide how to balance the choices.   

G+ is that good. If I were a Mark Zuckerberg, I would shuffle that Facebook IPO to next week.

Google trickled out G+ invites in pulses through the week, mainly to early adopters. The ‘wait-in-line’ strategy seemed to work. All the technerati clamored for ‘invites’ from fortunate friends who had them. Those who got through the chute immediately set to testing the functionality. The general opinion so far is “WOW.”

My first favorable G+ impression was of the simple, clean design. There are no games and no ads… just a lot of beautiful white space and the Google primary colors. I knew at a glance what I could do. Intuition was enough to figure G+ out. And I love that G+ is not blue like its competition (What is it with blue and social media, anyway?)

Google introduces some new concepts in G+. There are ‘Circles,’ groups that give the user simple control of who-sees-what. People in a circle can ‘Hangout’ via crisp video chat with up to ten people in a delightful way. Google Chat is in there as well. Finally, there are ‘Sparks,’ suggested news feeds you may subscribe to.

Since I use my iDevices as much as my corporate laptop and home iMac, I gave G+ a once-over on my iPad and iPhone. The mobile Web interface was exceptional and quite fast. Android users do have a true app in the Android Marketplace. Google promises Apple users their own app “soon.” (As they should, since mobile drives social content more than desktop usage.)

Google has some work to do: my Google Contacts, Reader,  Voice, Docs and Gmail still look different from each other and G+. None seems integrated with G+. At times my profile picture shifts. Circles are deceptively simple, an easy concept at first glance, thorough mastery requires a good understanding of logic and Set Theory. I predict normals making ‘circular’ mistakes.

I’d also like to see tagging, tag clouds and trending topics. Google disdains human-managed discovery and ‘folksonomies,’ preferring to nudge the user with search-based algorithms. A shame, because social media means social exploration. People are pretty good at finding things. We like the adjacencies other Homo sapiens create. I have observed people adding hashtags in G+ posts knowing they are useless. Tags are the adjectives of social media language. They are a standard. They must be there.

Another caution: the gossipy technerati love new toys and are happily distracted by them. Early adopters read Mashable first thing each morning with their coffee, parsing through the latest media toy reviews. Could G+ a fad? A social media fashion? This summer’s pink? 

Remember Quora? That social phenomenon enflamed them — for a week. Quora was to be the new way to bring worldwide knowledge and collaboration togther. Quora is still here, but the social media class got bored and moved on. Are we seeing an intensified Quora-like infatuation with G+? Perhaps.

G+ is a keeper IF Google decides to keep it. Google is notoriously business-addled with many of its products. Acquired or developed, Google has disappointed fans before by abandoning exciting products like Orkut, Blogger, Wave, and Buzz. One never knows with enigmatic Google. I’ve commented before that Google doesn’t “get” social. Google’s Gnomes are happy to tinker with code and algorithms. Solutions based on human activity seem to bore them.

But maybe not this time.

G+ is good, promisingly good. Will it affect other social media venues? Absolutely. People are tired of devious, cavalier Facebook. Skype should be worried about G+ video Hangouts which are free, have equivalent functionality and just as easy (easier?) to use.


Resistance doesn’t seem futile anymore.

 

If Google leans into G+ and follows through on its mobile UI and integration intentions, you can expect a migration away from other social media platforms. It will be a matter of how much and how soon.  Facebook and LinkedIn may linger for a few years because people have imprinted on them and that is where their social ties are. But humans are fickle. Brokers who add little value and a lot of worry, and treat their customers like raw materials, are readily abandoned. Let’s hope G+ competition improves Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype. Diversity and choices are healthy for the social media ecosystem.

What about Twitter? Early adopters are saying it will lose ground as well. G+ seems to offer overlapping functionality to Twitter’s, I disagree and I’ll argue that Twitter will continue to thrive because it is so simple and fast. It takes seconds to tweet something. Furthermore, Apple is basing its mobile operating system, OS 5, on Twitter. Twitter is not a destination like G+; Twitter is liquid network.

Companies should enroll into G+ when Google gives the ‘all clear’. The +1 button via G+ will have equal market wattage as Facebook’s ‘Like.’ Social SEO? You bet. Google will introduce ‘Pages’ into G+ in the near future. Pages will be the way enterprises cultivate community, brand and presence.

 

Google’s plans for G+ and businesses


And how about inside the enterprise, that ‘Enterprise 2.0’ stuff? I’m a little more reserved here. Google spooks companies and I don’t see anything in G+ to will change that opinion. I’m not sure Google even cares. Employees will use it anyway, and G+, like any other Socially Transmitted Software (STS) will find its way into the enterprise.

I read this week that “Google+ is a chance for social networkers to start over.” Perhaps we are yearning to free ourselves of adolescent Facebook and boring Linkedin. G+ may be the reset button we seek.

 

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Facebook Can End Friendships, Too

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I’ve always been cautious on Facebook, setting my ‘friend’ criteria to real friends and family. By ‘friend,’ I mean someone with whom I have a mutual, personal relationship. I toss off Facebook requests from co-workers, acquaintances and relationship collectors. I ignore ‘friend suggestions,’ too. I have to know you, have met you, like you or be related to you to invite you in. Those are my rules for my Facebook.

Well, my rules need tightening. Last week I ‘de-friended’ someone I knew and liked for a long time. I may have been impulsive when I did it, but thinking it over, I don’t know what else I could have done. I lost some sleep last week about the whole thing. Here’s what happened:

My friend and I are nearly opposite in our political views. I knew this for a while, and it was never a problem. Face-to-face and e-mail discussions were always candid and friendly. Trusting. For over fifteen years we kept it that way. I think she is misguided for someone so smart and funny, but the world is full of all kinds of people, yes? This past last spring we connected via Facebook.

She was different, somehow, on Facebook: she’s more active there than me; she adores the silly games; she must have hundreds of friends; and, she is much more open about her life then I could ever be.

Last week she posted a video making fun of a certain type of people, people who share the same philosophies as me. The video deployed a number of insulting epithets, too. Worst was the conversation stream of her ignorant friends, none of whom I know. I felt the insults were coming at me, in MY Facebook wall.

This was not the first time. So I de-friended her. I blocked her. If she said those things in my living room, I would ask her and her friends to leave. If I were at a party, I would walk away.

And there lies the problem I have with the new ‘social’ Facebook throws at us. It’s an artifice, an intentional distortion of the way people really want to see each other. Robots are clumsy with human relationships. Facebook pulled away the gauzy curtain we hung between us.

Well, she knows I cut the cord. I told her. She sent me an email right away but I haven’t answered because I am so angry.