Did You Know? 2009 Edition

For the past few years now, we have seen various videos uploaded to YouTube visualising the trends that have emerged thanks to the Internet and mobile devices. You can find older versions by searching YouTube for ‘Did you know’ or ‘Shift happens’. Here’s the latest one, updated with 2009 news stories:

Hat tip to friend and former colleague Steve Clayton, I spotted this one through his excellent blog. Normally I try to tag videos onto newsletters unless I’m putting a commentary around them. But I’ve already got a queue and this one deserves to stand on its own 🙂

The Internet Paradigm

Am in the process of sorting through and tidying up the library (which means broken links galore in old blog posts but will try and fix those). In the past, some items have gone straight into the library without a blog post. To fix, I’ll be posting those which are still relevant over the next month. Here’s the first…

The Internet Paradigm: Talk by Tim O’Reilly in July 2003, at Microsoft UK

Tim O’Reilly visited Microsoft UK in July 2003. Here’s a short summary of his talk. The talk was based on a theme that was to later become known as Web 2.0. Links to additional information included at the end:

Paradigm shift #1: Hardware

Prior to 1982, hardware ruled. Then IBM released specs for building PC computers. Didn’t seem that important to the industry at the time, they were ‘toys’. Took a decade to really take off, but along cam Dell, Compaq bought DEC…

Paradigm shift #2: Software

Software was now decoupled from hardware. Lock-in and competitive advantage moved to software. IBM had given away the future… to Microsoft. Hardware became a commodity.

Paradigm shift #3: The Internet

Applications and information decouple from both hardware and software. Lock-in and competitive advantage moves to the data and customer relationships. Software becomes the commodity,.. Think Amazon and eBay – the application will stop working without people. It’s the participation age.

Where is Linux really successful? Not as a traditional operating system. It’s Google, Amazon, Yahoo. (and you don’t get access to their source code, only the APIs, sound familiar?)

3 trends that matter:

1, Software as a commodity:

  • Amazon switched from Unix to Intel to save costs (10x saving running Linux on Intel)
  • Apache means web serving is not a revenue opportunity
  • MySQL threatens to do the same to databases

2. Customisability:

  • Software is built for use in delivering services
  • Internet-era apps are updated daily, not yearly (e.g.
    http://www.salesforce.com/ = 12 updates
    between 1999 and 2003)
  • ‘Info-ware’ – interfaces built with dynamic data, scripting rules

3. Network-enabled collaboration

  • ‘Ad-hocracy’ – people just get together to fix things, distributed internationally (skills, costs, timezones), like-minded devs find each other
  • Power shifts from companies to individuals
  • Users help build the application

More people have contributed to Amazon than have contributed to Linux…

Small pieces loosely joined:

  • An architecture of participation means that your users help extend your platform
  • Interoperability means that one component or service can easily be
    swapped if a better one comes along (e.g. Google data centre)
  • Lock-in occurs because others depend on the benefits from your service, but you are not in control.

What does this mean for Microsoft?

Got to change at some point, not going to see the same margins as in the past (IBM had to get used to this one). Could MSN be a big part of the future? Currently focused on consumer, but what about business?

Related Links:

Filed in the library under Talks

You’ll melt your brain

Another re:post worth sharing. Cultural Offering covers yet another article claiming computers and the Internet are ruining our brains – You’ll melt your brain.

The post includes a couple of great quotes:

“Will Twitter make us communicate in 140 characters or less? Not a bad idea, now that I ponder it”

I’ve written about these concerns before. Baroness Susan Greenfield is particularly vocal about how terrible the Internet is for our brains. See Do Books Matter? and Misleading Analogies. What frustrates me the most is that she is supposed to be a professional academic. Instead of predicting doom and gloom for our brains and spouting off opinions about people who use technology (in a recent interview, she dismissed people who use Twitter as the sort of person who likes to tell their mommy they’ve changed their socks, in an old interview she assumed teenagers flirting over the Internet are averse to human contact “eewww fluids”), come up with some unbiased evidence and fact-based research. In Do Books Matter? I questioned how someone like Baroness Susan Greenfield would have reacted to the invention of writing. Cultural Offering goes one better and comes up with a quote to show this is not the first time in history experts have reacted negatively to new technology:

“…he [Plato] says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember”

Click Here to read the full post.


What we do on the Internet

Harvard Business School’s ‘Working Knowledge’ web site has an excellent article exploring how to quantify the economic impact of the Internet. You can read the article here.

One interesting snippet included in the article is a TNS study reporting on the leading activities of Internet users:

As noted in the article, the majority of activities are funded by advertising one way or another. We don’t pay to use a search engine or read the news (yet – certain news moguls would like to change that…)

I was surprised to see price comparison sites featuring so high up. But what is interesting is that the only two activities not dependent on advertising or affiliate marketing to fund their Internet business models are online banking and paying bills online. Note that number 5 is visiting a brand or product web site, not necessarily buying anything whilst you’re there. How news thinks it can achieve what only banks and utility services have achieved on a mainstream scale is anyone’s guess. Whilst ‘Lookup news’ will likely remain near the top, what form of news could change entirely.

On a related note, Gerry McGovern has an excellent article talking about the differences between Google and Yahoo. Specifically, how Yahoo switched its focus to advertisers whilst Google remains focused on the end-user despite both having the same revenue goals. Proof is in the pudding, as Google continues to rise and Yahoo continues to fall. If they want to make money on the Internet, maybe those news moguls should take a leaf out of Google’s book instead of wanting to torch it.


Friday thought: do books matter?

Over the past month, I’ve listened to Baroness Susan Greenfield three times. First, reading an article in The Sunday Times. Second, in the audience at one of her talks. Third, hearing an interview on the radio. The same topic came up at all three events (not surprising, since she has a new book to promote) – the effect new technology is having on learning. Or, rather, the disastrous effect new technology is having on learning.

And I have to say, I disagree with her argument and pessimism. Now she is a professor, at Oxford no less. And I am a mere mortal without so much as Bachelors degree to my name. But her belief seems to be that books are absolutely essential to educational development and learning. If you don’t read books, you’ll never progress beyond the mentality of a young child. It’s a wonder how we ever invented books in the first place…

Central to the argument is that children are now flitting between multiple different information mediums, nibbling lots of content but never chewing it properly before swallowing. And those pesky computer games are distorting our perception of reality. (I’d argue that, if anything, it has the opposite effect – making reality so depressingly clear that people prefer to live in the virtual.)

I agree that lots of nibbling is no substitute for a good book, if you want to dive into the theory and history of a subject. Just as books and computer games are no substitute for real-world experience. But I’m not sure the future being painted is quite as apocalyptic as the baroness believes. Computer simulations introduce all sorts of possibilities and new ways of learning. Imagine if we were living in the time when writing was just invented. The theory then would have probably been along the lines: “Writing words down will destroy the art of story-telling. It will ruin our ability to bond and form emotional connections with one another, to learn first-hand from our elders, transforming our identity of who and what we are.”

Agree, disagree? Here’s a link to one of her interviews – iD: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century by Susan Greenfield (The Sunday Times, May 08)

Web Traffic Value

The New York Times has an article – The Best Kind of Traffic for Web Sites (free registration required to view) – about the value of visitors to retail web sites. The following chart shows the difference in value depending on whether you click through from a search result, from a paid search ad (i.e. displayed alongside search results) or direct (entering the address of the site in the browser/clicking on a saved bookmark):

Visitors who clicked on paid ad links were more likely to buy and spent more on each order than visitors who click on ‘unpaid’ search results, although nothing compared to visitors who go direct. The chart makes a compelling argument for a) having a short web address (I’m quicker at typing amazon.co.uk than I am at locating it’s bookmark); and b) giving customers a reason to want to come back (I often check reviews at Amazon) and hence remember the address or bookmark it.

The statistics were supplied by Engine Ready, an Internet marketing company, who analyzed 18.7 million visits over two years to web sites run by 27 of its 500 clients. You could ask ‘why those 27?’ A broader data set would be more convincing.

Technorati tags: online marketing; seo

The Mobile Web

One Internet-related trend that has been slow to take off has been the mobile web – bringing the Internet to mobile devices. The following article has a good write up about marketing and the mobile internet: Mobile Marketing has finally arrived

The mobile web faces various challenges, not least that many web sites today have yet to create site designs suited for small screens. But I suspect the biggest reason for slow adoption has nothing to do with the technology.

I like to use my mobile phone for sync’ing email and browsing the Internet. But. It costs a small invisible fortune. For starters, the majority of mobile phone networks seem to focus their pricing structures around phone calls and sending texts. Your monthly subscription will typically include a lump of free call minutes and free text messages, but zero freebies involving the Internet. And even if you have to pay for your calls, you can judge how expensive the call is going to be. Even if you can’t remember your actual call rate, simply multiple the duration of the conversation by 50p (in the UK) should give a suitable worst case scenario. Text messaging is even simpler – you pay a flat fee per text usually. But data is an invisible mine field because the mobile operators typically charge by the volume of data downloaded. This poses some challenges. a) there is no visual clue about how much data is downloaded when you are browsing the web or sync’ing email, and b) you can’t easily control the volume of data that has to be downloaded. Net result: After seeing some hefty data charges on my monthly bill, my mobile internet browsing days are being scaled down to the bare minimum.

I am rubbish at text messaging, and don’t use anywhere near my free allowance. I don’t use up all my call allowance each month either. I want a mobile phone subscription that includes a certain amount of free data downloads too… but that still does not solve the second issue – how do you control how much data is downloaded? Is it going to be trial and error to find out which sites are mobile-friendly versus mobile-costly?

Technorati Tags: Mobile Web