Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 8 Feb 12 03:31
From John Battelle's Searchblog: http://battellemedia.com/archives/2012/02/larry-pages-tidal-wave-moment.php?ut m_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JohnBattellesSearchb log+%28John+Battelle%27s+Searchblog%29 "To continue being a great search engine, it needs the identity and relationship data found, for the most part, behind Facebooks walls. Ive written elsewhere about the breakdown of the open web, the move toward more walled gardens of data, and what that does to Googles ability to execute its core business of search. And its not just social readers have sent me tons of information that predict how mobile, in particular, will escape the traditional reaches of Googles spidering business model. I hope to pore through that information and post more here, but for now, its worth reading a bit of history to put Googles moves into broader context." So Search Plus Your World is driven for a large part because so much data is now hidden behind walled gardens? Does the move to mobile really effect how data is found by traditional search engines? And finally, how will Web 3.0, the semantic web, effect search? Are we seeing the beginning of a new data set outside the scope of traditional search engines?
Steven Levy (steven) Wed 8 Feb 12 08:54
I'll get to Jon's question last. First to Ari. In "In the Plex" I describe Google's attitude towards customer service. In short, Larry thought it was a waste of time. Why not let customers instruct each other how to navigate Google's quirks? Believe it or not this worked pretty well--when Google's products were only free services like search and Gmail. When Google began offering services to the enterprise, they had to change course. And when Google did its own phone, the lack of support was a definite disaster. Still, Google's core belief is that its services are built to scale, and support is something the company will never focus on. It's not Zappos.
Steven Levy (steven) Wed 8 Feb 12 09:00
Ted has a range of questions. I totally agree with Battelle (and have written about this myself) that the idea behind Search Plus Your World (SPYW) is flawed if Google can't get access to social content other than G+. Google's response is that no one complains (any more) about maps. (Well, Google just did get a fine from France for offering Maps for free, but that's another matter.) But I respond that SPYW without Facebook, Twitter, etc. is like Maps where cities are only partially mapped. It's a map of a city with only a small fraction of its neighborhood. This isn't only Google's fault-- we must as users demand control of our information. That means being able to let others (of our choice) seeing it in search engines -- if we choose and give permission. Mobile is a different issue, and opens new vistas for everybody. Google was both smart and lucky to have Android, and its only beginning to explore how search and local combine. Semantic web is something Google works on, but efforts like Google Square have not taken off. More and more, though, Google relies on semantic stuff to help it deliver instant answer. The real mover in this, by the way, is Wolfram -- Wolfram Alpha is on the move, and its a big reason Siri is so smart.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 8 Feb 12 12:24
My ears stood up at this part of your post: "...we must as users demand control of our information." You've written one after another forward-looking and savvy book about the Internet, and we both know that this issue's been in the air since the Internet was commercialized in the early 90s. I'd love to hear your thoughts about how this hard problem can be solved - how do we get control of our data, given that the prevailing assumption has been that commercial interests can freely take our data and make it their own?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 9 Feb 12 05:13
Steven, what do you know about Google Currents? http://www.webdistortion.com/2011/12/11/google-currents-content-curation-for-m obile/
Steven Levy (steven) Thu 9 Feb 12 10:26
It will be a struggle to get control of our data, but I believe it will eventually happen. I see social data like email in the 1980s--systems didn't talk to each other. (Compuserve users couldn't send mail to the Prodigy users!) This can't hold. Either government pressure or marketplace pressure will force a change. The thing about Facebook is that its very size will put more pressure on it to open up.
Steven Levy (steven) Thu 9 Feb 12 10:29
As for Currents, I have played with it a bit and it looks nice. Very much in the Flipboard vein. Google has ventured in this area a number of times (like Google News "Spotlight" and in almost every case it throws the product into deep water and see if it won't drown. Flipboard has a CEO and a passionate group of staffers who live and die by promoting and improving their product. Google's philosophy is to let product succeed on their own. Which product do you see winning?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 11 Feb 12 05:47
The hottest online product du jour is Pinterest, which isn't something I would've predicted - if you told me an app for pinning photos with comments would catch fire, I might've said "people can add photos to Google+ and Facebook, why would they go there." It's hard to predict what applications will be big successes. Even its founders didn't suspect Twitter would be the phenomenon it's become. I just had an interview with Amber Case, the cyborg anthropologist. She's been studying human/machine integration and interaction. As our technology evolves, we're evolving with it - it can have an impact on our thinking, though what's fundamentally human doesn't necessarily change. I didn't ask her this question, but I've been thinking about it since that discussion. We're becoming hyperfocused on screens and media - as we move through the world we see so many people who are staring into their increasingly smaller devices, interacting with applications and data - texting, reading email, posting to Twitter and Facebook, tossing virtual birds at precarious stacks of lumber, etc. Are we going to keep moving in the "cyborg" direction, increasingly interacting with our various computing devices and deploying them as human extensions? Or might there be a backlash, where masses of people decide they're done with this, I'm closing my Facebook account and taking a walk in the park?
Steven Levy (steven) Sat 11 Feb 12 07:47
I think that we are on the cusp of a giant behavior change on what it means to be a human interacting with other humans. It is important to understand that we are not at any sort of finishing point in the quick rampup of technology. It's the beginning, as stuff gets more powerful, more beautiful, more ubiquitous and more connected. You can go for a walk and forget about facebook and all that for a few hours, but you will return, or be left out of the sweep of civilization's future. It may be a crummy future (according to the way we see things now) but short of some sort of apocalypse that turns off our stuff, we face a different kind of living. The only thing we really know about it is that it will be dramatically different.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sat 11 Feb 12 08:19
> The hottest online product du jour is Pinterest, which isn't something With what group of people? I think as many of my friends make fun of it as use it as The Next Great Solution To World Hunger (or whatever).
no disrespect to our friends the chum (wiggly) Sat 11 Feb 12 09:37
According to techcrunch, "18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland." http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/07/pinterest-monthly-uniques/ Dismissal of twitter was common among a lot of people who probably see themselves as net-savvy, too.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sat 11 Feb 12 09:47
Unfair comparison. What about all the other things that received negative feedback and disappeared? I think Google has a nice, long list of those.
Steven Levy (steven) Sun 12 Feb 12 08:19
I have to admit that I have not been swept up in Pinterest frenzy, but I haven't devoted attention to it. In cases like this -- Groupon comes to mind--I really try to give it a shot, which I will do at some point. When I did this for Groupon, I was not excited about that company as a significant force in the Internet, a la Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 12 Feb 12 11:56
I suspect Pinterest is growing so fast because it's easy to use and focused on image-sharing. Note that the smartphone app Instagram is also very popular, and has similar characteristics (but a different culture of adopters, I'd say). I'd like to hear more about people who make fun of Pintereset. Sounds like a bit if cultural disdain - make geeks looking crosseyed at a site that appeals to women from "the heartland." When I say it's a hot app, I mean in terms of growth, not geek appeal. I saw Chris Riley speak yesterday. He's former head of Apple's Graphic Design Group, now spending some time traveling and collecting photographs. He showed photos by various global photographers and noted that so many depicted a real sense of joy and wonder that he suggested is pervasive in the world, despite the U.S. propensity to focus on bad news and anxious thinking. He was thinking global sharing of real stories unfiltered by media thinking would have a huge impact as more global citizens find access to each other through the Internet. It was an inspiring talk (at TedX Austin).
suzanne stefanac (zorca) Sun 12 Feb 12 17:40
hi steven! i post to both facebook and google+ fairly regularly. using google+, i like the ease with which i can form and update circles. i've found hangouts useful. the sparks feature surfaces topics and links i'd never have found otherwise. i recognize that not everyone likes the idea that there's one sign-in for all of google, but i'm grateful that i can set my privacy and other settings and know that they will follow me across search, maps, calendar, docs, etc. my question is, given the tremendous lead facebook enjoys, do you think google+ will withstand the test of time and give facebook a run for its money? it seems some competition in the arena would be good for all of us.
Steven Levy (steven) Mon 13 Feb 12 17:31
Hi, Suzanne, great to hear from you. You like Sparks? Wow, first time I've heard that! But I do really like Google+. I find it's a much better place for comments to draw good comments and a fairly constructive conversation. (Of course, there's the WELL, but this is my first time back in... let's say a long time.) I think the key to a thriving Google+ is something that all of us should want--portability of social data. If Google was able to get access to FB data (with our permission!) in a way that preserved the same privacy settings we had on FB (and vice versa) that would be a boon. What's more, I think that this must happen. The bigger FB gets, the more the government will want to regulate it. And this is the biggest issue of its power. Facebook has the talent and drive to thrive in those conditions, and it will be good for Facebook to have a spirited competitor. All I ask those giants is not to douse us in their pissing contest.
suzanne stefanac (zorca) Mon 13 Feb 12 20:58
do you think it could end up being a third-party that arbitrates guidelines and holds the keys?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Feb 12 05:42
Or conversely, as some are predicting, will Facebook ultimately collapse under the weight of its ambitions, a la AOL?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Feb 12 15:38
Mashable has an infographic about Pinterest's success: http://mashable.com/2012/02/14/pinterest-daily-users-are-up-125-percent/
Steven Levy (steven) Wed 15 Feb 12 09:56
Facebook's ambitions would definitely put it into a space where it begs regulation. Unlike Google, which became a search utility without a lock-in, Facebook would be a social utility WITH a lock-in, due to a self-sustaining critical mass. Does that sound desirable? Maybe one remedy (if you think one is called for) would be a third party identity entity, or just a mandate to share (welcome back Open Social?)
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Wed 15 Feb 12 13:44
> Unlike Google, which became a search utility without a lock-in, But with executives mucking with personal data of Google execs and troubles with the FTC. They might not have Facebook's problems, but they aren't walking on water.
Ari Davidow (ari) Wed 15 Feb 12 14:01
I just got the book out of the library before heading out for vacation, but I have to say that the first third or so (as far as I've read so far) is a fascinating story. I especially enjoy the fact that other people were coming up with a similar search methodology, but it was Brin and Page who created the search engine. In a different vein, the story of how Google invented (re-invented?) their auctions is marvellous.
suzanne stefanac (zorca) Wed 15 Feb 12 14:21
i was once in the google offices visiting a friend who was fairly high up. she had worked at apple years before and said the biggest difference was that apple was a severely hierarchical org while google was almost anarchic. she pointed to the two offices adjacent to hers and said she actually didn't know what the inhabitants of either did. do you think this was a fair assessment of the two companies? if true, it's interesting that two such opposite strategies have paid off so well for their adherents.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Feb 12 12:14
We want to thank Steven Levy for taking time away from his very busy schedule to discuss Google's evolution and implications for the larger, rapidly evolving Internet ecosystem. Our discussion reaches its formal end today, though it's fine to continue posting here. Thanks also to others who participated, and to our readers.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 16 Feb 12 13:53
Thanks, this has been good reading!
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