How to open up the social web

open standardsThe social part of the web is a hot topic these days. We see a development in which a lot of webapplications are incorporating some way of social interaction with friends, collegues or family. New applications arrived which enable us to inform our friends about what we’re doing, where we are or what we would like to share. The big players like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft understand the importance of online social activity and are rapidly taking steps to adapt their platforms (see yahoo opens up) or introduce new platforms (e.g. Google’s OpenSocial). I think this is a good thing, social activities often enrich the experience of online applications and it will become a more important aspect of the web in the coming years. However, this also introduces a couple of new problems (or should we call it challenges). A friend of mine, @kleverlaan, wrote an interesting post (dutch) after visiting the Web2.0 expo in San Francisco explaining why the social web is currently broken. In a nutshell, it comes down to the fact that for every webapplication that you register for you will have to:
1) Register with a new username / password combination (and try to remember it)
2) Provide some more detailed profile information
3) Find all your friends, family and collegues who happen to use the same application
4) Define the relationship between you and your friends

What we need to do is open up the social web: making all our data portable between applications. The good news is that a couple of open standards have already been introduced. OpenId, OAuth and OpenSocial provide the technology to make a big part of our data portable across multiple applications. But an average user should not be involved with any of those technologies. The technologies need to be utilized to build the ‘services of the Social Web’. Namely: Identity Providers, Social Graph Providers and Content Aggregators (like Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed). It might even be possible to make the social graph part of your online identity, leaving the need for a separate Social Graph provider.

The services of the Social Web still leave some problems unsolved. For example, they don’t provide a solution for the management of your online reputation. I would like to take my Ebay reputation with me when I register at Craigslist. Or use my slashdot karma when I go to digg. It’s a tough one since the context often matters for reputations, but most certainly a step we have to take in order to open up the social web.

Yahoo opens up

Yahoo’s new CTO, Ari Balogh, presented the new kind of Yahoo! at the Web2.0 expo in San Francisco. And I must say, I like it! In a nutshell, Yahoo is going to:

1) Open up their platform, enabling developers to build their own applications for various Yahoo! products like mail, my yahoo, search and even Yahoo’s frontpage on

2) Unlock the social data that lives within Yahoo’s databases (like mail contacts, messenger contacts).

I think Yahoo gets it. They could have also kept all the data for themselves in an attempt to build a new social app. Instead, they completely open up which enables the developer community to build some brilliant applications on top of Yahoo’s platform and data. And, eventually, chances are good that Yahoo’s platform ends up as the place to be.

More on these developments on Yahoo’s blog and in the video below:

Ha Ha! Your medium is dying!

Print is dead…

Why Yahoo should stay away from Google

Yahoo is exploring several options for the company’s future, mainly in order to maximize the stock value now that Microsoft wants to acquire them. A merge with AOL/Time Warner is mentioned as one of the alternatives. However, a couple of days ago Yahoo announced that they will start a test of Google’s AdSense for Search Service. I hope this is just a way to demonstrate to the shareholders that they can make more money per user if they have a better ad-network, and not a serious consideration to join Google’s. I’m afraid that the latter is the case however. I mean, they already know that Google’s ad network has a better coverage and relevancy, so why do this test if you’re not seriously considering to outsource the search engine advertising to Google?

So why do I say I’m afraid that Yahoo will join Google’s Ad platform? Simple. That step would give Google a near-total monopoly over the search market. That’s not good for publishers and for the advertisers. It might even be dangerous since Google’s Adwords will then be the only place to go for search engine advertising. Given the fact that the pricing of Adwords is based on an auction-model, I think Google is the only party who will benefit. But, apart from the danger for the online advertising industry, this step would make Yahoo extremely dependent on Google.

Microsoft’s response to the Yahoo/Google deal is a quite logical one:

“Any definitive agreement between Yahoo! and Google would consolidate over 90% of the search advertising market in Google’s hands. This would make the market far less competitive, in sharp contrast to our own proposal to acquire Yahoo! We will assess closely all of our options. Our proposal remains the only alternative put forward that offers Yahoo! shareholders full and fair value for their shares, gives every shareholder a vote on the future of the company, and enhances choice for content creators, advertisers, and consumers.”

It’s clearly bothering Microsoft that they are still such a tiny player in the web search business. Despite the huge investments they made in search technology in the last few years, their US marketshare has decreased from 16.3% in 2005 to 11.2% by August 2007. That’s not very promising. In my opinion they seriously screwed up by renaming all of their online services to ‘something’ Live. Their branding strategy is a mess, and now they want to add Yahoo! to their portfolio as well. I think the Yahoo management understands that a merge with Microsoft would kill the company culture, but, it might be difficult to explain that to the shareholders who will receive $$$ when MS acquires Yahoo.

It’s a tough one, but I would definitely stay away from both Google and Microsoft. A merge with AOL or News Corp. might be an interesting alternative. To be continued (I guess)…

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4/TZ5 announced

I’ve been looking for a new camera for a while now. It’s probably a well-known dillema: will I buy one now or wait till a new version comes out? The problem with technology and gadgets is that there will always be a new version with improved features within a year after you’ve bought yours. So, at a certain moment you should just decide to buy one. Easier said than done, I know.

I considered buying the Panasonic DMC-TZ3, which I think is an excellent camera for a very competitive price. I did realise however that the camera has been on the market for almost a year. So, chances are good that a followup will be announced early 2008. Every once in a while I googled for DMC-TZ4 (which I thought would be a logical name for the TZ3 successor). Finally, when I asked google again today, I found Panasonic’s announcement of the TZ4 and TZ5!

Panasonic TZ5

The specs of these compact ultra-zoom cameras are pretty impressive:

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Have your photo analysed by emotion recognition software

The research department of the company I work for is working on a new project in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam. Today we launched a new website,, which enables you to have your photo analysed by advanced emotion recogniton software. The technology behind this project is the result of extensive research by the Intelligent Systems Lab Amsterdam. It’s the same technology that was previously used to decode Mona Lisa’s emotions (she was 83% happy!).

I like the fact that the result of scientific research is demonstrated to the public with projects like this. And… it’s a fun way to discover the actual emotions of famous people or your loved ones.

Here comes another bubble

Will there be another bubble in 2008? I don’t know but this song by Richter Scales really made me laugh:
Warning: Robert Scoble had Diet Coke coming out of his nose after watching this.

Coffee in Helsinki

I had a meeting at Sanoma in Helsinki yesterday. I’m flying back this evening so I had planned to go shopping for some nice finnish design today. Turns out that today is a public holiday in Finland so all shops are closed. Luckily we did find a nice coffeeshop with free WiFi:

Waynes Coffee

It would certainly spend far more time in coffeeshops if they all had an open WiFi connection…

WAP is dead, but what’s the future of mobile?

FOMWAP has never been a big success, I guess the possibilities were just a bit too limited. I’m sure however that within a couple of years, the mobile web will be (at least) as important as the web is today. We already see a growth in the availability of mobile accessible websites and the first location-based services are available.

How will the mobile web emerge in the coming years? That’s the main subject of the future of mobile conference. I just registered, hope it will be an inspiring day!

Interesting acquisition: Nokia buys Navteq

NokiaA very interesting acquisition today: Nokia acquired map-provider Navteq for $8.1 billion. This is especially interesting since Navteq is one of the major suppliers of digital maps, they provide mapping data to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Another supplier of mapping-data, Tele Atlas, was acquired by TomTom earlier this year.

Personally I expected Google to buy Navteq. For the last couple of months, Google has made clear that they expect a lot of their mapping service ( I can’t imagine that they like the idea of being dependent on nokia. However, another company will even have a worse feeling about this acquisition: Garmin. Garmin currently gets their data from Navteq, that however means that they are now a customer of a big competitor (nokia). Switching to Tele Atlas isn’t much better since that company is owned by another competitor, TomTom. That leaves them in a difficult situation.

For the customers however, this is only good news. I expect nokia to enter the navigation-market with some very interesting products. Given nokia’s background, an internet-connected navigation device cannot be far away.