- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
I’ve been suggesting for a long time that inch by inch, day by day, Facebook moves closer and closer to becoming AOL 2.0. I am not talking about the new AOL that’s a collection of blogs, I am talking about the 14.4 dial up, 3.5″ floppies, look at photos of Cindy Crawford and email “You’ve Got Mail” AOL.
It’s easy to see how hooked people are to Facebook when the service is down as it has been a couple of times the past month. It’s the same crack that had me and lots of my friends hooked to AOL back in the 90s and pushed my first bill over $600.
In February I took a long look at the components of Facebook and compared them to the old AOL. Facebook had a press conference today to discuss a variety of updates at the social networking service. Next Web has a recap of all of the changes. The Facebook Groups update was the most interesting to me. It was fun to watch how quickly everyone ran for a group and how many updates were posted on my Facebook page about x person joining y group. It was interesting to note that groups can have email addresses @facebook.com which is one of the items I noted back in February would be coming. I still believe we will see full email@example.com email addresses coming soon. Email was the core functionality of AOL so it’s easy to see why I think it will be coming to Facebook.
Email is really the only function left that keeps Facebook from being its own complete island. Almost all of the other services a normal Internet user uses on a regular basis are provided by Facebook. From photos to videos, groups, IM, chat, apps, games, what else is there where a person would need to go outside the walls of the Facebook?
While many compare Facebook and Google, I would actually suggest Facebook’s next battle will be with Apple.
I’ve been watching how my sister has been using Facebook as of late and it is EXACTLY the same way she used AOL.
Let’s start this journey by taking a ride back in time. Some of you are too young to remember the Internet of the early 90s. Back then one of the most popular ways to get “online” was to use AOL. This was the popular online service that came via disks you received in the mail. Prodigy and Compuserve were on their way out and this new service AOL was the darling of the time. I went to college in a small town in upstate New York which had no local number for AOL. I had to call to Albany to access AOL. And boy did I access AOL. One of my first months I received a phone bill for over $500 in long-distance charges (where was Vonage back then?!?) and that didn’t even include the AOL access fees. I still use the same username on AOL today that I originally registered way back then.
AOL was exciting – you could read news, send and receive email, play games, IM chat with friends, go into chat rooms based around topics, search for content, listen to music, send eCards, customize the home page to suit your preferences and a variety of other online tasks. In later versions of the AOL desktop, a Web browser was included and other “partners” were added to allow for additional content and, what I will call, applications.
It sure does seem that the more we try to move the Internet forward, the more things seem to copy the old. So with that said, allow me to introduce you to the next version of AOL… AOL 2.0… otherwise known as Facebook.
Amsterdam-based chat service eBuddy has announced a new alpha-version web messenger client today. The interface has been redesigned, a new way to set your profile images using your webcam, sound controls and major speed improvements.
Another new feature in the messenger client are themes. From the announcement, “With Themes you can change the look of the Messenger just the way you want it. In the mood for a pink background or rather prefer orange with funky dots? Change it with two simple clicks.”
You can try the new eBuddy web messenger client here. To login you either need an eBuddy ID or use any of the supported chat services (MSN, Yahoo IM, AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, Facebook, MySpace and Hyves).
I am wondering when eBuddy will integrate Twitter into their client applications. I can only imagine the strength of a client that brings together all of the chat networks, Twitter and email. Once eBuddy (and the valley version Meebo) add Twitter to their software, it should help to provide a lift to both Twitter’s usage and reach.
Amsterdam-based eBuddy and valley-based TokBox have announced a new partnership this morning. The new partnership will bring the video chat service TokBox offers to the users of online instant messaging service eBuddy. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
eBuddy CEO Jan-Joost Rueb noted that video chat was the most requested feature from their users. Rueb also shared that they have over 18 million monthly unique users.
The video chat works across several IM networks including AIM, MSN, Gchat, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Chat. As you can see below, eBuddy has added the video chat icon to the chat window. Users click the video chat icon and instantly begin sharing video with their chat buddies. No software is required to use the video chat feature.
I just received a tip that something is going on with the Microsoft Messenger/Windows Live Messenger. If you check Twitter search, you can see many people are being asked via a message on Microsoft Messenger to change their email address and/or login. I’ve posted a screenshot of the message below. Yahoo Answers has an open thread on the issue and the replies seem to indicate that it is some sort of worm/virus. The initial poster on Yahoo Answers says the box appears each time they login to MSN Messenger and that it takes them to a link on the Microsoft site but there’s no way to change the email address. Naturally Yahoo Answers isn’t absolute confirmation but I would tread lightly for now.
I have emailed Microsoft for a reply to the issue and will update this post if/when I hear back. Please leave a comment if you have any details or if this same issue is occuring with your Messenger installation.
Update: Microsoft has posted an announcement about the need to change the login id. The change has to do with the Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 SP1 product offering.
The recent skittles twitter campaign used a feature in limited testing at twitter. It’s called integrated search, or real-time search. You could see it at work Sunday & Monday on the skittles.com homepage, or in the picture here taken from a deck by Fred Wilson and covered recently on Cnet. New search results are posted to the top of a search results page in real-time, effectively transforming search into conversation.
It has the effect of aggregating conversation within twitter, by threading posts around the search phrase or keyword. This strikes me as a potential game-changer for twitter, for several reasons.
We currently hold "conversations" on twitter with followers. We have to search to find non-followers around topics. But there are barriers to bringing them into the conversation. Results are past results, and we have to follow/be followed back before conversation becomes possible.
So conversations tend to happen between people who follow each other. If they are topical, they tend not to mention the topic. And this makes them less easy to find in search. Twitter addressed this recently. If there has been conversation between users (using @replies), it is now visible with the "show conversation" link.
But there are limitations to the usefulness of the "show conversation" implementation:
- to engage in that conversation would require that we follow and are followed back
- "conversations" are often off topic, or get off topic quickly
- the focus is on the people @replying to each other, not on keywords
"Show conversations" doesn’t really capture conversations, but captures an exchange between users who have @replied each other. Only the first tweet in the exchange has to contain the search keyword.
Twitter certainly realizes that it needs to searchable. But it also realizes that search results are limited to our use of search words and phrases. And limited by the fact that we have only 140 characters at our disposal. If twitter went after conversationality, it could do so only by aggregating the conversation around an exchange between users who follow one another — not around topics.
The following-follower model that has made twitter so incredibly viral has been a constraint on conversations. Each of us has only a small window through with to see what a small number of people are talking about. And only a limited means of capturing and sustaining conversation with people around a topic.
The theoretical description of this problem is this: tweets are only loosely coupled. They are loosely coupled between users, and loosely coupled by topic:
- Tweets are not coupled to each other unless they include an @reply or D message. The latter doesn’t count for public conversations. @replies only count if our account settings are to set generously (there are three settings).
- Tweets tend not to sustain topics because they must be so short, because we tend to initiate and then drop and change what we tweet about, and because the twitterverse serves the purpose of talking about and creating news. In news, we are more likely to pass something along than to engage in discussion.
Twitter was designed in such a way to prohibit conversations. Not intentionally, of course, but symptomatically. Conversations require a kind of coupling between statements and responses, and people in conversation, that twitter makes incredibly hard to achieve.
First of all, search results couple tweets by topic. That gets us part of the way there — but is still a threaded view of past tweets. It is not threading of a conversation held between users tweeting to each other. Live search, however, achieves two important improvements.
- It puts us in present tense, which makes it possible to synchronize tweets in time. (Chats work in this way.) Users can tweet to each other in near real-time using search as a way of printing their tweets to a single page. The result is a kind of hacked up chat page (remember web forums?!)
- It focuses our attention on a real-time topical "thread." (Skittles used this feature to create buzz. All posts had to contain the word "skittles" to make it onto the real-time search results page.)
This kind of chat or forum would have some pitfalls too. We would have to continue to use the keyword in order to appear in the results. Twitter might want to glue tweets to results by pre-populating a post made from search results with the keyword in use. Or by some new form of @reply (@topic?).
And there will be consequences for twitter app developers. I would want a tweetdeck chat panel, for example, that allows me to search a topic, see real time results, and post to members of that "chat" window. (Will real-time results be available to third parties?)
Many of us are already using twitter in a much more chat-like form, but among followers. Topical chats/forums would make for an incredibly powerful use of twitter. They would change how we use twitter, who we follow and why, how we pay attention to it, and to whom. And at the same time, it seems that tweet volume would explode — rendering our current use of twitter nearly unusable. (Those of us who go into burst mode are already creating headaches for low-volume users.)
Today Meebo is announcing that the Facebook chat integration is back. Meebo CEO Seth Sternberg notes in an upcoming blog post, "After some hard work from the folks here at Meebo and help from a whole host of people at Facebook, we now have Facebook back in Meebo. Pus, Meebo is now the first launch partner of the ‘alpha’version of the Facebook Connect + Chat integration. That’s pretty cool."
Sternberg also noted that the login process for Facebook Chat is a bit different than the other chat networks that Meebo supports. But once the account is connected, it will work the same as the other chat networks.