Mike Arrington and I disagree on the future

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Last Saturday on the Gillmor Gang Mike Arrington wondered aloud whether Twitter had won a “winners take all” game and whether that meant that friendfeed was toast. He then wrote a blog post titled “FriendFeed is in danger of becoming the coolest app no one uses.”

If Arrington is right, then Friendster would have kept MySpace from happening. MySpace would have kept Facebook from happening. Facebook would have kept Twitter from happening.

The thing is that Arrington and I disagree about the future.

He is right about one thing. Twitter has won. It is now the favorite way for people to do microblogging. It LOOKS like a “winner take all” thing, right? After all, who will use a different service than all those celebrities now? To be serious we already know that Twitterers won’t switch, because last year Twitter was down all the time and no one switched, even when they were being abused by the technology.

So that game IS over and Arrington is right about that.

But, is the microblogging game where the cash is? No, I don’t think so.

Well, then, where is the cash?

Search.

“Huh?” I can hear you asking. “Twitter has real-time web search already.”

Yes, but it isn’t all that good.

Here, let’s demonstrate. Remember the plane that crashed in the Hudson?

I want you to find the original picture that someone sent in from their iPhone over Twitter.

Here, I’ll do the searches for you. Go to Twitter Search and type in Hudson Plane Crash. See all the noise? Yeah, the picture is there somewhere but it’s hard to find.

Now, here’s another search, this time using some of the filtering systems over on friendfeed. The picture stands right out.

See, what is going on here is that for search to work you MUST have metadata. Google built a multi-billion-dollar business on the metadata of linking. The next big business will build on top of the metadata of these three things:

1. Who shared or commented on an item. The search above I knew I had liked the picture, so I constrained the search to only things I’ve liked.
2. How many comments or likes are on an item. The search above I knew had tons of comments and likes, so I looked only for items that had more than five likes. That got rid of 95% of the noise.
3. What was said in the item. See on Twitter there’s only 140 characters and other people can’t add tags or info onto that item. On friendfeed I can leave a comment underneath a tweet and make it even more searchable. These comments get indexed in seconds now, which makes them very useful. I can add “cool tweet” to a Tweet and then search for that tweet later. Here’s an example.

NONE of these pieces of metadata are available in Twitter.

This is not just about friendfeed, either. Over on Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has a TON of extra metadata to study as well. He knows who has commented on each other’s walls or who has sent a message, so he knows who your “real” friends are.

Now, to be fair, Twitter does have some metadata to study as well. Retweets are metadata. Already Retweetfeed and TweetMeme are watching that metadata and there are other sites as well.

Twitter can also study hashtags, but I have been talking to people about why I think they are dead. Certainly hashtags are less relevant in the future.

But, notice what Twitter’s metadata is: it has to be included INSIDE a Tweet, where Facebook and friendfeed’s metadata is OUTSIDE the Tweet. Which gives you more characters to communicate with your friends.

So, why are the dollars in search and not just in microblogging?

Well, let’s look how people buy something.

Someone or something creates the need in their head to buy something. I have a baby on the way so I’m starting to look at strollers again since our old one isn’t good enough for a two-baby family.

That’s the “need.”

Then I start talking to my friends. That’s where Twitter and Facebook and Friendfeed come in. I also start researching. That’s where Google comes in and parenting sites and all that.

Then we make a decision. NOW that is the only place where monetization is possible.

Let’s say I decided on a Bugaboo stroller. I search Google for such. Notice all the ads along the right side!

Why are all those ads there? Because businesses know that’s where the money is. Not in blasting ads on the Superbowl. Not in bothering you with ads in my videos or on my blog, where there aren’t many people buying strollers.

No, they want to hit you AT THE MOMENT YOU ARE BUYING.

So, why would Bugaboo want to put ads inside your Tweets? Hint, they won’t. They won’t get many sales that way. But, what if you are searching for information on strollers? Absolutely! That means you’re looking to buy.

OK, here’s where we differ on the future.

We found our new doctor on Yelp. You’ll find all sorts of things this way in the future.

How about a restaurant? A plumber? A TV repair shop? A lawyer?

Consider that you’re walking down the street with a future version of Facebook or Twitter or friendfeed in your hand. You’re looking for a restaurant.

Which is going to be able to bring back the best restaurants that your friends care about?

That requires having metadata to study. That’s why Facebook copied friendfeed’s likes so that it can come back and say “there are four restaurants that have more than 20 likes from your friends within walking distance.”

Translation: the future hasn’t been built yet. That’s why Twitter has not won the entire game yet. That’s why this is a fun industry to watch.

Oh, and Mike, you only have 62 comments and 72 likes, which demonstrates you haven’t done enough with these systems to see the real value. I have 18,300 comments and 17,284 likes and now I have a database that ANYONE can search and find a LOT of value. Plus, I have now been to the future and you haven’t. Yet. You’ll get there. :-)

I gave my Twitter and friendfeed followers a look at the video I did, discussing our disagreement and here’s the comment area that erupted. Keep in mind that this is a live chat room and you can add comments and I’ll see and be able to answer them live on screen there. Oh, that’s something else that Twitter and Facebook can’t yet do. Like I said, I’ve been to the future. You should come and join me.

91 thoughts on “Mike Arrington and I disagree on the future

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  3. Hi .. I agree on the value of metadata, but feel that non social meta data is being overlooked. We need to use available content to provide context, hence building a “deeper” experience. We need maps (google maps), concepts (wikipedia), reviews (yelp), etc added to the info our friend feed is putting in front of us.

    tnx..

  4. Robert – one advantage that FriendFeed and Facebook have over Twitter is that they can be a microblogging client like Twitter – but when you need more from them they can deliver. And then you can turn them down – back to a microblogger.

    For example. Had a close friend who had a son suffer a severe ski accident. He was near death, in intensive care, away from home, friends and family for 2 weeks. During that time, we all relied on Facebook – and the updates in the notes section as to what was going on. It was the perfect broadcast medium. Complete with photos, the ability to comment and add prayers etc. Was easily accessible by mobile phone etc. It was perfect. And what could Twitter offer with it’s 140 characters? Not much.

    The problem w/ a full blown blog is that most people don’t have much to say on a regular basis – and blogs demand regular posting to stay relevant. So they get started with grand ideas and good intentions and fade away.

    Twitter gives people the outlet to voice the little parts of their life that make up 95% of what people can be expected (or want) to regularly contribute. But Twitter fails when you have more to say.

    That is the power of FB and FF. It’s their when you need it – and when you don’t you can turn it down – and when you do – you don’t lose your audience – like you do w/ a blog. People are content w/ the slow trickle of micro-posts – they stay, comment, keep things alive – and then when you need it – you can open the flood gates and you still have listeners.

  5. Robert – one advantage that FriendFeed and Facebook have over Twitter is that they can be a microblogging client like Twitter – but when you need more from them they can deliver. And then you can turn them down – back to a microblogger.

    For example. Had a close friend who had a son suffer a severe ski accident. He was near death, in intensive care, away from home, friends and family for 2 weeks. During that time, we all relied on Facebook – and the updates in the notes section as to what was going on. It was the perfect broadcast medium. Complete with photos, the ability to comment and add prayers etc. Was easily accessible by mobile phone etc. It was perfect. And what could Twitter offer with it’s 140 characters? Not much.

    The problem w/ a full blown blog is that most people don’t have much to say on a regular basis – and blogs demand regular posting to stay relevant. So they get started with grand ideas and good intentions and fade away.

    Twitter gives people the outlet to voice the little parts of their life that make up 95% of what people can be expected (or want) to regularly contribute. But Twitter fails when you have more to say.

    That is the power of FB and FF. It’s their when you need it – and when you don’t you can turn it down – and when you do – you don’t lose your audience – like you do w/ a blog. People are content w/ the slow trickle of micro-posts – they stay, comment, keep things alive – and then when you need it – you can open the flood gates and you still have listeners.

  6. I wonder if Twitter added another column like “favourites” or “@” called “high value” that people got in the habit of using to tag anything HV — and then there was some kind of master running list of this.

    This was a useful video because I could get some insight into why you are so hepped on FF, I never get it. And basically, it seems it’s because you can fan out and see the likes surrounding any item that gives you useful meta data.

    And here’s the problem — to get that useful meta data, you’d have to have 60,000 or 70,000 followers/followees to generate enough around each item you might post or topic you might watch for. Obviously not everyone could do this.

  7. I wonder if Twitter added another column like “favourites” or “@” called “high value” that people got in the habit of using to tag anything HV — and then there was some kind of master running list of this.

    This was a useful video because I could get some insight into why you are so hepped on FF, I never get it. And basically, it seems it’s because you can fan out and see the likes surrounding any item that gives you useful meta data.

    And here’s the problem — to get that useful meta data, you’d have to have 60,000 or 70,000 followers/followees to generate enough around each item you might post or topic you might watch for. Obviously not everyone could do this.

  8. Dead on Mr. Scoble! The added piece of utility in that the best advertising will predict what you want (based on the context of your status) before you have to manually look for it. I posted some forward looking thoughts on the subject in my link.

    All I need (humble wishes) is a group of super sharp design guru’s to help me develop the semantic interpreter to create metadata out of human microblog/text. Google’s got a leg up on doing that with our text search.

  9. Dead on Mr. Scoble! The added piece of utility in that the best advertising will predict what you want (based on the context of your status) before you have to manually look for it. I posted some forward looking thoughts on the subject in my link.

    All I need (humble wishes) is a group of super sharp design guru’s to help me develop the semantic interpreter to create metadata out of human microblog/text. Google’s got a leg up on doing that with our text search.

  10. The winner will be the one that keeps it simple. Friendfeed is a complete mess if you have more than two friends with nothing better to do than talk. To the first time user coming in from the cold it’s totally mind numbingly incomprehensible and impossible to set up without help.
    And because there is so much information, mostly junk drivel posted for the sake of posting, it’s a huge time waster.
    To be useful to the masses Friendfeed needs simplifying and cleaning up, otherwise it will go the way of MySpace, which always was a complete mess and never got cleaned up. Who in their right mind still uses MySpace?
    Twitter is simple, anyone can use it and it just works.
    Simple is always the winner.
    God help us if Microsoft gets it’s hands on it.

  11. The winner will be the one that keeps it simple. Friendfeed is a complete mess if you have more than two friends with nothing better to do than talk. To the first time user coming in from the cold it’s totally mind numbingly incomprehensible and impossible to set up without help.
    And because there is so much information, mostly junk drivel posted for the sake of posting, it’s a huge time waster.
    To be useful to the masses Friendfeed needs simplifying and cleaning up, otherwise it will go the way of MySpace, which always was a complete mess and never got cleaned up. Who in their right mind still uses MySpace?
    Twitter is simple, anyone can use it and it just works.
    Simple is always the winner.
    God help us if Microsoft gets it’s hands on it.

  12. Just replied to another comment on this thread, but couldn’t resist replying to this one as well. I think AJ’s point about relevancy (whether I like eggs vs. pancakes will impact my review for a restaurant) is right on target.

    Put another way, the “social graph” is just one element needed for a rich recommendation service. As we developed Kelpp, we’ve focused on incorporating the following in addition to the social graph dimension:

    “Goods or services” – these are tags that describe what you are reviewing or looking for. (e.g. “scrambled eggs”, “inexpensive vegetarian lunch”, “great city views”, etc.)

    Business / locations – the “place” you are reviewing.

    “Requests for recommendation” – these indicate what “goods or services” a user is looking for recommendations on. These requests are communicated to the user’s friends (via Facebook).

    Reviews – e.g. “user X strongly recommends business Y for tags A, B, and C”

    You can see this in action by taking a look at http://kelpp.com/places_of_business/view?pob_id=42

    This business has multiple reviews for different “tags”, which allows for very precise recommendations. You can also explore the “tag space” to find related businesses – for example if you click on the “vegetarian” tag you will see several other restaurants that have been reviewed for that tag.

    Would love to hear if folks think this concept makes sense and is valuable.

  13. IMHO, u r both wrong. Nobody can predict the future and both of you may very well be right or wrong. Flip a coin.

    That said, Scoble, u simply pump. If I came to you with a new Web application that repurposed the bytes lost because of the redundant carriage returns near line feeds, you’d tell everybody that I’m the nezt greatest thing.

    Arrington, on the other hand would ask to invest and if I did he’d pump me. If he didn’t, he’d tell everybody that it’s stupid or blackball me.

    Neither present a real opinion.

  14. IMHO, u r both wrong. Nobody can predict the future and both of you may very well be right or wrong. Flip a coin.

    That said, Scoble, u simply pump. If I came to you with a new Web application that repurposed the bytes lost because of the redundant carriage returns near line feeds, you’d tell everybody that I’m the nezt greatest thing.

    Arrington, on the other hand would ask to invest and if I did he’d pump me. If he didn’t, he’d tell everybody that it’s stupid or blackball me.

    Neither present a real opinion.

  15. Renee, totally agree with you. When people need “trusted” recommendations, they generally rely on friends or friends-of-friends (e.g. “my friend knows a great gardener”).

    A colleague and I have developed a service (http://kelpp.com) that does exactly this – currently at the “alpha” stage of development, but fully functional and we’d love to have folks try it out and send feedback.

    In a nutshell, the service integrates with Facebook and lets you ask your friends for recommendations on anything, and tracks their responses for you. You can also search for existing recommendations (not a lot in the system as we’re new) and we automatically prioritize reviews from your friends and friends-of-friends.

    We plan to integrate more deeply with Twitter in the future – you can see our current integration by following http://twitter.com/kelppme

  16. this is so silly. a 15+ minute diatribe about Friendfeed and twitter, delivered with such drama. is this what you do for a living?

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