Monthly Archives: May 2009

Why Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are wrong about naming Web 3.0 “Web 3.0″

Can we just head this trend off at the pass? It seems that Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, at their “All Things D” conference announced the beginning of the Web 3.0 era.

That’s ridiculous.

And I’m not the only one to think so.

Short aside: It’s interesting that neither Kara nor Walt show up very often on friendfeed, which is the best example of the 2010 Web right now. Kara Swisher has made a total of five comments there. Walt is even worse, doesn’t bring any items in there, and only has six comments. How can you know what the 2010 Web is, if you don’t use it and don’t participate in it?

The Web does NOT have version numbers. Naming what was going on in the last eight years “Web 2.0″ did us all a large disservice (Tim O’Reilly did that, mostly to get people to see that there was something different about the Web that was being built in 2000-2003 than what had come before).

But by naming it a number, I believe it caused a lot of people and businesses to avoid what was going on and “poo poo” it as the rantings of the new MySpace generation (which was just getting hot back then).

See, the Web changes EVERY DAY and a version number just doesn’t do it justice. Think about today, we saw Microsoft announce a major new update to its search engine, named “Bing,” that turns on next week and is already getting TONS of kudos. Seriously, in the rental car shuttle today a guy I met said the demo he saw at Kara and Walt’s conference was “awesome.”

Also today was Google’s Wave, which caught everyone by surprise and which sucked the oxygen out of Microsoft’s search announcements. Check out all the reports that I liked from around the world this morning.

But, back to the theme of this post. There IS something going on here. I covered it a few weeks ago.

The things that are happening are NOT just Twitter and search. Here, let me recount again what is making up the 2010 Web:

1. Real Time. Google caught the Wave of that trend today BIG TIME.
2. Mobile. Google, again, caught that wave big time Wednesday when it handed Android phones to everyone at its IO conference.
3. Decentralized. Does Microsoft or Twitter demonstrate that trend? Not really well.
4. Pre-made blocks. I call this “copy-and-paste” programming. Google nailed it with its Web Elements (I’ll add a few of those next week).
5. Social. Oh, have you noticed how much more social the web is? The next two days I’m hanging out on an aircraft carrier with a few people who do social media for the Navy.
6. Smart. Wolfram Alpha opened a lot of people’s eyes to what is possible in new smart displays of information.
7. Hybrid infrastructure. At the Twitter Conference this week lots of people were talking about how they were using both traditional servers along with cloud-based approaches from Amazon and Rackspace to store, study, and process the sizeable datasets that are coming through Twitter, Facebook, and friendfeed.

So, why doesn’t a version number work for these changes? Because they don’t come at us all at once. A lot of these things have been cooking for years. The Internet makes iteration possible. Tomorrow will be better on the Internet than today. In the old world of software you’d have to wait for the compilers, then you’d need to distribute tons of CDs or disks. That no longer needs to be done.

The idea that we have a version for the Web is just plain ridiculous. It makes the innovations we’re implementing too easily dismissed. How many times have you heard that “Twitter is lame?” I lost count 897 days ago.

Now, is using a year number, like what I’m doing, better? Yes. It gets us out of the version lock. And it makes it clear to businesses that if you are still driving around a 1994 Web site that it’s starting to look as old and crusty as a 1994 car is about now. Executives understand this. It’s a rare executive who drives an old car around. Most like to have the latest expensive car to get to work in.

Same with the Web. Calling it the “2010 Web” puts an urgency into what’s happening. If your business isn’t considering the latest stuff it risks looking lame or, worse, leaving money on the table. Just like driving a 1994 car risks looking lame or, worse, breaking down a lot more often than a newer car.

Is the year metaphor perfect? No, I’m sure there are a few things wrong with it. For one, if you want to host a conference based on the “trend” you’ll have to change your conference name every year. That costs money, which is why conference companies like to have more stable trends that they can exploit for a few years, at least.

Also, there are some clear “eras” in the Web, so I could see wanting to suggest that we’re in the third era of the Web, but I’ve been studying this for the past eight years and calling the second era “Web 2″ actually held us back because mainstream users didn’t think anything was happening in the past few years and Web 2.0 became a useless phrase anyway.

Anyway, can we use year numbers to describe the Web now? It’ll make it easier to evangelize the modern world to businesses. We’re entering the 2010 Web, that’s what I’m exploring. Calling the Web a version number is for people who don’t really understand, or participate in, what’s going on here. Kara and Walt, you gotta do better here.

Watch the Google anthill move toward social and real time

This week is a key moment in Google’s life. It is being challenged by a change in the ecosystem. We’ve seen this happen with other companies before. Remember Microsoft in 1994-1996? It responded to the changes in how we exchange information by turning the company hard toward the Internet. Too hard, actually. Bill Gates steered his battleship right into the DOJ’s iceberg. The water it took on from the gash in its side slowed it down for eight years already.

This week Google is having its I/O conference. Executives there told me to be there to witness the shift. They’ve also given me a small look at some of what’s coming. One even told me that it’ll be like the first Microsoft NT developer’s conference in its importance of what gets shown.

I remember that conference, back in 1994. Jim Fawcette and I were sitting there in one of the first rows and he elbowed me and said “Gates just announced Chicago and Cairo.” That was Windows 95 and what was supposed to be the next version of NT, which never really shipped, although what was important about that was Microsoft was about to see the most significant switch in Operating System usage the world has seen up to that point, or since. We were moving from command lines to GUIs. It’s one of those times when you can see tech industry history shifting all around you. In the back rooms at that conference, though, the real shifts were happening. The geeks were restless about this thing called the Internet. Within a year of that conference Gates had to admit that something was happening and told the geeks to shift direction and focus more energy on the Internet. When Windows 95 shipped in late 1995 it had an Internet stack and a Web browser.

But now back to Google. I thought about using a metaphor of a battle ship, like what worked with Gates, but, see, Google is more like an ant farm. Which is why I put this video (hosted on Google’s YouTube, of course) up front and center.

Google is much more decentralized than Microsoft was, and is (and Microsoft was much more decentralized than IBM or other companies that came before it, which is what made it so dangerous when Gates said “turn, turn, turn toward the Internet” to his troops).

Google is more like an ant hill. One powered by 20% time which is how the ants find out where the food is. Heck, enough of Google’s ants have left to join Facebook, Twitter, and friendfeed, that it should be clear by now there’s some new tasty food bits that they aren’t yet munching on. Heck, friendfeed should be a major embarrassment to Google since that 14-person team has at least five Google superstars on it (the guy who came up with the idea for Google not to be evil started the company. That’s Paul Buchheit and he also ran the Gmail team. Also on the friendfeed team is the guy who ran the Google Talk team, the guy who ran Google Maps team, the designer for a whole bunch of Googley products, and the guy who ran the backend team on Gmail). Over at Facebook and Twitter I keep running into people who used to work at Google too.

And now Google’s own founders are admitting that they need to get into real time.

The ants are moving!

They have already made some significant moves recently you might have missed. First, they are now putting profiles onto the search pages. Here, search Google for “Robert Scoble” and look at the bottom of the page. See my picture and my profile? That’s Google making moves toward the real time and social webs. Big time moves.

Notice what else you see on that search for me: a Twitter profile is there. A friendfeed profile is there. What isn’t there? My Facebook profile. Even though I made it public, it isn’t there. Why is that? Is that Google heading toward troubles with the DOJ like Microsoft got in trouble when they competed unfairly with Netscape? Be careful there Larry and Sergey!

What other moves have Google been making? Friend Connect. This lets bloggers and businesses add a social network. Look for Google to expand this week on Friend Connect. You’ll see that this is a major source of food for Google’s ants to carry back to the mother ship. I’ve already added it to my blog and in about a week 511 people have added their faces to that component, despite the fact that it really doesn’t do much yet. Wait until there’s some real value there, you’ll see these numbers move up big time.

Other places Google will make big moves? In support of the open web. Open Social for applications. Already used on millions of profiles, Open Social is how Google will ship a new set of applications that are better integrated into mobile platforms (Google is on Apple’s iPhone’s front page, Facebook and Twitter are not and Google controls its own mobile platform in Android, too).

Add all this together, along with other fun demos you’ll see this week, and you’ll see that Google is making some pretty damn impressive moves. Is Google perfect? No. If it were it would have been earlier. It wouldn’t have killed Dodgeball and effectively scorned Jaiku, which enabled Twitter and friendfeed to happen. But now that enough of the ants are seeing that they need to move toward the source of new food, it’s a scary sight and one that will become obvious this week.

Let’s compare notes later in the week and see if I’m right about the Google anthill moves.

Glympse vs. Google Latitude in location sharing battle

If you look over to the right side of my blog you’ll see a Google Latitude component.

What does that do? It shares my location with you.

Why is that cool? Because now you’ll be able to watch as I head to Adobe’s offices to meet with the Flash team there this morning. You’ll also be able to see when I leave for New York later today and, hopefully, you’ll be able to see when I arrive in New York later tonight.

So?

I’ve found this to be a useful tool for my business. People can see when I’ll arrive places. I’ve used it a lot of times to meet up with people who are near me. Often those meetings happen on the fly. I see someone’s icon near where I am and I email or Twitter or call them and see if they wanna get together for coffee. It’s amazing how often they say yes.

Imagine if you were a business and had a fleet of trucks. You could see where they were located using this technology.

One thing, though, Google Latitude is almost unusable for me. It crashes all the time on my phone. See, they made some bad assumptions up front. Here’s why: their user testing showed that people really aren’t ready to share their location in public the way I am. Privacy is a HUGE concern to them.

This feedback was so consistent that they assumed no one would ever try to share with the world, the way I do. So they designed it to be used only with very small groups of people. For instance with your close family. I hear from the team that they didn’t test it with more than 100 friends (I already have more than three times that many, which causes it to crash).

That brings me to Glympse, which is launching this morning at the Where 2.0 Conference. Glympse goes the other way to solve that privacy problem: they put a time limit on it. So, now, you can send your boss, or even the public, a glimpse into your life and let people track you.

There’s a few things that are better about that approach. First, you don’t need to have Glympse on your PC to watch me drive toward your house (to really use Google Latitude we both need Latitude running). Second, since you know the Glympse will end in, say, two hours, you don’t get paranoid about privacy issues.

I wish I could do this for the public. There are times when I don’t want to share where I am with all of you. Sorry. Glympse does that better.

On the other hand, Google Latitude lets me see where a larger group of my friends is hanging out, which leads to those impromptu coffees which are very cool.

I wish both service would meld, because I like pieces of both approaches. Anyway, last night I uploaded a video demo I did with Glympse’s CEO, Bryan Trussel. Cool demo of Glympse.

Downsides to both services? The don’t work with all phones. I can run Latitude on my Nokia phone, but not my iPhone. Glympse is same, but is coming to iPhone soon.

So far I think Glympse’s approach is going to be better for most people. What do you think?

Adding Google Friend Connect is an example of how hard it is to join the 2010 web

One of the first things I wanted to do this morning was to add Google’s Friend Connect widget to my blog. You can now see that component on the right side of my blog, right above a widget that adds Facebook Connect capabilities.

Now, I had some advantages. Kevin Marks taught me how to do that and showed me what it can do. He works at Google. It seemed simple enough to try myself, so I went off to the Google Friend Connect page and started filling out the form. It said I had to load two files up to my server. One problem, though, I didn’t know how to do that.

Now I can hear you yelling at the screen “you need to FTP them up to your server.”

One problem: most people today have no idea what you just said. I forgot all about FTP back in 1996 and didn’t think I’d need to know about it again.

WordPress’s dashboard makes it easy to upload files, but it doesn’t let you put those files into a specific directory on your server.

And I didn’t have access to my FTP server anyway. Now I do, thanks to Vid Luther, who is helping me with my site.

What if you didn’t have a “Vid?” You’d just give up.

See, this is how deep the disconnect between the geeks who make this stuff is and the normal people who are plumbers, teachers, bar owners, shop owners, etc.

Until we make it so damn simple to add stuff like this to our web sites and our blogs without needing to know about FTP or file uploads etc we won’t get main street onto the 2010 web. Or, at minimum, our tools need to communicate more about what we need to do to complete a required action. In this case it would have been nice for Google to say “you’ll probably need to get access to your server via FTP, go see your site administrator.”

I did talk with Kevin Marks too, and he had a great solution: to use a plugin. But Google’s page doesn’t offer that as a choice, so how is a normal user supposed to know about it?

Anyway, it’s working now. Please help me test it out by adding yourself to the component. As Google and Facebook add more features those components will be more important to all of us. Here’s a menu of things I’m looking to add now that I have this working.

Think people aren’t struggling with these issues? In just the past few hours I’ve received several questions about how I added the friendfeed component to my blog. See, it’s very easy to do copy and paste programming, but only if you know where to paste! :-)

Anyway, onward. I’d love to see your blog and what widgets you love and how you implemented them. Post them here!

Exploring the 2010 Web

To build something new you have to destroy what you were doing before. That’s one thing that not enough of us do. Las Vegas does that. They tear down one of their favorite old casinos to make way for something new.

That’s what I had to do to my blog. For the past year it felt like a boat anchor wrapped around my neck. It was more and more like work (because, well, it was) and less and less about personal discovery or anything really valuable.

All my fun experiments were over on Twitter, Facebook, or friendfeed. You could see that. Mike Arrington even tried to do a friendfeed intervention last December. Remember that? Since then I’ve gotten 14,000 more subscribers over on friendfeed and that service has become dramatically more important as it has gone real time and added on much better search features (are are also way ahead of Facebook’s and Twitter’s).

But that is not what I’m thinking about.

What I’ve been doing for the past two months since joining Rackspace is going back to the basics. What makes me excited?

I’ve visited dozens of companies, gone to a bunch of events, and, more importantly, I started playing with my blog again.

First off I went through every line of HTML and PHP so that I understood what was going on inside WordPress again. I hadn’t done that for years. Second, we moved my blog over to a WordPress install hosted on Rackspace’s Cloud Servers, aka Mosso.

That freed my mind because now I could try out server plugins and also widgets on my blog. For instance, you’ll see in the comments here we’re using Disqus so that your comments will integrate over to friendfeed in near real time. I’m not settled on Disqus, over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at the others too. There’s a lot of innovation happening there.

Second, I’m playing with location-based services. You’ll see Google’s Latitude widget over on the right side of my blog, underneath the friendfeed one. I’ll be adding more widgets over the next few weeks too.

Oh, and also over the last couple of months I’ve been slowly working with various folks at Rackspace. After I played with the HTML here, Vid Luther took over, talked me into using a new theme, Thesis, and then integrated Facebook Connect in here and also did some other work to get my blog up to 2010 standards.

Now, you might think my new blog isn’t “visual” enough. I don’t have a picture of myself. No fancy logo or graphic banner. Those might come in the future. For me my blog isn’t about me anymore anyway. That’s more what my friendfeed set of feeds is (which is why friendfeed plays such a big part in my new design). Friendfeed aggregates my tweets, my Flickr photos, my videos, and much more together. Plus, via my likes and my comments you can see what stuff I’m reading and what catches my eye.

Which brings me back to what I’m doing now for Rackspace: I’m exploring what it means to be a 2010 website. I’ve been visiting tons of businesses and there’s a lot of businesses out there that don’t even have a web site, or if they have one, it looks like it was built in 1994.

In a couple of weeks I’m getting a new 2010 Toyota Prius. If you look at the web site, it seems to be pretty cool, right? But why doesn’t Toyota have a community, or place you can go to talk about the 2010 Prius? Toyota does have a Facebook page, but why didn’t they create a place for me to go to talk about my new Prius with other people? Why didn’t it create a YouTube account that would get hooked in here? Did you know that Toyota’s PR team is on Twitter? Yeah, they are, but you wouldn’t have known by looking at the Toyota Web site. Even over on Twitter and Google it took quite a few tries to find this page.

And that’s what I’m getting at. Toyota is one of the world’s top brands. Has TONS of money to spend on marketing. And they aren’t even taking advantage of the 2010 web. So how are smaller businesses supposed to do it?

For instance, right near Facebook is an awesome yogurt shop named Fraiche. Tons of Facebook employees frequent here. So you’d think they’d be working on a Facebook connect site so that they can let their community know when they have something new to offer, right? No.

Do they use video to tell their story? No. Do they have a friendfeed group where people who love Fraiche can talk about it? No. Is there a blog that shows some of the new things they are adding? No.

This is a business that’s run by the wife of a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley and is right in the heart of Palo Alto (a short walk away is Tapulous and Facebook). If they aren’t on the 2010 web, something is wrong.

As I’ve taken time to watch what the tech blogs are doing (I spent some time in TechCrunch’s offices this week) I see that we’ve forgotten about the mainstreet businesses.

We’ve gotten so far ahead with our social media toys that we’ve forgotten about the many many businesses that still have web sites that look like they were designed in 1994-2000. Even the Toyota site doesn’t really have much on it that wasn’t possible before 2005 (with the exception of some high resolution video).

The world has changed in the last four years and businesses, I’m convinced, will need to react to this new “2010″ world. It might take them until 2015 to really get on board, but I want to help now.

So, that’s what I’m going to do here. Focus on the 2010 web and how we can help businesses get there. That’s also what we’ll be doing over on Building43. By the way, we’ll be launching that sometime in June, sorry for being a little quiet about that. Turns out that building a community from scratch and figuring out a direction takes some time to just sit and think.

“OK, Scoble, so what are you learning about the 2010 web so far?”

Well, I’m seeing it has a few attributes:

1. It’s real time. Twitter, Facebook and Friendfeed are all moving toward architectures and displays that refresh in real time, or let you see what’s happening right now. We are at the extreme beginnings of that trend. You really should watch the video of the panel discussion I moderated on the state of real time search to get a sense of where this is going. That panel discussion will be remembered for years as a key point. One of the panel members runs Facebook search team. Yes, Facebook is working on real time search. (That video is in two parts since the meeting ran almost two hours long. I really do recommend watching it. Part I is here. Part II is here.).
2. It’s mobile. You’ll see this more next week when the Where 2.0 conference rolls into town, but if 40,000 iPhone apps hasn’t convinced you yet, nothing will. On Monday I’m meeting with Nokia to find out the latest.
3. It’s decentralized. Look at my behaviors. I’m all over the place. Six years ago I did only one thing: blog. Now I Flickr. YouTube. Seesmic. Friendfeed. Facebook. Twitter. And many more. Go to Retaggr and see all the places I’m at.
4. Pages now built out of premade blocks. You build these pages by copying a line of Javascript code to your template. This is very simple once you see how to do it, but for someone who doesn’t know code, or where in the template to go, this is VERY daunting. Silicon Valley has NOT made it simple enough yet for the mainstream to build highly useful pages. See the friendfeed block to the right of my words? I added that by copying and pasting from the friendfeed widget page. If you know where to look a TON of cool pre-built blocks like this are available for you to put on your website or blog.
5. It’s social. This seems obvious to anyone on Twitter or Facebook, but how many businesses add their customers to their pages? Not many. Silicon Valley has done a horrible job so far of explaining why adding people to your websites matters.
6. It’s smart. We’re seeing more and more smarts added to the web every day. Tonight Wolfram’s new search engine turned on. Have you played with it? That’s the 2010 web and check out what you can do with it.
7. Hybrid infrastructure. When I visited 12seconds.tv in Santa Cruz they told me they were using a hybrid approach: they own a rack of servers but they also use Amazon’s S3 to “cloud burst” or take up the slack for files that are popular. My employer Rackspace will have more to say about that trend too over the next few months.

Anyway, I’m off to New York this week. I’m meeting with Fred Wilson to see what he thinks is happening in the 2010 web. Anyone else got something that will push the web into 2010?

PR People: I even made a place you can pitch me on 2010 web ideas. It’s interesting that a bunch of people are subscribed to that room — probably lots of tech bloggers looking for ideas.

Thanks for sticking with me while I destroyed my blog, now let’s have some fun together!

Oh, last weekend I videoed Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, as he got onto friendfeed (his new account is here). That’s a fun video too that you might find useful (the first couple minutes have bad video, but it gets better after that). He even admitted to me that Wikipedia is not a good example of a 2010 website and that they are going to be rolling out new features that will make it much more up to date. Can’t wait to see that.

I’m off to bed. Yes, I typed this all after midnight tonight. That’s another thing, no more pre-done packaged crap here.