Monthly Archives: November 2010

The API company: Mashery

This blog is a repeat of one posted to Building43, which is Rackspace’s site to feature world-changing startups. The video interview I did with Mashery’s CEO, is also on YouTube here.

APIs are programming interfaces that sit underneath the apps that we all use, and savvy companies are beginning to recognize that they can be valuable distribution channels. Mashery, based in San Francisco, is a four-year-old company that is showing businesses how to use APIs to make their products available on any platform or device.

“We’re a platform that allows a lot of big and small companies to open up APIs,” explains Oren Michels, founder and CEO of Mashery. “APIs sound like a very geeky, technical thing. But really all it means is that if you have a service or an application, or anything you do on your web site, and you want that to run either on a mobile device or a third-party platform, you have to allow those apps to have access to your underlying services. The way you do that is through an API, and we are a platform that allows companies to open those APIs and to make those building blocks available to thousands of developers to use.” Michels says that 70,000 developers are currently building on APIs powered by Mashery, and there are 10,000 active apps running on their platform, for about a hundred customers.

Though APIs can be a boon to business, they may require different expertise than the other distribution channels a company has employed before. “You’ve got to be interacting with the developers who are working on it, all this access control stuff, and then of course you have to have a lot of analytics,” says Michels. “Because if you can’t measure stuff, it’s not a distribution channel…. You might be a great marketing company, you might be really great at reaching your customers, but talking to developers and managing that relationship is a very different thing.”

Michels says that companies’ having an API is a matter of making your services available when developers are looking to solve a problem. He gives the example the New York Times bestseller list that appears of Apple’s iBooks application on the iPad. “[Apple] pull[s] that through the API, and they didn’t actually have a deal with the Times. They just went and registered the key, did everything through the terms and conditions of The New York Times, did the logo attribution as necessary, and they made use of this API. It’s all baked in. Which is, of course, great placement for the Times, and if that hadn’t been available, my guess is that Apple would have gone and found someone else who has a bestseller list API and used that instead.”

From Michels’ vantage point, APIs have huge potential in e-commerce. The growing use of APIs are making it possible for people to complete complicated transactions involving different companies, without ever leaving the app they’re in. “I think you’re going to see companies realizing that users are not wanting to have to switch and leave and move; they want everything to work,” says Michels. “So if you can’t do that, the people who are not offering that are going to lose out to the people who are.”

More info:
Mashery web site: http://mashery.com
Oren Michels on Twitter: http://twitter.com/orenmichels

Is the tech press needed anymore? (how Apple iPhone apps take off now)

Datapoint one: John Gruber is noting that Android doesn’t have very many of the industry’s best apps.

Datapoint two. Starbucks CIO says that he’s forced to use HTML 5 to support Apple iOS users, because they represent the majority of folks using mobile devices in their stores.

Datapoint three. SlideRocket is forced into HTML5 land (they used to be all Flash) because of pressure from iOS users.

Datapoint four. Instagram got 100,000 users in less than a week (now rumors are that they’ve gotten more than a million users in first month — UPDATE: Instagram says they’ve only signed up 300,000 in first month).

Datapoint five. Mobile app developer HighFive Labs (they’ve built 15 apps, including Mario Batali Cooks) tells me they are staying iPhone only for a while.

Datapoint six. Just yesterday Sam Feuer, CEO of MindSmack, told me his app, FastMall, was just put to the top of Apple’s iTunes store and is getting overwhelming demand. When I interviewed him a few weeks ago he told me he already had 250,000 downloads just because he was included in the featured list on the store.

I’m featuring FastMall’s video on this post (watch the video of its CEO in its New York headquarters), because he is at the top of the iTunes Shopping recommendations and because his app will help you get around shopping malls. I’ve used it a few times already to find out where to park nearest stores I need to visit and also to know how to find the store I need inside a mall.

Add into this lots of other anecdotes from companies like Zagat (they say iPhones are outselling all other platforms), Sephora (its webmaster told me that 80% of all mobile app users who come into their stores are using iOS devices), eBay (its mobile chief told me most of the mobile commerce done is on iOS devices), OpenTable (its mobile chief told me most of the restaurant reservations it’s seeing done on mobile devices are being made on iOS devices), AngryBirds (charges for app on iPhone, but giving it away on Android), and PayPal (investing heavily in apps to “bump” money from person-to-person). I could keep going, but there’s somethings going on here which are worth talking about.

1. There’s a common belief that Apple users are buying apps, while Android and other platform users aren’t.

2. There’s a common belief that Apple users are trying more apps per device.

3. There’s a common belief that Apple users are “better” for monetizing, because they are spending more money per device at retail.

4. There’s a common belief that Apple’s platform is best to develop on. Yes, some, like Swype, are on Android, not on Apple. I interviewed them here and their new keyboard is remarkable. What you didn’t see in the interview is that they told me off camera that they really wanted to be on Apple devices and they showed me it working on both iPhones and iPads, but are kept from shipping by Apple.

5. There’s a common belief amongst app developers that Apple’s iPad is going to be untouched in next six months.

6. There’s an understanding that Android is selling more units, but those users are less likely to buy apps, less likely to try apps, and that they have fewer methods of virally pushing apps. iOS, on the other hand has several systems to help you discover apps. My favorite is Chomp, interview here, but the others are quite good too, like Appsfire, and Appolicious. Android has GetJar, but that’s not an Android-only store.

7. App developers tell me they like being featured in Steve Jobs’ keynotes, on Apple in-store advertising and demo stations, and on commercials. That’s a stick that other platforms can’t offer developers.

So, what’s up with the headline I picked for this blog?

I’m noticing that lots of app developers are seeing HUGE adoptions without being pushed ANYWHERE but on Apple’s iTunes app store. That’s how MyTown got so big. It’s also how Instagram got so popular so fast. FastMall’s CEO told me that’s where almost all of its users came from.

Do app developers need the press anymore?

They tell me yes, but not for the reason you might think.

What’s the reason? Well, they suspect that Apple’s team is watching the press for which apps get discussed and hyped up. Apps that get hyped up in the press get added to the feature list more often than apps that don’t, although, like with MyTown, that’s not always true. Press reports might be just one datapoint amongst several that they use to decide between apps to feature. FastMall, for instance, was featured on the front page of the New York Times’ technology section, but I think that happened only after Apple featured it. So, is the press leading, or following, Apple?

More interestingly, though, is the common belief amongst app developers that they’ll only get featured on iTunes if they remain supporting Apple’s platform only. Can the press counteract that? Sometimes, like when Angry Birds became so popular that even Android users heard about it. Instagram is using a different method to get “escape velocity:” each photo tweeted links back to Instagram and, also, users like me are pushing it everywhere. I’ve heard from a lot of Android users that Instagram sucks because it’s iPhone-only. Those vocal users, though, will be first to download it when it comes out on Android and will be first to say “yeah, Instagram finally got a clue and ported to Android.”

The other thing I’m noticing, by using services like Chomp, is that the tech press doesn’t really matter in my own app choices anymore. What does? My friends who try out apps and push them into my view. That’s the new tech press and influencers and app developers need to be aware of how to influence these networks.

So, what do you think? Do you look at the tech press for help picking out apps? Or do you just look at the featured list on iTunes, or maybe use an app-discovery service like Chomp, Appolicious, Appsfire, or GetJar?

Video look: Make your Facebook pages better with Appbistro’s app store

You might not realize that I have two separate ways to interact with you on Facebook. The first is my Facebook Profile Page, which everyone on Facebook has. That’s at http://facebook.com/robertscoble. The problem is that I’m limited to 5,000 friends there and I’ve only been adding people I know.

The other way is to use a Facebook Public Page. Mine is at http://facebook.com/scobleizer. With these you can have unlimited numbers of contacts. These are the pages that brands and celebrities use to interact with fans and large audiences.

The problem is, it’s very easy to add widgets and new streams to your Profile page, but for brands and others who want to have a public Facebook page, it’s very difficult. Even getting YouTube videos onto those pages are more difficult than Profiles. Plus, apps that were made for Profiles often can’t be used on Public Pages.

Until now I was at a disadvantage when compared to brands that had large teams of Web developers who could spend the time getting things to work. What changed? Appbistro shipped.

What is Appbistro? It’s an app store with tons of apps designed for Facebook’s Public Pages.

I recently visited the team in its San Francisco office and here’s the video where we discover it together. You’ll see some of the most useful apps that you should add onto your Facebook Page. I’m looking through them today and have already added a YouTube app to my page.

First look: Gravity is making interest graphs of your social content

A poster of my interest graph done by @gravity Wild new stuff coming next week.

I first met Amit Kapor when he was COO of MySpace. A couple of years ago he left to start a new company, which he wouldn’t tell me anything about until now. Gravity.

So, what does it do? It is building new interest graphs of what you talk about on social networks. First on Twitter, because its content is discoverable publicly, but later others.

What does that interest graph look like? They made a poster out of mine. It’s on this post.

So, what can that be used for? Well, in our first look with Amit he tells me what their plans are: a customized newspaper built just for you based on what you Tweet about. Very interesting idea, can’t wait to see that come out in the next month or two. In the meantime, though, try out their new tool to show you what it’s finding, give them feedback, and watch the video to learn about their thinking.

State of cloud from Citrix CTO of cloud

This article is reprinted from Building43.

Simon Crosby is the CTO for Citrix’ cloud business. Don’t know what he runs? Citrix’ Xenserver is underneath Rackspace Cloud, OpenStack, as well as Amazon’s S3. In other words, Crosby sees the infrastructure that runs the most important cloud infrastructures. Here Robert Scoble sits down with him for a long talk about what he’s seeing. Some things that come out in this 37-minute talk?

1. Enterprises live on apps, and those apps need to run both as apps on desktops, but increasingly as SaaS apps running on cloud.
2. iPads and iPhones are really hammering at IT departments to get them to change their practices.
3. The importance of open source and open approaches, compared to VMware and other approaches.
4. How businesses will get into the API world, which enables more apps like Siri.
5. The enterprise’s biggest challenge? Security.
6. 3.5 million desktops have been virtualized in past few quarters, which lets IT departments be more secure, even with laptops that can get stolen and/or lost.
7. He lashes out at VMWare, saying it’s a “factor of 10″ more expensive than Citrix-based clouds.
8. Why Citrix is working with OpenStack and NASA to support opensource-based clouds.
9. How Citrix sells via different channels, direct to enterprise for some, through service providers, for others.
10. What he expects in 2011 in enterprise adoption of cloud technologies and how Apple is disrupting the enterprise. 40% of Citrix’ employees are bringing their own devices to work “incredible savings.”
11. What should developers pay attention to.
12. What mistakes enterprises are making when they get into cloud.
13. How OpenStack changes the world.

More info:
Citrix Xenserver website: http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/product.asp?contentID=683148
Citrix: http://citrix.com/
Citrix on Twitter: http://twitter.com/citrix
OpenStack: http://openstack.com
Rackspace Cloud: http://www.rackspacecloud.com/
Simon Crosby on Twitter: http://twitter.com/simoncrosby

Full interview:

First look: SlideRocket goes HTML5

You probably know that I wish the world would move off of MIcrosoft PowerPoint. It is definitely the king of presentation software, but there are a raft of tools that are better now, especially if you look at SlideRocket and Prezi. I previously did a video with Prezi’s CEO, but I’ll admit that Prezi is a bit weird for someone coming from PowerPoint. Read that as “hard to learn.” Why? Because it uses a totally different metaphor than slides for doing presentations. You should watch the video I did with Prezi to see what I mean.

But there’s another tool out there that has a lot of advantages over PowerPoint: SlideRocket. Why? Because its system is totally web based, which brings lots of good things to teams that need to collaborate together on presentations (PowerPoint really falls apart if you want to make sure that slides copied out of one presentation are kept up to date in all other presentations, for instance).

Anyway, tonight, they are announcing that SlideRocket is moving to HTML5, so you can play presentations on an iPad, for instance (previous versions were Flash-based). See the new features and how far SlideRocket has come.