Hi5 CTO talks about Open Social, among other things

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Hi5 is a social network that’s very popular. They are seeing 100,000 new users every day. Facebook is seeing 200,000.

Since Hi5 is one of the partners in the Open Social platform, along with about 16 other social networks including MySpace, I wanted to find out about the social networking space from a company other than Facebook.

Also, at Facebook you never get to interview the geeks who actually build the service, so when I got a chance to interview Akash Garg, the Chief Technical Officer behind Hi5 I jumped at the chance. Geeks usually tell more details than the CEO will. Akash didn’t disappoint.

We talk about a variety of things about the social networking industry as well as his opinion of Open Social.

The Webvan Pen

Yesterday I visited Hi5 and when I was there Paul Lindner, the architect, handed me a Webvan pen. He’s holding the pen in this video. We talked at length about what’s going on in social networking (they are signing up 100,000 new members a DAY, which is about half the growth rate of Facebook but still very phenomenal). Anyway, he handed me the pen to remind me to always look beyond the hype. Webvan, if you don’t remember, was a famous online grocery service that blew through millions of dollars back in the heady days of the late 1990s.

It’s a pen I’ll always treasure and it’s sitting here reminding me to look deeper at the companies I report on. My more in depth interview with Hi5’s CTO will be up next week.

Sorry I’ve been a bit absent this week. I overbooked myself. I’m speaking at Streaming Media West in a couple of hours. Plus I’ve been getting a steady stream of videos up on ScobleShow (check out TapTu there, a new mobile search engine that, in our little test, blew away Google).

And, of course, I’m still digging through lots of feeds for my link blog. I see that the Google Reader team added some new features which I’ll try out later.

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Canter on Open Social and the Starfish

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I just spent an hour decompressing with Marc Canter about all the Open Social and Facebook stuff along with a TON of coverage of how the Social Media space is shaking out (I call it the Social Media Starfish).

He runs Broadband Mechanics, which makes social networks for a variety of businesses around the world including the Times of India and the Sacramento Kings basketball team. He doesn’t call them social networks, by the way, preferring to call them “DLAs” or “Digital Lifestyle Aggregators.”

Anyway, everytime I have a chat with him I learn a ton. Here’s an hour’s worth of Marc, in three pieces.

Part I, where we discuss Facebook and Open Social.
Part II, where we discuss Open Social’s impact on his business.
Part III, where we just continue the theme.

I’ll try to pull out the key things he taught me, but wanted to get these up ASAP.

Back into the walled garden

So, this morning, what has changed from yesterday? Well, for one, every single company involved in the Open Social initiative is sending me press releases. Marc Canter, founder of Broadband Mechanics, is coming over later to talk. I’ll put him on Kyte or Seesmic or something and do another Twitter storm. He should be here between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Anyway, Don Dodge made the point that all of us in the blogosphere are saying that Facebook is dead. Now, last night I read thousands of posts and put some of the best ones onto my link blog. I only saw one guy say that Facebook is dead. So, I don’t know where Don Dodge gets his facts. But, that never stopped bloggers, right? Facts, schmacts, as long as they make a good story we’ll pay attention to them.

I tell ya, the more I understand “the new blogging world” the more I want to create a fake identity and just make stuff up about people. 🙂

But, instead, I’m going to crawl back into my little walled garden.

Why am I going back to Facebook? Don Dodge is right that until the Open Social world provides some real end-user “goodness” that we’ll just stay inside the walled garden of Facebook. Here’s why I am staying inside Facebook for now.

1. It’s faster. I played on Plaxo last night and it’s slow to add new users. Frustratingly slow.
2. It’s prettier. I like Facebook’s UI better than MySpace or Plaxo or Ning or any of the others who signed onto the Open Social platform.
3. It’s here today. Yes, some Open Social things are shipping tonight (Plaxo, for instance, deserves credit for getting theirs done ASAP). Notice that when Facebook did its F8 event it had tons of apps SHIPPING at the time of the announcement. How many containers are shipping Open Social apps today? MySpace is a couple of months away, the execs told me yesterday.
4. FeedHeads. It’s the best Facebook app out there. Ironically it uses Google’s Reader. But Google didn’t fly Mario (the developer of that app) into the announcement and I haven’t seen him port his app yet. Now, remember, there are thousands of “Mario’s.” Until they all port their apps to Open Social I ain’t moving. Scrabulous is one of the best Facebook apps. Are they moving? Until they all move there’s no way I can leave Facebook.
5. My 5,000 friends. Yeah, I’m mad that I can’t have more friends, but look at the lockin of my friends’ network. I’m not moving ANYWHERE until all my friends ALSO MOVE. That’s going to be daunting.
6. In the next two months Facebook will announce SocialAds and revenue sharing for those ads. From what I’m hearing what they are announcing is pretty exciting too. If Facebook is PAYING ME to stay on Facebook do you think I’m going to move to Google?
7. Video messages. I’m doing a video conversation right now with Teresa up in Seattle. Until other systems do that I ain’t leaving.
8. Events. The event calendar inside Facebook rocks and is already the biggest event site on the Internet. Bigger, even, than Upcoming.org (which is actually a better event calendar than Facebook).
9. Videos. The way I can discover videos inside Facebook is addictive and compelling. I haven’t seen any Open Social member show me anything that blows that away.
10. The defacto rolodex. Facebook presents people’s information to me in a way that reminds me a lot of my business card collection. But with benefits. So far it’s FAR more advanced than anything else out there (although Plaxo is really close and I love how Plaxo integrates my contacts into Outlook and other places).

So, what are your reasons for staying in the walled garden?

Vic hosts first Google CampFireOne

More details on Open Social was just released here.

In the video here is Vic Gundotra, vice president at Google, who gave a little talk to developers last night — they demo how to build an Open Social application. Vic told me last week that he’s planning a whole raft of CampFires where they’ll bring out a bunch of new developer-focused technologies.

UPDATE: In this video a raft of developers show off what they’ve built on top of Open Social.

Vic is the guy who hired me at Microsoft and it’s fun to watch him build a developer network at Google now.

Some things I’d like to see in future CampFires?

1. Do the videos live and streaming.
2. Open up the discussion to microblogging tools like Twitter and Pownce. Today I brought people into the Google press conference via Twitter and it really rocked. Here’s reactions from around the web from Rob Lagesse. From James D. Kirk. From Jay Meattle, who calls Twitter the next generation of journalism. From ZDNet’s Michael Krigsman, who called this “the hidden OpenSocial press conference.”