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!

Where Google and Facebook are fighting the next monetization battle

Think about something you’ve purchased recently. How did you decide to buy that thing?

In my buying behavior I find that I can split it up into three phases:

1. Need generation. This is what happens when someone shows you something you didn’t know you wanted, but that you immediately get interested in. It might be a TV show (how many people will visit China over the next few years because of what they are seeing on TV at the Olympics. I bet a ton).
2. Research. You’ve decided to buy something, say a new car, but now you need to figure out which one is best for you. Some of the things you do here are to ask your friends, look online for reviews, read Consumer Reports, etc etc.
3. Purchase. You’ve decided what you want, now you go looking for the best place to complete the transaction.

Think through to the best businesses on the Internet. Most that I can think of fit into one or several of these three phases.

Google, for instance, makes billions of dollars from advertisers who want to help you complete a transaction. Do a search for digital cameras, for instance, and there you’ll see ads.

But competing with Google is not really possible, even for a huge multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft.

So, since Google has pretty much locked up the last phase, where is the next Internet monetization battle taking place?

Both Facebook and Google are beating each other up to lock up the next phase: social recommendation and participation.

Google calls this FriendConnect.

Facebook calls this “Facebook Connect.”

Yesterday I visited Facebook to get an up close look at Facebook Connect. I had previously attended the Google FriendConnect launch and even videoed that with my cell phone.

It’s interesting, though, that both of these systems haven’t gotten widespread use yet. It’s also interesting that the teams both struggle to explain why a normal business would use these technologies in their own business’ sites. At least in language that a normal person who isn’t a Facebook addict would understand.

So, let me simplify into a single sentence. Adding social networking features to your corporate sites helps your users through the research phase of the buying process.

These will get widespread use over the next few years as stories come out about successes.

But let’s look at one site that’s very close to what I’m talking about.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library.TV.

Now, Gary owns a wine store in New Jersey that is selling about $50 million per year in wine. That means he has the third phase of the buying process nailed down. He’s the Google of the New Jersey wine market.

So, how is he changing his business? (He calls it bringing thunder to the wine industry).

His website and show are TOTALLY about extending his reach into the other phases of the buying process.

His video show creates the need in your head to try more wine. Today’s show gets me to try out some Italian sparkling wine. I had no idea before I watched that show that I needed to try that wine.

Now, notice what happens next. Look at the comments. 136 of them when I wrote this post. You can see the research phase of the buying process happening there. People are recommending different wines than Gary did, or backing up what Gary said, etc.

Now, Gary is WAY AHEAD of most other wine stores. I went to Google and searched for “Wine store” and found

But notice that they don’t even get close to creating the need in my head for different kinds of wine that Gary does. Video is unparalleled for creating need for new things.

And, also notice that if you wanted to research Wine that they don’t have the same kind of research community that Gary is building.

Now, could go past in the research phase? Yes. They already are tracking top contributors to their reviews. But using Facebook’s Connect they could go way further: they could tie their contributors into Facebook itself and add all sorts of interesting interactive features. I know that if a friend of mine, like Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, buys a paticular wine that it’ll be good (Loic has great taste in wine).

By making the site more personal and bringing my friend’s choices into a site like this it’ll convert me to more wine sales at a far higher rate than it does today.

But imagine if Gary’s site did that. He already is 90% there (he’s always on Twitter interacting with people and his video show is just so much more of a personal experience than reading the reviews on

If I were a marketer I’d be trying to figure out how to stay up with Gary. Why? Well, do you think his viewers are going to price shop Gary? Hell no. How do you stay up with Gary’s concept? Google and Facebook’s new APIs are the way to do that.

What do you think? Are you thinking of using more social features on your website?

Did Andreessen miss the point of Google's Friend Connect?

I was just reading feeds and it is 4 a.m. in the morning, so maybe I missed something here. But Marc Andreessen just spent quite a few words trying to convince me that Google’s Friend Connect doesn’t compete with Ning, the service he runs that helps companies build their own social network.

Now, if you compare Ning and Google’s Friend Connect head on, Marc is correct. They don’t compete. Ning is a complete social networking site that you can use without doing any coding. Friend Connect is a platform for building social networking features into existing sites (and more, but I’ll just focus on this one piece for the purposes of being clear here).

Look at it another way, though, and you’ll see that Ning and Friend Connect certainly does compete for the same users: people in corporations who want to add more social features to their existing Web sites. Very few corporate site owners, after all, will want to throw out everything they’ve done just to build some identity, commenting, and social networking features into their sites.

In Ning’s approach you gotta pretty much move your site over to Ning and really rethink things. At least that’s the way it’s always been presented to me.

In Google’s approach you just copy some JavaScript code over to your corporate site and, voila, you have a social network and features added to your site. Watch the presentation on Monday night that I filmed and you’ll see this demoed very well.

Reading Marc’s note, I’m not sure he got what Friend Connect does. That’s OK, I’m a little slow on picking it up too, which is why I videoed the Google event where they showed off what it is so I could watch it a few times and pick up on what they really showed off.

I can see why Marc would want his customers to think that Google’s Friend Connect isn’t a way to build a social network, but it sure looked like it is a competitor of Ning’s.

Now, in defense of Ning (and Ning’s competitors like Broadband Mechanics) Ning does a LOT more than what Google does so far.

But again, I doubt most corporate customers think they need everything that Ning offers. To many corporate customers Friend Connect will be just what the webmaster ordered and THAT has got to be causing Ning’s management to be concerned. Certainly enough to write a blog post trying to distance their offering from Friend Connect.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Marc Andreessen wrote me back already and said that his target market for Ning is NOT corporate customers who want to add social networking features to their sites. Looking at their site it looks like Ning is going almost wholly after consumer market. OK, if that’s true, then Marc has a point.

A five company day

Yesterday I visited five companies to get you the latest that’s happening in the tech industry.

Here’s the five companies I visited (now you know why my email isn’t getting answered):

1. Xobni. This is a cool add-on for Outlook. Tim O’Reilly has been raving about it on his blog. I’ve been using it for about a week and it lets me see patterns in my email that I wasn’t able to see before. I spent a lot of time with the founders talking about their business and the industry. Sorry for splitting the video up into three pieces, but if the cell phone connection disappears for some reason it ends the stream and I have to restart it. I’m trying to get Qik (the service I use to stream these videos live) to address this and make it possible to join videos together. Part I; Part II; Part III.

2. LifeSize. HD videoconferencing. Pretty affordable compared to other HD systems I’ve seen (starts at about $5,000). Awesome quality and a good demo of state-of-the-art of what videoconferencing systems can do.

3. Vusion. HD streaming. Oh, my, is this cool for cable companies and others who want to bring you HD video to your computer. You need to download a small plugin, but once you do this brings the highest-quality video to your browser I’ve ever seen. This one too is in three parts, sorry for the cell phone troubles. Part I; Part II; Demo.

4. Equals. This is a startup that hasn’t shown anyone its main product yet, I get an exclusive first-look at what they are doing. Wow, what a new way to work using Twitter, social networks, phones, and more. If you only watch one, I’d watch this one. The CEO is a bit wordy, but the demos he shows me are interesting. Part I; Demo; Demo of separate product called Party Line.

5. Google. I filmed a few videos at the Google Friend Connect “Camp Fire One” (aka press/blogger conference). Short video of people standing around, including my former boss, Vic Gundotra. Short video of Mike Arrington and friends (goofy). Long video of entire press conference along with a few interviews at the very end.

Bonus video? Check out the video I did of Kevin Fox, famous interaction designer (used to work at Google, now works at FriendFeed). We talk about “Googly” design.

Today? I’m going to slow things down just a bit and visit Longjump. Gotta run, see ya later on my account.