Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does Instagram Feel Threatened By Snapchat?

Every so often we see a rivalry between social media sites/apps pop up. In that past we've seen Myspace vs. Facebook. Then came Facebook vs. Twitter. Now we have a battle between the social media apps of Instagram and Snapchat. In case you've been in the dark about these two apps, they are both forms of social media communication that focus on  pictures and text.

This past week, Instagram saw an update to their software that essentially makes it more like the app Snapchat.

Snapchat is more or less exactly what the name suggests. You take a picture for the person you want to receive it and at text to the picture. You can also add a timer for how long the person can view the picture before it is deleted forever. The ability to draw on the picture is also a fun like additive. The software is more a less a way to text someone with more of a focus on pictures instead of actual words.

The question now is if Instagram is feeling threatened by Snapchat.

Seeing as how the update has added all of the same basic functions as Snapchat while still keeping the main ideals of Instagram present, that is a pretty safe bet. While yes there was a big change to Instagram, it still retains it's primary functions. It would seem that now, they have seen the success of Snapchat and are looking to compete with anyone that could take them down. With as quickly as many of these social media trends come and go, it's hard to really blame them.

There are differences still between the new Instagram functions and the Snapchat app. Instagram allows for videos and photos from your camera roll to be available for the direct messaging system, along with filters. Snapchat pictures and videos must be taken within the app. Instagram videos are still longer than Snapchat's videos, but Snapchat does allow for text on the picture or video where Instagram doesn't. Instagram allows for text, but in the form of comments or a message underneath the video when it is sent. Again, they are very subtle differences, but they are big enough to still have both apps be viable social media choices.

We've seen how into the competition Instagram is. The first major update allowed for videos to be shared, much like the app Vine. Now the update to allow Snapchat-esque functions has arrived. Whether it be nerves and feeling threatened, or just trying to stay with the competition, Instagram is doing what they can to stay on top of the media sharing apps.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What's Apple going to do with every tweet since 2006?

According to several financial sources Apple Inc. had bought Topsy for a mere $200 million dollars. All Topsy has to offer is every tweet from right this second (in real time) all the way back to some time in 2006.

So what is Apple going to do with all those tweets?

Some are calling this a 'savvy acquisition' saying the data could be used for analytical data about iPhones, iTunes, iAds and other iStuff.

Apple could use Topsy data for its social networking strategy since it currently has none. Notice there is not a Twitter Logo, nor Facebook logo and certainly not a G+ logo on the Home page.

Apple is very late to the social network party. Perhaps fashionably late. Yet with one fell swoop Apple has obtained a huge amount of social network party data. Perhaps now Apple will hear what all the tweets are about.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is Snapchat 4 Times More Valuable Than Instagram?

Crazy company appraisals are completely normal in the world of tech, that is a fact. So, should anyone really be surprised that last Wednesday's report that Snapchat, - the tiny little company that launched a single app with zero income - actually turned down a 3 billion dollar offer from Facebook? Should we also be amazed at the fact that some investors value the start up at $4 billion?

You can make some insane comparisons on the sale prices for other companies. In the film world, for example, Lucasfilm and Marvel both sold to Disney for $4 billion. We are talking about two companies that have created decades of unforgettable content. Now, think about this: Those too companies are both only equally as valuable to our society as the app that your boyfriend uses to get inappropriate photos from his female friends. That, my friends... is blowing my mind at the moment.

Ok, so that was a bit of a stretch with that comparison. Movie studios tend to make smarter and more conservative investments while tech giants have a history of blowing gigantic amounts of money. There is so much money flying around this industry, so I suppose it has to go somewhere. Maybe this is why new companies who have peaked at their fifteen minutes of fame can command such high prices.

The only way to say for sure if Snapchat is overvalued would be to compare a more similar situation with other ridiculous sounding purchases. Take a look at the other only zero revenue start up that Facebook tried the same thing with and succeeded. That would be Instagram.

The sale price for Instagram was initially set at $1 billion dollars, which later went down considerably to $715 million because of their stock declining more than expected. At the time, the $1 billion seemed like an absolute steal given their staggering growth over the last two years with another 120 million users and the launch of their first Instagram ad.

To justify the fact that Snapchat is actually worth what it is said to be valued you would have to say that it has the potential to become four times as valuable than Instagram! Here is a look at both companies:

Instagram's last offical user count was 150 million users. Snapchat has not even revealed their user numbers. According to a study in October, 9% of cell phone owners use Snapchat, which would put them at about 30 million users. An analytics company called Onavo estimated that 38% of iPhone owners use Instagram, and 21% use Snapchat. Both numbers appear to be growing - Instagram by 2.5% a month, and Snapchat by 4%. This tells us that it will take a while for Snapchat to overtake Instagram with iPhone users.

Now, here is another crazy fact that I'm about to throw at you: Instagram users post 55 million pictures every day on average. Snapchat users share 350 million pictures a day. That is really close to being the same as Facebook, and it is a staggering six times as much as Instagram. If active you engagement is the key factor here then I guess Snapchat might be undervalued.

The Big Picture: To be able to truly tell what a business is worth, you have to look at how long it will last. Will we be using Insta' for years to come? It's pretty addictive, if your pictures are good then they get 'likes', and you feel like an artist every time you put a filter on your picture. And, if you look at all of the pictures that you and your buddies have posted over the last year, you feel like you had a GREAT YEAR! All of your memories are stored for you to look at and remember whenever you want.

With Snapchat, your pictures are gone forever in ten seconds. It's literally an app that throws away your memories. You can get them back however if you pay, but that is another story in itself. Snapchat will continue to grow with teens who are really bored or super in to sexting, but is that just a fad? It sounds really goofy to say that something that is dwarfing Instagram's user engagement by 6 times and growing is just a fad, BUT... I think that is what the app is going for. The whole idea is the definition of a fad: it literally holds your attention for 10 seconds and then it's gone forever.

Is Snapchat going to overthrow Instagram? We'll have to see. But I think that sounds like a really big task for any company to take on.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

RIP Google Reader: October 7, 2005 - July 1, 2013

Well, SOB! They did it. Google actually pulled the trigger and put and end to one of the most useful apps to ever grace the internet.

Today, Google Reader is just a distant memory and a small page on Wikipedia.

Not that I want to even want to think about life without "the reader", but we do have to go on. For the past few months I've been using Feedly - Your News, RSS, Google Reader (Though they really should drop that mention of Google Reader from their description if they expect us to get over this loss)... And it's actually really good! My only wish would be that Feedly supported a search option of your feeds, of course, like Google Reader used to.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Google's Perfect Answer to Secrecy: PFS

I'm just back for SMX Advanced in Seattle, Washington where I personally attended this session. One area I found interesting was Google's response to Government Spying through perfect forwarding secrecy*. Begin at the 38:15 mark when Danny Sullivan asks Matt Cutts about 'not provided' results' in Google Analytics. From here Matt takes us into a world of high tech government spying, Cory Doctorow's free novel, 'Little Brother' and the Google implementation encrypted through SSL, elliptic curve cryptography,  and perfect forwarding.
"We need to have as much encrypted traffic on the web as possible." - Matt Cutts, Google Spam Team Leader
Why you should care about surveillance I got tired of people savvying me about the revelations of NSA surveillance and asking why anyone would care about secret, intrusive spying, so I wrote a new Guardian column about it, "The NSA's Prism: why we should care." Continued on Cory Doctorow's Blog,
*Perfect forward secrecy (PFS) refers to the notion that compromise of a single key will permit access to only data protected by a single key. For PFS to exist, the key used to protect transmission of data must not be used to derive any additional keys, and if the key used to protect transmission of data was derived from some other keying material, that material must not be used to derive any more keys. Source:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Google Gives Patriotism a Nod in the Face of Memorial Day

Many Americans view Google with a fair degree of cynicism: one more cyber-giant run by those techie-artsy types on the Left coast.
Google found itself the recipient of no small amount of scorn after choosing to celebrate Easter with a Cesar Chavez birthday tribute. No matter that Easter is the "Superbowl"of  holidays for Christians the world over.
Google could have chosen an innocuous Easter graphic: baskets of jelly beans, a line of bright yellow  Peeps, kids hunting Easter eggs.

Google Bumps Easter Images For One Of Cesar Chavez

But instead, the search engine dynamo opted to post a portrait in honor of late labor organizer, Cesar Chavez, perhaps due to the close ties between Google CEO Eric Schmidt and President Obama. The President released a statement early in the day declaring:
“I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and educational programs to honor Cesar Chavez’s enduring legacy.”
But this week Google chose the "2013 U.S. Doodle 4 Google" national winner that should warm the heart of every patriot,  12th-grader Sabrina Brady of Sparta, Wisconsin. Google received 130,000 submissions and millions of votes; but it was the simple and touching high schooler's doodle, "Coming Home," that captured the hearts of voters.

Sabrina's doodle displays a young girl running with an American flag to the open arms of her dad, a soldier returning from duty.

Someone at Google should be applauded--or perhaps the votes should receive the kudos. Google has garnered loads of goodwill as we approach Memorial Day, a day set aside since 1868 to honor our fallen servicemen and women.

Google wrote in their blog on Wednesday:
"It tells the story of her reunion with her father as he returned from an 18 month deployment in Iraq. Her creative use of the Google letters to illustrate this heartfelt moment clearly resonated with voters across the country and all of us at Google."
And talented Miss Brady has won more that Google's praise and national admiration for her illustration portraying her dad's return from Iraq, she has also won "a $30,000 college scholarship, a Chromebook computer, and a $50,000 technology grant for her school."

Well done, Sabrina! With a moving picture you touched hearts across America with your artistic message of our brave troops and a father's love.

And well-played Google! In honoring a young lady who waves the American flag and rushes to hug her dad, home from an Iraq tour, you have accomplished a marketing coup beyond measure: a new respect from a majority of America that previously merely tolerated your existence.

Isn't it wonderful when doing the right thing syncs with positive brand recognition?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Making Cool Google Glass Apps

After technical problems, Timothy Jordan gives a demo of Google Glasses code named 'Project Glass." You can see the start of the experience at the 3:16 mark in this video. The video is  Jordan's presentation at last month's South by Southwest Interactive conference.

Project Glass is 'mobile.' It's about reducing our too technical relationship with technology. It's about making technology much easier for the average person to access and use.

As Jordan explained in this video, "It feels like technology is getting in the way more than it needs to. And, that's what we are addressing with project glass. It's so that you can still have access to the technology that you love but it doesn't take you out of the moment."

Google is a unique experience one that is best used for short simple messages, quick pics and video. You wouldn't want to read a news story with google glasses, but you would read a news headline, look at pics and get traffic and weather info. You might even choose to listen to the news article.

If you notice, Google glass is not directly in your line of site. Rather it is in the field of vision. Google Glass is meant to be worn and used to seamlessly connect with Android technology. The idea is that many people will wear these everyday, all the time.

At the 13 minute mark of the video a 'live demo' is being performed. I have to say this is a very impressive presentation. Not quite Steve Jobs level, but Jordan's demo of Google Glass is just as engaging amazing as anything Apple has ever produced. Too bad Steve wasn't around to patent this product.

Google Glass makes excellent use of Google Now.  If you are not familiar with Google Now, it tells you today’s weather before you start your day, how much traffic to expect before you leave for work, when the next train will arrive as you’re standing on the platform, or your favorite team's score while they’re playing. All of this happens automatically. Timeline Cards appear throughout the day at the moment you need them.

Google Glass is great for sharing video and pics including the ones you took with the device but Google Glass is a unique product. If the product is developed with high standards of product development. As Jordan puts it, there are 4 things developers of Google Glass applications need to keep in mind:

-Design for Glass
-Don't get in the way
-Keep it timely
-Avoid the unexpected

At the 31:45 mark of the video, Jordan continues with examples of good applications developed specifically for Google Glass.

Everything is based on bundled 'Timeline Cards' with rich html and subscription delivery service.

In the example with the New York times, bundles of timeline cards are subscribed for hourly delivery. Timeline cards can be skipped or pressed for further info. Additional info may include a short video or may offer an option to read aloud the news story.

The Gmail example email comes in as timeline cards that can be read aloud. You can voice compose an email back to the sender. Not every email is sent to google glass. The application will figure out what email it important enough to send to the user without the user needing to tell it what is important.

Other examples of the well done Google Glass programming include: Evernote Skitch and Path.

I look forward to buying this product someday.