Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘opensocial

3G. WiMAX. There is an inevitable showdown waiting on that camp. That’s probably also the reason why the deployments of WiMAX hasnt picked up by much. If you ask me, there is credit to deploying the 3G – or a network that is based on the telecom network. Why? Reliability. Ever picked up a landline and missed the dialtone? Thats what I am talking about.

With the economy slowing down a little, I guess the 3G talk is going to be dampened a bit here in India. But I dont think it should be. The consumerist trend hasnt slowed down and Indians have woken up to enjoying the usage of digital media, devices and services, that 3G as a service could very much consolidate and bank on. This post is partly written with the knowledge I’ve gathered being on both sides of the camp, as part of the Telecom group (and the plans that they are making with IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem) and where the web, and industry have evolved.

Lets start with a Picture.

Future Living

Ubiquitous Computing, will not be just a term anymore. Centralized, easily accessible, and convergence. I think that’s the three keywords which are almost mantras in the new lifestyle that is emerging.

Trends:

Follow the numbers on the diagram with the explanations below.

1. Your mobile phone is not just a phone. Ask Nokia and they will tell you that. If we start with the way of 3G, its also the means to a broadband pipe, and 3G is just the beginning. HSDPA, LTE, and all the planned roadmap of the GSM Data Network, seems to be only getting faster and faster. Now, why would I advocate relying on my mobile’s data network as the crucial pipe for everything?

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Social Networks are the way to the future. Ah, I can see people getting ready with pitchforks to nail me to the wall, but lets hear this out.

There is this basic ideology. The paradox of the masses. Whenever at any given network the number of members become too huge, the system starts to break down. It happened with all other social networks, it happened with the internet before that, it happened with ICQ, it happened with Orkut, and it will happen with Facebook. Lets take the case of Orkut, and with a much more real life example to follow it. Orkut was great till it was reference based, and then case the day when it was opened up to everyone and then the masses came in and so did the “frandship” requests. Long story short, I deleted my account in Orkut and am hiding in Facebook till that eventual doom also arrives at the door step of Facebook.

I think this is the logical thing that is going to happen to facebook. Imagine that you are part of an elite club such as the Lion’s club (if it is elite enough) or lets take the Madras Club (known for its elitism) and you were part of the elite 50 and you knew everyone who was part of the club. Most of the members in that club enjoy that lifestyle and keep it closed for the very nature that they dont want to democratize it. Lets say that they do, what is going to happen is that there will be 300+ people flowing in, soon you realize that you dont very much “belong”.

In the first order of things of all creatures, the necessity to belong is a crucial one. When that starts to erode, everything starts to fall apart. In my visual imagination, its like a tower that rises and rises, till it eventually starts to crumble under its own weight and falls apart, that smaller networks start to arise out of the ashes of the parent.

All this is to state one thing. The future of social networks is one where there will be niche verticals that will get created for various things. Imagine meetups with a social networking aspect and that is what will happen. Now this is happening in some level with Ning . But the issue with Ning is two fold. One it cant get out of the domain name of Ning.com (which can be easily fixed), and the other is the fact that I need to recreate the membership everytime. What if I create a new “community” pretty much like what we do inside orkut or Facebook, but outside of the walled garden?

So the future is pretty much a case where there will be skeleton frameworks available so that one can give it the look, and theme it to what they want, all the way from Mac Cultists, to Cricket Fans to whatever one fancies, and the social linkages will be drawn out of Opensocial. Using the linkages one can easily pass on how one’s friend is part of a new network and can draw out a larger easily accessible audience for each of these interest groups.

Now comes the fancy bit. Each of the these verticals will need to be monetized to be sustainable. And just as facebook has Beacon, there is a need for a Unplugged beacon which can power these networks and make these initiatives sustainable. Given that they will be such a niche target area, getting an audience of say 40,000 – 60,000 for each genre would be fairly simple and would make for a very focused approach for these marketers and advertisers. There will be new ways and means of delivering the content, message and engaging those audiences.

There is most certainly an opportunity to tap here, especially as we start to see eCommerce on the rise in emerging markets with such staggering numbers.

Facebook is undoubtedly enjoying its fanbase, and with more and more people moving to facebook (even from networks such as Linkedin), it only strengthens the case. As of today it seems that Facebook has even gone after some of the popular bands to setup their pages in facebook so that profiles can be created as “fans” of these bands.

Social networking has taken on a new life with facebook and with their wise choice in opening up a limited set of APIs to test the water in terms of user applications.

But we are nowhere close to what socially-networked applications can really do. It might hold the key to some of the most complex problems that we face as we enter into the digital lifestyle of instant messaging, emails (flooded with invitations from SN sites), and bugged down on the phones – with mobile phones even bringing work along us in vacations.

Truth be told, we are yet to even scratch the surface of what digital living really means. Let me get to the details:

Imagine ourselves to be the centre of the universe and everybody we know to be connected by different means. We either know people directly, or through someone else. Yep, its the same concept that Linkedin denotes as 1st, 2nd and third degree networks. The unfortunate thing is that, we keep making this definitions in everything that we use. From our email clients, to our telephone priorities to the list of people that we converse often and hence would like their names on top on our favorite IM clients. Relevance is key in digital communications and it has yet to hit our lives.

Now, its not as if people have been oblivious to this problem. There are companies such as Iotum which have been working on creating what they call a rules-engine, which routes calls depending on who is calling to whichever device. Its as simple as, if your mom calls she will reach you on your mobile phone even if you are in the middle of a meeting, and if your boss calls, he gets the voicemail no matter what. Well, that might not be your choice of settings, but you get the point. Everybody is given priorities and those priorities automatically shift by the amount of conversations that are carried out. Have frequent calls with someone and their priority level goes up a notch, so that instead of the voicemail, one gets to land in your landline phone. There is also another beauty to this sytem: the fact that there is one common number that is given and all your other numbers – mobile, landline, office and etc are only known to that system. As far as the whole world is concerned, you could change your mobile numbers a zillion times and they wouldnt notice. An update on the system and it will keep routing calls as if nothing ever flinched. One number for life, and that is all that you have to give anyone without prejudice. How important they are, and how and on which device… well the system will determine that. Now tell me who wouldnt love such a system! This is precisely what Grandcentral offers.

The problem ofcourse is that the “rules” and the relationships you have with those on the address book have to be defined by you – as of now. It wont be the case once social graphs start to make sense. And thats what Opensocial APIs are after. That’s where Google, if it plays its cards right will mint its money.

Take it one step forward, and the dream word that most used to throw in making a pitch to VCs in the 90s will come back to life – convergence and unified communications. Imagine a system that can manage your IM, emails, telephone calls, and will prioritize them as per the interactions you have with them and will give YOU the flexibility to manage communications, rather than 2000 unread mails staring right at your face each morning. That’s freedom indeed. That’s when you start having a glimpse at what digital communications really is all about!

So did Facebook start a trend of opening up its APIs for third party applications? Absolutely. Is it the end? Nope. We definitely need to go beyond that and the limitations that one has in having to develop more rich, flexible and feature-rich applications within the limited interface and the functionalities of facebook, simply isnt possible. The platform, simply wasnt built for it. Instead, take the relationships (A.k.a Social Graph, as defined by Brad Fitzpatrick) and make them available for anyone to access and develop on, and you have just unleashed a whole new world of interaction.


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