The need to Mashup Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku


I have some friends on Twitter, a couple on Pownce and Jaiku is the platform of choice in the swedish tech sector so I am getting into Jaiku as well (I am “andreaskrohn” on all of them). Which platform you use depends on what technology you prefer and where your friends are. I don’t really care about the technology at the moment, I just want to keep in touch with my friends (yes I know that Pownce API kicks Twitters ass and that Twitter goes down more than an intern in the Clinton White House, but believe it or not, I prioritise friends over tech). These are 3 different platforms, each trying to be a community. But the community of any one person will not live on one platform, unless that platform gets to be either completely dominant or the technical platform providers takes a step back and let the community live across providers. The latter has happened with telephone services (you can call friends with a different cell phone provider) with email (i can mail people that are stuck on Microsoft Exchange from my Gmail) etc etc. I can not wait until this happens to the microblogs!

It is quite easy to post to several microbloggins services at once. Jaiku does a great job of importing RSS feeds, so posts to Twitter or Pownce can easily be imported to Jaiku. Via Twitterfeed it is easy to get an RSS feed into your Twitter as well. I haven’t found any easy way of getting an RSS feed into Pownce. Also there are apps like Twhirl that let’s you post to all 3 platforms at once. In my case I also use the Twitter Facebook app to get my tweets into my Facebook status and I am looking for a way to do the same with LinkedIn (no success yet). So posting cross-platform is not a problem, even if it means that you need to do some configuration and that all your posts gets trippled or quadrupled.

Reading friends posts from several platforms could also easily be done. I could of course go to all the different services and read each posts on each one, but since I want to do other things with my day than that I would rather use services like FriendFeed or SocialThing that aggregates it all into one place. FriendFeed imports from most sources and have some nice comment features, but the UI really desperatly needs a designers touch. SocialThing imports from just a few places so far (please please add RSS now!) but I still prefer it to FriendFeed. These services and others make it easy to see your friends posts from several platforms in one place. What is missing is a way to naturally post back to the microblogging platforms from these services.

What is needed, and what will come very soon I am sure, is a mashup of all these microbloggin platforms to allow users to be active on several platforms at once all from one place. I would like to see an app that allows me to interact with Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku completely. This means reading other peoples posts, replying to posts to have a conversation going cross-platform and posting to all platforms at once. Since all of the platforms have APIs this should be possible to implement (and for all I know it already exists somewhere, if you know of such an app please let me know through a comment on this post!). This would be a great mashup that would breach the community silos that exists today. Short of everyone moving to one platform a mashup is the best answer to this problem.

Btw, I have some extra SocialThing invites so if anybody wants one please let me know via a comment on this post.

Predictions for 2008


Since it is January it is more or less obligatory to write some predictions for the new year. Here are some of mine, they are not really any big predictions about major industry trends and world changing events, but I think that at least some of you might find them interesting:

  • Microsoft Live Search will be integrated into Facebook and the Microsoft-Facebook allience will start to seriously compete with Google for the search market.
  • Enterprise Mashups will be on the top of the hype cycle in the end of the year and big companies will start to seriously invest in it (and not just talk about it).
  • The Web 2.0 bubble will burst, but that really just means that some big famous companies will go bancrupt (bye bye Technorati). It won’t really have any similarities with the .com bubble, instead it will mostly be something created in the buzz obsessed blogosphere and then be writen about in mainstream media.
  • Microformats will be integrated into WordPress, Blogger, Flickr och other major sites, and be the basis for many interesting integrations and mashups.

Some predictions specific for Sweden:

  • There will be a lot of talk about mashups in Sweden, but not much action.
  • Schibstedt will try to make a Swedish social network – “a Swedish Facebook”. Be prepared for a major ad campaign.

You can find more Swedish predictions in the latest episode of the whatsnext podcast (sorry, swedish only).My last prediction is that Digitalistic soon will have a new design and a section all in Swedish, I really hope that I am not wrong about this one!

Facebook as a Mashup Container


A Mashup is according to wikipedia a web app that combines several data sources into one experience. Thinking about it that is exactly what millions of users do everyday on Facebook using the Facebook applications. Basically every application is a widget that is running in the Mashup Container Facebook. Each widget can interact with the world around it. So far there is no direct application-to-application communication that I am aware of, it is all via the Facebook infrastructure. But still each application can have access to your personal data as well as some data about your friends. This probably makes Facebook (one of) the worlds most widely used Mashup Container in existance today.

iGoogle and other widget platforms are not Mashup Containers in my definition until they allow the widgets to interact with the world around it. A widget that just sits there and does it’s little thing (like showing me the weather in my city) without being able to commuicate with the platform or other widgets is much less usefull than a widget that is part of a whole ecosystem. With OpenSocial Google, MySpace, LinkedIn etc are quickly becoming Mashup Containers in the same way as Facebook.

This is all very interesting because it means that millions of people are using Mashups every day, even building Mashups every day, all by using Facebook applications. How many of those people even know what a Mashups is? That means that Mashups are all among us already, but they are still undercover, much like aliens in some low budget sci-fi movies from the 50’s (“Plan 9 from Outer Space” rocks!).

Reading the Social Graph – you are defined by your friends


Ankur Shah and Gi Fernando from the UK web development company Techlightenment had a brilliant presentation at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin – “Disrupting the Platform: Harnessing social analytics and other musings on the Facebook API“. Techlightenment is the company behind the widely spread Bob Dylan Facebook application, so they know what they are talking about. In these days it is enough to have worked with something for a few months to be an expert, so after 4 months with the Facebook API makes the Techlightenment guys into gurus.

Facebook vs. OpenSocial
The Facebook API was compared to the OpenSocial API. There were quite a few differences, but what caught my attention was that it takes 60 lines of code in OpenSocial what it takes 2 lines in Facebook using the Facebook Markup language (FBML). In general it seems like the OpenSocial API’s are quite imature so far and that Facebook will keep ahead with it’s aggressive constant innovation for quite a while. Still, go for both Facebook and OpenSocial if you are going to do an app. If the social platform war will stay limited to just two standards we are quite well of …

You are defined by your friends
In addition to the information you explicitly have defined, like your age and if you are married or not, there is a lot of information about you that can be deducted from your list of fiends. Are most of your friends from London? If so there is a good chance that so are you. If most of your friends are working in the banking industry then there is a good chance that you are as well. This information is of course worth a lot in the hands of an advertiser that can target the ads to the right people. Now with Facebooks new Social Advertisting initiative that makes it possible for them to target ads to Facebook users even if that user is on another site than Facebook this kind of information is worth even more.

Techlightenment have developed a cool Facebook application called Socialistics that on-the-fly makes best guesses about a person based on their friends. It is a really interesting proof of concept of what can be done. Install it yourself and see what can be deducted about you based on your friends. The more friends the better guesses of course, but it is amazing what can be figured out about you. The power of these kind of statistical analyzis will explode in the near future, which is going to make both Mark Zuckerberg and the Google guys more money.

Who am I according to my friends?
Using the Socialistic app I get the following data about myself. I most likely live either in Stockholm (I did for years) or in Mexico City (not a bad guess since I do spend a lot of time thre), there is a 10% chance I have worked for Microsoft in Copenhagen (wrong) and I most likely took my university degree at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City (I have studied spanish there for all of 1 hour once, but that’s it). The good stuff is that there is a 65% chance that I am a man (just that I work with IT should bring that number up to at least 90%) and that I am from Sweden (guilty as charged)



According to my wife I am a social outcast since I only have 28 friends on Facebook. If the name calling I have to take out a Facebook divorce (ie “cancel relationship”), after all it is 28% chance that I am single already.



The Power of Platform Ecosystems


Today Facebook announced a very aggressive move to open up its system and become a Platform (read more on TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb). At the same time several applications were announced on top of the new platform (read more on WebWare). This is completely opposite to what MySpace has done in creating its walled garden. I think this is a great move by Facebook, it gives the 20 million Facebook users more of a reason to keep coming to Facebook at the same time as it gives a lot of companies and developers access to those 20 million users. In the middle is Facebook, who, if the strategy succeeds, establish itself as the platform in a living online Ecosystem.

The Web is full of Ecosystems

There are already plenty of Ecosystems out there. Amazon was one of the first companies that understood the power of this, and created an open API that developers all over the world now are using (and thereby increasing the sales of books for Amazon, plus the brand recognition of course). YouTube’s success is largly due to the ease of including and showing videos on your own sites and blogs (the real success was of course that Google pay a ridiculous amount of dollars for them, but that is a completely different story). Flickr is doing the same for photos online. WordPress is an OK blog engine, but it would be nothing without all the plugins, so that is another successful Ecosystem. In the Enterprise world there is of course Salesforce that now has more requests coming in via their API than via their web page.

There are also successful such Ecosystems that are not based on web applications. Firefox (OK, that one is almost web based, just humor me please) is a great browser, but without all the add-ons it is not that usefull (me love Firebug!). Apple has been very successful in creating an Ecosystem around the iPod, just think of how many companies make great money by just producing skins and other extensions to the iPod.

The Platform Wins

What is in it for the Platform is pretty evident: more loyal users that have more reason to keep coming back. This is hard to create, and if System Providers build apps on your Platform then basically you are expanding your development deparment and you have more brilliant minds trying to figure out the killer app for your users. Also this is a great way to keep the competition at bay. Now when Facebook is becoming a Platform and not just a site it will either force the main competition MySpace to do the same or be left behind.

The System Providers Win

The System Providers that write applications that run on the Platform (most likely called something fancy like widget, gadget, addon, plugin or extension) gets access to a whole lot of ready made functionality and a huge existing user base. There is no longer any need to implement photo album funcitonality for your web app, just use Flickr. No need to build video capabilities, just use YouTube. If you build an app for Salesforce you can sell it on their AppExchange and make some money. So in short you get both functionality and a userbase, that is a pretty good deal.

The Users Win

The users can stay on one platform and take full advantage of that the platform continously gets more and more functionality added. Since each of the System Providers do not have to implement the most basic functionality (user handling, file uploading, photo album etc) they can concentrate on new great features, which of course benefits the end users. So more cooler useful features, that makes uses happy.

Win Win Win and Lose

The winners are the Platform providers that are in the center of the Ecosystem, the System Providers that gets features and a user base for free and the users that get more features quicker. That is a pretty impressive Win-Win-Win scenario.

The losers are the companies that do not understand that Ecosystems are the new type of light weight business partnerships. Either you try to be a Platform or you take advantage of whatever the Platforms around you offers. To build a new big web application and not provide an API is simply failing to take use of a huge opportunity. To build any web site and not take advantage of one or more existing Ecosystems is to do more work than you need to. It seems like Facebook really has realized that (that is no good reason to say no to the $1 billion that Yahoo is rumoured to have offered, saying no to $1 billion is always a bad move in my humble opinion).