A few days ago I was finally ready to go live with one of the projects that have taken up my time since leaving Kapow – a price comparison search engine for web hosting called WebHostNinja.com. The site is all written using CodeIgniter and thanks to Kemie at monolinea.com it also looks great. What I am trying to do is a usefull site where you can compare different hosting providers and their plans so that you can find exactly what you need as cheaply as possible. There are already quite a few such sites out there, but they are all static, hard to use, ugly as hell and more focused on selling hostig than on providing a good service for the user. I think and hope that there is a market for WebHostNinja.com as well, if nothing else there is a chance of doing some cool images of ninjas.
There are still some bugs to work out, I want to add a lot more web hosting providers to the index and of course there are also loads of features I want to add. In my database I do have quite a lot of information about each hosting provider and their plans, so it would be cool to mash that up with some other data, but at this point in time my mind is blank what to do. If you have any ideas about this please let me know!
Another project that I am involved with is the Mexican TV-listing site enlatele.com.mx (“en la tele” = “on TV” in spanish). We have just finished an iteration in our continous development, and vastly improved the search and added other nifty things like channel logos and filtering channels based on your cable provider. I have several entires about writing widgets/gadgets for enlatele.com.mx for sites like MySpace etc, so that will give me a good excuse to soon dig deeper into the OpenSocial specs.
I have more things up my sleeve, projects that have much more to do with mashups. As soon as there is something I can tell you about I will, so watch this space.
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!).
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.