Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hey Hey..Oh My?

I had a spirited conversation with Elad Baron, CEO of Bitwine, yesterday about the effect of real-time search, coupled with proprietary data stores (Facebook + Twitter come to mind). Bitwine, Elad, and his members live in the 'now' and soon to be 'now' world, so he follows this closely.

The conversation was spurred by Google's announced partnerships with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter for real-time updates to their search results. So, the real-time web has naturally spawned real-time search which unlocks another avenue to mine demographic/profiling information with intent. Probably a good thing for advertisers, definitely a positive for shareholders, and if advertisers get great results, it will accelerate the downward pricing trend for purchased 'bytes' (e.g. software, music, information).

But isn't it revealing that, in an era where billions of dollars are being spent on SEO and buying keywords to 'direct' traffic, Google (and MSFT's Bing) need to ink deals with vendors for access to data within their built proprietary applications? It's the inverse of the 'norm' where companies, beg, borrow, or steal (yes, that is SEO) search engine mind share. The world's gone upside down...or perhaps, reverting back to the status quo.

On one hand, it's great to see so much timely information available and innovators building oodles of shareholder value by adding utility for many in the value chain. On the other hand, we need to think about emerging from an era of proprietary applications, with attended vendor 'account control' to an era of proprietary data prisons, again with vendor 'account control'. We ought not only to be wary of the effect of data prisons, but also the impact on exposing so much data, often from quite young folk. For example, Facebook's recent 'update' of their privacy settings brought an outcry of protest from the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others.

It seems as if Twitter's yet to be announced advertising plan just may be the tipping point for a data vs access battle royale. Crawlers vs content. Unlike the traditional content business, however, in this case the content, or personal profiles/links are really proprietary, at least for awhile, to the content sites. Till recently, FB members could control who has access to their profiles, on the other hand, Twitter was far more 'open', enabling people to mine profiles of unrelated 'followers'. Postings to FB had a more intimate feel, Twitter for more universal content. Each building an ecosystem that balances breadth with depth, united in their interest to mine user data. These ecosystems are linking with each other, perhaps leading to a cacophony of time slicing for viewers, and maybe a lessening of the emerging power of the closed data systems.

John Battelle takes a look at the implications of an element of the strategic battle looming between FB and Google, as it pertains to the exposing of member data. So, it's fair to say that MSFT, GOOG, FB, Twitter, et al are preparing to, as Tiger reportedly said 'go ghetto' on access to the data which members entrust to their repositories. I would not be surprised if one of the scorned players, and surely there will be scorned players, raises a new front on the 'fair use' debate, broadening it from bandwidth, to data.

It's unclear if 'there's more to the pictures than meets the eye'

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