Category Archives: Facebook

Felix Salmon on Facebook and content

Felix Salmon, writing about the “Viral Math” which supports sites like Upworthy:

To put it another way: at the moment, Facebook assumes that people click on exactly the material that they want to click on, and that if it serves up a lot of clickbaity curiosity-gap headlines, then it’s giving its users what they want. Whereas in reality, those headlines are annoying. Curiosity-gap headlines are a bit like German sentences: you don’t know what they mean until you get to the end, which means that the only way to find out what your friend is saying is to click on the headline and serve up another pageview to Upworthy. (Or ViralNova, or Distractify, or whomever.) It’s basically a way of hacking real-world friendships for profit, and there’s no way Facebook is going to allow it to continue indefinitely.

I think Felix is underestimating Facebook here. Facebook doesn’t just know what you click on on-site: it’s also tracking what you do once you leave, and storing this data for further use. It’s entirely possible it knows how long you spend on content which you click on; it definitely knows if you quickly bounce back to Facebook. Given this, it’s hard to imagine it won’t factor this into what content it serves up to you, if not now, then in the future.

Google may be bidding for Waze


Google Inc. (GOOG), maker of the Android operating system, is considering buying map-software provider Waze Inc., setting up a possible bidding war with Facebook Inc. (FB), people familiar with the matter said.

Waze is a really great service, and it would be a shame to see it go to Google. For Google, Waze would be an “acqui-hire” aimed at securing some great mapping engineering talent: it’s unlikely that the service would be kept running separately to (and competing with) Google Maps. At Facebook, on the other hand, Waze would be more likely to end up like Instagram: a semi-autonomous, but linked, service.

Bradley Horowitz smacks Facebook, makes little sense

Google+ head honcho Bradley Horowitz, on the different approach that his product has to ads compared to Facebook:

“Jamming ads and agendas into user streams is pissing off users and frustrating brands too,” he said. “That’s not the way the world works.”

Rather, in the real world, there has to be intent. When a person’s hungry, he or she goes into a restaurant. Seeing an ad for a sandwich when they’re not hungry or looking for it isn’t very effective. But being able to search for a lunch place when hungry and finding recommendations from friends is much more effective.

“It turns out these are very valuable to users to have recommendations by the people they trust,” he said. “Instead of sandwich boards… we revert back to the fundamentals of fulling the need the user has.”

Horowitz added that Google doesn’t “have to make payroll by jamming users with ads” on Google+.

Of course Google+ doesn’t have ads plastered all over it. It’s cross-subsidised by another business: search. Or rather, it feeds its data into another service (search) in order to add to the quality of that service’s ability to sell information about you to advertisers.

The fact that Google places the ads it builds on top of your social data on a different site is not some kind of intrinsic superiority. And given how much space of Google’s search results pages can now be given over to ads, and the fact the Google Products (pure search) got turned into Google Shopping (paid placement) it’s pretty clearly a case of pot calling kettle black.

In the real world, away from the corporate dick-waving, Facebook has actually done a pretty good job of avoiding falling into the trap of plastering intrusive ads everywhere. Paul Adams has stood up in front a conference full of agencies and told them that the interruptive model of advertising that they make their bread and butter from is dead.

I’m yet to hear anyone from Google do the same. Maybe Bradley Horowitz and Paul should have a chat about it some time. I’d love to listen in on that debate.

What’s interesting is that in terms of how they’re used by users, Facebook and Google+ differ. On FB, I mostly connect with real life friends and family  - a couple of hundred people. I don’t really connect with people I don’t know.

On G+, I follow and converse with a much wider range of people. In that sense, it’s more like Twitter, where you end up having conversations with people that you have little relationship with – it’s more like a public forum than private connections.

Where the two are alike is in the fact that they both leverage social connections and stated interests into a money-making opportunity. For Google, that’s all about improving the relevance of search results and advertising, both on its own properties (search) and in the wider world (AdWords on other sites).

Up to now, Facebook’s use of the social graph data it gathers has only been on its own property. That Bradley Horowitz has gone on the offensive at exactly the same point when Facebook is rolling out a contextual advertising programme to third parties is surely no coincidence.