Wednesday, February 6

Strategic Heavy Weights

Wow, 2008 has begun with a bang, following some late action in '07. The big digital guns are playing a game of top-trumps to make the most informed acquisitions and strategic moves.

Google's "hand" includes:

- Bids for Wireless spectrum in the US
- Google Universal search
- Google Mobile (Android Software Dev Kit)
- Google Open Social

Yahoo has been busy shutting services down and consolidating its position, whilst Microsoft, the slumbering giant, has been licking its lips at the prospect of Microsoft-Yahoo double-team.

Whilst these are huge plays, the big one for me at this moment is Facebook, and their "open" application platform. By allowing developers to create applications (and retain revenue generated from them) last year Facebook made a subtle master-stroke. (subtle because it was ignored by the competition). But in recognition of awakening industry competition (G Open Social, MySpace, Bebo), Facebook's move to allow these apps to run across other sites may make them the defacto platform....

...A whole profitable and creative industry has been created out of these Facebook apps, so allowing them to be unleashed on the long-tail of personal sites is a master-stroke. e.g. fancy adding a fun-wall to your blog?..Other platforms will probably be more open, more flexible, less controlled, but Facebook has first-mover advantage, and that could be the key to success.

If the future goes this way, Facebook becomes a distributed data platform, rather than a social-network per se. A platform for distributed widget advertising, in much the same way that Google's Adsense is the defacto contextual ad network.

Facebook's success in this gameplan depends entirely on getting us bloggers and publishers to start plugging in their apps to our pages. They have enough audience and apps to do so. But they'll need to be fast, because Google along with MySpace have a bigger audience to seed the same strategy through.

It's the HD/Blue-Ray (or BetaMax vs VHS) of online. A top-trumps battle to own the dominant platform by the industry heavy-weights. First blood to Facebook. But we, "user", will decide.

Friday, February 1

SEO: The light and dark side of the force

A storm brewed last night in the world of SEO. Unfortunately the storm revolved around Times Online, a site I'm proud to say I played a part in growing until mid 2006. They, or more specifically, Sitelynx (the search engine consultants) have been accused of Link Spamming social news sites. A rogue employee admitted spamming and the rest is history.

In my days of marketing Times Online, with Sitelynx, we alway's stuck strictly to the 'light' side of the force (open, approved search techniques only). It's a shame to see this happen and the reputations get muddied against a lot of hard, legitimate graft.

This whole storm does really raise some important questions of anyone involved in internet media and marketing:

Where is the line between link building and spamming?

Should site-owners always disclose their intent on posting to sites like

Is it legitimate for a Journalist to post a link to their own work?

Do the Guardian, The Mail and other similar organisations deny doing the same?

As a site-owner, I hate spammers. It's a constant battle to find intelligent ways to stop morons writing ever more sophisticated scripts that get through your filters.

At the same time, we would all be a little naive to think that blog owners, music companies, publishers, consumer technology businesses, car companies, wont want to spread the word through posting to social sites. In fact, talk about online PR and your already in this grey area. Offline word-of-mouth or Buzz marketing is a similar grey area and it's a technique employed by thousands of consumer technology and product companies.

So what's acceptible? It's down to the individual reader I guess and the company putting the messages out. The beauty of social news sites is that the user en-masse decides what's hot, and what's not. So people can spam all they like but if Joe Blogs isn't interested, it'll do the promoter no good.

It's hardly the stuff of a Soc Gen Rogue trader, but it's as good as it gets online. I wonder how many other rogue spammers will "come out" or whether they're busy changing IP addresses and deleting user accounts!