Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Wednesday, December 15, 2004

MIT Technology Review: What's next for Google.

This is a must-read article for anyone interested in Microsoft or Google.

My take? Google got where it did by focusing on what people want. I know that intimately. I'm still a big fan of Google. Why? Because they gave me a better search engine when the rest of the industry thought that search was done.

Guess what, it's not done, even today. Feedster, Pubsub, Technorati, Copernic, X1, Yahoo, MSN, and others remind us of that every single day.

They also took a stand against anti-user advertising. Go to Google. Do you see any color advertising? Any popup ads? Any blinky crap?


I'm sure that more than one Google salesperson has come to Sergey Brin and Larry Page with a multi-million-dollar deal to take some Flash-based ads.

Page and Brin keep turning down the money. They have a philosphy. And it's brilliant.

Watch the users and give them what they want while also figuring out a business model. Page and Brin noticed that people will read -- and click on -- blue underlined text. You know, standard old HTML. And look at all the ads. They are standard old HTML. Nothing fancy. But they are making billions because they turned down the short-term multi-million-dollar deals.

They have a philosphy. Their product shows it. It's user centric.

So, what's the lesson for me? For Microsoft?

Serve the users.

Serve the users.

Serve the users.

Yeah, I wouldn't be suprised to see Steve Ballmer jumping around in a month or two getting us to cheer that.

But Ballmer had it right when he cheered "developers, developers, developers."

You see, how do you serve the users? Especially in a hyper-competitive space? Get developers to help you out. Get content professionals to help you out. Get geeks to help you out.

How do you do that?

1) Share the love (and some cash). Why do I still love Google to this day? Because Google always ranked my sites properly. Other search engines still don't. Including MSNs. By properly I mean that sites that are more relevant than mine are higher than mine, but sites lower in relevance than mine are lower than me. I still remember seeing porn sites getting higher ratings than my sites on Alta Vista when you searched on "netmeeting" (I started a well-trafficed site for NetMeeting).

But "share the love" goes deeper than that. Google is sharing revenue with the Web. Does Yahoo help me make money? Does MSN? No. By being selfish MSN is telling people to go to Google. This pull is strong. And getting stronger.

2) Let developers play. Here Microsoft should learn from Bill Gates' earlier decision to let third-party components plug directly into Visual Basic's user interface, er, IDE.

This let a sizeable developer community build products that enhanced Visual Basic. I know, I helped build ads for some of the component vendors.

By building an open platform Microsoft encouraged a sizeable industry (enough to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising in the magazine I was working for every month).

3) Serve the geeks (a little bit). Enough to make them go "ooohhh, they care about me." Look at the MSN Desktop Suite team videos I shot. Those guys put in some secret registry keys (that now aren't so secret) to make the UI better. And they put in some advanced shortcut functionality. My dad won't care about that, but the geeks sure will. In fact, look at the bloggers who are liking the new suite. They are praising it because of these features.

4) Be transparent. Invite users in. Let them help design the product. Listen to your MSN Search Champs. Videotape your design meetings. Bring everyone inside your strategy meetings and your design meetings. Let everyone participate in improving the search engine. Getting interviews with the team up was excellent. It sure helped you get your message out faster. But, now, go the next step. Bring all your customers inside the company and let them tell you what they need.

Listen, listen, listen.

See, there are more innovations ahead. Page and Brin listened. And now they are both billionaires.

Who's next?

Update: I fixed the Google co-founders names in this entry, sorry about that.

11:40:07 PM    comment 

Flickr, don't look over your shoulder, but there are some new photo sharing services coming that are looking pretty darn interesting.

First one is HeyPix!

Someone should write up a review of all the photosharing apps out there. Flickr is definitely the market leader, at least among the blogs I watch.

James Park, founder of Windup Labs, the folks that just shipped HeyPix today, gave me a demo of HeyPix about a week ago and it had several advantages. The sharing app was easier to use and had more features.

I'll put up a Flickr and a HeyPix site and let you see the differences.

10:55:31 PM    comment 

The dinner was fun tonight. I think I counted four Tablet PCs. The Seattle Times was there. Well, Kristi Heim of the Times was, anyway.

But the news scoop came after Kristi left. Jay Fleugel, lead program manager on the MSN Spaces team, dropped in on the Seattle Meetup, and told us that tomorrow they will ship a bunch of small fixes. How did they decide what to fix? They did a scan of all the blog comments and picked the most important things that the bloggers asked for (that could be done quickly).

There are two things that are interesting here. One, that they are shipping new stuff only 1.5 weeks after they shipped. Yeah, Joe, MSN sure does seem to be moving faster lately, huh?

Second, that blogs are having such a big impact on product development. It's real interesting, now that PubSub, Feedster, and Technorati are bring back waves of feedback from bloggers all over the world, it's very easy for a product planner to put the top feature requests into a spreadsheet, walk into a meeting and say "here's what we need to do next week" and get approval and walk out.

As bloggers' numbers continue to rise (and they are rising rapidly now) more and more companies will start to realize just how important it is to listen to the aggregrate blogs.

Are your voices being heard in product planning meetings? Just ask Jay.

10:50:58 PM    comment 

Shel Israel and I had a chat and we decided it's time to get our book (code-named "the red couch") going again. So, just opened up a blog on TypePad for the book. No content is there right now, but more will be added today. This is where you'll want to subscribe if you want to follow as Shel and I work together on the book.

9:31:35 AM    comment 

By the way, thank you Kunal Das for making the technology that makes my link blog possible. You might notice that my link blog has Google ads on it now. Those belong to Kunal and he's getting 100% of the revenue that they generate. I did that to help him pay for the hosting fees and if he ends up making a lot of money it's a reward for making his OutlookMT tool that makes it all possible. Thanks!

My policy is to always tell you when I'm making money off of anything I write here. Many bloggers don't tell you when they've joined things like Amazon's Affiliate program (weblog authors can get a kickback for every buyer they link to Amazon).

I already have enough conflicts of interest just because of who I work for (Microsoft) so I don't think it's fair to introduce more conflicts into my writing. That's one reason why I won't take the Marqui money that many other bloggers are taking right now.

Also, if I do make any money off of my blog (some conferences might end up paying me and if we end up selling the book that Shel Israel and I are working on) that money will get donated to charity. Just so you know that I'm doing this for fun, not for the money.

9:22:26 AM    comment 

Famous first words: "Oh no, not another BLOG."

That was four years ago today.

Thanks Dave Winer and Dori Smith for talking me into blogging.

I wonder if I'll be alive in four more years. Remember, in the past four years there was 9/11. A car wreck. I laid myself off. I found a job on Craig's List. My grandma died. I got divorced. I was remarried. I got a job at Microsoft and moved to a new state. Among other things. Lots of living in four years.

Thanks too to all of you. There are at least 957 of you I should thank (I could send you the OPML file). But each of you, even my detractors, have added a great deal to my life. I truly understand what Dan Gillmor says when he says that your readers are smarter than you are. I've been blessed with more than my fair share of smart readers.

9:14:06 AM    comment 

Kent Tegels and I will be heading over to the Seattle Meetup on Wednesday evening. You're invited. Anita Rowland has the details.

I just uploaded a bunch of stuff to my link blog (Kunal Das gave it a new design, nice!). Michael Earls says my boss should be president! Hmmm. Lots of MSN Toolbar Suite reactions.

Looking over my link blog I see Google announced something. That really is awesome. It's good news for Tablet PCs. Reading books in portrait mode is a lot nicer than landscape mode. Lots of other goodies too. Talk in the morning.

12:09:06 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
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Last updated:
5/11/2005; 1:00:46 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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