Monday, April 12, 2004

Gmail and other stories from googleland

much has been recently written about google's free 1GB email for the masses and what it actually means with respect to google's overall future b-plans. there's justified widesperad concern over gmail's privacy policy, as the already infamous policy makes it crystal clear that google, among other things, has every right to read and use your emails in order to advertise to you as effectively as possible. as of last night when i last checked, gmail remains an idea yet to materialise. it's definitely something to be expected to go live in the forthcoming days, especially given the huge number of people interested in been given a massive email account for free, but despite all that, you can't sign up for it yet (but you can suscribe for more news).

anyhow, i'm more interested in what it'll come to mean for us all now that some pieces of the puzzle are laid open on the table. let's sum it up then: google has the best search engine, a very successful social networking service, one of the two most popular hosted weblogging services, and big plans for the future including gmail, froogle, location-based services, a long awaited IPO and then some. of all these, the only thing that stands a good chance of becoming a cash cow is location-aware services and its much anticipated IPO. but that doesn't shed any light on what google is actually becoming: an infomediary - or rather, the first and only infomediary around (if you wish to delve more deeply into the controversial subject of infomediaries, the best (and only?) book on this subject is hagel and singer's net worth).

i still reckon google could easily capitalise on linux, selling it as a service or as a product or as both (i've written about it in greater length here; and kottke, among others, agrees with me), but the potential revenue that the google-linux marriage could bring is only peanuts when compared to the massive potential of the infomediary business.

what is an infomediary? it's someone you trust with your personal data and who'll guarantee you the level of privacy you seek. it's someone who'll play suppliers/vendors against each other in order to buy things on your behalf at the best price available (it'll aggregate its clients' purchasing power to get the best deals). it'll offer you personalised information, ads (indeed, it may even pay us real money to be exposed to these ads), products and services.

what are the requirements? first, for the infomediary business to flourish, numbers matter more than anything - it needs a massive clientelle. but i suppose google is already building this asset, and path dependent currents will ensure its user base will keep increasing. the other crucial requirement is knowledge of customer behaviour. and google reads our thoughts through our blogger-hosted blogs. as jason kottle says:

Google knows what people write about, what they search for, what they shop for, they know who wants to advertise and how effective those advertisements are, and they're about to know how we communicate with friends and loved ones. What can they do with all that? Just about anything that collection of Ph.Ds can dream up. [link]

therefore this essential part is also being taken care of. the last and most obvious requirement is trust. so, do we trust google enough to provide it with our blog-thoughts, our shopping desires, our emails and contacts, and our communities? most people do. for one thing, i'm willing to place my bets on google. unless it seriously fucks it up, google is destined to become the first informediary, a process that will evolve over the next 3-5 years. only time will tell if google will be the next major gatekeeper and how it'll come to use its power over how we use the Internet to communicate, collaborate, work, and shop.

btw, the /. threaded discussion is very interesting.


forbes reviews gmail and /. has another vibrant threaded discussion


alex barnett has an interesting follow-up post on infomediaries. and points us to a uk-based infomediary called iammoving very interesting....

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marching off the spreadsheet

the brilliant paul ford nails it again:

Of course we're not just consumersówe're people, and we do more than buy. (I hope.) Sometimes we get together and march off the spreadsheet. We drop the script and start improvising, and the campaign managers just have to lump it. Because, sadly for those who manage the brands, human beings care much more about their own fun than about the sacred rights of Mighty PepsiCo. It's the slosh heard round the world, as people tilt their soda bottles 25 degrees, and it's the sound of Jay-Z and George Harrison together at last. These aren't sounds of rebellion-it's just that people won't always march in step. At least not until someone perfects the advertising brain ray. [link]

via tom harpel

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have you seen Jon Husband?

i know that many people have turned to blogging as a solution to their ever growing pains with spam overload. but when they' re not accessible either via their email or blog, then they've either found paradise on earth or...?
where are you Jon? i dropped you a line but your account seems to be temporarily disabled. and your wirearchy blog is unexpectedly down for the last week or so. has anybody seen Jon?


the wirearchy blog is back online. good sign.

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