A couple of days ago we had big news about Canadian wireless spectrum – today, the news is from South of the border in the US. Google has long been rumoured to have been preparing to enter the auction, and today we learn that Google [has confirmed their] Spectrum Bid. The rumour mill will now turn to wild speculation about Google’s intentions for wireless spectrum should they succeed in winning at auction.
Archives for November 2007
Like many of my fellow online marketing analysis, researchers, and consultants (et al.) I’ve been following (and participating in!) Facebook for quite a while now. The story is well known now – Facebook and social networks in general are the new belles of the ball, and everyone’s scrambling to figure out what that means to them.
A few weeks ago I went to FacebookCamp Montreal, and the kick-off presentation by Colin Smillie and Roy Pereira, from Toronto’s Refresh Partners presented some Facebook demographics which were interesting, but at first blush, quite mundane. Sure, Facebook is huge and growing, got it. Still, though I couldn’t put my finger on it, something was bugging me after seeing the graphs and tables laid out.
Last week, there was a post in Techcrunch that again spoke to Facebook’s demographics: Facebook Is Almost 2/3 Women (and other stats), but this time the numbers, and their implications, leapt out at me.
In Canada, we’re used to being just behind the leading edge of internet trends. We’re early adopters, and heavy internet users – but if you really want to know where this stuff is going, the tendency is to look to the Bay Area and South to Silicon Valley, not in our own backyard. The demographics of Facebook paint a very different picture. It’s clear that if you really want to understand the meaning and implications of Facebook, your analysis should start in Canada, not in the US.
The US is an oddball in the Facebook universe, an outlier whose demographics are clearly not representative of either the present or the future of Facebook – and US usage is probably not a good indicator of trends related to either Facebook, or, likely, social networking in general. In the US, Facebook membership is much smaller as a proportion of population than in Canada (or the UK and several other leading countries). The population in the US is markedly younger as well, and more male-dominated than it is in Canada and elsewhere. There are lots of reasons for this – most notably the traction that Facebook achieved early on in strictly college-based populations – but this deformed the growth of Facebook in the US and the demographics continue to suggest that the US is not in the mainstream of Facebook tendencies and trends.
I’m not in any way suggesting that there’s something wrong with the US – just that any serious analysis of Facebook and the changes they introduce should isolate, to some degree, US usage patterns from the rest of the world, particularly Canada. The mainstream of Facebook adoption is – and has been for at least 6 months – outside the US.
Industry Canada divulged plans for the upcoming auction of additional wireless spectrum: Government Opts for More Competition in the Wireless Sector. The good news is that they have set aside a good proportion of the new spectrum to new entrants into the Canadian market, as well as mandating things like shared tower space (for antennas). Hopefully this will put some price pressure on the incumbents in the Canadian wireless industry – Rogers, Telus, and Bell.
Update: Thomas Purves has written a post about this at StartUpNorth which lays out some of the implications of this announcement.
In my feed reader just now I noticed a brief mention by John Battelle: Paid Links, Selling Links… Not Good. When you click through to the article and to the Google help page – and remembering the commotion a couple of weeks ago about some complaints that people’s Page Rank had suddenly dropped – a very encouraging pattern is starting to emerge.
Google has always taken the soundness of their systems very seriously, but I don’t think it’s coincidental that Google seems to be addressing some of the issues surrounding paid links and the like more seriously now that Facebook has made some aggressive strides into the advertising world. I think someone at Google realizes that alongside and within its ranking and presentation via search of the whole web, they also – without Orkut or OpenSocial or anything else – already have a “social graph” embedded in their databases – and one that has already proven to be more valuable than closed social networks’ social graphs.
The initial promise and reality of blogrolls (say, pre-2003), after all, was that they served as a way to declare, publicly, that such-and-such a blogger was someone you either knew or respected personally. That is the social graph right there, and Google’s always had it. The best part? There was a cost to adding someone to your blogroll (time, dilution, etc.), which served (somewhat) to pare down those lists and make them more accurate representations of bloggers’ personal preference.
The important thing about the social graph is that to be valid and useful as a commercial endeavour, connections must accurately reflect a person’s authentic relationship, whether that be with a friend, an issue-related BOF, a colleague, or anyone else. To date this has been the strength of Facebook – they made it easy for people to add friends, but through the News Feed (among other things) added a cost to doing so – which has (so far) tended to “purify” people’s contact lists in a way that MySpace’s and others’ lists never were.
Facebook is winning (by some measures) because users’ networks more closely resemble real-life relationships – Facebook isn’t, by-and-large, a friend-adding contest. Anything Google can do to ensure their results are accurate and reflect authentic relationships is likely as important in the long run as anything they do with OpenSocial. (Now if only they would do something about all of the spam blogs on Blogger).