Saturday, July 14, 2007

Facebook Phenomenon

So now that I live in San Francisco and work in Silicon Valley, I cannot help but get caught up in the drama of the technology of Web 2.0 world. Recently, I read a rumor that Microsoft may be in the market for Facebook at the cost of $6 billion dollars. Are you kidding me? Word on the street is that the executive team at Facebook has in the past turned down offers as high as $1 billion dollars. Are they insane?! Take the money! Screw the IPO!

Yes, everyone I know uses Facebook and yes, I frequent it myself and maintain my own profile. However, let us think about this rationally. It doesn't make the kind of money to justify $1 billion dollars or more. I think too many people have bought into the idea that millions of eyes will inevitably lead to millions of dollars of revenue. The more tech savvy will take it one step further and suggest that millions of eyes will lead to millions of dollars "once the problem of monetization is solved!" Once the problem of monetization is solved? Seriously? I have had real conversations with really smart people who buy into this line of reasoning! In a for-profit business model, isn't the fundamental problem making money? How are you going to learn how to make money and evolve your business accordingly if you spend the bulk of your growth cycle on capturing and articulating your audience?

This is not the same situation as Google. Google innovated their way towards a solution to generating revenue. They did so almost immediately after Google started getting remotely popular. Google anticipated a need to actually make money well before it became time to turn public. So far, what have we heard from Facebook? Sure, maybe peoples' interests and the interests of their friends may yield decent targeted advertising. However, people are searching for everything on Google. People are searching for people on Facebook. There's a BIG difference.

Facebook also recently built and deployed a glorified widget platform. In my opinion, it is masquerading as the innovation necessary to bring Facebook to the level of uber-profitability. I do not think it has the potential to turn lead to gold as Mark Zuckerberg's keynote at f8 would lead us to believe. The concept of the mash-up has been around for a while and I don't think anyone has really made a killing as the middleman in such a model (read Widgets Suck for a decent opinion as to why).

My prediction is that Facebook is going to hold out for an IPO. The IPO is going to blast off initially because far too many non-technical investors will hype it up without fully understanding it. Then, with all of the financial documentation that will become available, smart people will start to recognize that there is no real money there to justify a high market capitalization. The stock will tumble and the company will be worth less than anything offered before it went public.

Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but if I were 23 and had built a website that was receiving offers of $6 billion after only 3 years of existence, I would take the money and RUN! Seriously, you made it to the big leagues. Cash out, keep one eye on your creation, and if glory is what you want, start the process all over again. Remember, Steve Jobs is only Steve Jobs because he built Apple from the bottom up twice.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Luck is something that I must have quite an abundance of. Eight months ago, I managed to find a Wii, three weeks after its release, without waiting in line or resorting to eBay. Now, an iPhone found its way into my life, under similar circumstances.

Living only a block away from the San Francisco Apple store on iPhone Day, I could not quell the overwhelming desire to cruise by the line of iPhone campers and see what kind of turnout there was. It was simultaneously an awesome sight to behold and a dream crushing reality to face. It looked like the iPhones were going to sell out immediately. So I headed to work, head hanging low.

Later that evening, I casually wandered over and found the Apple store completely packed. I waited about 15 minutes trying to get my hands on one of the demo iPhones, but could not break through the crowds. I glanced over at the check-out line and noticed that it was conspicuously empty. One of the attendants read my mind and stepped over to let me know that there were still iPhones in stock. With a 14 day return policy, the little muse on my shoulder convinced me I could always return it. (Riiiiight.) So I bought one.

It has since been two weeks and because a friend asked for my perspective on it, here it goes.

There is no way I am going to return it. At this point, it is like an extension of my being. Over-dramatic? Perhaps. However, I have turned to it for virtually everything. Everything except work. I have come to the conclusion that if you can detach yourself from work, the iPhone is going to make your life better. And if you can't, it is probably not really meant for you. Give an HTC a try instead. It's what I used before.

The first thing I did was sync my music with my iPhone. This meant I could leave my iPod Nano at home from that point forward. Given that I have no vehicle and walk everywhere (by choice), having my music library to go through really helps make the distance seem less. I love the fact that the volume buttons on the side still respond even if the phone is in its locked mode.

Next, I pulled down my contacts from Highrise and loaded them into Address Book. My Address Book synced right through to my iPhone without much of a hassle. Somewhere in the process though, the pictures associated with my contacts were lost. It was a good time to update many of the pictures anyways, so I spent the hour it took to crop pictures off of Facebook and update my contacts. The contact list on the iPhone is good enough, but I could not help thinking what might have been had they used CoverFlow to page through contact photos to find your contact.

Since I just moved to San Francisco, searching for an apartment was a huge priority. Google Maps on my iPhone proved invaluable in finding directions from open house to open house. The built-in PDF viewer allowed me to read Craigslist entries I had printed off and mailed to my iPhone. The combination of the two functions most certainly allowed me to see more apartments in a shorter amount of time and in a more efficient schedule.

I have been using the camera on the iPhone for candid photos, eliminating the need to carry around my Sony DSC-W80. The quality seems decent enough and I love the camera shutter effect. The photo viewer is really awesome. I even synchronized some of my photo albums so I can carry them around with me to show people. I never thought I would use my iPhone for that.

I am turning to my iPhone to help reduce the amount of TV I watch and to give me an adequate reason to skip cable altogether. I started purchasing Multi-View Passes for shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report off of iTunes. Every morning, the latest episodes download and synchronize to my phone. Now, I can watch some television while riding the train from San Francisco to San Bruno, which is all I really need. The playback of videos, both iTunes and YouTube content, is awesome. The screen is amazingly clear.

I use the web browser fairly frequently, but mostly for applications such as Ta-Da List. There are a handful of ideas I have for iPhone applications, so I am constantly seeking out other iPhone applications to see what other people developing and how. I downloaded iPhoney and started developing some simple projects. I love that iPhone's flavor of Safari has webkit built in.

The keyboard is interesting. I'm used to stumbling through the UI of my HTC substituting my thumb for the stylus, so I have developed pinpoint thumb accuracy. Many of the problems people are having with the keyboard just have not bothered me much. I do wish that in text messaging and email applications there was the ability to flip to landscape mode.

Other than that, I write notes to myself using the notes application sometimes. However, that feature is nothing special. I check the weather on my phone all of the time because its simply faster than waking up my laptop or finding the Weather Channel on TV. I need to figure out a way to sync my gCal with my local Calendar before I'll really be able to take advantage of my iPhone's calendar features.

There you have it. I eliminated two devices from my pocket - my iPod Nano and my Sony digital camera - because of my iPhone. I travel lighter and have more access than I ever had with any phone before. People are complaining about the EDGE network, but I guess I love my iPhone enough to look the other way. I'm finding new uses for it everyday.