In a recent development FourSquare secured an additional $20 Million dollars of VC Funding from a variety of top VC funds – see TechCrunch‘s Foursquare Closes $20 Million Series B From Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square, And O’Reilly but what I didn’t realize is – Facebook was also just about to acquire FourSquare – which I’m glad didn’t yet happen. GigaOM had a different slant to this story – see Sounds Like Facebook and Foursquare Will Be Partners, Not Competitors suggesting Dennis Crowley didn’t want to make the same mistake twice (selling too early and losing control – we never know what Dodgeball may have become it not been sold to Google).
….The company asked the white hat, Jesper Andersen, to give it nine days to deal with the problem that it was publishing all users’ location data to the entire web despite its privacy-policy promise to users that “You can opt out of such broadcasts through your privacy settings.”At the same time, the company was wrapping up a protracted and very public finance round that stalled for a while as the company reportedly almost sold itself to Facebook.
I want to talk about that last two paragraphs for a second – we’ve been dancing around the privacy issue with check-ins on FourSquare all year. I have met at least a few people at FourSquare in New York and discussed if they are for or against scraping venue pages for check in information because FourSquare does not publish the entire list of people who checked in, just those in the last 3 or 4 hours. Some companies have dealt with similar limitations with Facebook Friends by scraping Google’s Search Results over time for the same individuals to get the total list of friends since not all of them are displayed – this data mining information is used to answer high end marketing questions – and from what I’m told is perfectly legal and doesn’t violate Facebook’s terms of service.
I discussed this idea of scraping content off venue pages with FourSquare at least twice – and no one batted an eye – then .. it wasn’t till someone with the skill to do it – went ahead and took the idea I threw out and went with it – and that it just so happened to occur when contract negotiations were being finalized to either acquire FourSquare (via Facebook) or get $20 million from Union Square Ventures and the like.
My point is the scraping of FourSquare Bay Area Venue pages to get a real list of who actually checks in to a location is the logical results of location based services and it’s FourSquare that wasn’t’ able to figure out a way to do yet (without violating anyone’s privacy that didn’t want to have others know they checked into a location – and … why bother checking in anywhere if you don’t want people to know you were there?)
Anyway – another story cropped up – this time it’s Google Me (that’s right … Google Me – we don’t know if that’s just a rumor or a real service but someone I met is rumored to be working on it – Rick Klau who was one of the chief programmers at FeedBurner – which as we know got acquired and now nearly ruined by Google.) Sounds like there’s going to be a bigger war this summer and fall between Google and Facebook according to a story in PC World:
…. So what would Google Me be? A popular guess is that it will be an expansion of Google Profiles, which is a representation of how you appear on Google. Right now Google Profiles do not contain a lot of personal information, nor do they broadcast much. But they could.
Think for a moment about how many Google features you use. Now think about how much Google knows about you based on those apps. Aggregating all of that information into one Web site and transforming it into a social experience would be a breezy process for Google and you. You wouldn’t have to lift a finger; Google does all the work. (To see what Google services you’re using, check out the Google Dashboard.)
SF Weekly pointed out that Rick Klau, the developer who built Google Buzz — Google’s previous attempt at social networking — was recently tapped to overhaul Google Profiles. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.
Social Networking After Google Buzz
So … Google is going to go after Facebook – and then, I guess, once it has all that information aggregated – it will do one of the next logical things and provide analytics and metrics around it (the personal and corporate “PR Dashboard”) – the thing I mentioned in London last November and this March (at monitoring-bootcamp) with come to pass – and Social Network war will heat up even more this year than last – by next year at this time the landscape be someone different but the same players will dominate for the most part.
Which goes back to why Facebook didn’t roll out location based checking in – they could have done that back at F8 in April but didn’t – because at that time Facebook was about to acquire FourSquare – so they thought – and would have piggybacked their check in’s off of FourSquare – but as I mentioned at the beginning of this post – that acquisition didn’t happen – which suggests that the locational data, checking in will be where part of the war (or prize) will be fought – and right now, FourSquare will work as a partner of Facebook – until, I suppose, they are eventually bought by Facebook (or someone else) in a year or two – when the price of acquiring FourSquare will be perhaps 10 times more than what might have been acquired for this year – which is actually a good thing for the VC’s who invested in FourSquare – they will get a lot richer – and Dennis Crowley will control his company a lot longer and get to realize it’s full potential before selling it (like he regretted doing with Dodgeball – not that I ever loved Dodgeball … I didn’t – but once Google got hold of it – it sorta died a slow death – the same thing that’s happening to FeedBurner – by the way -which brings me back to Rick Klau, strangely enough).
Since Google acquired FeedBurner – they have tried to do some good things and some bad things – the good things (which I can’t think of right now) were already done – but the bad things are the lousy updating of subscribers on a daily basis – it’s gotten to be almost an embrassement – I want to take the damn Feedburner Chicklet off my blog – one day I have 4200 subscribers, the next day, 1800 hundred, then it’s back up to 2400 hundred, then back to 1800 the following day – today it’s around 2500 but yesterday it was 4200 – such is Google – when they have a bunch of engineers playing with the stuff and trying to “improve it”. Sometimes that approach works – and sometimes … it doesn’t. Feedburner and Dodgeball were examples of when it doesn’t work – when the company should not have sold ….. sorry to say it – but it’s true.
Being acquired by Google often means the same thing as being acquired by Yahoo! – a slow death to an idea and a service that actually was good and useful at one time – but get’s lost in Google’s Hive Mind. Like Google has any idea of customer service outside an email address … do they? No – they are into total automation of everything – and sometimes that works, and sometimes .…. often … it does not work. Yeah, Google can just about chuck FeedBurner -that’s the way I feel about the service now – they have practically made it useless as a subscriber count – who believes it anymore?
So much for Google’s Hive Mind – sometimes it works – often, it doesn’t.
But the Good things that Google did – say – with Google Reader – are highlighted in a post by Christopher Penn – What’s in common? A simple Google Reader heuristic
….. Want to see what happens when you don’t just wantonly add everyone in your address book to your Google Reader shared subscriptions?
If you are subscribed to people who share good stuff (presumably respected colleagues and friends), you’ll know when something REALLY important happens because suddenly it’ll be highlighted by many of the folks you trust.
On the other hand, if something is really important – you’ll get to know about it soon enough – even without this early warning sign in Google Reader.
Ending this post is a quote from Dan Pink that I found in post yesterday – People Don’t Buy What You Do, They Buy Why You Do It
.. Dan Pink pointed out that ‘management’ is an invented technology from the 1850s, and that “management leads to compliance, but only self-direction leads to engagement”.
the profit motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen, and mediocre becomes the norm. The what and the how is what happens when you think of things in technological terms. The why is what happens when you think of things in human terms.
There’s at least a few posts about the last paragraph or two above – but that’s for another day.