Snapshot of Social Networking in Malaysia

social networkingFacebook with 250 million users and these users are sharing over 10 billion photos. YouTube is streaming 1.2 billion videos a day, worldwide. The number of worldwide unique visitors of Twitter catapulted from 19 million in March 2009 to 32 million in April 2009 and each day, Twitter users are generating roughly 18 million updates. And according to comScore, social networking penetration rate worldwide was 65% in the month of May 2009, or 734.2 million Internet users across the globe accessing at least one social networking website during the month.

Malaysians love Social Networking too

There are about 16 million Internet users in Malaysia and IDC Research projected Malaysian Internet users will reach 20.4 million by 2012. In March this year, the number of Facebook users in Malaysia surpassed the one million mark. Kuala Lumpur SkylineRecently, a brief survey by YouthSays, Malaysia’s largest youth community website with over 160,000 members, showed 95% of a total of 900 respondents have Friendster’s account, 90% with Facebook and 38% with Twitter (This survey was presented at the recent Malaysian Media Congress 2009).

In Malaysia, the social networking penetration rate was 66.6% in December 2008 (see Table below), behind only to Singapore (74.3%) and South Korea (68%).

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Top 5 Moments of Maxis iPhone 3G Pre-Launch Day

yellotextMaxis Communications Bhd, Malaysian’s largest mobile communication provider, yesterday announced the launch date of iPhone 3G in Malaysia. Leading up to the announcement, Twitterville is abuzz with chats on its pricing plans and other issues.

If you’ve missed the fun on Twitterville yesterday with #iphonemalaysia, here the Top 5 interesting ‘moments’ of Maxis iPhone 3G Pre-Launch Day, spotted on Twitter (and elsewhere on the Web).

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Look What the Crowd Drags Into Foldees

Foldees Foldees is one of the more interesting projects emerging from the Malaysian Web scene in recent years. In a nutshell, it is a greeting cards online store, but with a twist. Instead of employing a team of designers, Foldees is crowdsourcing its design function through the creation of a community of greeting card designers and buyers.

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Google Shut Down its Experimental SearchMash

searchmash

SearchMash is the experimental search engine, developed by Google. It was released for public in October last year. The search engine has been my choice of search engine since January 2008, as it offered a much more pleasant user experience, in terms of speed and uncluttered interface (imagine Google minus Google AdWords). And, not to mention its dashboard-style of displaying different categories of search results, namely images, blogs, video, wikipedia.

Unfortunately, Google has consigned SearchMash to “way of the dinosaur”. Since yesterday, the search engine became inaccessible. Maybe Google is planning a rebirth of SearchMash, maybe not. Google launched SearchMash with little fanfare in 2007 and now, the experimental search engine went out with a whimper (no coverage on TechCrunch) (see coverage on TechCrunch).

A look of its traffic pattern for the past three months, SearchMash traffic is noticeably constant, non-growth. The graph below shows the traffic patterns of SearchMash and Microsoft-owned search engine, Powerset.

Traffic Patterns of SearchMash and Powerset
searchmash

A sad day for me. Reluctantly, I’ve to set my default search engine back to Google.

It was nice using you, SearchMash!
searchmash

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Google Chrome Tailor-Made for Web Computing

Google Chrome LogoAfter two years of development, Google today unveils its open source web browser, Google Chrome (went ‘live’ at 11.46 PT, September 02 2008). With Chrome, Google outlines its vision of a next-generation web browser. Amidst a crowded browser market with players like Mozilla Firefox / Camino, Apple Safari, Opera, Flock and Microsoft Internet Explorer, the new Webkit-based browser does indeed offer a breath of fresh air.

Google Chrome is probably the first browser designed for the Age of Web Computing (George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, called Executable Internet). It is created from the ground up to accommodate the demands and challenges of modern interactive web applications.

Introducing Google Chrome

The following section highlights what’s new with Google Chrome:

User Interface
Layout Structure
  • Tabs-on-Top Tabs are located on top of navigation bar.
  • More browser real-estate “File, Edit, View” menu bar not available. Options and controls are accessible via these two icons, located on the right-hand side of the browser. This translates to bigger ‘browser real-estate’ without sacrificing easy accessibility to functions and controls.

  • Agile Tabs ,which can be moved from window to window (and the tabs retain its state). The example below shows “Technology Review” tab being dragged. Drag by holding down your mouse left button and once released, the tab will open in a new window.

  • Integrated URL and search bar. Google called it omnibox. In addition to URLs of visited sites, omnibox can handles search, sites recommendations, etc. If you have used a search engine at a website, say CNN.com. The next time you type the URL, you can press TAB to directly search CNN from the omnibox.

  • Full text search over browsing history.
  • Window for App This window shows no browser UI; displays just the app. Below is a screenshot of Gmail app window.

  • Download status at the bottom of browser window, similar to what Download Status extension can do on Firefox. The downloaded file can be drag-and-drop anywhere.
Tab Page Display nine favorite sites, search ‘history’ box, recent bookmarked sites and recently closed tabs.

Security
Sandboxing Google Chrome SandboxStripped browser processes all its right; can compute but can’t write files or access sensitive areas in your computer.

Isolated “sandbox” involves confinement of browser of processes; the confined perimeter can be defined based on permissions – low, medium, high.

Closed browser tab to terminate rogue processes.

“Incognito” mode for more private browsing; similar to Safari’s Private Browsing and IE In-Private mode.

Stability
Multi-processes Google Chrome ProcessWith its Multi-process design, each tab is a separate process.

Each process is isolated with its own memory and global data structure.

A tab with rogue process won’t crash the whole browser.

Can restore crashed tab to state before crash.

Memory management Google Chrome ProcessWhen a tab is closed, the process is destroyed and the browser gets to reclaim back the memory.

Memory leak can be easily contained by just closing tab with ‘rogue’ process.

Built-in Task Manager to see which sites are hogging memory.

Moving from Site A to Site B are treated as two distinct processes. So, browsing with Google Chrome is a constant creation and obliteration of processes.

Speed
JavaScript Engine Google Chrome V8Google Chrome’s new V8 JavaScript engine enables dynamic code generation. It converts JavaScript source codes directly to machine codes, which in turn, interact with your CPU. This turbo-charged execution.

Also, its Hidden Class Transitions, in which objects with similar properties will share the same hidden class, enables dynamic optimization.

Source: Google Chrome Comic

When Google signed a marketing deal with Mozilla back in 2006, many thought Google will use Firefox to enter the browser market. Last week, the Internet search giant extended the deal to 2011.

However, building a browser from ground up makes more sense for Google because this approach is without path-dependent legacy, development assumptions, designs and other coded constraints. With a clean slate, Google can fully exert its creativity and authenticity when developing the new browser. This resulted in the development of multi-process architecture and V8 JavaScript engine. A quote by Albert Einstein aptly apply in this case:

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

In Search for Web Supremacy

“Google lives on the Internet,” said Chris DiBona, Open Source Program Manager (in Google Chrome comic). Google’s business is tightly-weaved to the Web and already has arrays of web-centric services, namely search, email, photo organizer, chat, map, online video sharing and interactive maps.

Currently, Google is spearheading two major industry initiatives – open source mobile platform, Android and open Web API for social networking sites, OpenSocial. With Chrome open source project, the search giant aims to influence the technological direction in the browser market and further catalyze the adoption growth of web-centric applications.

Better browser leads to improved Web applications performance and better user experience. This, in turn, catalyzes greater diversity, novelty and variety of applications / services to generate vibrancy in the Web ecosystem. A vibrant, bustling Web is, indeed, good business for Google.

Verdicts: Google Chrome offers a new kind of user-browser interfacing experience. I admire its ‘fluid’, agile and dynamic tabs, something other browsers don’t have. Google also rethink and remodel the way we interact with bookmark. Of course, last but not least, the integrated search-URL is smart and much more awesome than Firefox’s Awesome Bar. In a nutshell, Google Chrome is fresh, snappy and so much fun to use.

Google Chrome is available for download here (Windows only; Mac and Linux versions will be available soon).

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How to Create Barriers of Entry in the Age of Innovation

Bright ideas in abundance. An idea (or a concept) is conceived by entrepreneurs; products / services are the embodiments of the idea. Some ideas are intrinsically harder to emulate compared to others, due to its intrinsic characteristics and/or its business model.

For example, Google discovered a better way to search information and its PageRank idea is codified in algorithms (Google’s secret sauce and hard to copy). For PageRank, it’s intrinsic characteristics are functionally superb; it’s commercialization strategy (AdWords, AdSense) is creative. The combination is creating a formidable barrier of entry for Google. Today, the company captured over 60% of web searches worldwide and about 45% of US Internet advertising revenues.

Of course, not many ideas are like PageRank. Many product ideas are relatively easier to copy. Within a market segment, there are multiple variations. For example, in the microblogging marketspace, there are Twitter, Plurk, Rejaw, Identi.ca, Brightkite and Jaiku. Each with different features and interface structure but fundamentally similar to the others.

If a product idea is relatively easy to emulate, then how to create competitive advantage? How to build (temporary) barriers of entry? The followings are some tactics to create and sustain competitiveness:

Strike First Probably, the most well-known strategy among web enterprises. Speed is king. Here, it’s not about bringing the best and unique idea to the marketplace but it’s about execution and implementation. If there are 10 people working on the same idea like yours and you bring to the market first, you are likely to win the ‘game’. Being first in the market enables a company to lock-in users and create network effects. eBay still managed to lead the market segment it pioneered. However, as we have witnessed in several cases, first mover is not an advantage all the time. ExciteExamples: (a) Although once commanding 90% of the market with its Navigator browser, Netscape lost the browser war to Microsoft. (b) MySpace and Friendster losing ground to late-comer Facebook in the social networking market. (c) One of the earliest search engine, Excite, lost its shine and was overtaken by Altavista, Hotbot, Google, etc.

Timing SixDegrees.com is probably the first social networking site on the Internet. It lasted from 1997 to 2001. Unfortunately, in Sixdegrees1997, social networking is not in vogue. Its demise is partly due to timing. If it were launched a few years later, it may join some of the thriving social networks around today such as Friendster, Bebo and MySpace. So, if your idea failed to take-off, it doesn’t mean the idea sucks. Maybe, it’s simply way ahead of its time. This is probably an anti-thesis of first-mover. Sometimes, the market forces and dynamics are just not ready for the products and ideas introduced by the first-movers. The lesson here is to have speed in the right direction. The right direction is dependent on entrepreneurial creativity and ingenuity.

Big Bang Once in a while, a company introduced big bang, disruptive technologies in the marketplace. The company changes the rules of the games, introduces a new order and alters the competitive landscape. Over the past years, we have witnessed a few disruptive forces. HotmailFacebook opened its Platform to third-party developers in 2007 and changed the way social network operates. Since then, its competitors adopted similar strategy. Google Gmail entered the web-based email with then unheard of 1Gb free storage. Prior to the launch of Gmail, leading services like Microsoft Hotmail and Yahoo! offered 2Mb and 4Mb, respectively. Another example is iPhone, which introduced discontinuity in mobile phone market. Since its introduction, leading players like Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Research In Motion (BlackBerry) and Palm are playing catch-up. Big bang tactic is highly suitable for a new player to compete with established players and define new competitive rules in the marketplace. It’s about creating a ‘blue ocean’ marketspace, proclaimed W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.

Scale and Scope Amazon.com started as an online bookstore and became a virtual mega-store selling toys, clothes, Amazongrocery, tools etc. Then, it started to rent its e-commerce infrastructure to merchants and also offers its cloud computing and storage services to thousands of websites (eg. Twitter, SmugMug, and AdaptiveBlue). Amazon.com is constantly extending and expanding its offerings by leveraging on its core assets and knowledge-base to tap market opportunities. The strategy is to organically grow into a distinct organizational form that is hard to emulate. Similar to traditional industries, economies of scale and scope are the barriers of entry.

Conclusion

Enterprises are created to design, develop and deliver value objects to the market and always strive to gain leadership position in the marketplace. Building barrier(s) of entry is imperative for businesses to sustain profit generation and ultimately, enhance organizational survival in the competitive marketplace. First-mover advantage, right timing, unique value proposition and distinct organizational form can be used to make life a lot harder for your competitors.

Sources of Images: Excite, Sixdegreesre, Hotmail, Amazon.com

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In Search of Competition 2.0

Tim O’Reilly, in “Microhoo: corporate penis envy?,” (O’Reilly Radar, May 24 2008) advised Microsoft to outsource its search to Google and “Compete where you have ideas that can really change the game, but don’t play me-too.”

Michael Arrington disagreed with O’Reilly assertions in his article “The Importance of A Competitive Search Market” (TechCrunch, May 25 2008). He believed that competition is crucial to the evolution and improvement of the search technology and business models. According to Arrington, if Google is allowed to assume the dominant role in search, “little effort is put into innovation, and the not enough revenue flows to companies that add value to the system…. the entire ecosystem is put at risk.”

O’Reilly countered with “Why search competition isn’t the point” (O’Reilly Radar, May 25 2008). He asserted that the focus shouldn’t be on Web 2.0 applications or search, what he termed as subsystems of a much bigger Internet Operating System. He went on to argued that Google’s monopoly will be short-lived because “it’s rare for a company that led with one generation of technology to also win at the next.”

O’Reilly also pointed out that Web 2.0 applications tend to slide into monopolistic behaviors, fuel by network effects. The network effects already in play for Google and its search business. So, unless Microsoft is taking the search concept to the next level and make its “search services that are more open, re-usable and re-deployable than Google’s search services”, it should walk-away from the search business. He argued that “there’s so much yet to invent.” He believed Google dominance in search will be toppled by disruptive forces coming from outside the current system, not from playing catch-ups at the same game (as adopted by Microsoft).

I agreed with Arrington’s position. Competition is important to create a sustainable and healthy Web Ecosystem. O’Reilly equates web applications like search to subsystems of a more grandeur system, named Internet OS. Competition at even the subsystem-level is crucial for evolution. Any lock-in by a particular species in a particular subsystem is risky for the entire Ecosystem, as the Whole System is only as good as its sub-systems.

I agreed with O’Reilly that network effects, in the favor of Google search, is almost an Everest for Microsoft to climb. BUT we have see many instances where companies overcoming the undercurrent of network effects. Search engines like Altavista and Hotbot have lock-in in the search marketplace and Google, a relatively late-comer, dislodged the incumbents. Google is evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) improvement over Hotbot or Altavista. Google managed to develop new sort of algorithms and methodologies to deliver better search results compared to its predecessors. What if then we asked Google not to pour their resources to compete in the search subsystem, as this area already been taken care by Hotbot?

The same applies for the social networking marketspace. Friendster and MySpace practically captured this marketspace before Facebook comes marching in. Should we advice Facebook to do something else other than social networking business when they started operation?

There should be competition in every subsystems. We see competitions in practically every niche of the today’s Web 2.0 market – bookmarking segment (e.g. Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Diigo), books (Goodread, Shelfari, Library Thing), photos (e.g. Flickr, Picasa), etc. Through competition, innovative ideas like Google PageRank and Facebook Platform can emerge. The Web 2.0 is a thriving and dynamic ecosystem, mainly because array of species are emerging every day to bring something ‘special’ to the evolution of the entire Web Ecosystem.

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