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Instagram is now used by more people than Twitter. Let’s talk about why. This post is a continuation from yesterday’s, which explored the evolution of how Twitter is used.

Twitter is great for getting news and opinions about the things you’re interested in. For example, Marc Andreesen is a fantastic person to follow if you’re interested in technology and business. Finding those people, however, is hard.

Instagram’s appeal is more immediate and more universal. It’s easier to create and find good content on Instagram, better for conversations and great to use with friends.

Getting “into” Twitter is difficult. I love my friends, but I don’t care about what they do on a real-time basis. I also love Duke basketball, but few Duke basketball players are actually interesting enough to listen to on Twitter. Finding great content on Twitter is hard.

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When people think about ranking social networks, it’s usually Facebook #1 and Twitter #2. Well, there’s a new #2 in town and that’s Instagram, who with 300 million monthly active users recently supplanted Twitter’s 284 million users.

Twitter was a compelling solution to a problem few understood. I’m not a big Twitter user by any means, but I’ve kept close tabs on it ever since its debut on SXSW, and my own understanding of Twitter has evolved a lot over the years.

Like most, I didn’t get Twitter the first time. It felt like a feature Facebook already had in status updates. Moreover, did I really want to know that people were doing on a real-time basis? Having lunch or going to the gym or feeling sad?

I soon realized it was a precise way of getting updates of only the people you’re interested in, which was/is different to Facebook’s algorithmic approach of getting updates from all your friends — who you may not actually be interested in following on a real-time basis. That was my first take on Twitter’s purpose.

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Probably because it has a 50% fatality rate. This is from a list of the most popular global topics on Facebook, which the company just published yesterday in its Year in Review.

What’s the #1 topic? Thankfully, it wasn’t something as vapid as Kardashian. The top topic on Facebook is the World Cup.

Here’s the full list:

  1. World Cup
  2. Ebola virus outbreak
  3. Elections in Brazil
  4. Robin Williams
  5. Ice Bucket Challenge
  6. Conflict in Gaza
  7. Malaysia Airlines
  8. Super Bowl
  9. Michael Brown/Ferguson
  10. Sochi Winter Olympics

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Yesterday, I wrote how ads are a valid revenue model for online businesses, and not necessarily anti-consumer. Today, I write how display ads don’t even really work.

Intuitively, you know that to be true. How often have you actually looked, processed and clicked on an ad, much less act on it? Take those probabilities and divide them in half, because according to Google, only 44% of all display impressions were even seen by actual human beings.

The definition of seen is quite generous: at least half the ad’s pixels have to be viewable and for at least one second to be counted. So Google is counting even the ads that appear on the side that you completely ignore as you read the web page’s main body of content.

Under this definition of seen, ads that appear just “above the fold” (i.e. are viewable as soon as you arrive) and ads that are vertically long are seen more often.

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When you are drinking at a bar or eating in a restaurant, what’s great service? What makes you loyal to a particular place? Is it not when they know who you are, what you like, and can therefore provide a level of service and intimacy that other places can’t match?

Why then is online, targeted advertising so different? Why do people get up-in-arms about companies getting to know you better, so they can show you ads you might actually like more?

That is probably what Mark Zuckerberg is thinking when he reacted to a comment Tim Cook once made:

When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.

And then Mark Zuckerberg in a recent Time Magazine article:

“A frustration I have,” Zuckerberg says, before a PR handler can change the subject, “is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers. I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!”

I have to side with Zuckerberg here.

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I was a guest on the Tech-Know show on Channel News Asia earlier today and asked to comment about privacy in social networks, and specifically, about an app called Peep. Peep is like a structured group chat, and kinda like Path.

The big point I made on the show is that while private social networks like Peep are a huge trend, it’s one that’s been happening for a while. For most of us, chat apps are our private social networks, and why Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $19 billion.

So for apps like Peep to add value, they have to demonstrate what they can do better above and beyond chat apps.

It’s a tough hurdle, and I’m not sure Peep clears it.

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Content websites are increasingly shutting down their comments sections, CNN is reporting. Re/code recently did it, along with Popular Science, Reuters and CNN itself. Comments must be approved before appearing on Gawker websites.

The reasons are the same: trolls, spambots, inflammatory conversation, the pain of moderating, and interestingly, the idea that conversations are moving to social media like Twitter, Facebook and forums.

I don’t know if I’d make the same decision. We haven’t seen much trolling on the Cornerplay — a side benefit of being a smaller, more intimate blog — but according to WordPress, we’ve gotten about 25,000 spam comments so far. That’s crazy. If not for WordPress’ excellent spam filter, that would have been unmanageable.

Yet, checking the comments of an article is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes, a commenter can provide valuable, additional insight to the article. Sometimes, it’s just seeing a different point of view.

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