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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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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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There’s a fascinating article on Reuters on the state of Google Glass — in summary, that entrepreneurs, companies and investors are abandoning the platform because there is no market yet. I read it with mixed feelings.

In my entrepreneurship class at Stanford, my lecturer Andy Rachleff pointed out that being first to market is not a demonstrative advantage — rather, it’s first to product-market fit that’s critical. Google was not the first in search, but the first with the right search product. Once it built its lead, it was impossible for competitors to catch up.

So when Google opened up its Google Glass program, why did so many developers flock to it? I can’t recall a unicorn-level company ever winning because it was first to a technology platform. In mobile, Instagram and even Whatsapp had many predecessors. Uber was not invented at the start of mobile’s lifecycle; only later. I can’t think of a company that succeeded because it was simply there earlier than others.

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The results in summary according to Digital Trends:

Following up from the Spring 2014 ‘Taking Stock With Teens’ study created by Piper Jaffray, the Fall 2014 edition of the study was published this week with a particularly harsh outlook for social networking giant Facebook. When teens were asked what social network they typically use, only 45 percent responded with Facebook. That’s down from 72 percent responding Facebook just six months ago.

Alternatively, Instagram grew in popularity with 76 percent responding in the affirmative. In addition, sites like Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Reddit pulled in similar numbers as the last study. Only Google+ plummeted with Facebook, dropping from 21 percent in Spring 2014 to just 12 percent in the Fall study.

The story makes it seem like Facebook is on the way out but I have a different take. It’s not helpful to view any particular app from a “one to rule it all” perspective — though it may have started that way — because people have learned to use each service in a different way. Facebook doesn’t compete directly with Instagram even though both are on the surface social networks.

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A couple days ago, we referenced a comScore study on mobile apps. Since then, more articles about its findings are surfacing. Quartz has an overview of the top 25 most used apps by US consumers. Highlights:

  • Facebook is unsurprisingly the #1 most used app
  • Pandora is surprisingly #5…no Spotify
  • Google is the top mobile app publisher
  • Facebook Messenger is the top messaging app, ahead of Snapchat, Skype and Kik…no Whatsapp, no Google Hangouts
  • No games made the overall top 25

The study also breaks down popularity by age segment, which The Atlantic graciously provided. Highlights:

  • Facebook, Youtube and Pandora are universally popular
  • The younger, the more popular is Instagram
  • Older folk use Facebook Messenger more than Snapchat or Kik
  • Email didn’t make the top 10 for 18-24 year olds

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Facebook is in the press lately because the company is forcing users to communicate with friends through a separate Messenger app instead of the main Facebook app. The former is #1 on the app store but people are rebelling by slamming it with 1-star reviews. Privacy is also a common rallying cry, the accusation being that the app is too aggressive with permissions.

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Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, so it’s not surprising to see people react negatively. Many are still wary about online privacy, even as it is an increasingly illusory concept.

We think those knee jerk reactions are overblown. Facebook Messenger is a decent product and it’s no more aggressive in its privacy policies as other messaging apps.

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“You have to be in mobile,” venture capitalists will instruct you.  “We have to be in mobile,” tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo will echo.  Obviously, it’s because we’re living in a mobile-first world.

Yet, becoming the next Instagram or Snapchat is insanely difficult and increasingly so.  A hit app is a rarer unicorn than a hit website.  Why?  Unlike websites, apps aren’t linked to each other; you can’t click on a link to discover a new app, you have to purposefully search and download it from the app store.  Then you have to learn how to use the app before finally getting some value out of it.  Some apps — especially on Android but even from bluebloods like Facebook — behave badly and mistreat your phone’s battery or privacy settings.

The result of the above is that, according to Nielsen, most people use only 30 apps on their phone.  What are the chances your mobile app can make a person’s top 30?  Let’s break down how difficult a threshold that truly is.  What are the 30 apps you’d typically use?

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