The Net is Still About Them. But That’s About to Change

Here’s one of my “daydream” moments. It’s about the internet and how we use it.

The internet is fantastic. I say it is the most important invention of mankind. It has changed lives (and will continue to), it is attracting billions of dollars in investments (ask Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, or any tech savvy entrepreneur and investor.) It’s social, it’s connecting people and everything. But it’s still about “them”. It’s still about the CREATORS of the internet, and not (yet) about the USERS of the internet.

Imagine this. You want to get onto Facebook, because your college friends all use it to share drunk pictures. Unfortunately, you are from Vietnam (like me) and the government blocks Facebook. So all your Vietnamese friends spend their time on Yahoo Pulse (god I’m so grateful that my Canadian friends don’t use Yahoo Pulse, it would be a painful switch!) But I digressed. So your Vietnamese friends use Yahoo Pulse, so you create another account with Yahoo Pulse. And then your other friends use Friendster, Hi5, etc. In the end though, it is YOU that your friends want to connect with. Why can’t there be 1 social network (aka Facebook) that everyone use? We have got only 1 Earth to share. Why not share 1 social network?

If my point is still not clear, I hope this will do the job.

Picture this. You are browsing through cute cats and funny babies videos on YouTube. You see a funny video and “favorite” it. Then your friend email you a link to another video. Unfortunately, this friend is tech savvy enough that he uses Vimeo. You see the video and like it so much that you also “favorite” it. Your other friend is on DailyMotion, your grandmother is on Yahoo Video (man isn’t she behind the pace of the web?!)

Over the years, you will have accumulated a list of “favorite” videos on each of these video sharing sites and here’s the question:

Today, you are so bored after reading my blog post that you just want to watch a “favorite” video of yours. You don’t care which website, you just want a list of ALL videos you have “favorite” over the years…

It’s impossible. As of now!

In the end, the net has to be about ME. I don’t care which networks I am on. I want to be able to see ALL of my friends in the world. I wanna listen to my favorite music regardless of which music streaming sites I am on. For now though, I have to keep a playlist at each site!

This is why switching cost is so high. You have to rebuild your playlist (the songs may not even be available on some sites), you have to rebuild your contact lists (from your old email address), etc. If any industry should have little or no switching cost, it has to be the internet. But the switching cost is still high as hell. Too much in the case of my Facebook profile. And yours too I’m guessing.

There are development that are helping with this though. Yahoo Pulse lets you log in using your Facebook credential. Or Blogger lets you use Google account to log in. OpenID attempts to create 1 address for you, so you can sign in to different websites with 1 address.

Even though it is still relatively unknown because each website has to adopt the OpenID technology for it to work, it should be the way the internet works.

Finding Time

We’ve all done it. At one point or another, we all have said “I wish I could do that but I don’t have time!”

I have just spent 2 hours sitting in a class reading stuff online. I have them all saved in my Read It Later account (I went from 11 pages down to 9 pages btw.) A week ago, my list was 26 pages. Now it’s down to 9. I would like to think that I do a lot of reading. Most of them are articles and blog posts. I never really paid attention to what I LEARN from these readings though. Just recently I realized that after so much reading, I dont actually retain or extract anything from them. That is a waste of time then, because otherwise I should be spending my time reading the classics. Like this, this, and this.

So I made a point to remind myself of that I have learned from my reading, regardless of what forms.

1. The Super-Star effect: the difference between the best and the second best is huge. This post explained how a high school kid with GPA at the bottom 10% and minimal extracurricular efforts got into Stanford by being the best of his own niche. It sounds like an impossible task at first – how can I be the best in whatever. To reap the benefit of the super-star effect, you don’t have to be the best in the world. You only need to be the best in your closed circles of friends, colleagues, families. As Seth Godin would put it, the best in your tribe. Fascinating. The trick is, what do you want to be the best in?

2. Grout your day with stuff you want to learn about. Unconsciously, I grout my days with reading online – Mashable, Lifehacker, and the likes. Ever wondering why you don’t have time to do the things you say you wanna do? Because you grout your days with other things – TV, newspapers, TMZ. Start grouting your days with things you want to learn. For me, that would be listening to audio books, learning Drupal, learning French.

3. Online privacy. I have said “bullzzz” to Online Privacy before, and that companies, please take my information and give me better, more relevant ads and recommendations. This article takes the opposite side. And I agree in that there are huge tradeoffs between privacy and convenience. Lots of people feel okay with the whole privacy online NOT because they are okay with that, but because they are not aware of the trade-offs. Some times the trade-offs are hidden or complex that most people don’t dwell into, similar to why nobody ever reads the fine prints of their bank statements or EULA. That is also the difference. You should do 1 of these 2 things:

a. Stop caring about online privacy if you know exactly what you are giving up

b. If you do not know what you are giving up, then hang on to your information. It can always be released later once you’ve educated yourself about the risk.

I’m leaning toward (b).

You are permanent online

Have you ever thought about how much work is involved just to change your addresses when you move? You have to notify the banks, the phone companies, your employer, friends, relatives, the government… That is because the address is attached to you. When you break the attachment, you have to let your world know that there is a new address attached to you.

Online it’s different though. You are attached to the address. Not the other way around. No matter how many addresses you have, people can still reach you. Sometimes nobody needs to be notified.

Google Chrome Makes Sense

I’ve been waiting for the Google version of Outlook/Thunderbird for a long time. A Google E-mail Client, a Google Desktop Calendar that let me save emails and store events. It seems I’ll sill have to wait for those yet here comes the Google browser-Chrome.

Opinions are mixed about Google Chrome. I conceive it’s the right move. It makes sense. Aside from the technical advantages, here are my not-so-technical list of why Chrome makes sense:

1. Integration

Microsoft still rules the office world with its Office Suite: Word, Excel, Access, Outlook. On the other hand, Google is all about the web and the web experience. Not only does Google Chrome loads pages faster, it also handles HTML codes better thus enhancing your surfing sessions.

2. Simplicity

Google Chrome

Remember the Google homepage? This is the next application of Google’s simplicity philosophy. A no-brainer browser for the rest of us. Nobody uses Internet Explorer’s add-ins. Firefox only has 30% of the browser market and half of those don’t use add-ons. Really, the only things that I need every time and all the times from my browser, that I want immediately when I open it up are:

  • The address bar
  • The search box (which is combined into the address bar!)
  • My bookmarks

And that’s all you get right away from Chrome. Brilliant!

3. Data Aggregation

My buddy, Alex McAulay, posted an entry entitled “No one cares about Privacy” a while ago. To some degree I’m eagerly agree with him. Some people are just paranoid about their privacy. They are also the ones who nag about it the most so we think every one is dying protecting their private lives! I think it’s a bunch of crap. 2 points:

  • Joel Mitch has an entry on spam, he concluded that the reason spamming is proliferating is because people are buying stuff from spam emails. Don’t want spam? Don’t buy from spam. Similarly, Google is about data. It’s what it does best. So if you don’t like giving them your data, then don’t use their service(s). Freebies do come with a price-a piece about yourself in this case. It was true and will remain true. Get used to it!
  • The rest of us: we don’t care about our privacy that much, at least in this context. So what, if Google knows a little bit about me? Soon enough the digital life is going to be at least 50% of our lives. Whether you want it or not, you’re going to have an online identity. Plus, advertising is NOT evil. Irrelevant advertisements are. I want to be marketed to, for the stuff that I’m interested in. So take my information and use it to market the right products!

So what’s your take? Is Google Chrome just another hopeless attempt to break into an already-saturated market? Or is it something else, something different than the traditional browser?