Google Launches lively.com

Google’s long awaited entry into the virtual world has taken place in the last week with the launch of their competitor to Second Life, lively.com.  According to the Google blog the initial idea came as they “looked around the social web and wished that it could be less static”.  I’m not quite buying that seen as Second Life has been around for a while now but that
doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting entrant.  Much like in Second Life you create an avatar for yourself although in Lively.com this is in more of a cartoon vein and in more of a Sims fashion.  You can also create your own rooms within the world and customise their look and decoration.  You can then hang out with your friends in the rooms you create, which brings in the social element.    The interesting part comes with how and where you engage with lively.com.   The system enables you to embed your room into your blog or website, and interact with it directly without the need to visit lively.com.  Whether this is enough of a selling point I am not sure but lively.com will certainly appeal to the youth market more than Second Life and lets face it, the younger generation are much more likely to spend ours chatting to friends online, even more so if they create a cool avatar for themselves in the process.  I was never a big fan of Sims, and never really got into Second Life, so I don’t think Ill be rushing along to set my account up.  But if the Alexa rankings below are anything to go by lively.com could create a bit of a stir in the world of social media.

google, lively.com, social media, social networks, virtual worlds

Instant Messenger Users Drop

I have previously blogged about the increasing use of social media impacting the number of users accessing webmail accounts and now it appears the same is happening with instant messaging services. The number of minutes spent on instant messaging services has dropped by 1 billion minutes in the past year! A billion! bringing the total time spent to 2.9 billion, that over a 25% drop in usage.

The drop is being blamed on the emergence of social networks as communication tools. With Facebook now offering instant messaging and also the multitude of ways you can use to keep in touch through social network, messaging services are apparently becoming unnecessary. As with anything else it is unlikely to be “the end” for these services but it has certainly had an impact. I use messenger for work purposes and Facebook is obviously never going to take the place of that, and you could argue that Facebook is only a rival to messaging to the people who are constantly online, and wont apply to people who only check their account once a week. Either way, 1 billion minutes is a lot to lose.

Love hate relationships

I was reading Marketing’s fourth annual survey into the top loved and hated brands and noticed the fickle nature of the public in their views on brands, and undoubtedly linked, their advertising campaigns.  What struck me from the survey, more than the strange appearance of AOL at number 2 in the top 50 hated brands even though their UK profile doesn’t warrant such a high profile spot, was the number of brands named highly in both the most hated, and most loved lists.  In the main list you actually only have two brands appearing in the top 20 of both, these are The Sun and Nokia (via ngage in the most hated), but if you get down into the different tables for the individual markets it is much more apparent.  I suppose you could just argue that the more you drill down by market, the less brands their are and so the more chance of a brand appearing in both lists but if you take such a broad market as “fashion” you would imagine there are enough brands out there to limit duplication.  But yet in this particular category 3 brands appear in the top 5 for both hated and loved!  Topshop is number one hated and number 5 loved, Levi’s is number two loved and number 4 hated, and Next is number one loved and number 3 hated.  How can brands be perceived in such a different way?  Is it simply that such well known and high profile brands are more likely to stir an extreme emotion in users where as slightly lesser brands stay under the radar a little more?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I have listed some of the other occurences of this below, focussing on the digital areas of the survey (as that is the topic of the blog after all!):

mobile networks love and hateinternet service providers love and hatesocial networks love and hate

Microsoft saving Face(book)

Is microsoft about to revive the rumours and constant wondering about Facebook buyouts?  After every billionaire tycoon and his dog were linked with buying the social media phenomenon it has all been quiet for a while.  Now apparently it has come out that Microsoft has put the feelers out about a purchase of the social network.  Full article from search engine watch below:

About Face(book): Microsoft Feels Out Social Network Acquisition

Though Bill Gates was out there telling people Microsoft is not interested in making non-Yahoo acquisitions right now (at least in the search/social world), word comes that Microsoft bankers have sent “feelers” to Facebook about a full acquisition.

Here’s why this is a solid move:

1. Microsoft already owns 1.6% stake in Facebook, worth $240 million
2. Microsoft formed a data portability partnership with Facebook and 4 other networks
3. At least two Google execs have jumped ship to Facebook in recent months

While Facebook has yet to “overtake” MySpace in the social media market, it is a viable competitor. And I’m sure Ballmer would love for Microsoft to own a social network that even Apple has used as a marketing ploy as of late. Recent commercials for the iPhone entice potential customers through the ability to access Facebook on the popular mobile device.

Additionally, internet users are turning to their social networks during their search process. Consumers want answers and reviews and social networks help them get opinions from trusted sources.

The Facebook move would likely be seen by many as a better fit than Yahoo. But expect just as many to see it as a negotiating ploy in their bid for Yahoo. Though Microsoft has officially withdrawn its bid for Yahoo, many analysts expect Ballmer and the team to return to the table for another stab at a grab for the search engine.

Is Facebook no longer cool?

Neilsen/Netrankings has released some figures which show a monthly decline in Facebook users for the first time since its launch, before it has even managed to fully leverage its traffic volumes into advertising sales.  Its unique audience dropped 5% from December to January prompting many people predicting the demise and claiming Facebook is a fad which will go away as quickly as it arrived.  Have people really already become Facebored?  Or is it simply inevitable that sooner or later there would be a dip in audience as the users who created an account “just to see what all the fuss is about” disappear back to their own world grumbling that it was a load of rubbish anyway?

Mark Ritson, in his article for Marketing, blames the decline on Facebook’s open door policy.  Since September 2006 Facebook has allowed anybody with a valid email address access to their network which was previously exclusive to US students (and before that just Harvard students).  This is where the influx began and over the last 18 months its user base has just grown and grown, until now!  Ritson uses the analogy of being in a hyper trendy bar with his friend, surrounded by beautiful people, drinking beautiful cocktails, listening to great music, before realising the only thing which spoilt the bar, was them!  Two middle aged blokes with expanding waistlines stood out like a sore thumb and somehow made the place less cool.  By opening its doors to anybody in the world, he argues, Facebook has made itself less cool and exclusive, and the seriously cool people, aren’t going to want to be sent a friend request from their mum or an old school teacher!  They want to hang out in a cool environment which similarly cool people, doing cool things and just generally being cool.

So has Facebook’s open door policy caused this dip and is it to be the demise of the worlds largest social networking site?  I don’t know, but I can say that my usage habits have changed slightly since I added my mum and dad as friends!  I am now a lot more careful about what I post and where I post it, although that doesn’t really change the experience too much.  Personally I would blame the 5% drop on the part time users departing, there had to be a dip at some point and I’m sure that’s how the guys at Facebook will see it. 

What it does say to me is that Facebook need to get their act in gear and make this thing profitable, they have an advertising model in place now should start to reap the rewards but it is still not the finished article.  I feel for them in that they are trying to be innovative and make their ads as unintrusive a possible and this is difficult to do but they must find a way.  They have already been chastised for their beacon system and they probably cant afford another mistake like that.  I just hope for their sake, that they don’t rue missing out on a  slice of their $15 Billion valuation which could start to decline a lot faster than their user base if next months figures aren’t more positive.

facebook decline in users