Not that very long ago, everyone was building Web sites that they bragged about how many eyes where visiting. It seemed great, everyone was going to a site so that site/company must be worth big dollars because they could do something with those visitors to make a business out of. Sadly, little was thought of what to do with those visitors outside of hammering them with ads so the big profits never happened, leaving companies unable to pay their bills once the investor millions ran out.
Jump to today, where the Web sites of interesting information/news have been replaced with social sharing services. Sites, but mostly mobile apps, are encouraging people to share their life experiences. This can be via images, short text notes, links, videos, and places being visited. Almost all of these services are free with almost non imbedding ads. Recently a couple companies have tried ‘for pay’ social services, a competitor to Twitter, a competitor for Instagram, most are tied to Web page based photo storage/sharing.
When a company doesn’t find a method to produce a profit and the VC money has run out, like yesteryear, they shut down. Different now though is that those earlier companies where providing information, the current offerings are services that require the public provide the content. This means, when a company collapses, gone is person on the street’s created content and relationships. One most notable, Kevin Rose with his Milk company and location experience sharing social service.
There is always the excitement around Facebook and it’s collecting of every bit of data about their users and their habits, as well the constant push of sponsored content and ads. The company is massing a lot of data on people using the service. Not only via what a person posts, but also how it relates to what other people they are connected to are posting. I have been noticing a lot more ads recently based on my activities when not on Facebook so their ability to relate info on their users no matter where they are is starting to show.
Facebook and Instagram came together and thus their data. A person may have been posting comments on Facebook and images on Instagram to keep things separate now face all the information being linked together. A person posting on Facebook that they had dinner with a friend on Friday night can now be tied to where that was based on a photo they posted to Instagram. While Facebook has facial recognition, I’m waiting for them to do like Google does and recognize what is in a photo to tie to a location even if the photo doesn’t carry a GPS signature.
More companies are pivoting now when they see they have the company plan not producing the profits that where expected. FourSquare is an example of a company that used gamefication to build the user base and number of points of input per day. Last week, the head of FourSquare has been saying in interviews that the company is heading more towards the comments about a place being visited rather than just looking for people to say they where there. To help drive this, the company has moved the ‘check in points’ several screen taps deep from the opening page where it was before. Realistically though, FourSquare wouldn’t be what it is now if it hasn’t gotten the user numbers up via the pointing system. Without that, they would have just been another commenting service which is crowded with many bigger names with more content and longer histories.
FourSquare will be losing the users that where using the service for fun and ‘bragging’ rights with their friends. Rather than just trying to replace those users with people willing to comment and search for other people’s comments, FourSquare is collecting data to pivot towards a provider of data on people whether they knew they were using FourSquare or not. By that, I mean that FourSquare is providing methods for apps to connect and use the data collected on locations within their apps. The data goes two ways, if you use a service like Instagram, FourSquare is able to make links between those pictures and locations they have in their database to add to their depth of location information. Take a picture out front of a shop and comment how mad you are may end up being a bad review for the shop, indirectly.
Like many years ago, all this data and users is only valuable long term if something can be done with it to pay the companies bills. Most services claim they remove all of the user’s personal information. But, parts from multiple services now coming together means an individual’s identifiable information can be found. I’m hoping everyone stays responsible with that info and keeps to their promises to their users even when the big dollars are offered to do differently.
NOTE: I wanted to imbed an Well.io task list but they aren’t providing the linking any more. Well.io is an example of a social company that doesn’t have a visible income path. Maybe they are collecting data on users, when they are creating lists, how others are using the lists and what tasks appear. There are public visible lists of movies and similar, perhaps it is valuable to see what visitors are interested in. Either way, it is an area that could be filled by any of the bigger Task List providers if a income method appears. Meanwhile, it’s a service with content provided by users that have put personal time into Well.io’s success.