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From Internet to Socialnet

When we were selecting a wiki solution for SDN a couple of years ago, we also checked out JotSpot which back then was lead by Joe Kraus. As their focus was on hosting, it wasn’t a good fit for us.

But I liked the concept, as Joe explained, they were building a platform and the wiki was only the first building block for many more lightweight applications to come. They had a programming model built in, so that you were able to extend the offering easily. Coming from Excite they built in great web analytics from the start, that would help your startup early on to measure your online success for easy adjustment of your business model.

We got to talk and I learned that he took some time off after Exciteand tried to improve tech politics in Washington before he started JotSpot.

He was one of the speakers at Supernova 2008 and I had the opportunity to catch up with him after his talk.

Here a couple of notes from his presentation and our conversation afterwards.

Social is the new black. I think was his opening statement.

Looking back most killer apps are social: email, im, irc, …

(Interesting side statistic: Only 3% of flickr users are sharing their pictures and on average with only 7 other people. Not as social as I would have expected.)

The trend is that the internet is going from a solitary activity to a more social activity. He used the example of him looking for an anniversary present for his wife and getting amazing pointers from his social network just by asking about it on his IM status.

Another trend is, sharing passively. Sending pictures via email you only do in exceptional cases, like: New Baby born. When his wife did that after their last baby, 4 of her friends send an email back saying: “I didn’t know that Joe has a new car.” They clicked through the other pages and saw it there. The Flickr or in his case Picasa pictures are out there for people to pick up, check out at their convenience. Similar the newsfeed on Facebook and FriendFeed.

Third trend is that every site will add social components to their offerings. The Facebooks, MySpaces and Orcuts of the world will not go away, but they will be the hubs where things get aggregated.

The problems that have to be solved is interoperability and ease of use and privacy. The solution to these problems he sees in a host of tools that Google is driving forward, or supports (descriptions mostly from Wikipedia):

Open Social is a set of common application programming interfaces (APIs) for web-based social networkapplications, developed by Google, and released November 1, 2007. Applications implementing the OpenSocial APIs will be interoperable with any social network system that supports them.

OAuthAn open protocol to allow secure API authentication in a simple and standard method from desktop and web applications.

Open ID is a shared identity service, which allows Internet users to log on to many different web sites using a single digital identity, eliminating the need for a different user name and password for each site. OpenID is a decentralized, free and open standard that lets users control the amount of personal information they provide.

Google Friend Connect lets you grow traffic by easily adding social features to your website. With just a few snippets of code, you get more people engaging more deeply with your site. 

My summary:  The Socialnet is here and will only get stronger. Google is helping to make it happen. You can find the video of his talk over at CNet

When I talked to him afterwards I asked him about JotSpot. Years ago I loved his concept and they were almost there when they got bought by Google, over a year later they came out with Google Sites or at least that is where the JotSpot page is pointing towards, which enables you to create rich internet pages and secure wiki sites. It felt like less than what they had before.

Joe: We had to work very hard to integrate into Google systems. Those systems have continued to improve tremendously to the point where integration today is much easier than 18 months ago.

[Me think: Another proof point that integration is really hard.]

Joe: Some of our concepts are rolled out or were in the making already at Google: Analytics, App Engine, …  Have you checked out Google Gears? [I have not]

Gears, formerly Google Gears, is betasoftware offered by Google to enable offline access to services that normally only are available online. It installs a database engine, based on SQLite, on the client system to cache the data locally. Gears-enabled pages use data from this local cache rather than from the online service.

He sees enormous potential in the Social Enterprise space and again, it isn’t really something new: You always rather bought things from people you know.

I also asked him about his current political engagements.

Joe: I really like Barak Obama, met him at a fundraiser. People ask, what else is there besides charisma and great rhetoric? Well, Obama is running an amazing campaign.  . [Joshua Green makes the point in an Atlantic articlethat Silicon Valley veterans are the ones that made his campaign hum.]  That is what we need from a leader, instilling hope and bringing out the best in us. My cube mate was never politically active before, but she is super engaged, even flew to different states to support Obama’s campaign. 

Just to be clear, neither SAP nor Google, as far as I know, endorses any US presidential candidate. I just think it is great, that there is more to Joe Kraus than successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur.   

On a personal note, as Joe is saying, search is getting social, we may have to find a sublet for a year or so while a big house is being built on our block. Any pointers greatly appreciated. 

Bonus link: Is Google making us Stupid? A very interesting Atlantic article by no one else but IT doesn’t matter Nicolas Carr. Insightful reactions to this article on his blog too. Makes me almost feel bad that I put so many side references and links into this blog, but only almost 😉 

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