Should Google Blogger off?

Google recently announced a major upgrade to its free blogging platform Blogger.

Does this represent a real leap forward in personalised communication or just another Google Application with little appeal outside the casual blogger?

Blogging killed the DIY home page
Free blogging services have been around for many years now and offer a great way to get that latest irritation off your chest.

Many blogs are now used instead of personal websites, this comes down to many reasons but for most non technical users the power of a blog comes from being able to add new content in minutes and at the click of a button give the site a makeover.

Although there are many of hosted blogs to choose from Blogger from Google is extremely popular.

Blogger offers for free a way for users to create blog websites in a very short period of time, add functionality and the ability to change the look very quickly and easily.

But it is important to realise that free is never really free, and with Google it’s never hidden.

Google’s free lunch
With Blogger although you free to construct your blog anyway you wish, there is always an acknowledgement that Google is hosting the blog, and you are encourage to plant Google AdSense advertising on your blog so you can make money.

Although not compulsory, it’s a tempting carrot not to ignore, which many take.

For Google offering this service, it is a way of expanding its publisher network and increasing it profits. By getting people to create unique and interesting content for nothing, not only does it generate vast sums of advertising revenue, but it ensures Blogger pages always rank well in its own and other search engines.

Mixing Pleasure with business
With personal blogging taking Google advertising is fine, but when you are in business, do you really want to be advertising a competitor’s service?

For many businesses who want to get on the social networking bandwagon Blogger does not represent their company’s best option.

WordPress is just one of a number of blogging options out there that are open source and allow you to host the platform yourself.

Hosting your own blog has many benefits but the main ones come from the idea that you have ownership from the information that is contained on the blog. This will be the driving force for traffic coming to your site.

Going beyond the blog.
While Blogger accounts are squarely aimed at blogger, the open source WordPress software, when installed on your own server can turn a simple blog is to a full CMS which is easy to develop and customise.

Many companies have realised the power of blogs and social networks, they have real advertising and referral power and they want to harness it.  With plug-ins available for WordPress it allows business to tap into this every growing market in easy and natural ways.

But it’s not just social network integration and marketing, with blogging in general, articles can often follow a theme, and will naturally increase the inherent On page SEO for any website adopting this approach.

Bloggers missed opportunity
Google’s Blogger could have so easily been the next big thing, but has missed by a mile. Due to its closed architecture, it means that it has a very limited application.

For many people a blog is more than just the latest ranting but an integral way of promoting their websites and business, until this changes a self hosted CMS will always represent the best way forward.

The next time Google offers you a free lunch, why not check who is paying for dessert…..

Marketing in a Facebook world

With recent reports of Facebook being more popular then Google, we can begin to see the seeds of what has been predicted for some time now.

With political parties now actively advertising on Facebook, is your online advertising budget still best served with Google, or has Google finally lost its Ad words Lustre.

A free internet
Google has always promoted a free internet for all users, and to support this came up with a way for advertisers to pay for user’s usage of its service.

It is well documented that users are happy to give up some of their online soul, if it means the results are great applications, interfaces and information for free.

With Google’s dominant position in the market place, it meant if there was a dollar to spend on advertising, nearly all went with Google. After all in marketing a bigger audience means better results.

Advertise and they will come
In the early days it was very much about getting your message across to as many people as possible, but with Google relentlessly collecting data about search habits and user locations, soon Google was able to offer a range of advertising options that promised to target your consumer.

The idea is simple if you know your user is searching on topic for products you sell, if they see your advert, not only are they more likely to click, but because they already interested in the topic, a sale is more likely. And even if the advert costs more per lead, you will generate more revenue, more of the time.

As time rolled on, the information Google could deduce about its users became more complete, but ultimately, Google could only target users in very generic ways.

With Google offering of free applications like email, online office  and blogs, Google was able to gain more information than ever before about its users, and make its advertising even more targeted.

Facebook cool
When Facebook came into existence, no one could have predicted the change in usage patterns it would be partly responsible for.

The assumption was always that the starting point for all internet use was the search engine. After all you need to search to find anything on the net…..

Where Facebook turned this on its head was when people found a space where they could just hang out. With face book, when one of your friends updated their status, it would magically appear on your screen. Suddenly your browser was broadcasting to you, you didn’t have to do anything to get the latest information, it just happened.

This brave new world was great but a platform that just engaged the world in chat still only had a limited application.

With this in mind Facebook unleashed the world of apps onto the unsuspecting Facebook public. For the first time anyone could write applications and games, and this one act turned Facebook from a website to a live platform, that was capable of running anything the user wanted.

Facebook here and now
Today Facebook is the world’s most popular website for good reasons, it allows a user to experience a walled world of their choice, in this world it is inhabited by people they like, and this world is filled with something new every time they visit.

New ways to exploit the platform are found daily, and within years, you could actually see the size of the World Wide Web shrinking in the favour of wall gardens like Facebook.

Currently business on Facebook can have their own ‘Page’ if this ever becomes as flexible as a conventional website; you could a reduction in the amount of websites out there. There will always be a need for some websites to exists, but how long before we see the end to hobby websites, in favour of what Facebook will offer?

Stretching that marketing budget
With constant media attention on the Facebook platform, it is no surprise that more companies are choosing to spend their advertising budgets on Facebook. But it is more than just the amount of users that have advertisers excited.

Unlike Google fragmented approach, Facebook encourages users to put their lives on display, to use its applications, and to get users to talk about what interests them all in the one place.  With a wealth of evolving knowledge for the first time Facebook can offer advertisers the ability to totally target their adverts.

Facebook understands this potential and will continue to develop more and more ingenious way of extrapolating what products and services you need.

Take the example of a farther posting the news of his first born child, it is currently possible for a local baby clothing company to target adverts for him, but in addition anyone receiving his update could also be treated to an advert from baby clothing company local to them.

With this level of segmentation and targeting, can you afford not to advertise with Facebook?

When our space became Myspace

With what we can do online exploding exponentially on a daily basis, it’s often the case that Social Networks like Myspace offer a useful way to wall your online world.

With Myspace now offering a dedicated online games platform, how long before we get our first truly interactive broadcast channel, and will the first past the post end such giants as Facebook, You Tube or even Google itself.

All seeing Google

Google has become the centre of most people internet universe, its quick loading time and accurate results has always been popular with users and with its ever evolving services it’s difficult to see how Google will ever lose its dominate position.

With the EU constantly fining Microsoft for non-competitive practises would it is possible in the future for Google to come to the same fate.

With Governments around the worlds relentless push to regulate and sanitise the net, it could be Google own free speech stance that could see its undoing. Already with an angered Chinese government, it can’t be long before Google feels the wrath of religious and political groups and countries where Google listed content actively contravenes there inherent laws.

Citizen Networks

Social networks like Myspace and Facebook have shown the way corporations can capture large user bases and through their inherent viral nature, ensure they are profitable through advertising.

Currently social networks are without borders but as Governments take firmer stances against illegal downloading and material, country based social network could be seen as a way of localising content as well as giving a safe space to its users.

With social networks being available now on ever platform from the pc, to games consoles through to smart phones, it’s now becoming increasing difficult to find someone who is not part of this online family.

User directed content

Where social networks like Facebook don’t do well, is against the traditional broadcast media. Unlike the TV or radio, content is not streamed to you constantly but it requires the user to actively select their next online treat. While services remain in this vein, people will still rely on traditional media content.

TV companies who already put their content online already know this and on many site you can ‘tune into a channel’ and view as you would as if you were in front of the TV set.

With Myspace integrated Games channel, Myspace is hoping to entice the growing band of social gamers to its site like Facebook before it, but although highly popular, still requires the users constant input.

Back to the future

While the MySpace games platform has made the industry news pages, Myspace is not offering anything radically different to anything else out there.

But it does give us a clue as to where online media is going.

There have been many reports that TV has died to the YouTube generation. This is not true, YouTube is in a transition phrase where eventually we will have a more TV like experience, you will ‘tune into the science fiction web channel’ and see 24hour streaming science fiction films and programmes, at the beginning of each hour the channel will ‘flick’ to the latest news, and the screen will buzz when you friend is online and wants to chat.  In short total media integration, paid for by advertising, giving you the user a free at the point of use experience.

In 1984 Big Brother was watching you but in 2014 will the new social networks have us watching them…. 24 hours a day?

The Acid test for Microsoft

Microsoft is currently advertising Internet Explorer 8 on the television. Is it a case that Microsoft wants to make sure everyone has the best possible internet experience, or is Microsoft concerned about bigger fish?

Microsoft’s rise to dominance
The first web browser was released in 1991; it was not until 1995 Microsoft released the now legendary Internet Explorer. And it wasn’t until 1999 that Microsoft became the market leader for the internet web browser market.

With products that get a dominant market share it’s not always the case that the best product has won. In Microsoft’s case the overriding reason for its success was that the product was shipped with its operating system. By being there by default it required effort to make a change, and for many it was an effort too far.

Open Source fruit
Unlike today Windows / Mac / Linux operating system choice, early adopters of computers had literally hundreds or computer manufacturers to choose from, each had its own operating system that would not talk to any other. When companies started to copies IBM’s computers and use Bill Gates DOS operating system, companies who did not follow this migration died.

There are some exceptions like Sun, but Apple has always been seen as Microsoft’s main competition in the small computer market. And even using a completely different operating system it has refused to die.

Apple has always championed themselves as a lifestyle company, a company whose products are for consumers and not geeks. This has stuck, and with products like the iPhone and iPod has transformed the way we interact with technology.

Apple is not the only company to offer real choice and thanks to Linus Torvald’s decision to create open source software we now have browsers like Firefox.

Firefox has become the main alternative to internet explorer to mainly due to its advanced features, speed and the fact that anyone can help to improve it, and mainly do.

Keeping up with the Jones
With hundreds of web browser’s available to choose, one problem that has become rife is the fact that not all web browsers display web pages the same.

To combat this the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a body directed by the grandfather of the internet, created a set of guidelines to describe how a web browser should display a web page, these are called web standards and the W3C have also produced an online test Acid, to show how browsers perform. The current version of Acid is called Acid 3.

What will surprise many is that Internet explorer always does really badly at these tests, according to Wikipedia, Internet Explorer 8 currently scores 20 out of 100. To put this into context there are free browsers who score 100 out of 100.

So why with its millions for development why does Internet Explorer do so badly, quite simply with its market share it does not matter. For Microsoft its market share proves it is right and everyone else is wrong.

Why advertise a market leading free product?
For a company in such a dominant position it would seem a strange concept to try and sell a free product that has a massive majority install base.

With most of the other browsers, their manufactures are working actively towards web standards; collectively they are seeing market share gains against Microsoft.

While Microsoft had market share of up to 95% there was little or no competition but now at a market share of about 60%, Microsoft can’t continue to take the same attitude.

It can be seen as a matter of time before Microsoft has a minority share of the browser market. When this happens Microsoft will either have to make its Internet Explorer standards compliant or leave it to those too lazy or just don’t care to support its platform.

One reason for its continue marketing blitz for Internet Explorer is the realisation that in future years revenues will shift from its boxed products to its cloud computing products, and although free at the moment, no doubt Microsoft will eventually adopt a paid for or advertising supported model.

Without a market leading browser in house and competition from Google, could it possible that we see what happened to companies like Commodore in the early 90’s, happen finally to Microsoft?

So what browser will I use?
With more and more computing services migrating to the internet, your operating system and hardware will become less important. Ultimately it will be how you interface with these new services; this will be the deciding factor. In a few short years, no one will care if you are Windows, Mac or Linux, only the browser you will use.

With Google Chrome, Safari, Opera and Epiphany being the only main stream internet browsers to pass the Acid 3 test.  Epiphany being Linux based and Google Chrome still too buggy……

Impressed by its range of features and its ability to be used on a mobile phone as well, for me Opera is a clear winner.

But with new browsers released all the time what browser will I install next week?

Internet, Google and the price of freedom

With ex Google employees convicted under Italian law, school children chastised for sharing music and a “where there’s a blame there’s a claim” mentality, can the internet carry on with the tag of free speech for everyone or have we all woken up to the free lunch that never was?