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Archive for the ‘Internet World’ Category

It’s not only with blonde, but at times the much-acclaimed, multi-million dollars algos running multi-million dollar sites can also turn out to be totally dumb. Cleartrip gave me a wonderful example of this today.

I was checking for tickets for return trip from Pune to Ahmedabad and Cleartrip came up with the best price offer for the trip. It was indeed the lowest fare possible, just that it needed me to jump from one aircraft onto other in the sky. Cleartrip’s super intelligent algo suggested that I should take 07:55am flight from Pune reaching Ahmedabad at 09:05am; and guess what, start return journey from Ahmedabad at 08:45am!!! Check this screenshot. 

Best case for me to do this would be to the Akshay-Kumar style dare-devil act of jumping from one plane onto other. It becomes more challenging and exciting as the most likely time when these two flights will be closest will be when Ahmedabad-onwards flight would be descending and Pune-onwards flight would be ascending. Though this won’t be at 32,000 feet, it would be somewhere in morning clouds over Ambavad! Sounds exciting? Wanna join? 😛

Jokes apart, it is really sad to see such stupid mistake from Cleartrip. With all these millions of dollars spent into making these travel engines, more millions in marketing this engine, and what you get is such stupid miss. Not that it will make them lose their business, but certainly gives them a bad name. And yes, also gives me a good laugh thinking how it would be to make this return trip successful 🙂

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Google recently made another attempt at breaking Facebook’s monopoly in social networking sphere by launching Google+. Its a good product, concept of circles of friends is interesting and mimics real life situation. However Google has made a mess of it by compulsorily linking Picasa albums to Google+. Picasa is a wonderful photo-sharing product and should remain so, it’s incorrect to abruptly turning it into a feature of a social network.

Many people, including me, used Picasa to share photos which they do not want to share on Facebook. Picasa has been my private photo sharing tool, and I want it to remain so. Google+ still shares the photos and comments only with people it has been explicitly shared with by email, but a tag of person outside this sharing list of emails can make photo go out of those circle and can make it public. It’s a definite breach of privacy. Google does notifies about this possibility but it would be really stupid for them to expect people would understand complete implication of this just by reading the note. I am sure soon there will be an uproar about this, just like what happened with Google Buzz when it by default made contact list public as your connections on Buzz.

Photo-sharing is a very important feature of a social network, and contributes a lot to its growth. Facebook now has more photos being shared than proper photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa. Considering this, it is understandable that Google wants to leverage it’s existing photo-sharing facility for Google+. However by doing that, they are demoting Picasa into being just a feature of Google+ than being a proper photo-sharing site. They should give an option to delink Picasa from Google+ for those who want to continue using Picasa as it has been till now. And if it wants to, I am sure it will definitely come up with hundreds of more engaging and interesting features and ways to get more and more photos shared on Google+ specifically for purpose of photo-sharing on a social network. Hope someone at Google is listening to this!

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Facebook recently released their intern Paul Butler’s work – “Facebook Connection Map”. It’s an interesting way of looking at how people are connected on Facebook. I took a closer look at how these connections are for India on Facebook and found some interesting things to point out. Here they are:

India – Pakistan:

Offline animosity of India and Pakistan continues over Facebook also. There aren’t many connections between two countries. However it’s noticeable that strongest linkages between two countries are of:

  1. Karachi – Mumbai
  2. Karachi – Delhi
  3. Srinagar – Islamabad/Rawalpindi
  4. Lahore – Indian Punjab

No surprises here, eh? Certainly not for the Karachi Connections 🙂

South vs North India:

South India is much better connected than North. Besides Delhi, Lucknow – Kanpur and Jaipur, North does not have much to speak. Whereas the triangle of Bangalore – Chennai – Hyderabad is super connected with each other. Also whole of coastal Kerala is quite connected, among itself and also to Gulf. Again, no surprises, eh? 🙂

Chennai – Truly South India:

Delhi is well connected with Hyderabad and Bangalore, but not with Chennai. Talks a lot about why Chennai specifically represents the South India than the other two cities – distinctly different and still very regional to become a cosmo city like Bangalore or Mumbai.

Cities hunt in pairs:

Bangalore – Mysore, Mumbai – Pune, Ahmedabad – Surat – Baroda, Lucknow – Kanpur, Indore – Bhopal, Nagpur – Raipur, Hyderabad – Vizag connection is very evident. Just like pace bowlers in cricket, cities also grow in pairs. 🙂

Facebook is still blue, no red on it… yet:

And yes, thankfully naxals are not on Facebook. Big hole in Dandkaranya and interiors of Bihar – UP  makes Facebook a safe place to be 🙂

For reference, here’s the complete world map:

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Over last couple of weeks, I have been floored by the Pranav Mistry’s “Sixth Sense” technology that he showcased at TED India meet. Suddenly there was huge surge of national pride, and everybody went mad talking about it. Twitter, Facebook, forward mails and what not. Talks about Indians leading the technology and all that.

I had seen his technology and realized the immense and game-changing potential it possesses, but around 10 months back in Feb 2009 when he showed it for the first time in TED US meet. Here is the link to that. No questions about the amazing invention it is, and humongous new revolutionary possibilities it opens up. But what pains me is that this news was totally missed back then in Feb-March 2009 when it first came out of labs and was demoed to real world. We say we live in the information age today, whole world is a village, it takes not more than a blink to break the news to each and everyone across the world. And what are we seeing here.

Pranav Mistry became source of national pride only after some media guy gave it that twist. It becomes a rage across Indians when invention actually travels to India physically with its inventor and people get to see it. Is this any different than the middle-ages, just that the modes of transport has improved now and so transportation across seven seas now needs not more than few hours.  Why didn’t this ‘Sixth Sense’ took every Indian media by storm back then in March 2009 itself?

What are we talking about? We are talking about a really really futuristic technology, but fail to take advantage of very basic applications of information access we all have right now. Why are we riding a bullock cart on the information highway? I can understand we need to be fed news, but we can choose which source to consume and also need to give some thought before consuming it. Why do we act so dumb and take whatever is thrown at us as a Gospel truth? Information is good, but let us treat it as that only and retain the ability to decipher it with a little application of the reasoning we have.

Makes sense?

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Facebook seems to have upped the ante in India and is aggressively pushing itself in India. For last couple of weeks, the very prominent “Find your Orkut friends on Facebook” campaign has been running on Facebook.

Orkut friends campaign on Facebook

Orkut friends campaign on Facebook

And yesterday I saw a Facebook promoting its ‘user-tagging’ feature in the status updates for wishing friends and family members for Diwali (check the attached screenshot).

User-tagging in status updates for Diwali wishes

User-tagging in status updates for Diwali wishes

User-tagging in status updates for Diwali Wishes - Expanded

User-tagging in status updates for Diwali Wishes - Expanded

Festive wishes often flood status updates over Facebook. Understanding this trend in user behaviour and using it to promote the newly launched ‘user-tagging’ is a quite a clever move. Facebook does not have a dedicated India team but someone sitting there in Palo Alto, USA is doing a smart job of product management of Facebook for India 🙂

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My last post about Facebook Lite was more about how close it takes Facebook to Twitter.This post talks about the another most striking feature of Facebook Lite – the absence of applications and quizzes. While it certainly makes the page look less cluttered and clean, and significantly reduces the page-weight (hence making it ‘Lite’), this is a significant change in user-experience over Facebook.

Applications, quizzes and games have been a key differentiator for Facebook over other social networks (read Orkut) and were among the key reasons for its stupendous rise in popularity across the world. Official Facebook worldwide statistics put the number of active applications on Facebook at 350,000; and every month more than 70% of Facebook users engage with platform applications. This application platform has attracted more than one million developers and entrepreneurs over 180 countries. It would be interesting to see how these 1 million developers of Facebook applications react to Facebook Lite.

When it comes to Facebook usage in India, a quick look at the Indian traffic data for Facebook applications on Vizisense shows that different applications residing on Facebook apps server are accessed by 2.9 million Indian unique users per month, which is a sizable chunk (36.61%) of the 7.91 million unique users per month base of Facebook in India. Also it is a known fact that Facebook has seen more traction and early adoption among the more evolved internet users in India. It has significantly higher following among the high-income and more-educated users who are expected to have access to high speed internet connections; and also are more evolved and regular internet users to understand and appreciate these Facebook applications. Facebook usage among income-group of more than Rs. 15 lakhs is 1.62 times national average, and that among PhD/Doctorate is 1.38 times the national average. Facebook has been a welcome substitute for people who had got bored with Orkut and also irritated by the spamming, privacy concerns and fake profiles over it. Check the screen-shot of Vizisense data below.

Facebook Demographics - Income and Education

Facebook Demographics - Income and Education

This user-experience over Facebook Lite (with no applications) will not be a new thing. Those who access Facebook over its mobile site (m.facebook.com) get to see status updates, photos, external links, events from friends, but no applications. Facebook Lite will be extending this user-experience over web, of course with a much cleaner and easier page-design. Official Facebook statistics say that Facebook Mobile has over 65 million active users worldwide and that these mobile users are 50% more active than those over web. Assuming that more activity means more page-views, in India however numbers seems to be telling a different story.

Unique Users/month Page Views/month Page-views per user per month
Facebook India (overall) 7.91 million 774 million 97.85
Facebook Mobile India 0.028 million 0.783 million 26.25
Source: For Facebook India (overall) – http://vizisense.com/sites/facebook.com;
For Facebook Mobile India – http://vizisense.com/sites/m.facebook.com;
Vizisense data for month of August ’09.

Above table clearly shows that Facebook usage over mobile is yet to pick up in India and engagement levels are dismally small as compared to overall Facebook; and my guess is that absence of applications is one of the key reasons for this.

In light of this data, absence of applications over Facebook Lite page does not seem to be the best step forward for Facebook in India, one of the only 2 countries (other being US) where Facebook is testing its Facebook Lite page. There seems to be more to this move than what is meeting the eyes, and better and faster service to users with slower internet connections certainly does not look like the end-objective of Facebook Lite.

Having said that, only time will tell if this new lighter Facebook Lite page which downloads quickly on slower internet connections – but with no applications – will change the above data and demographics for Facebook in India. If it’s succeeds, it would be interesting to see whom does it dethrone – Orkut or Twitter :).

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Facebook does not seem to get over of its Twitter-mania (or phobia).

First they made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire Twitter for $500 million, then they re-designed the site to make the content more sharable and put more stress on “What’s on your mind?” status messages, made sharing external links easier; and now we have the new feature on Facebook which allows user to tag their friends (or groups or fan-pages) with a Twitter-like @ symbol in their status updates. The @<username> identity of Twitter users is fast becoming a part of standard online coordinate of netizens. This @<username> has been the popular way of replying to tweets and linking to profile pages over Twitter, and it works exactly the same on Facebook as well.

@User Tagging on Facebook

@User Tagging on Facebook

Also, last week Facebook started testing in US and India it’s much talked lighter version named as “Facebook Lite” – a sleek, clean and lighter version of Facebook. Although Facebook officially says Facebook Lite is for users with slower internet connections, and NOT a competition for Twitter, one look at Facebook Lite page tells you the entire story. Here are the screen-shots:

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

Facebook Lite Screen Shot

The “What’s on your mind?” status update box makes way for a still bigger and simpler “Write” status update box. Prominently missing are all the applications and quizzes. The page reminds users of the earlier days of Facebook when all the quizzes and other application updates would not clutter your Facebook home-page. Stress is clearly more on status updates and wall-posts; and though not explicitly but Facebook seems to be trying to drive Twitter-like status updates and conversations through this Lite page. It would be interesting to see how these users will react to Facebook Lite with no applications and quizzes; and how heavy this Lite page becomes if ever Facebook decides to put applications on it.

Is Facebook really trying to woo users with slower internet connections, or is this another of Facebook’s attempts to get deeper in Twitter’s domain – What do you think?

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