Friday, April 27, 2012

What Browser Should Facebook Buy?

The other day there was an interesting article on entitled “Why Facebook Needs to Build a Browser”. The main idea of the article is that Google's Chrome browser would soon over take other browsers, including Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Since Google's overall strategy is to send people to their products to get as much ad revenue as possible, once Chrome becomes dominant all social network users will be sent to Google's very own Google Plus social network. Google has already begun building Google Plus buttons and connections into all of their products. It's only a matter of time before it becomes a built-in feature in Chrome. This mean that Facebook would need to build a browser.

The problem is Facebook should build a browser or buy one? At the current rate of Chrome market share growth, Facebook would need to move quickly, so building a browser from scratch is out of the question. Their best bet is to purchase an existing browser and adapt it to their needs. But which one? It would have to be one of the current top four browsers.

Facebook could made a deal with Microsoft to create a fork of Internet Explorer, but I don't like that idea for two reasons. First, I doubt Microsoft would appreciate losing control of their property. Second, IE is very slow and it's extension system stinks.

I doubt they could use Apple's Safari because of Apple's strict proprietary rules.

That leaves Firefox or Opera. I doubt they would use Firefox because there would be an uproar in the open source community.

Opera is the best bet for Facebook. Among other things, Opera has its own social network for its users and an email system. It would be easy for Facebook to fold these services into their current line up of features. Once again, Opera is the best bet.

One thing that Facebook should keep in mind when they create their browser is to make sure they are not too obtrusive. They need to take a look at MSN Explorer and AOL Explorer and then do the opposite. The problem with these browsers is that they force their products on the users. Subtle is better. Less is more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Game of Technological Follow the Leader

Since its founding in 2004, Mozilla released new versions of Firefox infrequently, often waiting until a list of features and UI (user interface) updates were completed. Bug fixes and security updates were released as needed between major updates.

Recently, that all changed. Firefox started to lose market share to Google's Chrome browser. Google has followed a policy of rapid version release to catchup with other browsers. They have done so and in fact many people predict that they will even surpass Microsoft's Internet Explorer very soon.

In an effort to stop their market loss or even to recapture lost ground, Firefox decided that their only option was to adopt the rapid release strategy. Within a year, they went from version 5 to version 12 (which was released today). This is a very stupid move in my opinion.

This is stupid for two major reasons: it hurts developers and destroys the mystery.

When a company released a new version every six weeks or so, it's hard for extension developers to keep up. Because of the rapid release, several of the extensions I use are disabled because they are not compatible with the newest version. Some of the better extensions are written by hobbyists who don't always have the time to write the two or three lines of code need to update the extension. And when they do. The get it updated a new version of Firefox is released. What a pain!

My favorite part about the early versions of Firefox was waiting expectantly to get the new versions to see what the new features were like. Between the first 3 or 4 versions, there were major interface changes. Each version had a different look and feel. Not so with the new versions, there is nothing to really differentiate them for each other.

In the end, there is really nothing that Mozilla can do to stop Chrome from taking their market share. Google has the biggest advertisement system in the world. Eventually they will convert the whole world to Chrome. It is inevitable.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TweetDeck, The Story of a Maligned App

In today's technology and communication heavy world, it is important to have a presence in a wide range of social networks, from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to FourSquare and so on. If you want to submit a single message across all of these different networks (or even across multiple accounts on the same network) it is nice to only have to do it once. That is were a social media manager or dashboard can come in handy. There are several applications out there that can do that for you, but I want to talk about one in particular: TweetDeck.

As part of my job I have to manage the company's social network presence. I tried several apps, web-based and Windows-based. I tried HootSuite, Seesmic and others, but my favorite was TweetDeck. To put it simply TweetDeck had everything I wanted. It had among other features:
  • the ability to look at multiple accounts across multiple networks
  • use to shorten links
  • a neat feature called that allowed users to post messages longer than 140 characters to Twitter
TweetDeck had a web version, an Adobe AIR version (which would run on PC, Mac or Linux) and a iOS version. All in all, I was very happy with it.

And then, Twitter bought it...

At first, I had great hopes for the purchase by Twitter. I expected great new feature to be added. I was wrong.

Shortly after purchase, Twitter released a new version of TweetDeck that was no longer written for Adobe AIR, but was now OS specific.(I imagine that this makes it harder to write.) This new version looked much plainer. This new version dropped support for LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Foursquare and MySpace and killed the feature.

I have the uneasy feeling that eventually, TweetDeck is going to be renamed the Twitter Manager (or something else with Twitter in the title). It's already been changed to TweetDeck by Twitter.

Even the logo has been changed to look more like Twitter.
I guess what I'm saying is that I'm very unhappy that Twitter bought a program I like and messed it up. I wished they would have kept the features and improved them. But I get the feeling that Twitter is trying to boost their own product line to the detriment of some customers.

In the end, I still use TweetDeck, albeit, the pre-acquisition Adobe AIR version. The only thing that does not work is, so I'll need to find something else for that.

On another topic (but one very similar), Twitter has recently purchased another product that I use: the blogging platform Posterous. Twitter says they are not going to do anything to Posterous at the moment, but rumors are flying that they just bought Posterous for the talent. Lifehacker even had a article on how to switch your blog from Posterous. We'll see what happens next.
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