Facebook Gets A Makeover

Social Networking 3 Comments »

The long awaited update to social networking site Facebook, aimed at making it easier to receive update on the activities of friends that was first announced on The Shelf in ‘Facebook Plans A Facelift‘ back in May, was unveiled today.

As part of the redesign Facebook users will be able to see the activity of users they are networked with through a central interface, which is intended to give the site a tidier look.

At the end of 2007 Facebook was reported to have recorded its first ever drop in users figures, with an additional 5% also recorded in the UK through the first three month of 2008. The loss was estimated to account for up to 400,000 users, and many suggested that users were growing tired of the increasing number of third party applications that resulted in congested profile pages with longer loading times.

By tidying up the site and combining several different menus into a single navigation bar, and adding together features such as adding photos and videos to one single tab called ‘publisher’, Facebook aims to have a cleaner and less cluttered look, and essentially win back the users it started to loose in early 2008.

Social networking rival MySpace also launched a new cleaner look last month after it had experienced similar drops in user activity.

As part of the new look Facebook has launched, users will still be able to add a range of third party applications, however these will now reside under a new tab away form the user main profile.

If you would like a sneak peak at the new Facebook site then visit new.facebook.com

For some detailed user statistics on Facebook and other Social Networking sites read Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace, Reunion

PS3 Outsells Xbox360 : Wii A Niche Gaming Device

Gaming, Social Networking, Technology 1 Comment »

Today a new report has been released that cites there are now more reasons to justify buying a PlayStation 3 than there are to buy rival gaming console the Xbox360.

In 2007 the Sony console lost out to its rival in terms of sales, however 2008 sales statistics show that the PS3 is gaining significantly on Microsoft’s offering. In the first five months of the year Sony have put the increased sales down to new games released exclusive to its platform, such as that of the popular title ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’.

The Sony console has also seen a rise in sales thanks to the victory of Blu-ray as a dominant high definition DVD format after Toshiba’s HD-DVD was dropped by a series of Hollywood studios early this year to be replaced by its Sony rival. (The Blu-ray vs HD DVD Format War)

“For the first time since the console launched, I really think there’s more reason to buy a PS3 than the 360” – Todd Greenwald, Signal Hill Capital Group analyst.

The rivalry between the two console formats will be sure to heat up later this week as console makers and game publishers meet for the E3 Business and Media Summit in LA. At the conference Sony plans to demonstrate the DVD capability of the PS3, as well demonstrating ‘Little Big Planet’, a social-networking game that can be played online through the two-year-old console.

In an effort to increase the appeal of its console Microsoft plans to triple the storage capacity of the Xbox360, selling 60 GB consoles in August, whilst keeping the starting price the same at $349.

Being introduced a year prior to the PS3 and Wii in 2005 gave the Xbox a 12 month head start, however it is the case that over the last 15 months, 14 of them have seen more Wii consoles shifted than Xbox 360’s or PS3’s.

With each console sold also comes hundreds of extra dollars in revenue of boxed games, downloads, and royalties from third party game developers.

“This battle (between the PS3 and Xbox360) for second place is quite relevant, they lose revenue stream for years ahead based on what people buy.” - Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter

In the first five months of 2008 Nintendo sold 2.8 million units compared to 1.2 million PS3 unit and 1.12 million Xbox360 units.

That said Sony doesn’t see Nintendo as a competitor as the console doesn’t offer the broad range of services its console does, such as the ability to watch movies and access the internet.

“I don’t see it as a competitor. It’s more of an expensive niche game device. We’re selling a lot of PlayStation 3s now and it’s still the best way to buy a Blu-ray player.” - Sony Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer

Flickr Brings User Pictures to Commercial Market

Photography, Social Networking 1 Comment »

Users of photo sharing site Flickr will now be able to make money from pictures posted online after a deal was made with Getty Images the world leading photo library.

As part of the deal Getty Images will invite Flickr users to join a social group on their website that will be co-branded with Flickr. The handpicked photos will then be sold by Getty Images with photographers earning a commission on each sale.

The deal marks the first commercial licensing deal made through the Getty Images site.

The service will remain strictly invite only, with each member having an opt in/ out clause.

The deal is said to be part of Getty Images objective to increase its level of regionally relevant content.
“Flickr’s philosophy of personal sharing and immediacy has already impacted commercial photography,” said Getty’s Andy Saunders.

He went on to add that “The new Flickr collection will expand the definition of stock photography by making it even easier for our customers to find and license imagery that works in the full range of traditional and digital media.”

Owned by Yahoo, Flickr has a customer base of around 54 million users each month hosting 2 billion pictures. In the hour of this post being written alone, over 4,000 file uploads were made, and this deal with Getty Images is seen as an way of bringing licensing expertise to customers who want to bring their images to a global customer base.

Getty Images itself is only ten years old, but has aggressively bought a range of online and offline rivals in that time, until private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for $2.4bn in February this year, bought with the intention of turning Getty Images into a global digital media operation.

Talking to the New York Times about the deal with Flickr, Getty Images said it expects that rights-managed images should earn the photographer around £75-£121, whilst non-exclusive image should earn them around £25.

Facebook Plans Facelift

Social Networking 1 Comment »

Social networking site and regular feature of The Shelf Facebook.com is due to have a face lift four years after it was first launched.

Having grown rapidly in popularity since its launch with a vast expanse in the number of applications available on the site, for those who adopt each and every new tool into their profile Facebook has itself changed from a simple user friendly interface into an un-navigable mess.

A result solely of its explosion in popularity over the four years it has been live, the amalgamation of endless applications on user profiles has recently be touted as a reason many have been switched off from the site.

Currently there are over 25,000 different pieces of software available ranging from dating games to music players and time-wasting quizzes.

The facelift plans are due to include several tabbed section that will effectively hide all the ‘super wall posts’ and silly gifts that users can send to each other, often resulting in an cluttered interface more associated with rivals MySpace than Facebook.

That roll out of the new design is planned for next month and Facebook has been consulting users over its plans. 85,000 Facebook users around the world have been able to comment on new features as they are proposed.

Screen shot of plans from BBC Facebook redesign

Facebook currently leads the social network market in the UK with 8.9 million members according to Nielsen Online, but a significant proportion of these are threatening to leave if it become a victim of over commercialisation. A delicate balance is needed between the traditional clean interface users expect and the third party add-ons that have driven its vast growth.

Friends Connect : Google’s UN Role

Social Networking, The Interwebs 2 Comments »

Google has developed it OpenSocial platform by introducing a series of tools aimed at enhancing the way in which users interact with friends over the internet.

The service called Friends Connect is aimed at allowing sites that are not part of the social network scene, to provide a more social experience for their users. This can be done through the provision of various social gadgets created by Google and OpenSocial.

It works by providing social gadgets through a Friends Connect administration site which can then be used based on the needs of an individuals site. The site owner simply copies across the necessary code across to their site providing a range of social features without the need for sophisticated programming.

As part of the service site owners can then link to a range of sites for various functions, including Facebook, Yahoo and AOL. Users can also user the Google talk instant messaging system.

With this a list of contacts and friends can be imported from other social networks, where you can see names and photos of friends who are members of a specific site.

“Google Friend Connect is like giving Webmasters a salt shaker full of ’social’ that they can sprinkle on their sites to add social capabilities,” David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google told a conference call of reporters Monday.

One of the early advantages to sites is that Friend Connect provides a means of user identification through an existing log in on AOL, Yahoo and many more from the emerging OpenID standard.

The Friends Connect service is based on the OpenSocial platform that up until now has remained a way to write applications for a range sites across the partnership.

Recently MySpace announced plans to loosen its hold on data of an estimated 200 million personal profiles that currently use it’s site, a deal that would enable members to share information to be shared with four partners, Yahoo, PhotoBucket, Twitter and eBay.

The user would be tied to MySpace as a central profile for use across all sites, encouraging users to store all their data needed for a complete web experience at the site to begin with.

Facebook also entered a deal a day after the MySpace announcement with its 70 million users, allowing profiles to be shared with any site wanting to host them.

“It’s a smart move by Google which is trying to play the role of United Nations secretary general by making sure everyone talks nicely to one another, getting the data to where they want to move it back and forward, and participate in open standards.” – Charlene Li, principal analyst at Forrester

Currently 99% of sites are not socially enabled so there is a huge market for the Friend Connect service, and the user data flow through the service is a lucrative offering.

In these early stages however there are things that are yet to be decided. One major decision is how Google intends to share the information that is collated through the Friends Connect service with web publishers. Currently user details of those who log into a site through Friends Connect will not be given to site owners. This may change in the future, but there are issues residing as to how sites like Google, and Facebook or MySpace have very different privacy objectives.

As can be seen with the Facebook and MySpace data sharing announcements, existing social network sites are looking to make their networks the place for a central profile from which users will adopt a complete identity across the web. Google on the other hand is not currently prioritising these social network profiles, instead focusing around small web publishers harvesting the flow of data with its AdSense advertising network which is already serving millions of sites.

With Google expected to approve a few dozen more sites to the Friends Connect service, and MySpace and Facebook due to roll out their offerings over the next few weeks I guess we will have to wait and see how this one develops.

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