Showing posts from 2012

Zynga is vastly undervalued

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat.Zynga's stock has been in a freefall since its initial public offering, and the tech pundits and press have been looking on with schadenfreude as it continues to drop. Zynga is now worth essentially nothing: Its market capitalization of $1.82 billion is roughly equal to the value of its cash and real estate holdings, even with this week's announcements of real money gambling and a $200 million stock buyback. How can a company that brings in $1.2 billion a year, and recently cut costs in order to achieve profitability, be worth nothing? It doesn't make sense. Here's why Zynga is undervalued -- provided it does the right thing next. Zynga is sitting on three widely known and popular potential gaming franchises: Farmville, Poker, and With Friends. Each of these titles is well-known, has broad distribution, and an audience at least willing to check out a new iteration on the franchise. For instance, Farmville 2 just g…

You say Google+ is a ghost land? Time to revisit that one

This post was also published on CNET.The company has taken repeated hits in the press, but Google+ is fast becoming a social business for small businesses.Compared with Facebook or Twitter, Google+ can seem like a veritable ghost land. I'm finding few posts from friends or interesting people on the service. And it's not just anecdotal observations of there being slim pickings. A recent report by RJMetrics found weak user engagement with the social network. And yet Google+ claims to have an ever-growing number of users. So how has it managed to pull off that neat feat? The not-so-apparent fact is that Google has aggressively integrated its social network throughout its properties, thus driving users to unwittingly use Google+. This is particularly true of Google+'s pages for small businesses, also known as Google+ Local. For instance, when users search for a small business, Google automatically showcases that business on the right side of the page, as part of its Knowledge…

Bigger ads, bigger bucks? Facebook feels Wall Street heat

This post was written with Paul Sloan and published on CNET. With Facebook's stock now half of its IPO price, Mark Zuckerberg and company are testing more ways to make money from advertising. And they can do a lot more. See that image above? That's a plain old giant banner ad grabbed from my Facebook page. It appeared after I logged out. Facebook actually calls them "Logged Out" ads. It rolled them out in February when it was trying to show Madison Avenue it was serious about brand advertising in advance of its IPO. A social ad? Sort of, I guess. It wants me to "like" it to get an insurance quote. But make no mistake: While Facebook can come up with whatever terminology it wants, this is the sort of ad that Mark Zuckerberg has long shunned -- the kind that splashes across the page the way one would expect to see on Yahoo, not Facebook. And yet there it is. Which leads to the question of Facebook's cratering stock price, and the pressure Zuckerberg mu…

Hey, Windows 8 doesn't suck

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat.For months now, various pundits have been deriding the upcoming Windows 8 as the next Vista. People have made mocking videos showing older people thoroughly confused by Windows 8's Metro tile interface. Indeed, the Windows 8 Metro interface is radically different than the traditional Windows desktop. It's a touch interface.Yet the same pundits that slammed Windows 8 on the desktop are now lauding Microsoft Surface, the Windows 8-powered touch tablet that Microsoft announced Monday. Since the Windows 8 Metro software hasn't changed, what exactly is so different? After all, Microsoft is demonstrating the exact same interface on touch-enabled hardware. And all of a sudden, Windows 8 is making sense.It's not at all crazy to assume that soon all notebook and desktop screens will be touch enabled. Haven't you sometimes just wanted to reach out and touch your MacBook Air or desktop screen, just like you do on your smart…

What’s next for mobile now that adaptive web design has failed?

This post was also published in VentureBeat.This article was written for business readers. Due to an outcry from the responsive design community, I added the word "web" to the term "adaptive design" to avoid confusion with progressive enhancement, and updated the text to read that Facebook uses "a precursor to" responsive design, even though very techie trades like RWW say that Facebook uses responsive design. Obviously, the outcry has more to do with the content than the terminology, but it's always good to be pedantic. Read on!Analysts commenting on Facebook’s IPO have highlighted a major issue in mobile computing: that it’s incredibly difficult to monetize on mobile devices. Like many other engineering-led cultures, Facebook has embraced adaptive web design, a precursor toalso known as responsive design, where essentially the same code can render itself down from a desktop browser to a tablet to a diminutive mobile screen.Adaptive web design is an…

Big data may be hot, but little data is what matters

This post was also published on CNET. Big Data is in vogue, with a glut of startups and numerous large installations appearing in corporations. At CBS Interactive, we process almost one billion events a day that flow from our Web and application servers over message queues to a cluster of 80 twelve core Hadoop nodes that then feed a Teradata data warehouse.

Processing and analyzing such a large volume of data helps us ask important questions: Which pages on which properties are most profitable? Who goes where across our various sites? What types of content generates the greatest number of advertising conversions?

But here's the thing: Most of our conversations with product and business managers are spent discussing what I like to call "little data."

Little data constitutes the nuts and bolts metrics of running a business. For a Web property, that means getting a handle on issues such as the bounce rate, SEO session starts, social session starts, funnels of how users f…

How expanding Twitter's pledge could end the patent wars

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat. Twitter's momentous announcement yesterday that it would only use its patent portfolio defensively was received with wide acclaim by the tech world. With two small changes, Twitter's Innovator's Patent Agreement (IPA) could actually completely change the landscape of software patents.

1. Share patents defensively with any other company that signs the IPA

Allow any company that is a signatory to the IPA to use each other's patents defensively. To qualify, a company would have to have at least 10 patents to contribute and no active patent litigation. The minimum of a 10-patent contribution creates a virtuous circle that incents even startups to innovate with patents, as they will get an umbrella of patent shielding from all other companies that have signed the IPA.

With this small change, Twitter could spur a wide following of companies that follow suit, as they will all mutually benefit from joining the IPA. While the…

How RIM could save itself: With a “super feature phone”

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat. Research In Motion is reportedly attempting to sell itself after rejecting the former co-CEO's plan to open up its network to carriers. But for some reason it is not pursuing the creation of a lucrative category between smart phones and feature phones -- the super feature phone.

Less than a smartphone, but far more than a feature phone

What are you left with if you take a smartphone and remove the ability to install apps? It's far more functional than a feature phone, with built in apps for e-mail, Facebook, and a camera. But it's definitely not a smartphone like an iPhone or
Android device. RIM's range of devices are fully capable, with integrated apps and cameras, but suffer from a paucity of apps other than an attempt to integrate Android apps.

The key to the super feature phone is the ability to use cheap data plans in the $10-per-month range, rather than the more expensive full data plans required by smartphones.…

2012: The Year of the App-ocalypse?

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat. The Mayans were right about one thing. There is a looming extinction event this year -- of apps that fail to capture a mass audience. In the past week, two high-profile mobile apps were effectively shut down and acquired -- Hipster by Aol and Oink by Google. Both had big PR buildups, rave reviews from the tech press, and strong usage from the digerati.

What they did not get was traction beyond that, and the teams went on to be acqui-hired. Even apps that seemed to define new categories, such as GroupMe for group chat and Foursquare for check-in, have failed to gain popularity with the general public. GroupMe sold to Skype and Foursquare is shifting from the check-in model to the reviews/discovery space dominated by Yelp. Highlight, the latest digerati darling, drained batteries and fizzled at South by Southwest.

Why do even well-funded apps with successful founders fail -- as happened to Peter Pham with Color, Kevin Rose with Oink,…

Under the hood: HTML5 or native? A guide

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat.Taking your site mobile is a technology minefield. Here's how we're doing it at CBS Interactive.

The mobile technology landscape is incredibly confusing. There are numerous choices, ranging from new HTML5 technologies, native app development methods, and all sorts of content management systems.
At CBS Interactive, we have numerous mobile solutions, including native apps for, CNET, and "60 Minutes," along with mobile-optimized Web sites for GameFaqs and global properties like ZDnet.

At first blush, it seems problematic that various properties have picked completely different architectures for mobile delivery. A technologist's initial inclination is to have everyone run a consistent architecture across all of our properties. Yet it actually makes sense to run a variety of architectures to support mobile delivery.

The biggest issue to address is the ongoing tension between HTML5 and native. Most of the de…

How sites like MegaUpload make millions from pirated video

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat.For the scope of this article, I am leaving all of the commentary on SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and such aside for others much more well-versed than I to discuss. A lot of people have been asking me the same question lately: Just how do sites like MegaUpload--recently taken down by an international collection of law enforcement--make hundreds of millions of dollars a year and fund lottery-winner style lifestyles that include mansions and private jets?

It's actually pretty straightforward. These sites use the same techniques as legitimate Web sites: search, social media, ad networks, and online payment processors.

Sites that feature links to illegal videos optimize for the keyword "links," and users that seek such videos have learned to search for "links." Generally, providers of legal content are not trying to land in searches for links; they are trying to land in searches for the word "videos." So searching…

Forget $100B! Facebook could soon be worth $200B

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat. For all the naysaying about Facebook, that it's a flash in the pan and such, there are very few that say that "social" is going away.

Facebook has defined the social era of computing--and the companies that defined the previous eras of computing each command market values of $200 billion or more.

Facebook should get there, too.

IBM kicked off the mainframe era of computing and to this day is the leader in big enterprise computers and services. Microsoft was an early leader in personal computer software and now dominates microprocessor based desktops and servers. And after joining the scrum at the tail end of the dotcom boom of the 1990s, Google emerged as the leader of the Internet era of computing, amassing huge market share and most of Internet advertising's profits.

Coincidentally, those three companies--each of which dominated an era of computing--are now each worth roughly $200 billion.

While many still think…

Why Google is ditching search

This post was also published on CNET and VentureBeat. There has been a huge maelstrom about Google integrating Google+ into its search links. And it all misses the point.Twitter and others are complaining that Google is throwing its massive 65% plus market share weight around and quashing smaller competitors. The reason Twitter and others are so threatened is that the pattern of shared links within Google+ provides a decent enough indicator as to what links are interesting. What's important is what's trending, and algorithms can get a sense of that with just a subset of everything that's getting shared on the Web.

The most interesting aspect of Google's move, however, is its tacit acknowledgement that its stalwart search links are largely irrelevant and might as well be replaced with social results. Google search results are essentially gamed results produced by search optimizers.In other words, the search results that we supposedly value so highly are themselves paid …