Opera released its December "State of the Mobile Web" report, which is based on user behavior from its installed base of Opera Mobile/Mini users globally. The latest report focuses in some depth on Southeast Asia. But there's also interesting full year data on social network site visits.
I'll focus and present the data from the US, UK and Chinese markets. That's followed by the full-year, fastest-growing social sites (among Opera users). I posted about the Opera November data here, for comparison.
Again, compare the GroundTruth top sites in the US (presumably from a mix of feature phones and smartphones).
Presumably we won't be seeing Google on the list immediately above in the near future as the company pulls its Chinese search engine (unless the Chinese government relents and allows Google to operate without censorship, which it won't do).
Below are the global, fastest growing social networks for 2009 among Opera Mini/Mobile users:
There's a very strong piece in AdAge about mobile trends for 2010. Here are the top-level predictions:
I think all these are good observations and predictions in general. However I take issue with the first prediction. Yes, from a consumer standpoint, mobile is revolutionary when it comes to obtaining local information (which includes products in my book).
Here's what the discussion of that first point in AdAge goes on to say in part:
While online display advertising has been incredibly effective for many companies, it hasn't offered all that much value to small, independently owned businesses. For one, the web is good at scale, not so good at precision. It's difficult for mom-and-pops to reach the relatively small audiences that might reasonably be expected to patronize their stores.
The article references FourSquare, Place Pages (Google) and GoWalla (but not Yelp) as a new and improved way for local advertisers to connect with customers. In isloated cases, it may be true that FourSquare is a boon to SMBs (See our related post: FourSquare Morphing into Mobile Loyalty Program for SMBs). Indeed, some advertisers might be able to find new business and improve loyalty and frequency with a FourSquare or GoWalla. But in another way these sites/companies simply add more noise to the local (SMB) advertisers' consideration set.
I suspect the article's authors are not that familiar with local, small business advertising and are speaking at a conceptual level. They don't know that most local advertisers with any budget to spend are getting 10 calls a day before 9 am from sales reps of one sort or another.
With an established brand, online reach (25+ million uniques), a strong mobile presence across platforms and, let's not forget, 200 telephone salespeople, Yelp is in a much stronger position than its newer mobile challengers to successfully sell to "mom and pops."
The local world is full of clutter, noise, confusion and fragmentation. Yellow pages publishers and independent sales channels such as Yodle or ReachLocal are trying to knit all that together into a "network" or single point of contact and simplified selling proposition. Google, for its part, is almost in a unique position here (selling only its own traffic) because of its dominance of local search and huge mindshare.
Beyond this there are lots of others selling to the local market: ValPak, daily and weekly newspapers and other specialized print publications (e.g., Pennysaver), other local coupon providers of one sort or another and others (the list goes on). Much of all this is "opaque" to the SMB owner. He or she is growing more savvy but doesn't have time to fully investigate all the options or test what works and what doesn't generally speaking.
Most SMBs want a trusted partner that will help them navigate the complexity of online and mobile advertising. For those that want to DIY or go it alone, they're much more likely focus on a "brand" or big name: Google, Yelp, Facebook, even Twitter. It's very challenging for a little-known startup to get attention among SMB owners, let alone sell anything to them -- especially "at scale."
So while mobile and LBS on the consumer side is increasingly compelling and will lead to more connections between local buyers and sellers, local advertiers' lives are being made more difficult -- not less -- by the advent of more local-mobile players and options.
Having said all that, I think that FourSquare has strong momentum among various segments of users and becomes a takeover target in the not too distant future by a larger player that has a stronger capacity to "monetize" the consumer traffic.
Mobile payments platform BOKU has announced that it raised "$25 million in series C capital led by DAG Ventures, Inc. with continued participation from Benchmark Capital, Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures." This brings the company's total funding to nearly $40 million.
BOKU launched in the middle of last year and is immediately one of the leaders (the other being Zong) in the mobile payments and virtual goods space, already worth about $3 billion globally and expected to be worth billions more over time. BOKU said has "relationships with over 1,000 game and application developers, including almost all of the top applications for virtual goods and currencies purchased on Facebook. BOKU’s mobile payment service, Paymo, is enabled across 190 carriers worldwide in 58 countries, and reaches a potential 1.8 billion customers."
Almost identical to Zong in its approach, the company enables online payments by using a mobile phone number. The benefits of this are that a mobile phone number is easily remembered, hard to commit fraud with (given the authentication/confirmation system) and removes friction from online payments.
The company acquired competitors Paymo and Mobillcash and will be changing its consumer brand to "Paymo." BOKU will remain on the platform and developer side. The company's CEO is Mark Britto, who ran Ingenio before it was acquired by AT&T.
I spoke yesterday to Ron Hirson, BOKU's SVP Product & Marketing. We discussed various future scenarios for the company. Right now BOKU relies exclusively on mobile carrier billing, which limits transaction thresholds (although BOKU's are higher than competitors). In the future it could add credit card account association, which Zong has done.
Hirson and I discussed payment systems such as Square, that involve offline payment acceptance via mobile devices. Hirson expressed some skepticism about the size of that opportunity.
BOKU wants to move into more traditional e-commerce, but for that to happen carriers need to reduce transaction fees (which can be as high as 50% in some cases). Hirson said that was slowly happening. In addition payment thresholds would need to be significantly raised (from their current $10 to $30). I'm not sure there's an appetite for buying big ticket items with carrier billing, expect perhaps by people who don't have credit cards (analogous to BillMeLater).
Most interesting to me is the use of mobile as a credit card substitute in the real world. That's not a market BOKU is yet focused on.
I asked Hirson about who he thought BOKU's major competitors are/would be over time. He said PayPal, Facebook (potentially) and maybe iTunes, if Apple chooses to go in that direction. I said I also thought that Google would make a bigger play at some point and acquire someone, given that they largely missed the opportunity in round one with Checkout.
Here's a video demo of how BOKU works:
Yelp originally got into mobile in a kind of "back door" way a couple years ago, with Palm building the first Yelp mobile app in Q3 2006. Since that time mobile has become more and more strategic for Yelp, with each successive app release offering richer functionality, including augmented reality.
The rise of local-mobile "game" FourSquare and to a lesser degree Gowalla has threatened to steal some of the buzz and "cool factor" that is part of Yelp's public image and appeal for younger users. Neither of these sites has many users compared to Yelp and their "nature" doesn't yet make them mainstream enough to be a true threat to Yelp, which is a much more utilitarian site and app. (Local-mobile "check ins" or friend finding don't originate with FourSquare, BrightKite, Socialight and others had this earlier.) But Yelp isn't taking chances.
The new release of the iPhone app offers a number of features partly responding to perceived market demand and partly intended to match FourSquare et al and prevent them from stopping Yelp's momentum in mobile. Here's the upgraded feature list of the iPhone app update:
There will now be a leaderboard and a new category of "Yelp Regulars," frequent visitors or patrons of local businesses. This is a broader version of the FourSquare mayor concept. According to Yelp:
"Regular" status can be achieved by frequent patronage - or checking in - of a business. This title will show up on a user's profile, next to reviews and tips and on the business page in the iPhone app, as well as eventually on that business listing on Yelp.com. The Regular with the most Check-ins will not only be featured on that business page, but get to wear the golden badge of honor. The moniker can also be lost if patronage wanes, so Regulars must visit a business often to keep it.
FourSquare is getting (or trying to get) local businesses to offer some incentive or deal (e.g., free drink, appetizer) to the "mayor," the most frequent visitor to a local business. In this way it is essentially morphing into a mobile loyalty program of sorts. Yelp is doing something similar with "Regulars" but with potentially much broader application:
Will Regulars get access to Special Offers or Exclusives? It'll be up to the business owner if they want to offer exclusives to Regulars, but it's super easy to upload a Special Offer. For almost two years now, Yelp has offered business owners the ability to post free announcements that appear on their business listing on Yelp.com and our iPhone and Android applications. In fact, businesses have posted over 200,000 special offers on Yelp to date.
On Yelp there will not simply be a single mayor but a larger category of "regulars," who might gain access to special offers, coupons and deals from local businesses. Here the pieces come together for Yelp, which has a 200-person-strong telephone sales force to promote mobile and special offers to local business owners. And the strength of the Yelp brand doesn't hurt either.
This new version of the Yelp iPhone app sits at the nexus of social networking/mobile friend finding, LBS and mobile couponing and loyalty.
Mobile app and games discovery provider Mplayit published a comparative list of most-popular apps on the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms. It's based on a survey "of 42,000 visitors to Mplayit on Facebook between 20 December 2009 and 5 January 2010." One question to ask is whether these apps are in fact intrinsically the strongest in their respective categories or whether other factors are fueling their popularity.
The Mplayit release doesn't attempt to answer the question or explain why certain apps may be popular across platforms. In the case of a Yelp, Facebook or Pandora, there's a strong brand there that transcends the mobile OS and that people are responding to, for example. But the fact that some "no-name" apps beat out brands such as "Buddy Mob" on beating Facebook or Aloqa beating Yelp on Android (during the survey window) suggests that a compelling or engaging app can drive adoption without substantial brand equity or recognition.
Here's the chart:
ChaCha is coming back from a difficult period -- 2009 was tough for everyone -- but founder/CEO Scott Jones says the company is now profitable on a per query basis and heading toward overall profitability hopefully later this year or early next. The company has a massive audience of teens and young adults but has struggled a bit in getting its message through to advertisers.
Here are some slides from the presentation Jones shared with me this afternoon:
Response rates have been very high for the campaigns run on ChaCha. Jones told me, for example, that when the company runs polls or asks open-ended questions of users it sees response rates of 80% in some instances. Most campaigns are not at that level, but significantly higher than comparable online advertising response.
Distracted by apps and smartphones, the thing that many advertisers still fail to understand is that SMS offers the greatest mobile reach in the market. Smartphones are 15% to 17% of US handsets (though growing), and they text as well. Today in the US alone there are roughly 4 billion SMS sent daily. This is not the same thing as search query volume but it shows you the scale were talking about.
ChaCha has refined the way it uses human guides, it's original differentiator, so that queries are about 90% automated today. Jones also said that questions/answers on ChaCha.com are showing up in Google search results and that's driving considerable traffic to the dot-com site (where it can be monetized).
I asked about how coupons were doing. Jones said that the program remains restricted to one market but that it's doing fairly well. The company offers online coupons, which can be sent to mobile, but not mobile coupons per se. He said that some merchants are entirely comfortable with mobile redemption and many still are not.
Ultimately ChaCha offers a pure national or national-local advertising play rather than one for SMBs, given how hard they are to corral.
TechCrunch points to a promotion on the FourSquare site that gives the "mayor" of a particular organic food restaurant in North Carolina, Blynk Organic, a free meal. One becomes mayor by being the most frequent visitor to "check in" at a venue. Here's a full list of businesses offering what amount to mobile coupons or deals to FourSquare "mayors."
One should see this as a mobile loyalty program of sorts. I still don't believe that FourSquare is mainstream but these local business promotions potentially give it much broader appeal. Nothwithstanding my "non-mainstream" remark, in some ways FourSquare represents the perfect expression of the convergence of local, social and mobile.
ChaCha it appears is back from the brink. We've heard negative rumors about the company's financial condition for a long time. Now Mike Arrington (a former ChaCha basher, now kinder and gentler toward the company) has spoken to CEO Scott Jones and disclosed the following:
ChaCha recently introduced online and mobile coupons to boost frequency and the utility of the service, as well as diversify its advertising programs. ChaCha competes directly or indirectly with kgb, Vark, 800-Free-411 and search on smartphones.
Vlingo released what it calls the top 10 voice-powered mobile Web searches of 2009:
On first glance, this list is considerably different than Nielsen's top mobile sites of 2009:
Here's Yahoo's top PC search queries list of 2009:
Here's Google's main list:
As TechCrunch correctly points out the Vlingo list is "action oriented" -- people trying to accomplish some objective out in the world or on the go.
As we long ago discovered people calling directory assistance (the earliest form of "voice search") were usually “in the car" (where other search methods are more difficult). DA callers also emerge as “qualified” sales prospects typically on their way to potentially conduct a transaction in a store or other offline business.
The presence of YouTube on the top of the Vlingo list is curious, although smartphone users consume a great deal of mobile video. The presence of social networks however is consistent with broader mobile Internet trends.
The Vlingo search query results above are coming, of course, via Google or Yahoo search. So in that larger context, there's general consistency between the Vlingo and Nielsen lists above. However, I wonder if the "yellow pages" and "white pages" queries are not "yellowpages.com" or "whitepage.com" but stand-ins for a broader range of local and business or people searches.
My belief is that while mobile search queries will skew local in the near term they'll be generally comparable with PC search queries over time.
In this post on Screenwerk, Greg Sterling explains what's so very interesting about Twitter's purchase of Mixer Labs. There's little more to add except to suggest that we all think expansively about the possibility of delivering rich, local content in 140 characters or less. The holidays are approaching; as is a new year which, based on my informal poll of everyone I know, we expect to hold better things than 2009. Twitter, in both good and bad economic times, has stayed true to its role of fostering a wide open interchange among self-identified community of interests in innovative ways that integrate or link to the full spectrum of Internet- and Web-based features and functions.
Twitter's purchase of Mixer inspired Greg to wax rhapsodic about the prospects for location-awareness to bring about the dawn of a new era in mobile communications and services, including new mechanisms for advertising. I, personally, have mixed feelings. I share in celebrating the prospects for new services that leverage a service provider's awareness of my location, coupled with knowledge of my expressed interest and past explorations and informed guesses about my current intention. But I want that information to be used on my behalf first and then accommodate advertisers, according to my (implicit or explicit) instructions.
The combination of Twitter, with its low barriers to enroll and transparent mechanism around natural selection of the people, companies or (even) brands one might choose to follow. In one sense, the purchase of Mixer by Twitter was inevitable. Recent press reports claim that Twitter is profitable in its present state. Almost every gathering of analysts and practitioners improvising around the "real-time" Web has featured a mash up of a mapping service with pin-drops depicting places where people are originating Tweets. Pins indicated liveness. Multiple pins indicate hotness. The scroll of comments add editorial content ranging from informative to snarky and everything in between. By bringing the API inhouse, Twitter can exert a bit of control over the quality and quantity of new, geo-aware twitter mashups.
Tweets are user-generated information that the originators knowingly put out there in the public domain. Individuals post them voluntarily and they are permanently associated with their names (or Twitter handles). Associating Tweets with specific geographic locations creates a ready-made venue for venue owners to post fresh information. Bald promotions come to mind, but they would be a wasted opportunity. How about a restaurateur telling expressing pride in tonight's special or a baker mentioning that he or she made way too many brioche and has them on special.
Townme made an effort to be the repository for locally generated content, but it staid interesting only as long as it contains information that is fresh. The stream of the Tweets form the Twittersphere is certainly a rich font of info with the potential to populate such local repositories. But as Google's Vic Gundotra is quoted in the Screenwerk blog, this is "the beginning of the beginning." Pouring content from real-time feeds like Twitter into local catch-pools for all to see will be an interesting [social] science experiment. Whether it better serves advertisers and "brands" or mobile subscribers and shoppers is an open question. I have my fingers crossed that the Twitter/Mixer combo turns into a virtuous combination of both.
This month Opera is focusing on Africa. I'm not going to elaborate on the findings there except to point out that Opera says:
Facebook has taken the lead in Africa; it is the most popular site visited by Opera Mini users in 6 out of 10 countries and the #2 site in three of the countries where it is not #1. Google is also very popular, and is ahead of Facebook in a few of the top 10 African countries. Yahoo and Wikipedia are also ubiquitous in the top 10 lists of the various African countries.
Here are the top lists for the US, UK and China:
As with all other such data (e.g., from AdMob, Millennial Media) it's important to note that these data are from handsets where Opera Mini is installed and not necessarily representative of the mobile Internet as a whole. However these data are going to be broadly consistent with trends among other users.
I'm not going to keep doing this for the next week or so, but here are JumpTap's and the MMA's predictions for next year:
10. Hypochondriac? We've got an app for that!
Ongoing global pandemics and concerns about socialized healthcare warrant a prescription for mobile content geared toward the sick and the paranoid. Symptoms to watch for include apps that diagnose, doctors that text and medical reminders at hand. Mobile health is just what the doctor ordered!
9. Back to Reality...
Oh, those boring old coupons - they get lost, forgotten, left behind or expired. Look for augmented reality to start playing a larger role in location-based advertising. Now, when you're walking into your favorite coffee shop, the real-time mobile coupon you receive gives you instant gratification with your discounted daily grind.
8. I want my Mobile TV.
In the coming year, both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2010 World Cup will heighten mobile video consumption. The introduction of new ad units, including interactive and partial screen, will subsidize free content.
7. Practice Safe Text
Governments and safety advocates around the world warned against texting and driving in 2009. We expect 2010 to bring about technology solutions that disable handset features when the owner is driving.
6. A guy walks into a Barcode...
Proliferation of standardized technology and higher quality camera phones will not only lead to increased adoption of mobile barcodes and coupons, but will also offer a whole new access point to content.
5. Have you hugged your aggregator lately?
Look for aggregators to expand their businesses beyond shortcodes. Aggregation services in the areas of location, customer service and mobile commerce will begin to emerge.
4. Turn free in 1.2 miles
Free is a very good price. We're keeping an eye out for no-cost turn-by-turn navigation applications rolling out on more devices in 2010. The end of stand-alone GPS is in sight. What great news for consumers...and McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts and Dairy Queen.
3. Your Skype is Showing
Services that enable video conferencing and the networks and handsets that support it (like cameras on the front of the phone!) will proliferate in the coming year. More consumers will connect via WiFi, offloading traditional non-wireless video conferencing services.
2. How does mobile measure up?
Moving into 2010 and beyond, campaign effectiveness will be measured in a variety of different and very creative ways. The number of eyeballs, shakes and finger swipes. The number of blogs, articles, tweets and diggs. The number of acquisitions, conversions, calls, responses or purchases. Total basket size, consumer recall, loyalty and recommendations. Check-ins on foursquare and check-outs on Amazon.
1. Mobile's Sixth Sense
Over the past few years, the mobile device has moved beyond standard technology inputs. We're no longer talking, typing and clicking. Now, we're photographing, recording, touching, locating, shaking, accelerating and blowing. What's next? We're rooting for smell recognition.
Yelp has gone from a company that just a couple of years ago was relatively passive about mobile -- people at Palm were the ones that got Yelp Mobile going -- to one that now is intensely focused on mobile and has apps for iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre and mobile Web. Today Yelp extended that to Android.
It offers basically the same functionality as on the other mobile platform apps. According to Yelp:
Similar to all of our other mobile apps, Android launches with basic search and browse functionality search. But we've also been able to work in sales and special offers (just in time for the holidays) and "Hot on Yelp" (buzzworthy businesses according to yelpers - according to bookmarks in the past 30 days).
Here are a few screens from the app:
Yelp now sees the profound connection between the PC and mobile (in the local context) and the importance of mobile for the future of Yelp, its brand and user loyalty.
TechCrunch is reporting a rumor that answer community and social search tool Aarvark is considering a $30 million buyout offer from Google:
Social search service Aardvark is considering accepting a $30+ million offer by Google, say multiple sources close to the companies (one source says it’s $40 million). The company, which was founded by ex-Googlers, has raised around $6 million in venture capital to date.
The company is also talking with other potential buyers, say our sources.
Here's the dilemma and challenge: selling to Google or another will probably take the company in a somewhat different direction than the founders envision. Dodgeball launguished under Google and Jaiku was shut down. However, this is guaranteed money and the Aardvark business model is "embryonic" at best.
Is Aardvark a service that will continue to grow and become an alternative "word of mouth" tool that people use instead of conventional search (esp. on the go)? Or is it a promising service that won't quite live up to user expectations (which is what some are saying today). In the former scenario, Aardvark could potentially sell for much more. In the latter, $30 million would represent a good (and very quick) exit. Recall that Google early on tried to buy Friendster for $30 million.
This is obviously a tough choice and to some degree about predicting the future. The founders will need to evaluate their growth, look at how viable their intended business models are and search their gut instincts.
But investors and the "rational" decision may be to try and create a bidding war and then sell with some assurance that the new parent will allow development consistent with the founders' vision.
Here are previous posts on Aardvark:
Twitter has always been mobile and, in fact, was inspired by SMS character limits (160 vs. 140). But Twitter is making some powerful moves in mobile that may give it advantages vs its primary rival Facebook. Its geolocation API could have quite a dramatic impact on LBS content and services.
4INFO, a leading mobile media company and pioneer of SMS advertising and publishing services, announced today the integration between the 4INFO ad network and Twitter to create an exclusive SMS ad unit and functionality. This new functionality allows users to follow a Twitter feed by simply texting a keyword. Both publishers and advertisers will use this feature to allow users to sign up for their favorite tweets via SMS directly from 4INFO, without having to text in to a new number.
The company also just launched a new mobile site (pictured). To some degree this may compete with the various mobile clients around but it makes Twitter even more mobile centric as the company plans to grow and monetize in 2010.
In the wake of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States when retailers hope for sales to put them "in the black", SoundBite is teaming with loyalty-marketing specialist Mall Networks to issue alerts to tell mobile customers about each "Deal of the Hour" offered on Shop.org's cybermonday.com Web site. This is the third year that Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation, has sponsored this sort of eHoliday activity. The trade organization sponsored a customer survey that leads it to expect that "53.5 percent of workers with Internet access, or 68.8 million people, will shop for holiday gifts from work" this year.
The survey, conducted by BIGresearch in early November 2009, also showed taht 73.8% of young adults 18-24 with Internet access will shop at work. The notion of using text alerts to inform shoppers of impending bargains is merely reinforcing a well-established behavior.
Over 600 online merchants participate in Shop.org's activities. The majority of them have both brick-and-mortar stores, as well as a cyber-presence. When you count "free shipping" as an offer, nearly nine in ten (87.1%) of these retailers will have a special promotion for Cyber Monday. According to Shop.org, "the most popular promotions are expected to be specific deals (42.9%), one-day sales (32.9%), and free shipping on all purchases (15.7%). Half of retailers (50.0%) will distribute promotions and deals to shoppers through a special Cyber Monday email, and now self-identifying shoppers can register to receive text messages regarding the hourly specials from participating online merchants.
This morning Flook became available in the iTunes store. Calling itself the "worlds first location browser" it reminds me of a version of what Socialight was trying to do at one time: use community to enable people to use mobile devices to discover what's interesting or going on "right here." The following discussion from the Flook release explains the service and how it works:
Flook’s unique approach combines a web browsing concept with the physical world by allowing users to browse or make “cards” at their current location. Flook learns what the user likes and delivers new findings – without the user needing to search for them. . . The team has been mindful of creating an interface that is user-focused – letting the simplicity of design mask the complexity of the back-end technology.
Within flook, a colorful landscape of robots guides the user to browse or create. One can browse cards that capture what’s amazing nearby, including food and drink, local secrets, events, art and more. And when inspired, users can also create their own card to share what they’ve found . . .
As well as user-generated content, flook’s cards are also made from a quickly growing library of external sources, such as event information from Upcoming (upcoming.yahoo.com) and local tweets from Twitter (twitter.com). Sharing via Twitter, adds geo-location and photos to tweets. Facebook integration is coming soon. Browsing the world is now just as easy as swiping through an iPhone’s photo library – just flick one card away and another takes its place. If the user likes the look of a card, they can “flip it” to read the comments and view a map, or collect it so that it is easily available later. Cards are simple and quick to make. Users just take a photo (and add some text if desired), place the card, and it's done. The card will automatically be attached to the place where it was made (geo-tagged) and left for others to find.
Essentially then users create and discover Flook "cards," which contain text and images, at specific places. Geotagging is automatic. Users annotate and discuss these places, businesses, points of interest to enable others to discover what's happening "here" or immediately nearby.
Even though the idea of discovering what's going on around me isn't new, this interface and implementation in Flook is very interesting and pretty novel. In our last webcast we discussed what was potentially coming in local beyond "local search." Flook is very creative expression of "local discovery" -- StumbleUpon for the real world. It also uses the camera, location awareness and mobility in pretty compelling ways.
Take a look at the video and you get a better sense of how it looks and works:
Loopt has been struggling to reinvent itself since Facebook came to dominate the mobile social landscape (and to a lesser degree Twitter). It's very hard to compete with an installed base of 300 million, with more than 70 million using a mobile app to access the social network. Hence LooptMix and now Pulse.
Mix is a dating app and Pulse is much more of a ultiliarian local search tool, with social recommendations -- rather than a mobile social network that has local listings. The (re)positioning is important.
There are two modes in Pulse: search and "pulse" (discover). Here's what the NY Times said earlier this week:
Loopt aims to distinguish itself by making its service comprehensive. It incorporates feeds from 20 sources, including listings and review services like Zagat, Citysearch and Eventful as well as content sites like DailyCandy, Thrillist and The Village Voice.
Pulse produces a personalized and ever-changing list of recommendations based on where you are, the time of day and Loopt’s own data on where you and your friends have been. It shows editorial descriptions and reviews from the partner sites and averages the ratings a business has received.
The two differentiators are thus content breadth and the push-recommendations. At a high level, however, this is the same conceptual discussion we had with Aloqa this afternoon. Having said that Loopt is better off through diversification and repositioning as a local entertainment source rather than being primarily a friend finder.
Yet there are a lot of companies in the mobile-local segment and the incumbents will not cede the space easily. Witness Whrrl (from Pelago) that was aiming to be what Pulse aspires to. The company was unsuccessful gaining traction as Yelp, Citysearch and other established companies moved more aggressively into mobile.
However Loopt seems pretty scrappy and adaptable. We'll see how the new direction fares.
In this new era of branded handsets and OEM app stores carriers are having to scramble to figure out how to remain relevant to users and prevent connectivity from becoming a pure priced-based commodity. Several US carriers, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, have all anounced apps stores and are courting developers. I'm very skeptical that these app stores will be very successful among smartphone users (given the competition from the OEM app stores); however I could be wrong.
I think there is an opportunity for carrier app stores among lower-end phones. (See also Microsoft's OneApp, along these lines.)
In the UK Vodafone, minority owner of Verizon Wireless, has officially launched Vodafone 360, a multifaceted service that offers social networking apps/tools, photo tagging/sharing, online backup and enhanced mapping. Will this turn out to be like "bloatware" on PCs or will it be a valuable suite of services that prove compelling and "sticky" among users?
he group communication aspects of the service could prove to be quite popular. Of course it all depends on how well these things work in practice.
Vodafone is very aggressively marketing 360 across London and chiefly emphasizing the social elements of the service. The marketing and "value proposition" are not unlike the social software layer on the Motorola CLIQ/DEXT (through Orange in the UK).
If the Vodafone 360 service proves to be a hit it could be something of a model for other carriers -- value-added services built around contacts, with a PC tie-in -- which must be creative, even experimental, to now avoid the "dumb pipe scenario."
According to a report released yesterday by the Pew Internet & American Life, 19% of US Internet users are using Twitter or a comparable capability on a social network to update their status or follow others' status updates. This is even more true for mobile users and those who have multiple connected devices. According to the report:
Three groups of internet users are mainly responsible for driving the growth of this activity: social network website users, those who connect to the internet via mobile devices, and younger internet users – those under age 44.
In addition, the more devices someone owns, the more likely they are to use Twitter or another service to update their status. Fully 39% of internet users with four or more internet-connected devices (such as a laptop, cell phone, game console, or Kindle) use Twitter, compared to 28% of internet users with three devices, 19% of internet users with two devices, and 10% of internet users with one device.
These findings make sense given that mobile users are likely to be concerned about staying "connected" and multiple device owners are inclined to be "early adopters."
Does this mean that Twitter is "mainstream"? I would say not quite yet . . .