Category Archives: Social Media

My Column Is Heading to CNET!

Dear friends, colleagues and supporters, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m joining CNET and CBS Interactive as a contributing columnist and commentator! Ever since my departure from Mashable, I’ve posted my personal take on the big technology news of the day on The response to my work has been overwhelming, and traffic to this blog has skyrocketed. Thank you all for reading, commenting and sharing. But now I have a chance to make a much bigger impact with my writing. Starting this week, my commentary on technology, social media and startups will appear on CNET several times per week. I will not be doing any straight reporting — CNET has a talented team that already does an amazing job at that. Instead, I will be doing what I’ve been doing here on breaking down the big issues and players in tech and explaining what it actually means for both the tech industry and society as a whole. To do that, I will be writing a combination of thought pieces, analysis stories, response pieces and the occasional long-form column. My CNET column is called The Social Analyst, just like my column on Mashable. It’s going to have more bite than my old column, though. I intend to keep tech’s biggest names honest. I decided to join forces with CNET/CBSi because CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone and CNET General Manager Mark Larkin have an ambitious vision for the future. CNET is huge: it is one of the 100 most visited websites in the world, but Mark and Jim are not content with resting on their laurels. I believe in their vision and their leadership, and I am thrilled to be working with them. CNET isn’t my only gig, though. For the last few months, I’ve also been working behind-the-scenes on a startup, which we can’t wait to talk more about! My co-founder and I have a clear vision, as well as a duty to our investors, and we will move heaven and earth (and forgo sleep) to make sure our company succeeds. My new role at CNET and CBSi is the best of both worlds. I get to reach millions of people with my thoughts on technology, but still retain the flexibility to be an entrepreneur, build amazing products and change the world. Don’t take your eyes off of CNET. Big things are happening over there, and you won’t want to miss all the action. 2012 is going to be an amazing year. Cheers, ~ Ben

Today Is D-Day for Facebook, and Nobody Can Stop Talking About It

Facebook will reportedly file for IPO later today, and it has the entire tech world buzzing. It will be the only thing people will talk about when Facebook finally files its papers with the SEC. Don’t believe me? Here’s just a sampling of my Twitter feed from the last 30 minutes:
Clearly people are excited — it’s the first time anybody outside of Zuckerberg’s inner circle has gotten a good, hard look at Facebook’s business. The social network is going to deliver some powerhouse numbers, including its revenue, employee count and current user base. It will also tell you exactly how much of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg currently owns, as well as reveal anybody else that owns more than 5% of the company. Of course, Facebook may not file for IPO today. It may not even file this week. That will make for a lot of sad techies. But I’m going to be just like everyone else — I have my SEC notifications turned on. When the IPO paperwork hits, I’m going to pick that thing apart and provide my analysis on one of the most important IPOs in American history. So stay tuned — it looks like today is Facebook D-Day. Image courtesy of Flickr, Rishi Bando

SOPA-related Tweets: 2.4 Million and Counting

Damn. I wonder if that’s the most tweets for a single event in Twitter’s history?

Instagram vs. Path vs. Color: The Battle for the Future of Mobile Social Networking

Instagram, Path and Color are three high-profile apps taking three different approaches to mobile social networking. Can all three co-exist? You may think that these three apps have totally different purposes and do totally different things, but in reality they tackle the same problem: how do you better connect and share with your friends through mobile? Instagram‘s thesis is simple: photo-sharing is the central component to the social and mobile experience. It is the undisputed king of photo-sharing apps, and it reached the top of the pile with a team of less than 10. Instagram has more than 15 million users. Path, co-founded by Facebook legend Dave Morin (he co-invented Facebook Connect and the Facebook Platform), is about intimate social networking. It’s a “smart journal” that lets you share photos, videos, status updates and locations with up to 150 of your closest friends and family. You can even share when you wake up and when you fall asleep. Its initial launch was a dud, but its recent launch has been gaining traction. Color, co-founded by Lala and Onebox co-founder Bill Nguyen, was once about mobile photo-sharing through dynamically-created “elastic networks” — essentially it shared photos with whoever was nearby. It didn’t gain traction though, so Color went to the drawing board and reemerged as an app that lets you “visit” your friends through short video streams. Unlike Path or Instagram, Color’s entire social graph is built on top of Facebook. The new version of Color hasn’t caught on like Path or Instagram have, but it’s early in the game.

Three Approaches to Mobile + Social

To be clear: Instagram, Path and Color focus on different things. Instagram focuses on photography, Path focuses on intimate social networks, and Color focuses on “visits” and enhancing the Facebook experience for mobile. However, I think they are converging. I feel as if Path, Instagram and Color started out on different paths, but have merged to become competitors. All three apps allow me to share photos, not just with friends and followers, but with my Facebook friends (Path and Instagram also support Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr). Path even added the photo filters that made Instagram into the powerhouse it is today. If I share a photo on Path, am I also going to share it on Instagram or Color? If I record a video stream on Color, am I also going to put that on Path? For me, the answer is no. The overlap is just too much. I suspect this phenomenon is just specific to me; who really has the patience to share stuff through three different apps?

Final Thoughts

The future of mobile social networking is up for grabs. Facebook may be the iPhone’s most popular app, but it essentially ports the Facebook experience to mobile (the app is also horrendously slow and painful to use — that’s an article for another day, though). Instagram, Path and Color are experiments in the best way to utilize the unique capabilities of the phone to enhance social networking. The smartphone’s camera, GPS, accelerometer, touchscreen interface, notifications and persistence (it’s always in your pocket) makes it an ideal tool for sharing your world with friends. Some point soon, though, the experimenting will end and a victor will emerge. I simply don’t believe there is enough room for all three apps, despite the different approaches they take to mobile social networking. There are going to be a lot more pivots, challengers and forgotten apps by the time this battle is done. What are your thoughts on the future of mobile social networking? Is there enough room for everybody? Let me know in the comments.

Google Search Gets Personal; Should Facebook Be Scared?

Google has launched three new features that personalize its search engine in a radical way. It’s the biggest change to Google’s search engine since Google Instant. Google has fused Google Search with Google+ and Picasa to make results unique to the individualized. Clicking the person icon on the top right of the search page brings up these results. Say you’re researching for a trip to Thailand. Normally Google will serve you relevant web pages about the area of Thailand you are researching. However, if you click the person icon (Google calls it the “Search plus your world” icon), it will start bringing up Google+ posts about Thailand from your network, related photos from your friends, and pages/profiles related to that query. The changes also apply to searches for individuals. If I’m in your Circles, and you start typing my name, my profile will pop up. But the updated search engine will also pull up “prominent people on Google+”. This includes anybody who is a member of Google’s authorship program. Essentially, Google has merged its search engine with Google+ and Picasa search. If you’re prominently using Google+, you’re going to show up more often in search results, and that is a very powerful thing.

Should Facebook Be Scared?

Google has decided that, if it is to beat Facebook, it needed to use its most powerful weapon: its search engine. We knew this was Google’s plan all along, but Google really went all-in on this one. Will this take users away from Facebook though? I doubt it; there’s very little Google can do to beat Facebook’s entrenched network effect. Facebook is the repository and scrapbook for your entire life; Google+ simply isn’t as ubiquitous or useful. More people will sign up for Google+ and maybe even occasionally use it because they saw their friends appear in search results, but it won’t pry them away from Facebook. What this does, though, is set up Google+ as the alternative to Facebook, should the social network eventually shoot itself in the foot. If Facebook stumbles badly, Google is in the prime position to seize on the opportunity and siphon away users. Facebook’s real enemy isn’t Google; it’s Facebook. Google knows this, which is why the search giant is preparing for a massive user raid if and when Facebook slips up.

Six Months of Google+: Where Does Google’s Social Network Stand?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been six months since the launch of Google+, the search giant’s social network and so-called Facebook/Twitter competitor. Six months ago, there were only two social networking players in town: Facebook and Twitter. Some argue that it’s still the case. Like all shiny new things, Google+ was all the rage when it launched on June 28. Early adopters jumped on board, mostly forgetting the disaster that was Google Buzz. It took less than a month for the social network to hit 10 million users, and it has been adding approximately 10 million users per month ever since. founder Paul Allen claims that there are now more than 62+ million Google+ users and is adding 625,000 new users per day. The social network has also evolved rapidly since its launch. By my count, Google has launched more than 150 G+ features since the social network’s debut. This includes a slew of new Hangout features, search functionality, G+ Games and the first pieces of the Google+ API. There’s no denying it: the development speed of Google+ has been astronomical. A lot of it has to do with its desire to catch up with Facebook’s feature set, but it’s still a sign of the deep commitment the search giant has made to social.

But Where Does Google+ Stand?

Google has been adding users and features to Google+, but how active are those users? Will they stick with the social network? Is it too little, too late? Google, for one, has been pleased with Google+’s growth so far. SVP of Social Vic Gundotra has told me, on multiple occasions, that Google+’s growth has beaten the company’s expectations. And internally, the team is happy with what they’ve built, if not a little tired from a brutal six month development schedule. It hasn’t made much of a dent in Facebook’s rapid ascension, though. Facebook continues to move forward with its $100 billion IPO next year, it continues to poach Google’s top engineers and the launch of Timeline has so far been a success. Plus, developers continue to rely on Facebook Connect as a key source of identity information. Even Google+’s users are mixed on whether the social network has lived up to expectations. Here’s what my G+ followers had to say about whether Google+ lived up to its potential:
  • “Google+ continues to meet my expectations. It has completely replaced Twitter for me but not Facebook only because my friends and family are still on Facebook. I hate Facebook and really wish the people would move over.” ~ Sherry Heyl
  • “Erm, it turned out completely different from what I expected. I thought it would be a cleaner neater Facebook. But, it’s brought me lots of cool new people and content from all over the internet that’s super addictive.” ~ Christina Hall
  • “I would say it’s exceeded expectations in “Twitter space”, things like following tech journalists and news providers, but under-performed in “Facebook space”, networking with friends. The former is due to the great rich media and blog-like posts on here. The latter is due to the lack of uptake by my social circles.” ~ Paul Hughes
  • “Honestly it exceeded my expectations. The way you can control who sees your stream, hangout is just awesome, full google product integration, and yes there are no annoying event request or thoughtless 140 character limits. The ability to control your stream is simple and it just works.” ~ Bim Star

Is Google+ a Success or a Failure?

Google+ has more than 60 million users, but it hasn’t done anything to Facebook or Twitter. It has a hardcore group of active users, but others have dropped off the G+ map. Google has launched more than 150 new features for its social network, but Facebook remains several steps ahead. After six months, is Google+ a success or a failure? It’s all about what you expected from Google+. If you thought that Google could plow Facebook into submission like Microsoft did to Netscape, then G+ has been an abject failure. If you thought that G+ would flop like Buzz, then G+ has been a total success. Success isn’t a short-term game to Google, though. Google+ will hook into every aspect of the Google empire, from search to Gmail. The theory is that social will improve the usefulness of all its products and increase Google’s staying power in the market. Google+ is a shield, rather than a sword, in the fight against Facebook. It was designed as a counterbalance to the dominance Facebook has in the market. And while that dominance hasn’t waned, at least Google doesn’t have to depend on Facebook for social. That would be the ultimate failure on Google’s part. In that sense, Google+ is a success. It hasn’t collapsed, and people are still using it. We’ll see if that still holds true six months from now. The Social Analyst is a column by Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

Seismic Shifts Have Radically Altered the Tech News and Blogging World

The landscape of the tech news and blogging world has been radically altered in the last year, and it just got another big jolt by the news that ReadWriteWeb has been acquired by SAY Media. First of all, I want to congratulate RWW founder Richard MacManus on the exit. He’s been working on the blog for eight years now, and he deserves to be recognized for his hard work. It’s important to note though that this wasn’t an up acquisition. RWW has been hemorrhaging traffic for the last year, and it has lost a lot of its key writers/editors, including Marshall Kirkpatrick (doing a startup) and Sarah Perez (now at TechCrunch). Mashable, Business Insider and TechCrunch left RWW in the dust. I love ReadWriteWeb, but someone had to point this out. Speaking of which, there have been a lot of changes all around, and it’s something my friends in the tech media world have noticed. Let’s recap just a few of the changes:
  • TechCrunch got acquired by AOL, and then HuffPo got acquired by AOL.
  • Michael Arrington is no longer at TechCrunch; he’s a VC now.
  • Star writer MG Siegler is no longer at TechCrunch; he’s a VC now as well, though he writes Apple stories on occasion.
  • Senior editor Sarah Lacy left TechCrunch; she’s reportedly working on her own competing news website.
  • On the other hand, TechCrunch managed to woo away Eric Eldon and Josh Constine from Inside Facebook. Eldon, formerly of Venturebeat, is a smart and well-connected writer, while John Constine is a rising star in the tech news world.
  • Oh, and TechCrunch poached Sarah Perez from RWW. A good move on its part as well.
  • Star writer Dan Frommer left Business Insider earlier this year to start his own site, SplatF. And now he’s the Editor-at-Large of ReadWriteWeb.
  • ReadWriteWeb has lost a lot of people in recent months. Marshall Kirkpatrick is the biggest loss, but it’s softened by the fact that he’s still a regular contributor. There has been a lot of writer turnover this year, though.
  • Mashable made a very smart move when it snagged Lance Ulanoff as its Editor-in-Chief. Mashable poached him away from PC Magazine. I have a lot of respect for Lance; he’s a strong leader.
  • Mashable also hired Chris Taylor as it’s SF Bureau Chief early this year. Now he’s the Deputy Editor. Side note: he’s the best boss I’ve ever had. My respect for him is unquestionable.
  • Continuing on the Mashable front, Jolie O’Dell left Mashable to join VentureBeat earlier this year.
  • Longtime Mashable reporter Jennifer Van Grove left Mashable to join VentureBeat not long after Jolie.
  • Speaking of VentureBeat, it lost Executive Editor Owen Thomas earlier this year. He’s now the founding editor of The Daily Dot, which I have enjoyed greatly.
  • Another VentureBeat note: it lost Anthony Ha to AdWeek earlier this year.
  • VentureBeat hasn’t missed a beat, though (hah). It hired Dylan Tweney as its new Executive Editor, and he’s been kicking ass over there. It recently hired Chikodi Chima and Meghan Kelly, along with Jolie and Jenn.
  • But VentureBeat did lose Matt Lynley to Business Insider in the last few months. He’s been breaking lots of stories over there (did you know that his bonus compensation at Business Insider is based entirely on how many stories he breaks? Lynley is BI’s news hound).
  • Business Insider’s been kicking ass, though. It just got Boonsri Dickinson (SmartPlanet, CNET). She’s someone to watch in the tech media world.
  • Random aside: Bloomberg West launched this year as a news program focused on the valley, and the valley has taken notice. Host Emily Chang and her team are quickly turning that show into a powerhouse.
  • Brian Lam, the Gizmodo editor best known for the iPhone 4 prototype, left the publication this year.
  • But that wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the exodus at Engadget. Editor-in-Chief Joshua Topolsky and half a dozen key players left the blog and started a new one, The Verge. By the way, I love The Verge. It’s such a beautiful website; it reminds me of Engadget during its heyday.
  • One more win for The Verge: it managed to snag Winrumors founder Tom Warren as its Senior European Editor. Tom Warren knows Microsoft like the back of his hand.
  • Engadget did quickly acquire some new talent after the exodus, though.
  • The Next Web has been steadily adding people to its roster. Drew Olanoff and Cheri Macale are recent additions. More importantly, Zee has been appointed TNW’s CEO and is moving out to the valley early next year. (Update: Cheri’s no longer at TNW)
  • AllThingsD made some big changes late last year. It expanded its editorial scope and added Liz Gannes from GigaOm, Ina Fried from CNET, Tricia Duryee from PaidContent and Arik Hesseldahl from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
  • The New York Times also made some recent hires for the Bits blog. Among the new additions: Brian X. Chen (ex-Wired), Nicole Perlroth (ex-Forbes) and Quentin Hard (ex-Forbes).
  • CNET note: it lost star social writer Caroline McCarthy to Google this year. Google also snagged the BBC’s Maggie Shiels as its International Media Liason recently.
  • But CNET is bouncing back in a big way. Earlier this year, CBS (the parent company of CNET) hired Jim Lanzone as President of the CBSi division. The former executive is doing big things over there. Keep your eyes on CNET.
  • Did you know that PaidContent is for sale?
  • On the Techmeme/Mediagazer side, former editor Megan McCarthy (ex-Wired, Valleywag) is now the News Editor at the New York Observer.
  • Update: A lot of people have tweeted at me to include the launch of Betabeat, the NYC-focused tech news site. It has grown a whole bunch — to the point where I thought it had been around longer (I’m SF-based, so I’m not a regular reader). The NY Observer has something good going on over there, though.
  • GigaOm deserves a mention for some recent hires: Colleen Taylor, Erica Ogg, Barb Darrow and Kevin Fitchard. Solid writers, very little drama.
  • And finally, I’m no longer at Mashable. And no, I’m not joining another tech news website — at least full-time. I’m doing a startup, as I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.
Wow. Did that all really happen in just the last year and a half? It’s shocking how much has changed in the tech news world recently. It’s in a transition and innovation cycle. Big players are getting acquired while tech reporters and editors are making lots of moves, while others are getting out of the game altogether. But there are rising stars that are replacing them. The tech news and blogging world looks nothing like the one I joined in 2008. And I have the feeling that we’re nowhere near the end. Expect more big moves and acquisitions. Image courtesy of Flickr, Annais

Here Comes the Facebook IPO, Right On Schedule

The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook’s IPO will drop between April and June of 2012. The company could potentially raise $10 billion with a valuation north of $100 billion, depending on market conditions. The IPO time frame shouldn’t surprise anybody, though. I reported back in January that Facebook’s IPO would most likely drop in May 2012. The reason is simple: SEC rules will require Facebook to reveal its financial information to the public in May 2012. If you have to report earnings, you might as well IPO and raise $10 billion in the process. Just like Zynga, Facebook is going to have a retention problem once it IPOs. A lot of employees are vesting, and they are going to be very tempted to jump ship and do their own thing. Or buy a beach house in Hawaii and lay around in the sun for a couple of years. I think, in a perfect world, Zuckerberg wouldn’t IPO. He’d rather have full control of the company while keeping its finances secret. But proposed changes to SEC regulations that would give him that option won’t be implemented by then. Besides, there’s a lot you can do with $10 billion. I suggest a giant slingshot that fires water balloons at Google’s campus in Mountain View. I’m pretty sure Facebook employees would be in favor of such an awesome weapon of war.

The Google+ Thanksgiving Day Ad

So Google aired an ad for Google+ today during the Packers-Detroit game. (side note: will someone please beat the Packers already?) The G+ ad is part of a long line of TV ads Google has been running, mostly for Chrome and web-based products like YouTube. The structure of the ad is unique, though. It doesn’t clearly state what G+ actually is. Instead, it’s designed to be an introduction to Google+ so that, when Google explains it to the everyday consumer, they get it. I agree with Andy Beal though: the ad will just confuse consumers. They probably tuned out as they were pounding that fourth beer with their families. I’m really not sure what Google was trying to accomplish with this ad, but at least it’s trying to make G+ more relevant. You may have also noticed that Google’s Thanksgiving Day doodle included a G+ share button. Clearly the search giant is getting much more aggressive introducing regular consumers to G+.

2,446 Articles Later, A Goodbye to Mashable

Dear friends, family, colleagues and supporters, Friday, November 18, was my last day at Mashable. I want to thank the Mashable team for 3+ amazing years. They truly have been the best years of my life. I also want to thank everybody who has been part of my journey. Your help and kindness have been constant sources of strength. I don’t know what I would have done without you. During my time at Mashable, I wrote 2,446 articles, explored the technology world through my column and interviewed everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Mark Zuckerberg. But most of all, I learned so much from the thousands of entrepreneurs that I have met. I will not forget their struggles, their triumphs and their ideas. I wish I could have written more of their stories. It was a true honor. As for what’s next: I am considering several opportunities right now and will definitely keep you all posted as to my future plans. I want to leverage the national platform that I have built and use it to help, empower and reach as many people as I can. I’m exploring options in the media world, the entertainment world, the startup world, the venture capital world and elsewhere. But as always, I’m open to suggestions. I do intend to continue writing and commentating about the technology and entrepreneurial world, though. Therefore, I will continue my Social Analyst column on for now. I remain an advisor to NerdsUnite Productions,, Code Academy, Women 2.0 and a few other startups. And I am always interested in working with other brilliant entrepreneurs with ambitious business ideas. As I’ve told many people, the driving philosophy in my life is this: I have the ability and thus the responsibility to change the world for the better. I want to find a way to empower every person on the planet, so they can pursue their dreams. Today begins the next stage of my journey to fulfill that purpose. If you want to chat, I can be reached at ben[at]benparr[dot]com. My Gchat is also ben[at]benparr[dot]com, and you can find me on Skype as ben_parr. And of course, I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Thank you all. I know we will have the opportunity to work together to make a dent in the universe. Cheers, ~ Ben Image courtesy of Flickr, Altus