Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

It aint whatchya do its the way that your friends do it

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When I think of success on the world wide web I think of two companies that, as far as I’m concerned, have come to define it. Google and Amazon. I know others have had massive impacts too (e.g. Yahoo, Salesforce, AOL, MySpace) but those are the two that I would always hold up as being beacons of the first decade of the web. They have both pioneered their particular fields:

  • Google make money by showing you advertisements pertaining to what you are looking at be it via Google Search or AdSense. For example, search for a kettle on Google (http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=kettle&meta) and I see advertisements from people that want to sell me kettles. Simple but effective.



  • Amazon make money by flogging you stuff and a large part of that success is down to their recommendation engine which shows you products you will probably like based on what you have bought before.



Both are great models and both have brought tremendous success and at a higher level we can see some important commonality between them. Both Google and Amazon are successful because they deliver to you web pages that are based on what YOU do on the web. Keep that in mind next time you’re browsing the web because its a very powerful concept.

I believe that in the next incarnation of the web we will see a seismic shift. Online companies will deliver you web pages that are based not on what YOU do on the web, but what your FRIENDS do. Although it may not seem it (and we may not like it) collectively our choice of friends and thus the behaviour of those friends probably defines us just as much as our own behaviour does. Moreover, we will see a shift to the notion of affinity groups i.e. groups of people that are all interested in the same thing. Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.

I’m a big fan of a band here in the UK called The Charlatans; I’ve followed them for years and have some friends that I initially met in online chatrooms simply because we were interested in this same band. If the likes of Google and Amazon knew that I was part of a Charlatans affinity group then they could show advertisements or recommendations to me based on the behaviour of other people in that group. Say if the band released a new DVD and some other people in the group bought it Amazon could be pretty sure that I’d want it too (and they would be right) and that could become one of my recommendations. Amazon can now know things about me without me even visiting their site and that is really powerful.

That is why all of the social networks du jour all offer the ability to define groups to which we can subscribe. Facebook do it. Google are surreptitiously doing it with Friend Connect. Amazon don’t do it yet but they will – expect an announcement about an Amazon social network before the year is out. Groups are going to big business in the next few years of the web and there is a huge opportunity for whoever manages to leverage groups better than the next guys.


Written by Jamiet

June 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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