Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Social Payment - a simulated WSJ example

One of our stellar developers, Brian Robinson, is working on putting a payment service into Ringside Networks. When we release at the end of June, this should hopefully make it very easy for any application to embed a social payment service. It is still early, but you can see a demo at http://wiki.ringsidenetworks.org/display/ringside/Payment+Services.

Like many of the things we are doing at Ringside Networks, this is new stuff. To help people understand what a social payment service might enable, I will make up an example.

Let’s say the Wall Street Journal has a social payment service. In addition to letting me subscribe for a year of on-line access for $99, it also offers me a $199 option to subscribe myself and 5 co-workers. Makes sense from a business perspective for WSJ, since they will get additional revenue right now and additional eyeballs for their ads.

Here is how it could work. Let’s say I go to WSJ.com and sign up for this service. The first question the website would ask is what social networks I belong to. Since the Ringside Social Application Server works with both Facebook and Open Social, I could see a list of my friends in Facebook as well as Open Social networks like LinkedIn if I gave the WSJ my username and password to those social networks. I would simply pick my 5 friends from across my existing social networks. WSJ.com could then send each a message thru Ringside into their social network with a subscription notice. When those users logged into WSJ.com, they could be registered and the WSJ.com social graph would start to get built on the WSJ.com’s own instance of the Ringside Social Application Server.

You can start to think of extensions to this in so many ways. For example, since I’ve subscribed to WSJ.com for a while, they probably know something about me, but nothing about my friends. They probably target ads to me, and they could have their ad server make simple social calls to the Ringside Social Application Server to find out what ads should be served to my colleagues. Another example would be they offer my colleagues a further discounted rate if they extend their subscription to several other colleagues. Build the social graph out a bit more and this becomes incredibly powerful.

Let us know your use cases for a social payment service!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Microsoft and Yahoo Get Social

No, not another blog predicting when Steve Ballmer and Jerry Yang will hug.

Last week, the lead technologist for each firm announced major initiatives to go social.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect said:
“Community on the web once meant “group communications”, largely through rudimentary tools such as email, IM and IRC, message boards and newsgroups. Today, the action has shifted toward using composite communications tools and platforms that mash together content, applications and commerce, all within the context of group interaction. These social platforms are altering the way we connect and coordinate, establish identity and affinities, and build reputation.”

Ari Balog, Yahoo’s CTO said:
“We are rewiring Yahoo from the inside out with a developer platform that will open up the assets of Yahoo in a way never done before, making the consumer experience social throughout.”

At Ringside Networks, we are building software that is making this vision possible not for Microsoft and Yahoo (although we will try to help if you give us a call Ray and Ari), but for every website. We are doing it in free and open source to enable the innovators in our industry to take advantage of our platform and services the way they see fit. We hope that we can all learn from each other.

Now that Microsoft and Yahoo have taken a leadership position on weaving social into the very fabric of their businesses, maybe it is time for your business to start thinking about the same thing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Social Networking Enterprise Market Sizing

Larry Dignan put out a blog - reporting on a recent Forrester Report.

"Enterprise 2.0 will become a $4.6 billion industry by 2013 and social networking tools will garner the bulk of the money, according to a report by Forrester Research."

It is encouraging to see this new market starting to take shape and people seeing the type of potential we saw when we started Ringside.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Cure to Facebook Envy

We are announcing the first two sites to go live with the Ringside Social Application Server on Tuesday morning. Both of these websites had Facebook envy, as much of the world does these days. They took the approach that if you can't beat them, join them! Both websites have deployed applications that run on Facebook and on other websites. They also both take advantage of Ringside's Identity Mapping technology to let users link their accounts to Facebook.

Up and Running

The first is an example of a Facebook application that wanted to go beyond Facebook. Jonathan Otto wrote a very cool application for runners, swimmers and bikers called Voomaxer. You can access it at http://apps.facebook.com/voomaxer/. Local specialty running stores wanted to give this type of functionality to their customers – to tie them closer to their stores. Jonathan wanted a revenue model beyond selling ads on Facebook. Ringside gave them both what they wanted.

With Ringside, Jonathan was able to take his Facebook application and deploy it on any website. This allows any specialty running store to simply add the application to their existing website. Since it also integrates with Facebook, runners with a Facebook account can update or view their information on either the running store website or on Facebook. And they are able to connect with friends in either environment. You can read more about this deployment at http://www.ringsidenetworks.com/socialbusiness/.

What is Art?
The second example is an e-commerce site, www.fulcrumgallery.com. They were looking for a way to extend beyond search marketing and into social networking. They believe that social applications will engage their current customers more, and that a Facebook application is a free way to tap into the huge Facebook user base. They built a social application that gives art lovers a way to comment on art. And they made it social by creating a voting system for the comments.

The What is Art application can be found on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/what_is_art/. The same exact application is available on the fulcrum gallery website at http://www.fulcrumgallery.com/ArtInterpretation.aspx#.
You can read more about this deployment at http://www.ringsidenetworks.com/socialbusiness/.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Why Develop a Facebook Application?

The original reason to develop a Facebook application was to generate advertising revenue. Many college and even high school students have made some decent money doing this.

However, with the Ringside Social Application Server there are several new reasons for developing Facebook applications.

1. Run your Facebook application on other web sites and charge money. This let’s existing Facebook developers make money other than from Facebook advertising. Let others deploy your application easily – charging the web site to run your application, or charging the end users for that application. This includes charging for virtual goods.

2. A Facebook Application is better than a Facebook Ad. I’m not sure if that many advertising agencies or corporations who do on-line advertising realize this – but creating a Facebook application is free. And if it is a decent one, it can be seen and used by a LOT of people. It is also much more engaging than banner ads (and more targeted since they are self-selecting).

3. You can collect additional information. Of course the Facebook terms of service prevent you from copying data from Facebook – but the data you collect as part of your application is your data. Think about a simple social application that collects polling information – a marketer’s dream come true!

4. A Facebook Ad can draw people to your website. Provide engaging functionality on Facebook, and further functionality as part of your own website. This allows the Facebook social network to spread the news about your application, but draws new users to your own website.

5. You can deploy the same app on Facebook AND your website. This is one of the best features of the Ringside Social Application Server. Write once and deploy in multiple places! And all of the data you collect aggregates to you across all of those environments.

6. Reuse the Facebook User ID for login to your website. If your users spend significant time at Facebook, let them reuse that login and profile and social information. The Ringside Identity Mapping capability makes it easy. Or allow your existing users to map in their profile information from Facebook.

During the Beta version of Ringside, we have focused on Facebook. But we have begun working on similar capabilities with Open Social, and plan to have those available by the time we release at the end of June. Our goal is to bring down the walls between these social networks and enable the entire web to participate in this new wave of social networking.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Identity Mapping

Your website wants to start taking advantage of social networking, but you don’t want to put a drag on your users and make them create a whole profile over again.

Ringside Networks has implemented Identity Mapping to simplify the job of a website as well as make things easy for your users. This is a practical, secure, and private way to making your website more social and engaging and enabling your visitors to spread the news via word-of-mouth easily. Let’s look at how it works:

For example, a new user visits your web site and you offer them the opportunity to register with their Facebook User ID. Your users don’t need to remember two passwords anymore! You can present them information from your website and Facebook mixed together where it makes sense, and update information to their Facebook account as it makes sense. You can also take data from them for your web site directly - for example an order for your product and their credit card.

The picture says it all. The user sees a picture of themself and their address and phone number (all coming from Facebook), and they see their credit card number and product ordered coming from your web site.

Our approach to identity mapping is open - so you can hook in your existing database of users, or build a whole new user database with profiles if you like.

This is a simple and elegant solution to the issues of data portability, security, and multiple passwords that the boom in social networking has highlighted as a huge need on the web.

We’ll have two of our Alpha customers that we will be announcing right before the Web 2.0 Conference on April 22. Stay tuned for more details!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fractured Users

Every user of the web complains about it. Sign-ons for every web site we use. We have dozens of logins and passwords, with many of them being different. And we store valuable information on many of these sites – like our credit card numbers (how many web sites have your credit card number?).

Social networks are taking this to the next level because of how much personal information we put into them. Of course the cost of these free services is that we give up the right to transfer our profile with the help of software to another service in a permanent way. Neither MySpace or Facebook allow any software to take all of a person’s profile data and transfer it to another web site and store it there in a permanent fashion.

"you may not continue to use, and must immediately remove... any Data Repository in your possession or under your control... within 24 hours..." - Facebook Developer Terms of Use

So while a user "owns" their data, there is no automated way they can take that data out and transfer it to another service.

There are emerging standards and services like OAuth and OpenID where there is the hope that every web site will support them and we will get down to only one username and password. Both of these are a long way from a tipping point. Years of old usernames and passwords won’t change overnight. And many of the big web players are not incented to make this easy and open. MySpace, Facebook and the other social networks are counting on the value of their social graphs and will keep the terms of use as stated above.

At Ringside, we have developed a method called Identity Mapping that we will be talking about more as we roll out our first customers of this technology in the coming weeks. Jason Kinner is leading our efforts here, along with several customers and use-cases and a ton of experience and bright ideas. Stay tuned.