He came, he saw, he vowed to rethink the web and its satellite industries. Mark Zuckerberg faced one of the most important keynote speeches of his career when he took to the stage at Facebook’s F8 conference in San Francisco on Thursday, and while the man himself looked nervous and awkward delivering a Steve Jobs-esque presentation on stage, the announcements he made are set to have a huge impact on the way we experience the Internet. For all the blue-sky speak (“Realtime serendipity!”) and new tech developments (OpenGraph and new apps), the message from F8 was surprisingly simple: Zuckerberg is now attempting to fold the entire web into his site. Facebook wants to be the one-stop shop for pretty much all your online needs.
The most obvious change is to your profile page. Saying that we are “more than what we did recently”, Zuckerberg spoke of creating a page where all the most important moments from our life, not just the most recent ones, will appear. Effectively, Facebook is turning the profile page into a Facebook Blog, a digital scrapbook where you can easily share wedding pictures, baby pictures, anniversaries, birthdays, the whole lot, no matter how long ago those events took place. For example, if you really enjoyed that trip to Australia in 2008 why should it be buried at the bottom of your profile? Why not put it front and centre for all to see? With the new Facebook Timeline that’s exactly what you can do. “It’s a completely new aesthetic for Facebook,” Zuckerberg said. “We think it’s an important next step to help you tell the story of your life.”
These changes don’t mean that Facebook is more interested in what you did rather than what you’re doing though; far from it. Immediacy remains key to Facebook’s functionality, with a new series of apps and partnerships allowing users to share what they’re watching, reading and listening to in real-time. The company has joined forces with a host of other businesses (including Spotify, American TV streaming service Hulu and Netflix, America’s version of LOVEFiLM) to deliver a platform that allows users to share everything about their life. Listening to Elvis via Facebook’s Spotify app? “John is listening to Elvis” will appear on your friends’ news stream, allowing them to click the link and join in the listening. The same will be true of movies, TV shows and newspapers. You’ll even be able to share the food you’re consuming and the exercise you’re undertaking. Every part of your life can now be a part of the social revolution.
There are further changes too, such as the flexibility of the Like button (you can now [verb] any [noun]) and the creation of a ticker that will contain lightweight activity updates like games, but the apps and timeline are the most significant. The effects on brands remain to be seen and although much rests on the amount of information Facebook users are willing to share, this does undoubtedly represent a fundamental shift in the way Facebook operates and the opportunities it presents to brands. If nothing else, Facebook now has the potential to gather enough targeted information to make it one of the world’s most powerful advertising platforms. Google and Twitter are undoubtedly drawing up their responses…
Facebook’s new functionality will be rolled out over the new few weeks, but Timeline can be enabled right now with TechCrunch’s clever cheat.
In a significant development on the search front, flower shop Interflora has won a key court victory against Marks & Spencer over the use of the Interflora name as a keyword. The high street department store have been using ‘interflora’ in their PPC campaign, essentially meaning that anyone searching for ‘interflora’ in Google were as likely to see an ad for M&S as Interflora itself. Obviously, this potentially diverts traffic and revenue that may otherwise have gone to Interflora to M&S, so the company contested the keyword and on Thursday the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in their favour. This means that they have the backing of the EU, but the matter isn’t totally settled just yet. The judgement still needs to be applied by the High Court, so they can determine Marks and Spencer’s liability. This is due to happen next year.
In a statement on their website, Interflora said: “Keyword advertising is a very powerful tool and so it is vital for consumer protection that Internet search results take consumers immediately to the brands they were looking for. This judgment goes much further than previous rulings by saying that the use by a competitor of a keyword identical to the trade mark in relation to identical goods or services has an adverse effect on the investment in the trade mark where that use substantially interferes with the brand’s reputation and its ability to attract and retain consumers. Further, a competitor may be construed as free-riding on a brand when that competitor uses the brand owner’s trade mark as a paid for keyword to deliver sponsored advertising along side natural search results. This is exactly what Interflora and other global brands have been arguing for many years.”
Indeed, this is a significant step forward for brands and search engine optimisers alike. Brands can now ensure that their name enjoys the same safeguards online as it does offline, while the optimisers will have to stamp out some of the more dubious practices that have crept into the industry. The ruling makes it clear that the intention of the user is paramount and that can only be a good thing for good SEO.
Pluses and minuses for Google
It’s been a mixed week for Google. Not only have they had to sit in the shadow of the hype generated by Facebook’s new developments, but the search engine has also had to endure some negative press about the success of their own social media platform, Google Plus. Data gathered by 89n.com suggests that the average number of public posts per day on Google+ has fallen from 0.68 between 19th July to 19th August to 0.40 between 19th August and 14th September. This is a decrease of 41%. The full stats can be found at 89n.com’s site, and they don’t make great reading for Google. But before we start writing the Google+ epitaph, we should factor in the novelty value the then-new G+ enjoyed in the summer and perhaps conclude that comparisons like this are not totally fair. Still, it does prove that Google has a very long way indeed to go before challenging Facebook. On the plus side though, the company’s little-known search engine project is still by far and away the market leader. Experian Hitwise has found that Google’s search engine share for September has increased 0.33% compared to August (that’s a jump from 90.66% to 90.99%). Their nearest competitor Bing is down 0.24% to 3.63%, while Yahoo has dropped 0.06% to 2.50% of the overall share. Even combined, that figure is still a fraction of Google’s overall share, so in the short-term at least it seems the Bing-Yahoo alliance has not reaped the rewards the companies had hoped for.
MediaCity gets sporty
Finally, MediaCity’s continued ascendancy to the top of the UK’s media chain has continued apace this week with the announcement that the site is to host this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The annual awards show honours the year’s top sporting achievements and is traditionally held in London. This year though, the programme, which will be hosted by Sue Barker, Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker and Jake Humphrey of the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage, is moving up north. Barker said: “It’s very exciting to be coming to Greater Manchester. I’ve been many times as a [tennis] player and presenting A Question Of Sport, so I know how much the people of Manchester and Salford are into their sport. I think the studio will be bigger than the one in London, and we have some tickets that are open to the public, so I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic atmosphere.” The programme will be the centrepiece of a series of events based at MediaCity in December entitled Celebrate Sport.