Interview: Nova Spivack On Facebook, Google And Microsoft – Who Will Triumph?

Nova Spivack was an initial angel investor in Klout, a social networks analytics tool, which quantifies people’s interests by measuring their influence on others and also who in turn influences them.

Nova is now working on Live Matrix which is being designed to navigate the Web by time instead of space.

“Basically all these things at the moment are happening in a perpetual present. There’s no sense of time on the Web. What Live Matrix is doing is trying to index what’s happening when at different times.”

With the increasing amount of video on the Web and expansion of such services as Ustream, more and more scheduled events, lectures, sports, and so on are being fed out onto the Web. Therefore it is becoming increasingly important to find out when these items start and finish. As more content appears with a temporal dimension, there is more of a need to find that material.

Nova adds, “The past two decades have been spent on the space dimension of the Web. That is, what’s where? What keywords are on what pages. What people are at what sites. What content is where. But now we’re looking at what’s when. I think that’s a huge, open, uncharted piece of the Web. It’s a big opportunity.”

In the first part of our interview with him, Nova talks about the potential winners and losers as Microsoft, Google and Facebook duke it out for world domination. In the second part of his interview, Nova discusses the fragmentation of Semantic Web technologies and what that means for all of us.

It is clear that Facebook and Google are stepping on one another’s turf and there is no way for them to avoid that happening. Nova thinks that Facebook will eventually triumph, but Google may not be safe in the number two slot.

Facebook will be the dominant player on the Internet because it already has a social networking structure on its side. Nova points out, “Neither Microsoft nor Google has a strong social networking brand that people use. They are both in this difficult position as being viewed by consumers as tools rather than as places. Facebook is a place. It’s a place where people are spending an increasing amount of their time.”

It is a lot easier for Facebook to build a search engine then it is for either Microsoft or Google to build a social network, let alone a social network of 500 million users. Also, Facebook has a social graph, and by using their ‘like’ system, they can gather even more information about what people are interested in and value. If they do it right, they could build a search engine far superior to either Google search or Bing. The only reason Facebook haven’t done it already is because they have been too busy trying to get their house in order.

But coming second is not the same thing as being safe. Google will need to watch themselves. As Nova warns, “If you look at Microsoft… they have people and senior executives who have a lot of experience in looking at a market they want to enter that has another leading player, and going in there and winning from a number two or number three position. In a way that’s what Microsoft is actually best at.”

What happens with these industry giants is very important for all of us. It is more than a drama being played out in the techy news services.

“I think it’s important to everybody who has an internet company and of course every user of the Internet. For those of us in the internet business, I think it’s interesting to see where these are going because it affects who we might partner with or what services we ought to be focusing on for integration of special features. Should we spend a lot of time SEOing into Google or should we spend more time SEOing into Facebook through the likes [system]?”

As it stands now, it is for Facebook to lose. Google and Microsoft are handicapped by being perceived as tools instead of places. Fortunately, they cannot make real use of the data they have acquired about us through Gmail and Hotmail without our permission. But as long as they stay in the game and can use the information and experience that they do have, they will always have a chance.

Interesting times.

The second part of this interview is also available. Nova Spivack also spoke at the BlogTalk event held in Cork in 2008. BlogTalk is returning to Ireland on 26-27 August; check out the speaker list.

One thought on “Interview: Nova Spivack On Facebook, Google And Microsoft – Who Will Triumph?

  1. If Facebook built a search engine, would the traditional page rank idea be replaced or augmented by some algorithm based on likes (+tweets, buzzes, etc.)? It’d be interesting to see what percentage of liked pages have Open Graph Protocol metadata in there, to see if the potential search engine will both be more relevant but will also offer more granularity in terms of the types of things you’re looking for / at.Regarding the tools vs. place argument, I’m wondering if Buzz will go the same way as Wave – the problem with Wave from my perspective was that I didn’t want to be there. I think it could have been cool if it were better integrated with stuff I use regularly; I liked the usage scenarios with Wikipedia editing, etc. – but it just kind of sat on it’s own there as a tool, not a place to be on regularly (for a while, you didn’t even have a notification system there). Same with Buzz, it doesn’t have that community feel that Twitter or Facebook has – perhaps because it’s there in that subdirectory and doesn’t have a fully-fledged domain of its own. Sounds simple, because it is. Snap up that AT&T domain already Google!


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