Articles tagged Mobile

Remember When Google Was a Verb?

It’s not a question anybody’s asked yet, of course, but it might be some nostalgia-born question from the future: “Remember when Google meant search?” At least according to this New York Times article.

What Ask Jeeves couldn’t do, what Yahoo couldn’t do, what Bing couldn’t do, what Facebook hasn’t (yet) done, mobile seems to be doing. Unseat Google as the guru on the mountain that we ascend to for answers. Well, not unseat. More like make it shift slightly in its seat.

This idea is generated from a few micro-trends. That traditional search engines (meaning, Google), dropped 3% in the second half of 2012 after rising for years. Also, the number of searches per searcher dropped 7%. In addition, spending on search ads dropped 1% in the first quarter, after Google dropped a little over a percentage point in search engine market share over the last year. So lots of dropping.

And those deficits are generally ascribed to mobile and “vertical” search engines. From the article:

No longer do consumers want to search the Web like the index of a book — finding links at which a particular keyword appears. They expect new kinds of customized search, like that on topical sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon, which are chipping away at Google’s hold.

And that makes sense. If I want to find a restaurant, plane tickets, or merchandise, I don’t need to search Google. I head right to one of those abovementioned sites. And if I’m on mobile, I’m going right to their apps to find that.

That’s because people on mobile devices search for different reasons.

At home, with the luxury of time and a big screen, maybe you want to learn everything about a restaurant you might visit at some point. But if you’re searching for a restaurant on the go, all you’re looking for is an address, reviews, and a reservation mechanism. And vertical apps are perfect for that. Any extra steps on a mobile device hurts what is often, for so many reasons, an experience always teetering on the frustrating.

And it goes deeper than that. Again, from the article:

“There is a lot of pressure on search engines to deliver more customized, more relevant results,” said Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst at Forrester. “Users don’t need links to Web pages. We need answers, solutions, whatever intel we were searching for.”

Despite all that, searching in silos can get cumbersome and, as the article goes on to point out, Google is working toward addressing it. And, of course, above all players, it’s still in the best position to do that (as we can tell by what a big deal we make out of any slight erosion of its position).

But it’s still another piece of evidence that mobile is driving more and more of our lives.

  • Facebook
  • I mean, “Holofone Phablet.” I think we’re finally to that point in tech-speak where we’ve just gone full Dr. Seuss. The tech world’s language problems have always been glaring: Its inability to move beyond generic words like “mobile” and “devices.” Attaching the word “smart” to everything. Software startups that leave out vowels or sound like children’s products. Heck, the “Internet of Things.” Holofone Phablet, though, that’s a whole ’nuther level.

    But I’m going to defend it.

    The product. Not the words. I just needed to address the Horton in the room.

    We’ve long reached a crest in smartphones, where they’re all basically the same. It’s a good kind of the same, as they all do mostly what we need them to do. But nothing really differentiates them from each other and most of the things that they advertise as differentiating are either gimmicks or extremely obvious improvements that don’t really get people excited.

    But I’m digging the defining feature of Akyumen’s Holofone Phablet: A built-in 45-lumen projector that projects a 100-inch screen onto any surface.

    Projectors in phones have been attempted in the past, for sure, although the results were less than compelling. A big difference here is just the size of the phone. Or tablet. It’s a seven-inch screen, hence the phablet moniker. But that gives it room to incorporate a more powerful projector.

    Here’s why I like the direction (again, assuming it works well). The far-future of mobile devices, when they become revolutionary again, is when they’re not around anymore. When actually interacting with the device itself will be considered highly primitive, like walking across the room to change a channel.

    The projection feature of the Holophone Phablet doesn’t really put us in that direction, but it at least gets us thinking in that direction. Now that small rectangle of glass can be a more communal device. “Check out this video” becomes a real experience shared side-by-side with other people and enabled by the technology instead of confined within it. It gets us thinking about every surface being interactable, making the entire world our interface instead of shrinking the world down to a few inches and placing it under glass.

    On the enterprise side, this could be wildly invaluable for sales people. We make sales enablement apps for iPad a lot here, and there are always lingering questions over how many of the sales force actually have iPads or engage in the few scenarios where sales people would choose iPads over laptops. The “Here, let me show you real quick” scenarios get brought up a lot, where a sales person is chatting to a client at the bar or sitting next to them at a conference and hands them the iPad. But being able to address the more common use cases of a conference room full of people or even just one person on the other side of a big desk without the ritual of finding the right wires and connectors and updates and channels that inevitably goes on in order to share a screen across even compatible devices will change the whole tenor of a presentation. You walk in, you aim at a wall, you press a button. That’s style points.

    The Holophone Phablet debuts September 1, and dual boots Android and Windows 10. While, I can’t believe it will have a big uptake despite everything I’ve said so far, all the preorders are at least sold out.

    In the end, though, this is probably what it will take to evolve the phone. Or the tablet. Some random-seeming company showing the big guys how to think outside the phone. You know, unlike that last turn of phrase.

    Will the Real Mobile Web Please Stand Up?

    Posted by Jason Ocker

    The mobile web rots. Just does. It’s slow and clunky and ugly and just not a great experience in a world full of great digital experiences. All the annoying advertising and tracking mechanisms that we for some reason put up with on the stationary (???) web are intolerable on the mobile web.

    That’s why Facebook created Instant Articles. And Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)—which they’ve recently announced are going to be expanded (and probably be prioritized) throughout their search results. Well, it’s one of the reasons, another being complete domination of the mobile web.

    But basically, FB’s Instant Articles and Goog’s AMP strip down the content so that it loads fast. They pull out comment sections and most of the ads, and along with that all of the complex, chaotic stuff behind the scenes that happen when the user just taps on a link to read a simple article about the Gilmore Girls reboot. But Instant Articles and AMP aren’t filters. They’re different types of pages. On Facebook that’s due to where it’s hosted (on Facebook, natch) and for Google, even though it’s still html, it’s a different type of page, one that publishers have to specifically design for.

    According to a recent piece on the Verge, this could be a problem, for three reasons.

    One, is that it makes it harder for publishers by adding extra work for possibly less return. Now publishers need a regular responsive version of the article, an AMP version, and an Instant Articles version for each article (and those latter two versions might be less monetizable). That’s some serious, sweaty deja vu for publishers who just got a reprieve from multiple screen sizes with the adoption of responsive design.

    Two, is that it makes it harder for publishers in that it lowers the feature set of the page. No more comments, it looks like, but mostly it means much fewer ads and certainly none of the more annoying ones that hijack screens and interrupt the content.

    Third, is that it makes it harder for publishers because they must cede too much power and control to outside platforms in order to keep their readerships.

    I mean, you see where this is going. The new mobile experience that Facebook and Google are offering is great for readers and a headache for publishers. But it’s a headache that publishers are kind of the cause of in the first place. In an attempt to create and then monetize a content experience for readers, they hurt the content experience for readers, and therefore their ability to monetize it. It’s a hard balance.

    Possibly, publishers can hold out for technology to help, faster processors in phones, maybe, just like bigger screens helped them fit more content onto the phone. But that seems unlikely. And doesn’t solve the pressures that Facebook and Google are putting on them now.

    Plus, I don’t really believe that the bad mobile web experience is just part of a set of transition pains for publishers. I think the regular Internet content experience is broken for many of the same reasons. Sure it’s faster, but in most cases it’s still a cluttered, annoying content experience that’s based on some faulty analytics assumptions.

    But, back to the point, the mobile web is a problem that publishers haven’t fixed, so now somebody else is stepping in to do it…and to reap the rewards.

    Photo credit: Lewis Meyer

    What if Twitter Did Something?

    Posted by Michael Colombo

    This was the question that we arrived at when we were thinking through some of the fundamental business challenges our telecommunications industry customers were facing a couple of years ago. We wondered on their behalf, “What revenue-generating opportunities are adjacent to the communications services they offer today?”

    We landed on text.

    We looked at SMS, and we looked at Twitter - what’s essentially a public SMS service - and we thought, “Imagine if you could use text messaging to do things?” This line of thinking lead us to a concept that we called, MetaText. At the core of MetaText was the idea of using the hashtag - a common “meta” texting tool - to add interactivity to text messaging. For instance, what if I could text, “#Pay $25 for lunch” to my friend and the transaction would just occur seamlessly…no websites…no apps…just text. What if I could text, “Do you want to see #JurassicWorld tonight?” to a friend and the movie trailer along with showtimes and ticketing options showed up in my SMS window? Again, right there in the context of our conversation, I could interact with rich web content, make a multilateral decision, and conduct commerce.

    The work that we did on MetaText is what made me so fascinated by this recent Wired article, The Future of UI Design? The Old-School Text Message. It looks like text is finally an idea whose time has come. The thought-provoking question the article begs about the future of information interaction is an exciting one. We’ve already written about the continued rise of AI, and with it the seemingly inevitable end of the interface. Whether it is text, speech, or just pure thought, it seems that we will soon be interacting with information in a far more intuitive way. To that we say, “Finally!”

    The other exciting thing about this article is that it is a reminder about how much fun it is to work at Maark. To see an idea that we published years ago finally gain momentum focuses us on what it means to be an Innovation Agency. Every agency like ours wants to be an Innovation Agency, but the truth is, we don’t always get to be one. Sometimes we are a Production Agency, serving as an extra set of hands for clients too busy to focus on anything past their immediate need. Sometimes we are an Ad Agency, creating clever messages and neat advertising to reach discreetly targeted audiences. But at the end of the day, when we get to be an Innovation Agency we get to help our clients imagine the future and discover where they fit into it. That’s a huge challenge, and an awesome opportunity.

    It’s here that we are most useful, and have the most fun. And it’s this mission that catalyzes both great stories and our best ideas for how to tell them. It’s always inspiring to see ideas move forward, hastening what is to us, our sometimes-imaginable future. #WhatsNext

    Facebook Instant Articles: The Proprietary Mobile Web We Deserve

    Posted by Michael Colombo

    In the years since Apple hastened the end of the Flash interface, and along with it Flash’s culture and community of user experience innovators, we have seen the mobile web evolve into so many uniform, joyless experiences that turn users off. This is the admission that Facebook made a couple weeks ago when it launched Facebook Instant Articles - its new proprietary publishing platform that is designed to free publishers from the constraints of the mobile web and to once again create immersive and innovative content that captivates users.

    Because Facebook is the King Kong of distribution channels it has often found itself in the unique position of wanting to argue philosophically for an open web, while simultaneously having the most to lose in its failure to deliver a compelling experience. Financially speaking, Facebook exists to serve you ads, and while you wait for pages to load or leave the app entirely due to an amputated attention span, less ads are served. This chasm between low-grade mobile experiences and financial success has resulted in Facebook’s (and others like them) move away from standards-based mobile development, and toward more stable and desirable native Android and iOS experiences. Despite early promises to beach it’s ship on the receding tide of a standardized mobile web, Facebook has time and again drawn the same conclusion that we all have intuitively — users prefer a native app.

    So for Facebook’s 745 million daily mobile users, the implications of Facebook Instant Articles are clear. Facebook is where most people go to get their news, and the news experience will be far better with Instant Articles. It will be faster, more intuitive, and more immersive. It will be closer to the experiences that the Flash community was imagining in the pre-Flex days, and closer to the experiences Apple was promising - to both publishers and to consumers - in the early iPad days. Remember Al Gore’s, Our Choice? Facebook Instant Articles will play to our natural lusts for images, videos, and the ability to “tap around” our news versus just reading it.

    For publishers, the implications are fairly clear as well. The shared goal of Facebook and its publishers is to create more engagement with the content and thereby to lengthen a user’s session. The format and the tools for accomplishing this will open up new creative opportunities for publishers, and allow them to think outside the constraints of a standard mobile website. The downside for the publisher, however, is managing yet another delivery platform - this one based entirely on what Facebook decides to prioritize. Managing content across devices is already a significant challenge. Now publishers may need to start thinking about managing content across apps and operating systems, as well as the potentially more murky business arrangement between content owners, content distributors, and advertising partners.

    And for Facebook, the implications are somewhat less clear. For certain, extending the user session accomplishes an important goal in Facebook’s business model. However, researching, building and maintaining a publishing platform of this potential magnitude seems like a significant step to take in order to achieve the reported 7-second shave off of average load times for news articles - a lag, by-the-way, that is so far technically inexplicable. It’s almost ridiculous to think that this miraculous new speed, along with better designed content, would be the only motivation for Facebook to make such an investment. It makes me think the real business-impacting news is yet to come.

    So what about the mobile web? What are the implications for responsive web sites, mobile advertising, and non-native experiences in general? I asked my LinkedIn and Twitter communities to send me examples of mobile websites that they would consider innovative. I received exactly zero examples. It seems clear at this point that the mobile experience will be dominated by native apps, not mobile websites. What Facebook Instant Articles does is potentially hasten that end. Facebook will create an environment where some of the world’s largest publishers - most of whom are already publishing content to their own native apps - will be creating and delivering content using a proprietary set of tools on a proprietary content platform. If users love it, the shift will be significant.

    Almost a decade ago, convinced of its monstrosity, Steve Jobs chased Flash up a windmill and burned it alive for running counter to an espoused HTML5/open web ethos. And in the years since, we have indeed seen the mobile experience evolve into fertile ground for innovation and engagement. This ground, however, does not exist in the open web as Jobs imagined, but rather in the walled gardens of so many native mobile applications. Facebook Instant Articles, as a proprietary platform, is a potentially significant land grab of valuable web content and with it, a significant new share of user attention.