December 22nd, 2010
04:33 PM GMT
New York – Guess what? You probably have too many friends. That is one of the many things I learned from my recent chat with Caterina Fake. As one of the co-founders of Flickr and head of the technology development group at Yahoo!, Fake was at the center of the surge in social networking. Now that we all made the jump and are living our lives online via Facebook and Twitter and the like, Fake predicts we will want to fine tune the experience.
“In this era we have promiscuously friended everybody and we have made connections and we have friended people who aren't truly our friends,” explains Fake. “One of the things that is important after we have gone through that phase is that there will be a contraction. You'll start to realize that ‘I can only pay attention to this number of people’.”
This number happens to be around 150, according to Fake. Give or take. That is not to say that Fake is suggesting people start de-friending en masse. Instead she thinks the need to cut down the noise on the web will lead to a boom in personalization. Her new company, Hunch, aims to capitalize on that. The site allows users to create a taste profile and then uses that to help make recommendations for products or services you are searching for.
“Web 1.0 or the dot-com era, as I call it, was about commerce and web 2.0 was about social networks, participation and media,” she explains. “We are entering a new phase now where, hopefully, all of that participation leads to some benefit for the user… I really think 2011 will be the year of personalization.”
What does that mean?
Well, say I was traveling to London to go to a friend’s wedding. A personalization service like Hunch would direct me to the kind of hotel I like (small boutique), let me know what restaurants are in that area, suggest a gym or yoga class nearby and also let me know that my favorite band happens to be in town and that tickets are available. All in one sweep. The idea is to make your experience on the web more efficient and more specific to you.
Sounds great (sort of.) But what about privacy?
Fake and I talked a lot about the issue. I think there is definitely going to be more friction as these services become more targeted. Do I really want people to know that much about my preferences and habits? I’m pretty sure I don’t.
But Fake points out that the information is out there already. She acknowledges the tech industry can do better. The privacy processes needs to be simpler so users can make better decisions about how much information they want out there and how much they want shared. Transparency is key and services that are not up front about what they are doing with your personal info simply will not succeed.
I sat down with Fake at the Ace Hotel, a hot spot for the hip tech crowd. It was the first time we met in person and I was impressed by her ability to talk so fluently about these evolving tech trends. It is easy for these kinds of conversations to get lost in lingo like algorithms and social graphing, but Fake kept it rooted in real life, which was refreshing. She had a great sense of humor throughout the shoot (we had a few mishaps with construction noise, always an issue in New York) and the buoyant energy of an entrepreneur.
Fake was so confident about what is going to dominate in the coming year, but finding a name for it… that is proving a lot harder.
“Well, you can't call it Web 3.0 because it’s not really on the web now,” she said, “ it’s on mobile devices, there are apps everywhere, the iPad has completely changed the direction of where things are going.”
What do you think? What should this next wave of the digital experience be called? Do you want more personalization, or like me, are you somewhat freaked out by it? Let us know what you think…
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