Broken Facebook?

Facebook is broken — at least for me. I cannot view my profile. When I click on my profile, I receive an error message that states: “Sorry, an error has occurred. We’re working on getting this fixed as soon as we can.” This message has been up since this morning.

For once, I actually wanted to do something useful on Facebook. Now I can’t.

Hey Mark Zuckerberg, do you remember why Friendster failed? People care about services and they expect free services to work like paid services — fast and reliably. If those services do not meet expectations, then people find services to replace them.

WhyMAX?

As my “About me” section makes clear, I worked at Sprint this past summer in their WiMAX strategy group.  I found it fascinating.  I believe that WiMAX has a big future in the United States and the world.  It is an especially powerful technology for Sprint.

Sprint’s major telecom competitors, Verizon and AT&T, are spending billions to roll out fiber optic internet networks — $18 billion + for Verizon’s FiOS and a smaller number of billions for AT&T’s U-Verse.  Sprint wants to spend $5 billion + to build a next generation high speed wireless network — WiMAX.  Fiber is faster than WiMAX but costs more to cover the same amount of ground.  Fiber is fixed.  WiMAX is wireless and will should be usable worldwide.  WiMAX’s speed will compare favorably with a normal DSL/Cable internet line although the speed and bandwidth should ramp up considerably as the technology matures.

I can’t wait for WiMAX to be built into everything from my computer to camera to my coffee machine and car.  An always-on, ubiquitous network will usher in the next version of the Internet and what we expect and do with that Internet.

However, reaching that point may become bumpy.  Sprint’s deal with WiMAX competitor, Clearwire, is off the table.  Gary Foresee, the biggest backer of WiMAX at Sprint, is out of a job.  Sprint’s current wireless business is in trouble (for reasons that I may discuss later).  People are predicting the downfall of WiMAX.  See (here) and (here).

What do I think?  WiMAX will take a faster, albeit similar, path as WiFi.  When WiFi was first adopted, only the early adopters “got it.”  Now, it is ubiquitous and no one would buy a computer without WiFi.  WiMAX adoption will be faster.

Without going into details about my job this past summer, I can say that the team Sprint and Atish Gude have built in their WiMAX building is impressive.  They think differently than the rest of the telecom community.  My only hope is that the new CEO, whomever he/she may be, doesn’t shackle the group.  The future of Sprint is in WiMAX (although the company definitely need to focus on the now and fix their cellular business).

Copyrights & Larry Lessig

TED talks are great. I am glad they made them available to the public — lucky us. I highly recommend watching them.

One of the more interesting ones that was just released is Larry Lessig, the veritable Internet/media law professor. I recommend watching the whole video (it is only 18 minutes long). However, if you are short on time, start watching at about the half-way mark.

His point is pretty simple – don’t steal content but we should all should be allowed to re-mix. My generation will create new “amateur” content but due to the restrictions placed on copyrights by the big media companies, we are all turning into law-breaking citizens with a disregard for the law. That is not good for us, for society or for the world.

Happy watching

UPDATE: Sumner Redstone (all of 84) disagrees (here).  Too bad he probably won’t be around to see what happens when a generation used to buying CDs ages and is replaced by a generation raised on file-sharing and “illegal” mashups.

Macbook Pro problems

One week into my Mac ownership and I am starting to question my decision to purchase a Mac.

Today, my keyboard froze and unfroze on a regular 2min on, 2 min off basis.  I quit all the programs.  The problem persisted.  I decided to go for the very Windows-esque solution —  restart my computer.  I  clicked on the apple icon in the top left hand corner and then clicked on restart.  Nothing happened.  I did it again.  Nothing happened.  I did this a few more times.  Still nothing.  Then I just tried clicking on shut down.  Same problem.  I finally had to go with the only option left to me — hold down my power key.

Wow.  When I bought a Mac, I was sure those problems were behind me.  Most everyone I know who has a Mac, loves it.  Of course, most everyone I know don’t install a ton of 3rd party software on their computer.  At most, they install firefox.  I enjoy modifying my computer and using the “best” programs rather than just Apple programs.  I did the same on my PC and it ended up slowing down my computer.  I thought a large portion of the issues from those programs was due to Vista.  However, I might be at least partially incorrect.  Leopard has the same issues.

I still love the design but this makes me wonder if I should have stayed with my old promise and never buy a Mac again…

iPhone vs. gPhone — a marriage unraveling fast?

If I were Apple, I’d be pissed by the announcement of the gPhone/Android.

Android’s default user interface may be strikingly similar to the iPhones (and why not, people love it).  I am sure Google collected a lot of helpful information when they were intertwining their Apps with the iPhone.

Poor Apple is stuck in a multi-year relationship with AT&T.  Apple is forced to brick phones and force developers to slow and/or stop development of 3rd party apps.  By the time Apple’s contract with AT&T is over, Android may embody everything the iPhone’s OS is plus a ton more.  Imagine Apple’s iPhone OS, tightly integrated with Web 2.0 tools, thousands of 3rd party apps to choose from, on devices ranging the entire smartphone spectrum.  I like what I see.

Unfortunately for Apple, I am a consumer.  They are a company stuck in a deal built on their own greed and hubris.  By the time an iPhone variant launches on a cellular service that I use, I’ll probably quite happy with my gPhone(s)/Android.

The iPod built Apple by becoming the default MP3 player.  With its multi-year lock-in deal with ATT, the iPhone will never become the default.  However, Android does have a chance.

A note I saw from Google to Apple: “Thanks for teaching us the mobile phone market.  We look forward to having our software available to 100% of the U.S. market.  Can’t wait to compete with you in a few years!  Bummer you are stuck with only +25% of the market.  Love your former friend, Google.”

How much longer will we see Google Apps as default programs on iPhones?  I wonder…

The Google Phone (aka Android) not such a new idea

On Monday, Google notified the world (the part that cares) about their Google Phone plans. This was a hyped announcement. The hype was nearly iPhonesque. However, it landed with a loud dud.

Instead of a groundbreaking phone (let’s leave Apple to those sort of things), we get Android. Android is an open mobile platform. There have already been a bunch of interesting conversations about Android and what it means. Read two of the more interesting posts (here) and (here).  Microsoft is a bit scared but not quaking in their boots.  Nokia has open-source symbian and a huge portion of the smartphone market.  Motorola is trying to create their own open-source linux mobile OS.  Apple has the iPhone and a very closed, but safe and secure little world.

So what does Google bring to the market?  Android is maybe more open than the other systems.  However, does the average consumer really care what system their phone runs unless they are already tied to a proprietary system?  The people who are comfortable in an MS environment and easy compatibility with Office (and that is a huge number), go with Windows Mobile.  Blackberry offers crackberry addicts their daily fix and some people swear by the environment and email functionality.  I love Google applications.  Gmail is my main email.  Google Reader is the best rss reader.  Google maps is my default mapping service.  Good thing I already have all of those applications already installed on my phone!! Point is, why would anyone care about having a Gphone?

As Google knows well, the best price for anything is ZERO.  However, phone hardware costs money and I am sure that Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia are going to fight tooth and nail to make sure phones running their software are comparably priced to any gPhone.  Yet those phones will also sport features and abilities any gPhone may lack.  When I buy a gPhone, I can install most of the Google Apps on it.  Phone price, design, and hardware features are important.  I buy a phone based upon those three categories.  I have yet to read anything about how Google will win on any of those fronts.

Everyone knows what Google is doing here and they all know the stakes.  No company will cede any turf (although this might push them to change their platforms and grow).  I wish Google a lot of luck.  They have changed the way many of us think about a lot of things (search, email, and maps come to mind).  I hope they do the same for the staid mobile market.

Xbox Live – Microsoft’s Facebook?

I wrote this as a Fbook message to Robert Scoble around the same time as Microsoft invested in Fbook.  He never replied — Robert, you were quick to respond to my friend request.  What happened?  I feel shunned but I guess with 5,000 friends, you probably receive an overload of messages.  No hard feelings.  Your non-response helped push me towards creating my own blog.

The Fbook message is posted below:

Since it became known that MS was thinking about spending millions to purchase a portion of Facebook, I have ruminated on a subject — why doesn’t MS spend those millions to build out their own nascent social site? The answer of course is simple — starting from scratch, it is likely an expensive, futile effort. But what if MS already had a social site with a loyal user base?

Right now, everyone thinks that Facebook/Myspace is the next generation of the web and everyone from MS to Google is trying to find a way in. If you can’t build it, try to buy it. [UPDATE: With a purchase of Facebook failing, Google is trying to build it, in a way, with Open Social].

MS obviously does not think they can build it so they are trying to buy it. That investment may be smart but they already hold the key to a nascent social site. The site is wholly owned by MS and has the seeds of an active, and, most important to gain any sort of traction, unique user base with a hard-to-copy twist. If these seeds are allowed to germinate, then MS might have a viable social site on their hands. The site — Xbox Live.

I have not seen you post much (if anything?) about Xbox Live so I assume you either do not have an Xbox or don’t play much. I am sure you know the general details but this is what MS seems to miss — they have a hugely loyal user base that while likely captured by Facebook/Myspace probably spends more time on Xbox Live than any other social service. The service is better than any offering from Nintendo or Sony but pales in comparison to Facebook/Myspace. If MS reframes the idea of what Xbox Live can be, then the universe of competitors expands and new opportunities arise.

Xbox Live has nascent social features. You can add a friend, checkout a friend’s profile, send them a message, live “free” voice chat, voice messages, game pictures, etc. You can do this through your Xbox (i.e. while sitting on your couch) or through your computer (although note, few of my friends know you can play with your Live profile through the computer). However, the current tools are crude and are at best, serviceable. There is room for huge improvement and tool expansion. Xbox Live is tied to an actual service that does more than simply connect people — you compete with and against these people, join them in teams, and play games. The server-side hardware is much more powerful and offers a multitude of chat functions, a real Marketplace (with cheap, fun, games, movies, TV shows, demos, and more). Facebook offers nothing as sticky or a framework as strong.

What made me think, “Xbox live is similar to Facebook?” The answer is simple — I found myself doing the same things I do on Facebook on Xbox Live.  Those things included searching for friends (and finding the search function lacking), wanting to chat with friends, learn about what they are doing (and in this case, games they are playing) and so forth.

A huge number of my Facebook friends are people that I do not speak with regularly or do not even know personally. I found them because they were friends with my other friends, they were part of groups that I had joined as well (such as my high school group), and so forth. Connections were made and friendships were re-established. I want to play on Xbox Live with those friends but do not have an easy way to know whether they are Xbox Live subscribers. I wish I could find them. My Xbox Live friend group would expand, my use of Xbox Live would grow, and, in the end, both MS and I would win.

MS knows Xbox Live is a powerful tool in fighting Nintendo and Sony (albeit one that can be far more powerful). Do they know that it is also a powerful tool in fighting Facebook/Myspace and even Google? Expand the tools, expand the forums (i.e. make PC usage as powerful as Xbox usage), and create a viable social network.