09 December 2007

Facebook applications aren't that social, or useful

It’s been just about more than a year (if I’m correct) since the release of F8, Facebook’s platform for developers to create ‘social’ applications which Facebook users can add to their profiles and make merry. Just about more than a year later, a browse through the top 10 applications (ranked by use) shows the problem. Well, not so much of a problem; considering there is nothing wrong, but more of a worry. Atleast for me.

You see it? No?

Utterly useless

Not more than 2% of the applications have any ‘use’ value. The only part of Facebook ‘from’ Facebook they use is the userbase. Not their details. Them. These applications are trying to come up with any little excuse to make people invite more people to use them. Take ‘SuperWall’ or ‘FunWall’ for example.

These two applications do ‘nothing’ more than what the native Facebook Wall does not. The only difference? There is no difference! It’s just that people don’t know that their wall can do all those things, and more. And yet, they are top of the list, ranks one and two respectively.

What makes them tick

It seems people flock towards applications that are ‘fun’. Not necessarily useful. Application makersI’ll not call them developers, since they’re just coding; not really developing anything seem to understand this, and are resorting to making their applications dumber, and dumber so that it appeals to the common person. I can give you proof with my very own applications here.

I have three:

  1. So much to do!: This is a simple to-do list tracking application, which allows you to make lists, and show it those lists on your profile.
  2. Photos2RSS: This allows you to get photos from anywhere in Facebook as feed (RSS/JSON), which can be further used anywhere feeds can be used.
  3. Thought for the day: Another simple application to show a ‘thought’ or a quote on your profile. It also lets you tag quotes as favourites, and share them with friends.

Take a quick guess as to the order of ranks based on number of users of those applications. Answer’s at the end of the post.

So, to come back to the point I was making. I don’t know what Zuckerberg’s main motive was to creating the platform, and allowing people to develop applications on it. Maybe this ‘was’ what he wanted. Maybe it isn’t. But on thing is for sure. This defininitely undermines the genius behind the technical proficiency of F8. I can only begin to imagine the kind of work that has gone into it, and the amount of effort that goes into it everyday for maintainence and cleanup. The use it has been put to till date, doesn’t even begin to do justice to it.

Sure, it got more users to Facebook. It added value to your profile, and increased the worth of every user. But from a broader perspective, it hasn’t added ‘anything’ at all to Facebook in itself. There is no application which will make people join Facebook, because it’s true potential is only visible when you use it on the social level.

I’m currently making another application. I’ll be all hush hush about it until I’m ready to release it. It only grazes the ideas I’ve touched here, because honestly, it ‘will’ take some serious brain racking to be able to come up with a concept like that. If someone can, it should be worthy of a job at Facebook itself.

Eitherways, valued at $15 billion plus, Facebook will make him a rich guy ;)

The answer

As far as the answer to the question in the post goes, it’s:

  1. Thought for the day
  2. So much to-do!
  3. Photos2RSS

What did you think? The geek app will have most users? Phsshh… You obviously didn’t read the post properly :P

06 December 2007

Wanted: A new look for Google

All those who are getting a little tired of the lack of things on Google’s pages raise your hands! Now now, c’mon! I know you want to, don’t be shy.

I am quite tired of it to be very honest. Seeing pages like Yahoo's new homepage, or Live.com, it makes me cringe when I have to go to a drab Google page. And unfortunately, it’s not only the search page. Google’s white, a sick green, light sky blue and light red have made their way to every Google service on the web till date. That is the reason I stopped using Docs & Spreadsheet when they removed the beautiful Writely look, Google Reader after I got sick of itIn all fairness, I got sick of Bloglines’ look as well. I opted for the tons better looking, and modestly functional Netvibes over an obvious superior, but downright ugly Bloglines and GReader, and Google.com for my searches after Firefox got it’s own version of the Google.com search page.

A little overdone

I know they became famous of their minimalistic simple design, which was copied by a lot of other sites. It was great for the time it came out, and it works to a limit even now, but I think eventually things should change with time (look at Microsoft and Live.com and Digg). I think this signature Google look has kind of outlived it’s glory.

A look which got 3001 (including mine) diggs is this one, by Andy Rutledge:

Google Redux

And I think it looks ‘much’ better the current one, because it firstly adds much brighter colours, and offers more visual cues than the current one. The other design elements are explained on his page, with a mockup page. This ‘could’ be improved further improved, no doubt. But this is the direction I think Google should be thinking in.

Not enough

There have been silent touches being added to different services, to make them a little more aesthetically pleasing. Like the recent new look of Google Groups, and gentle additions to the Google HomepageThey added (wow!) tabs. But this is not enough. They really need to get their pants up and start to make some serious design decisions. Blogger is the only Google service which looks good. I thought the hiring of Douglas Bowman would open the doors to some much needed visual changes, but it’s been almost a year, and I’m still waiting.

It would be a valid argument if one asked ‘Why fix something which is not broken?’. I’d answer that with the fact that a redesign will bring in more people to use Google services. If you think adding designing elements makes things slow, then you just need to look at Yahoo! Mail. Its new avatar is the perfect proof. Amazingly fast while looking really good. It just depends on what you change and what you add.

It is about time, don’t you think?

01 December 2007

Vista doesn't suck! Not with time atleast...

I’m sure everyone by now has read the infamous Vista sucks… article. I don’t know if it was a deliberate attempt at trying to catch information, or they really believe what they wroteBy the looks of the explanations, looks like the latter is true, but I really don’t think putting Vista 10th on the list of worst things —- and not even of 2007, but all time —- is the right thing. We know Microsoft got a lot of things wrong, but Vista surely deserve’s better.

Personal experience

I’ve been using Vista for about a month now. It is a better operating system than XP, that’s for sure. Integrated search, the memory management, the looks, usage pattern recognition algorithms are all much superior. Sure, something that took 6 years to make should have much more to speak for, but I think this is a worthy product. Not worthy of the $300+ price tag, but worthy nonetheless. Somethings that are wrong with Vista are probably one’s that become clear over time. The hardware requirements are high. 1GB just doesn’t cut it anymore, if you’re a multi-tasker like me (Photoshop, Firefox, Outlook all at once :P). The final cost of using Vista is much higher than the price tag of the OS itself. And one thing that irritated me tons, and still does a bit, is that Microsoft very clearly traded features for performance. XP was ‘way’ faster than Vista has ever felt; even a clean new installed Vista seems like a slug compared to my year old XP SP2. And from what I’m hearing, Vista SP1 doesn’t seem to help issues.

Someone who wants a fast operating system, should certainly have no qualms about how it looks. Hence, turning Aero off should sit decently well with them. I like my OS to look top notch, and hence, would rather keep Aero on. But I can see a good difference when the load starts to mount. Also, I was also re-introduced to the concept of ‘restarting the computer’ after long periods of use to speed it up again. I hope Vista’s garbage collection and repopulation of the memory cache is improved in SP1.

So why doesn’t it suck?

In a single line, I’d have to say because once you get used to it, and with UAC off ( :P ), you will really see your productivity increase. Vista is extremely intuitive. It has made repetitive tasks simpler, and will make you a much more efficient user. From simple things like hitting the windows key, and starting to type to launch applications, to creating advanced scheduled tasks. And after a month, Vista does feel faster than it used to in the beginningWhich I think is because it has understood over a month the applications I use the most, and loads them up in the cache everytime it finds the space.. It’s networking is much better than XP’s, with creation and recognition of networks, and their settings far better and easier. Device installation is a breeze for most of the things, since some or the driver is already present for it. And security … even with UAC off, it seems to be a stable and hardy operating system coupled with Windows Defender (and constant updates from Microsoft).

I’d really say that bar the price, Vista is a good operating system to try out. And I don’t suggest a day or a week for a trial. Give it atleast a month. Get used to the slightly different ways of doing things. Instead of making a giant leap, Microsoft has eased the changes in, so that we can get used to them slowly and steadily. It will take a little time to get used to them. And once you do, you’ll see it isn’t ‘all’ that bad :)