Earlier this week Google announced its upcoming communications platform Wave. I watched the entire 80 minute developer preview video today and was intrigued and impressed. I signed up for beta access right away. It is definitely worth your time if you are interested in how internet communication will change over the next five years. Go ahead and check it out before continuing onto my thoughts below. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Pumped? Want to start communicating and being all collaborative and stuff? Me too. Just wish I had someone to be collaborative with.

Yes, the video is exciting. I laughed at Lars’s comment that they were planning on adding features for “power users” in the future — half of the current email using population cannot even compose a properly descriptive subject line! Wave is by today’s standards a tool directed at power users.

However, Google isn’t making a revolutionary new communications platform for “today’s standards”. They are trying to start the transition towards tomorrow’s platform. The key to widespread adoption is of course “federation”, which is a necessary step, and a very brave one for a private corporation. Google is to be applauded.

On the official Google blog the Wave team makes the point that:

… two of the most spectacular successes in digital communication, email and instant messaging, were originally designed in the ’60s to imitate analog formats — email mimicked snail mail, and IM mimicked phone calls.

Sounds like an opportunity for innovation.

Consider the next generation. Email use is already down among American teenagers who use Facebook, SMS, and other social media to communicate. Over the past two years I have noticed a marked decrease in my own email use. Facebook, Twitter and blogs help me communicate with friends and and colleagues. The problem of course is aggregation, which is Google’s promise for this project.

The new generation will be much more willing to adopting Wave. For them the change will be organic, an unnoticeable evolution. Imagine being a high school student doing a group assignment using Wave? I am so old I can still remember what a blackboard looks like.

Japanese Twitter user numbers by Nielsen

Netratings, a web ad market analysis firm owned by Nielsen, has compiled country data from a Nielsen report last month revealing the number of Twitter users in Japan compared to the US and UK.

Twitter usage in US, UK and Japan

There are about half a million Japanese users compared to the UK’s 2.5 million users. Twitter’s US base has exploded over the first half of the year (no doubt due to the Oprah and Kutcher effect) and is at a whopping 17 million. Remember, this data is from more than a month ago.

Considering Japanese is the only non-English localization offered by Twitter, I thought the site would have more users here. Twitter is ranked 249th most trafficked site in Japan (47th worldwide, 15th in both US and UK) by Alexa. As survey site What Japan Thinks noted a couple of weeks ago, maybe Twitter is not that popular in Japan.

Via Danbo

Japanese Twitter user numbers by Nielsen

Andrew Sullivan misunderstands the “long tail”

A new British study finds that the most pirated pop songs on the internet are those that already top the charts. Instead of giving rise to a “long tail” where small indie acts broaden their appeal online, the study found that digital technology – and music pirating – simply work to reinforce the fat head of mass appeal.

Torrents and their ilk cannot be considered as an aggregator of the long tail of the music industry. Although P2P networks could theoretically have endless storage, they tend to be biased towards the latest and greatest (the “tyranny of the new”). That is why long tail dynamics are much more visible on wide-ranging individual services like iTunes and Netflix, rather than ad hoc personal networks. That said, I still think that P2P networks can be effective at marketing as Jonathan Coulton, Danger Mouse and Trent Reznor have shown.

Andrew Sullivan misunderstands the “long tail”

iPhone’s disappointing lack of effect on keitai UX

Softbank and DoCoMo have released their summer lineup of mobile phones, one year after the initial release of the iPhone. I was truly optimistic. When the iPhone hit Japan last year I was excited at the prospect of a shakeup for Japanese mobile handset makers. I hoped they would be forced to abandon their horrid nested-interfaces and cookie-cutter handset designs, and truly begin to innovate. I was confident in the Japanese ability for kaizen.

Alas, disappointment. It looks like the manufacturers have continued their tired annual practice of simply stuffing their handsets with even more features rather than working on making the current plethora of features easier to access and use. I haven’t played with the new lineup myself but @nobi, who was at both press conferences, agrees that the keitai UI paradigm needs a rethink.

Granted, some of the features this time around seem pretty desirable: a 10MP CCD digital camera; solar panels for recharging; and waterproofing. 1 But it looks like it is up to DoCoMo’s new Android phone to challenge the iPhone in Japan.

Perhaps the comparison between the iPhone and “regular” keitai is not exactly fair. Keitai handsets compete by packing tons of hardware features (eg. digital cameras and 1seg televisions, electronic transit passes and wallets using IC chips, etc) into a tiny package.2 The iPhone on the otherhand competes on the basis of its user-experience and its AppStore with 35,000 apps. Many Japanese view their keitai simply as a phone that increasingly replaces numerous other personal consumer technology including their computer. The iPhone on the other hand is an extension of the computer. It must be the only mobile phone in Japan that requires a home computer to be operated. We may be comparing (ahem) apples and oranges, software and hardware.

Of course, this may all change upon the release of iPhone OS 3.0 which will allow hardware attachments. Imagine a Suica or eWallet attachment for your iPhone. In the meantime, I will be curious to see if the Android phone takes off outside of the otaku set, something I find to be highly unlikely, if for the simple fact that it has failed to do so in other countries.

  1. Something all personal electronics should have IMHO.
  2. Whether people actually use these features or not is beside the point.