A Week in Digital

It’s been a funny old week (and a bit more… ) in the online industry. We’ve had huge budget product launches from Microsoft; frankly weird search tool updates in the form of Google Squared. Some sort of attempt to cater to the vocal “I like my 10 blue links in a spreadsheet” community, and by vocal I mean imaginary. Also we have the Facebook ‘vanity URL’ release confusion, smallprint, landgrab excitement. Finally; of course the biggest news of the week is the launch of the iPhone 3G S, which was met with much excitement from everyone but current iPhone users, who find themselves in something of a negative iQuity trap if they ever want to get out of their current contracts and upgrade to the new operating system.

1. Bing (thought to be a joking reference to “But It’s Not Google) is MSN’s new search product and replacement for the memorable, brandable ‘Windows Live Search’. Bing looks pretty nice; or even, a bit like flickr (oooh…. quick domain check “bingr” gone… oh well.) The SERP is okay, save for the annoying Ask style related searches on the left hand side of the algorithmic listings which makes it feel a little cluttered to me. As far as I can tell the listings and search algorithm is pretty much the same, so I’m not sure the additional functionality (video results play instantly on mouseover, and that’s the only one worth mentioning) is enough to lure anyone away for a period of time. Once the novelty of binging stuff, binging your friends and binging yourself wears off we’re left with a slightly better looking Live Search. www.bing.com

2. Google Squared is theoretically a neat little tool to compartmentalise and standardise data. Reducing homework hours by at least 50%. I can’t see much other use for it really? Unfortunately the product itself isn’t particularly great. I did a search for “Political Leaders” and got two results (albeit with an image, comparable date of birth, Nationality and place of death), Abraham Lincoln and Omar al Bashir. I then searched for “Russian Dictators” and was surprised to see Dwight D. Eisenhower in the square. It did perform perfectly when I searched for “Laws of Physics” as all four of them were there. www.google.com/squared

3. Facebook is reportedly releasing vanity URLs at 12.01 am Friday night (Eastern Time). What this means is that instead of the id=(series of numbers) in the URL to your Facebook page, you have the opportunity to select your name, or a variation thereof if you are quick enough/care/can be bothered. TechCrunch is expecting a landrush.

4. iPhone 3G S was unveiled at WWDC earlier this week to some gasps of excitement by all accounts. Safari browser is much faster and handles JavaScript 3x faster. You can buy and rent movies from the phone (cool), and they’ve sorted out the landscape key functionality properly. It’s sounds so cool I’m sorely tempted to buy one – which is easy for me to say as I’ve never had an iPhone. However iPhones early-adopter loyal customers aren’t quite so enthusiastic, given the mortgage-like contractual obligations as O2 customers. Now I know that buying a phone isn’t exactly a property investment. One should expect to have to pay occasionally for certain upgrades at certain times, however the 3G S situation is almost like a slap in the face. Kieron Donoghue of here.org.uk has already done the math as follows “Here in the UK, according to the official O2 Twitter feed the cost of upgrading will likely be “monthly cost x months left on your contract, but specifics may vary slightly”. So let’s say you have 6 months left on a £34.26 a month contract that’s £205.56. If you bought into an 18 month contract, which if memory serves you pretty much had to do when upgrading from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G and have say a year left then that’s £411.12. To add insult to injury however, when you upgrade you are only given the choice of a new 18 month or 24 month (come on O2, 24 months is seriously taking the water isn’t it? There will probably be 2 new iPhones in 2 years) contract. And if you choose from the 2 lower monthly payment options – as most people will – then you have to pay an additional £274.23 for the 32GB iPhone 3G S.” Kieron’s full post is here

So there we have it. Some pretty weird and eventful happenings in the digital space of late. All the fun stuff happens in a recession!

theMediaFlow Blog is written by Nichola Stott, who you can follow on Twitter @NicholaStott

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Nichola Stott

Nichola is Founder and Director of theMediaFlow; with over 10 years experience in online marketing, over six of which in search. Nichola learned all about search at Yahoo! as head of UK search partners.

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