Note: this post is part of a series … Part one | Part two | Part threepost last week on the future of connectors (companies that connect buyers and sellers), I looked at what connectors are, what they do, and the key ones online.
But the question remains: what’s the future of commerce online?
I ended last post with 3 givens:
- Location awareness is only going to grow
- Social connectivity is not going to decrease
- Mobile devices are going to get smarter/better/faster
It’s all linked in some way
One way of looking at the new web, next web, web2.0, or even web 1.0 is via links. Not just web links (Google) but also people links (Facebook) … and people to thing links (Facebook likes/recommends), and interest links (Twitter). A nouveau chic term for this is graph …
- Google owns the intentional graph (what do people want)
- Facebook owns the social graph (who do people know/like)
- Twitter owns the interest graph (what are people interested in)
Let’s get a little more speculative and even more out on a limb with our reckless use of the word “own” and say that Groupon owns the deal graph (or wants to, or will, or part of it).
But the deals and purchases graph is a much more fragmented reality. Amazon owns a big chunk of it. eBay and especially Paypal know a lot about what people buy. Deal sites abound, and Groupon clone-pons are a dime-a-dozen. Craigslist could potentially know a lot about what people buy and who they buy from, except that the ethos of the site is aggressively low-tech, low-friction, low-customization, and low, well, everything (cost, data, you name it).
One ring to rule them all
An obvious answer for the uber-connector to come in and sweep the stage clean of all current competition is a connector that utilizes aspects of all the graphs. A connector that brings all the links together.
Something, for instance, that:
- knows you
- knows what you search for (and want)
- knows what your interests are …
- knows your friends (and what they own, search for, and are interested in)
AND also knows if not everything at least an awful lot about the digital world:
- which products are available where and for what prices
- where to find and how to obtain services
AND can present them to you intelligently, in an organized way, at the right time, and fairly efficiently … OR, with your pre-determined permission make buying decisions, negotiate with service suppliers and product sellers …
… would be an unbelievable connector between buyers and sellers, and would be immensely valuable.
As I said, that’s the obvious answer. And guess what, in the 70s and 90s a lot of energy went into thinking about and trying to create software agents, who could do all the tedious painful stuff for you that you don’t want to.
After all, who really wants to check 50 airline sites (or Expedia or Kayak) for the best price for airline tickets. All you really want to do is tell someone (or a system): I want to go from here to there at this time for about this price or cheaper … and have the someone/system go do it.
Essentially, this is AI – artificial intelligence. At least at some level. And Skynet’s got bigger things on its mind.
Agents on the move
The 00’s and 10’s version of agents, of course, is apps. This is precisely the vision behind Siri on the iPhone (check Scoble’s interview if you don’t live in the US and can’t download this app for your phone.)
Siri is a personal assistant that can do mundane (and non-so-mundane) activities for you. But Siri is also a connector that will get you what you want … and collect a small fee from the service providers.
Searching Google happens to be easier than the meatspace analogue of going to a library, finding a book, reading the book, finding another, reading the other, getting your data, going home, and continuing your life.
Yeah, it’s easier. But is it easy? Double-plus-no-no-no.
Directed search for in-depth tasks where the master intent is more complex than “what is the capital of Kenya” is hard. Just one example: what TV should I buy. The answer to that question is a non-obvious goal which is better answered by some kind of expert system than a traditional search engine.
Google knows this … and that’s why Google is changing.
Google’s mission may be to organize the world’s information … but in 5 years, Google will not be a search engine.
More on that next time …