Google goes "livestreaming", acquires Jaiku

Now, this is not strictly mobile BUT then it is considering that the target of which I report here today is heavily using mobile as a tool to feed its community, namely SMS (plus web and IM). It morphs online and offline worlds (nicknamed "bothline"; see here), and mobile is a huge component of this.

Anyway, Google, it was announced, has acquired the good folks from Jaiku. For those not that familiar with the radically new web 2.0 applications: Jaiku is a Twitter competitor where you basically "speed-blog" or "live-stream". Jaiku adds proximity settings: users in the same area can/will be able to get in touch with each other and interact.

At PICNIC'07, I recently had the pleasure of listening to Jaiku's co-founder, Jyri Engestrom (plus the good guys from Twitter, Plazes, Dopplr and Hyves), talking about the relevance of applications such as Jaiku. There is a video of the session available here.

It is (still) all about relevance and context. Jyri observed that context evolves around objects (such as office, Manchester United, kite-surfing, babies, red Bordeaux, and, yes, location...). The object defines the (social) context: you might be interested in the capability of webservers in your professional environment and discuss this wholeheartedly with someone else with who you would not have a single point of mutual interest outside of work. Change the object, change the context. Jyri (in his rather interesting blog) calls this object-centered sociality (yes, he is a sociologist).

Jaiku supposedly helps making focus on any object easier as it provides quick and universally accessible tools to see the activity streams of your contacts. The mobile version does this by getting those streams directly into your phone's contacts. Cool stuff.

However, why would Google buy them (apart from it being cool and Google being cash-rich)? Relevance and context, again. These are the core pieces around which Google's core business evolves: put ads in a relevant context and you improve click-through. Jyri characterized this by drawing the history of content discovery from catalogue (Yahoo!) via pagerank (Google) to what he termed "facerank", combining the power of the search algorithms from Google with the power of the social network from Facebook. The latter is e.g. a search result that would take the social context of the, say, search string (the object). Friends, people close to you, colleagues, other fans of your club, etc are more likely to have come across something that is relevant to you than someone who has no touch-point with you whatsoever. You don't have to know them personally: connoisseurs of Bordeaux wines might only have "met" in the virtual world. Still, since the context evolved around a common object (Bordeaux wine), it is more likely that you will hit a relevant spot through them. The higher the socially-enhanced rank of a search result, the more relevant it is likely to be... Compelling and rather inspiring!

So this is what Google may have in mind: bring the context to the people -- again! Well done, guys!


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