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The futures of Facebook and Google are embedded in these two images (robinsloan.com)
474 points by nextstep on May 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 251 comments

"Google is getting good, really good, at building things that see the world around them and actually understand what they’re seeing."

That statement spells it for me. With Google I see research, I see pushing tech boundaries and hardware experiments, I see new ways to interpret the world. With Facebook I see a huge lump of data but nothing really too groundbreaking. I don't deny Facebook's momentum... it's huge and it's valuable... but is it future proof? Are they thriving on momentum alone?

Which wins the race? Dunno yet. Maybe it's just not the same race.

There's a lot of truth to this (though I'm generally a big skeptic when people talk about "research" in the abstract; and I remain genunienly "WTF are they thinking!?" about Glass).

Google tries stuff, fails a lot, and stumbles on as many successes as they engineer.

Facebook has executed really well on their core stuff, but... what else? I mean, they've been on a huge hiring binge now for four years. What do they have to show for all that talent? It seems like a big waste to society if nothing else.

The one little thought I would add to that is that when Google first started working on a self driving car everyone went "WTF is a search company doing..". Now, X years later... it's a different story. People have started to really think about self-driving vehicles and autonomous travel. I don't see Glass at this point... but I didn't see practical self driving cars 6 years ago either, let alone states licensing them.

Google isn't a search company, it's an AI/ML company.

It certainly seems to be the focus of their long term R&D spending. The ML part, of course, has always been a central part of their business due to its importance for search and ad targeting.

Google is currently an Ad company that drives you to those ads using AI/ML.

And someday soon they may literally drive you to their advertisers using AI/ML ...

Cable box popups in the near future: "Press OK on your remote to go to Pizza Hut."

You'll give your car the order on the way, and it'll contact the local Pizza Hut's system to place it.

And 3M was once a sandpaper company, who expanded "applying coatings to backings" into quite a few things.

Very true, but when they started working on a driver-less car in 2006, they were still thought of as a search company. They hadn't yet bought Youtube or DoubleClick.

Google isn't an AI/ML company, it's an ad platform company.

But Google didn't start life that way - they were born a search company. That's what I find so interesting about Facebook at present, here they are, investment in hand and a world of opportunity. From here on in they can choose their own path and focus on whatever they like - just as Google have had the opportunity to do.

Google itself didn't help, so could you? What is AI/ML? I suppose the AI part is artificial intelligence?

I think you're right for AI, and I'd gander Machine Learning for the other.

Author here: I'm with you. The steady success of the self-driving cars has made me take some of these other projects much, much more seriously.

Maybe it's simply the Thrun factor?

> Maybe it's simply the Thrun factor?

That man's track record of amazing projects is really jaw dropping. Self driving cars, udacity and glass? I want a planet with more people like that in it.

We have one. Sadly half of them are working at Facebook trying to figure out how to make people click on more ads. The other half are working in the non research part of google trying to figure out how to make people click on more ads.

You forgot Goldman Sachs.

It's because they have to eat.

Exciting stuff. Sebastian might be staying up late working on the 'Milk and Cookies' humanoid android release.

Oh, I'm willing to be surprised. And I'm willing to give Google a lot more benefit of the doubt than I am most entities at being able to execute on this stuff. But still... Glass? Seriously?

Why seriously? Why build a web browser? If Chrome is to make the web a better platform for serving ads, then Glass is to make you a better platform for receiving ads. And in the process, they trade you some utility for being a marketing sponge.

And also push computer vision and pervasive HCI further forward. Sort of a weird deal, but overall... not wholly awful. Those patents will expire eventually!

Agreed as it sits now... but maybe the current form factor is the limit of today's technology. And maybe the insights they get from even attempting to develop that kind of interface puts them 5 years ahead when someone invents a holographic projector that clips onto your shirt collar. But if you don't even try it, then you don't even get the "maybe".

We don't have the technology to make volumetric holograms, the closest thing is some persistence of vision-like system made by a Japanese company that's very low-res and can make you blind if you stand too close to it.

How many google ads do you see on your phone? How many google ads would you see if they were in your HUD glasses?

>Google tries stuff, fails a lot, and stumbles on as many successes as they engineer.

True, but worth pointing out that often the best way to succeed, especially on anything truly innovative, is to be ready to try stuff and fail a lot.

Connecting people and giving them a new way to communicate with each other is a big waste to society? Facebook has fundamentally changed the idea of the weak tie for many people. If that's a waste, then I don't really know what else is meaningful in life.

To be clear: I didn't say that Facebook was a waste. I said that Facebook's engineering effort was wasted, relative to the societal benefit (pick your definition) we see from the equivalent people at Google. And by extension, I made the point that Facebook hiring all these people was a net loss to society, because it didn't do anything but make an already good product a little better.

One could argue that Facebook's hiring spree enabled them to scale and further handle large amounts of users and photos.

Is this a total waste to society? Could the Arab spring have happened without such social tools? Is the world a better place when common people are empowered to fight against perceived repression?

I'm not taking a stance on those revolutions will affect their countries. I will say, however, that a government that can protect itself against revolt has little incentive to look out for its people. Society can be made 'better' in many ways.

One could argue, yes. But not, IMHO, well. Again: other companies have done much more with their employee talent. To argue otherwise seems like mostly excuse-making to me. Facebook has taken a bunch of great hackers and exploited them very poorly.

> If that's a waste, then I don't really know what else is meaningful in life.

The "strong tie"? I'm just not so sure changing the "weak tie" is such a net positive for society. I'm not going to claim that FB doesn't have its positives but I'd rather see a society building strong ties with fewer people than weak ties with many. (and, frankly, doing nothing but wasting time for hours per day)

Fewer, stronger ties sounds like a recipe for insulation and groupthink, just as weaker more numerous ties sounds like a recipe for banality and conformity.

I prefer society, via technology, to continue to have and explore both.

How is communicating with people on Facebook a greater waste of times than playing games, being on here, chatting with friends, watching movies etc.

It's funny because your entire comment is self contradictory. On one hand you criticise socialising using Facebook and on the other want to build stronger ties. Socialising = Stronger ties.

I explicitly stated that FB has its positives. But wasting hours doing anything is bad. FB stalking people != stronger ties. It's a problem many people face, along with excessive gaming, etc.

I criticize the assertion that changing weak ties, in the way FB does, is a net positive for society. It's one thing to reconnect with an old friend, it's another to spend time everyday browsing through pictures of people you haven't seen in 10 years. Too much of the latter happens on FB.

Socialising does not equal stronger ties. Talking to a bunch of people at a party is not going to create anything but acquaintances, a word we use to describe people you have met but who mean close to nothing to nothing to you and vice versa. Socialising on facebook is even weaker than that.

Sometimes those weak ties are weak for a reason.

For a long time we heard the same thing about Google - they have a search engine that makes a lot of money with PPC ads, but what else?

Facebook's time will come. The IPO money could make that happen sooner rather than later (if they don't blow it buying mobile apps.)

I think the difference could be that Google is headed up by researchers, and thus the interest and fascination in pushing boundaries with research. While Zuckerberg is a visionary, I'm not sure the same type of commitment to research that is not immediately useful will ever happen within Facebook's walls.

Being able to connect with people from around the world and share content is not a big waste to society.

But they were connecting people years ago. Facebook, from the perspective of their core features, has gotten only incrementally better over the last 5-6 years. And in doing so they've sucked up a huge chunk of talent.

Google over the same period has produced a huge amount of stuff, some of it (gmail, android) wildly successful. Hell, Google has even cloned facebook itself (and from a technical perspective, arguably, done it better) in that time period. And they've done it with what seems to be a very comparable talent pool. So from that perspective, yes, Facebook's engineering employees are wasted.

The biggest technical achievement of Facebook has been scaling Facebook. They've solved a lot of difficult technical problems to do so. And News Feed, Connect, and Open Graph are all huge steps forward in Facebook's ambition, although the third-party ecosystem still leaves something to be desired. Thank god that Facebook killed Evite, but now I'm hoping for someone/something to kill Washington Post Social Reader.

But again, Google did all that stuff too (almost 1:1, even -- remember that G+ is a facebook clone). And somehow they also found time to make self driving cars, a first tier mobile operating system, ChromsOS, a Dropbox clone, these ridiculous glasses, etc...

Facebook just looks pretty lame in comparison, sorry.

> Google did all that stuff too (almost 1:1, even -- remember that G+ is a facebook clone

That misses qq66's point; G+ isn't a 1:1 clone exactly because it doesn't do anything like a quarter billion photos per day.

I'm not doubting G's potential to handle Facebook scale, but they're very far away from it right now.

Youtube handles 3.7x10⁹ frames per day (assuming 12 fps video, which is a low estimate). That's 3.7 billion frames that have to be converted and checked against an enourmous database of copyrighted content.

You're right that G+ doesn't, but FB doesn't have anything on Google on scaling.

What about Youtube? Picassa? Indexing the whole internet? That is some amazing scale.

I would say the scales youtube and google search operate at show that they could easily handle google+ at facebook's scale.

You do realize that Google has 10 times the employees, revenues, profits, etc. of Facebook?

Of course. But it's a culture thing. Google was producing great innovative madness when they were 1/10th its size size. And Facebook had what is essentially their core service already in place when they were 1/10th their current size. They've since done very little that's interesting. I don't see why that's controversial, nor why so many people feel the need to "defend" them.

The only thing that Google didn't fail with was search. Stop pretending there is anything else they've made which can't be labeled as mediocre copy at best.

Please. Maps, Chrome and Gmail alone make what you said an absurdist lie. (I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and put AdSense/AdWords under "search" instead of calling them a separate product.)

Youtube and Blogger were acquisitions, but have done, y'know, pretty well under Google's roof. Android seems to be kinda successful for something that's a "mediocre copy at best".

And those are just the big products. They've had a ton of little successes too, like Earth, Docs, Sketchup, Voice...

And they've had a lot of products that look like clones (Drive, Groups). And they've had a lot of bona fide failures too.

But the point is that Google produces stuff. Facebook kinda doesn't. They improve their existing product and add features to it. Maybe that will change (c.f. Instagram), or maybe it won't. But right now I don't think you can say that Facebook has a culture of innovation in the same way that Google (or Apple, or hell, even Microsoft -- companies that ship new products regularly) does.

I am not a fan of Facebook so don't label me as such.

Google is known for its spectacular flops. The fact that they've used their cash to buy already successful services doesn't make them creative.

I view google as completely unimaginative company. Their search was nice once but right now their search results look like christmas tree so I can't admire them for that either.

Basically, google sucks.

Don't forget Google Docs, Maps, StreetView, Gmail...

What I find interesting about Facebook is that it allowed people from the current (and previous) generations to re-connect with people they'd lost touch with since previously there had been no tool designed to easily facilitate reconnecting. Future generations may find they they won't lose those connections since the tools will be in place allowing them to remain in touch as much or as little as they choose. Will they still have the same motivation to re-connect at some point in their lives if that opportunity has always been available to them? There's a very large percentage of Facebook users whose "friends" are really just people they knew back in high school that they connected with on Facebook out of curiosity. It'll be interesting to see if that dynamic continues for future generations.

> Being able to connect with people from around the world and share content is not a big waste to society.

That's correct. However, the ability to "connect with people from around the world and share content" is, as your parent post notes, is Facebook's "core" functionality. What does Facebook have to show for the engineers they've hired this year, engineers they've hired last year? Are read receipts on Facebook chat more beneficial to "society" than other endeavors the engineers could be working on instead?

Do you really think it's appropriate to compare a 2-days-to-make chat feature with self-driving vehicles and clothes with computers in them?

When Google changes its icons for special occasions is that more beneficial to "society" than other things they could be working. Is ANYTHING people do really the best they could do for society.

I just don't understand why you are holding Facebook to some arbitrary standard.

Actually, Google Doodles educate the society at large about people that made a difference in this world. So yes, work on Google Doodles is beneficial to society.

It is if that service is designed to A) Collect data about the society as a whole in order to B) sell them shit and C) spy on them.

There's no question that Google is good at R&D. In the past these projects have led to full featured products that were pretty great. However, lately that hasn't been the case and it wasn't because of lack of vision but lack of top notch execution and lack of attention to the experience element people expect these days. When companies start competing with each other rather than with themselves, they tend to lose sight of the end goal which is to create great products.

If I were Facebook, publicly I'd focus on growth, while quietly building killer applications with the massive amounts of data they have.

Consider how many photos they have with users' faces tagged. They'd be crazy not to leverage that data. With the right facial recognition technology they will own that space, which would be extremely useful in products that compete with, say, Project Glass.

Ditto with location data, but they don't quite have the same monopoly there, so I wouldn't be surprised if they acquire Foursquare in the next year (perhaps more difficult than Instagram give the stock price)

Are you seriously suggesting that they'll come out with a piece of software that can compete with a piece of hardware? Competing with Glass, assuming it's successful by some meaningful measure, will require physical manufacture.

I guess they could leverage their massive amounts of data to blackmail supply chains or something...

No, I'm suggesting they could compete directly with Project Glass or similar types of products, or at least partner with hardware companies. The software is what makes the hardware interesting to use.

I have no clue what you're talking about regarding blackmail.

Google just seems to be taking a strategy of pushing the "R" a little closer to "D" in "R&D" then taking it directly to market.

What most people don't see is that a feature of the "R" is a great many failures. By pushing the "R" forward some of those failures end up in the public sphere.

Will it work? Who knows. But history shows that investments into pure R&D ultimately end up paying in large multiples of the initial investment despite the large numbers of failures.

With Google you see research (which is of course commendable), but so far they haven’t been able to produce profit from anything else than ads, so I would call that research awesome, useful, beautiful, but not (yet) future proof for the company.

This is actually why I've been saying that Google is acting more like a government than like a business. They have a buoy of revenue to coast on and are spending it on (what appears to be) unrelated R&D. It smells more like IBM or Microsoft than Ford or Chevrolet.

To me, it's not just not the same race. It's not even the same game. Facebook's playing Tetris; Google's playing Civilization.

It smells like Bell Labs. Where do Ken Thompson and Rob Pike work these days? ;-)

You hear this a lot (Google is an advertising company, they make 95% of their money from ads). But by that metric many companies are ad companies. Pretty much every web site on the web is just an ad company, because that is how they actually make money, most of the television and radio industries are just ad companies, because that is how they make money.

From http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html if I'm reading it right, 69% of their revenue comes from ads on their own sites. For mine that deserves to be counted as "technology company revenue" not "advertising company revenue". If they didn't have their own ad arm they still would have made a big chunk of that 69% by using some other company to show ads on gmail, youtube and their search page, but if they were only an advertising company they would have just made the 27% that was pure "advertising on other sites" revenue. Just because youtube makes money by showing ads, doesn't make youtube not profitable.

Making money from ads is just a business model. Don't confuse it for a one-hit product. Google could make a lot of different products and services that are based on ads. What you're saying is like saying 30 years ago that TV networks only survive on ads.

I think in the next 5-10 years we'll also see a much more hardware-oriented Google, too. I think Google is serious about hardware (Glass,Motorola devices...maybe even a self-driving, self-sustaining electric car in the future? Who knows).

Google don't have to produce profit now. Remember that they didn't profit from search or ads for a long time.

What they have to do is ensure no one else profits from some research, and to have a way of profiting in the long term. That is a lot easier to work out once something is successful, you know how people use it and it has become somewhat indispensable to users.

Isn’t that repeating the same thing I said? They are creating new cool tech, but they have to figure out how to make money from it, thus it’s not future proof.

Android is successful, but apparently it’s not generating much profit for Google.

> Isn’t that repeating the same thing I said?

Not even close. They do not have to figure out how to make money from things now or even for several years. Or in some cases ever. The ad revenues can subsidise things forever.

For example their maps product (excluding premium) being free means no one else can realistically charge for an equivalent service. But all the people using it provide Google with a large amount of information such as places people actually want to go and where they don't. Those signals can be further used to improve their search relevance which keeps users away from competing search products.

asymco.com has various revenue numbers. At best Google is making around $4 per Android user per year in revenue (not profit). However if Google did not provide Android then they would be completely at the mercy of the likes of Apple and Microsoft who could make using and finding Google products on their devices hard.

Chrome is another example. Even if not a single person used Chrome, its effect was a massive reinvigoration of browsers (sandboxing, Javascript performance etc). Google depend on browsers to deliver their products so this helped ensure continued good delivery. (If users started abandoning browsers for native platform apps then again Google would be in danger of being shut out.)

Facebook as a photo sharing app is a fascinating example of the service being generic and the context for the service being the main focus of competition. A bar sells drinks, but providing a competitive lineup of drinks is much easier than providing a competitive context in which to consume them. Coffee shops sell coffee and wifi, but they compete against each other as contexts within which to consume coffee and wifi. As a photo sharing app, what distinguishes Facebook from its competitors is the context it provides.

The context is nothing by itself, of course, and this is what is rarely mentioned about social networking. A bar without drinks would be dry and boring: a Boys and Girls Club for adults. Similarly, the essential, defining factor of social networking -- the network, the web of connections between people -- is lame and reductive by itself. But it's the perfect context in which to share photos.

Social networking is also a good context for non one-on-one communication. (For one-on-one communication, it offers nothing except a convenient way to initiate a conversation with other Facebook users, a small advantage that can't make up for the fact that it isn't as universal as e-mail or texting.)

I suspect the growth of Facebook as measured by users and usage will depend on discovering other services for which social networking is the perfect context.

>a small advantage that can't make up for the fact that it isn't as universal as e-mail or texting

Well, I'm a teenager, and sadly Facebook is far more universal as a means of contact than texting or e-mail, personally. I don't have the email addresses or phone numbers of most of the people I know (often because I don't know them well enough), but I do have them friended on Facebook.

By sheer numbers I may have more Facebook friends than phone numbers or emails, but a significant proportion of the people I communicate with regularly aren't on Facebook anymore or never were. So I agree that Facebook is more inclusive in the sense that people friend a lot more people on Facebook than they share their email address and phone number with, but when it comes to real friends and family, I can reach all of them through email or texting but only some of them through Facebook.

Yeah, that's true for a lot of people who don't realize it. It's much easier to Friend somebody you met at a party than it is to exchange email addresses - and then you never have to ask "is this address still good after all this time?"

I have over 400 facebook friends. I only have 200 contacts in my email address book, and most of those are probably stale.

I always felt that facebook is nothing more than a glorified address book for the internet generation. That's why I am keeping it, just to have all those contact sync to my phone's address book.

Interesting angle. I suppose this illuminates how best they could go about the things they are rumored to be considering

For example, the payment processing system. This angle says they should focus most on the non-one-to-one transactions like group dinner and movie outings, splitting the rent, etc. If me paying for such things through FB helps me settle the bills and get repaid (or get to mark someone's timeline with a cheapskate whuffie point), then I have an incentive to start paying through FB, and encouraging others to do the same. Lots of other apps and services have tried to capture these transactions, but they seem to usually suffer from needing all/most of the people in the transaction to sign-up for yet another account. That is the hurdle that FB has already crossed for 4/5 of the last movie outings in my anecdotal experience.

Cell phone... well I don't see how this social context angle helps with that, since phones are already well into that context. But browser, sure. Social web-browsing has also been tried before, also seemingly always failing to overcome the hurdle FB has cleared.

I agree.

I made the argument only this weekend with a family member that technology companies come and go and tend to be cyclic. However, Google is here to stay. They might be search/advertising at the minute but those guys are really taking crazy problems head on and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Google had a breakthrough product in 5years with Cars.

We can all criticize Google+, but Google is one of those companies that I look at and stand in awe of day after day.

It is unfortunate they are both scary companies. They both know too much about their users, and their users connections.

Even if you don't have a Facebook account, there is probably still some evidence of you in their system. Unlike Facebook, it would be pretty hard to not use Google at all, but it's at least possible to use their services and remain unidentified.

Photos are over-rated, but tell that to the ~500 million people stalking each other on Facebook. Glass is an incredible vision into the future of computing, or a chilling vision of the future where there is no disconnecting from the web of surveillance.

The fact of the matter is that most people are less concerned about personal privacy and data security than they are maintaining social relationships, so while I don't disagree with your premise I would argue that your point is fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I fully expect we'll end up with a few competing Skynets in the next couple of decades, but the best we can hope for is that their overlords are reasonable people. Imho, trying to avoid this is a fool's errand; we're better off educating people and creating peripheral controls to help guide the megaliths into an agreeable position.

Surely that's not the best we can hope for—or work for. It is not out of the realm of possibility that distributed social networks, like email or Diaspora, can gain popularity. But I don't know how to make that appealing to average people.

If your concern is that a single entity is going to have your information, then Diaspora wouldn't help you anyways, as long as at least one of your friends is using a federated service that is a majority service (like blogger).

As long as it's just companies that can be regulated by states and laws it's managable. The main task we have imho is to keep the governments out of the loop - we don't want the force monopoly combined with the data collection.

> where there is no disconnecting from the web of surveillance.

When you look at what has happened with mobile phone cameras and police brutality, it seems that this kind of tech does more active good than it does passive harm.

It's effectively impossible to avoid being visible to Facebook, since hundreds of thousands of websites implement the Facebook "Like" button which makes huge amounts of your browsing activity visible to them (by IP address if you're not logged into Facebook).

Not if you invoke the nuclear option and put every facebook domain (including the fbcdn stuff) in your hosts file as

to gauge marginal positive externalities, invert the principal component & see what remains.

as an example - suppose you wake up tomorrow and google search stops working. never mind why - some random bug impossible to figure out, so it just stops working. Then what are the positive externalities that remain ? Well, gmail. youtube. android. gdrive. maps. picasa. blogger. reader. googledocs. googlecheckout. etc etc etc... and that's not counting a single api / framework / language( gwt, go , dart, chromium, etc etc...)

now suppose you wake up tomorrow and facebok stops working. Then what are the positive externalities that remain ? Well, ???

Reminds me of a Charlie Munger quote:

that to get closer to the right answer, scholars should "invert, always invert."

You have a strong point there. Most top 100 websites I see are just frontends to databases.

I kid you not.

Their competitive advantage is proprietary data holding and network effects to get more data.

  Google - search + database frontend.

  Facebook - database frontend.

  YouTube - database frontend.

  Yahoo! - search + database frontend.

  Baidu.com - search + database frontend.

  Wikipedia - database frontend.

  live.com - database frontend.

  Twitter.com - database frontend.

  QQ.COM - database frontend.

  Amazon.com - database frontend.
Most of the stuff is just a front end to a database.

Their positive marginal benefit derives from holding that data, using it as leverage to get more data, and then serving it back to their users in a tight loop.

Interesting point. However, I'll disagree with Amazon.com. Purchasing real world products is much more than just a database frontend.

I see the two as separate things.

Amazon.com, the website, is a database which churns out orders that manifest in the real world. But once that happens is not amazon.com the actual site any more. That has done its job of gathering data, processing it, and outputting it.

Its like if I phoned in an order. The web site is like the phone system. The phone system is not doing anything in the physical world, except passing on the data of an order.

That said, I can see a right old debate about there the lines of separation are.

If you're talking about warehousing/logistics - that is true.

However they only did it because they had to reduce costs and simplify processing. I'm pretty sure Amazon would be much happier to just dropship by making an API call to third party logistics - which is essentially an inventory database from Amazon's point of view - but they are just too big now.

I think they still do that with long tail items (don't store, but use third party logistics with an API call).

Would not having a 3rd party handle the logistics cut into their profit margins? I would assume because they do it in house and at such a large scale they save money vs hiring a 3rd party that would want their own cut raising logistic costs.

Yes. They did that at the beginning, but since they scaled up they have brought a lot of it in house.

I was addressing the fact that even though they did logistics/warehousing, I still believe them to be a database frontend (inventory/customer/credit cards), and I disagree with the above statement:

> However, I'll disagree with Amazon.com. Purchasing real world products is much more than just a database frontend.

Given that really the only thing a computer can do is store, manipulate and present data, what else would make sense to store that data? Aren't RAM and hard drives pretty much databases?

I was merely pointing out that there isn't anything special with most of these sites. No hate. I love them, and use most of them on a daily basis.

Just pointing out something I found highly curious.

You might as well say "Most top 100 websites I see are just /code running on a computer/"

Correct. I shared this thought because I believed that the realisation that most websites are simply database frontends was an unique, interesting and somewhat liberating thought.

I apologize if it feels like I'm stating the obvious, but it was a startling realisation to me.

I always kept each site/company in their separate boxes, when in fact they all do rather similar things, with different branding.

Yes, since the 1970s or perhaps earlier, most computer software has been "forms" (screens for a user to enter some information to be stored in a DB) and "reports" (screens that present information stored in a DB to the user). That's it. Green screens, client-server, web sites, etc are all variations on a theme.

The "social network" aspects of FB could perfectly well have been done on an IBM mainframe with 3270 terminals running IMS, 40 years ago.

I don't think that's a just argument; a database is just a means of storing information which is parsed data, the important part there is the transition from data to information, not the fact that they use a database to store the information. The reason that they are all top websites is because of their first stakes, ingenuity, pioneering, etc.

Well none of them were the first to do what they did. None of them actually pioneered anything, the ideas were in the air.

Google was an improved HITS algorithm and the infrastructure of infoseek (copied). They weren't the only search engine to do link analysis. There were others.

You think Yahoo! was the first portal? Or Netscape the first browser?

Facebook was not the first social network. MySpace/Friendster were also pretty big back then.

You can say they executed better, but at the time, my friend, it wasn't such a sure bet.

That's the way it is with innovation, and that's why companies fail so hard, and so fast. No one really knows what's going on.

You give them fundamental attribution due to the survival bias found in innovative industries.

You forget the many failures.

I'm sorry, but you mistake what I mean by pioneering; they may have not been the first in their field, but their methods were pioneering, otherwise they wouldn't be as big as they are.

Facebook wasn't the first social network, nor was MySpace, but the fact that they are the biggest now says something. The same can be said for Google; Yahoo! was massive, but their priority wasn't search, it was being a portal.

Also, failure isn't necessarily a bad thing; who are we without our mistakes?

What's a good example of a site that isn't a db frontend?

Wolfram Alpha and the search part of Google/Yahoo! - also bing.

These do more than just regurgitate data. They do useful things, such as compose summaries, search and analyse the links etc. Most of the others is simply a "SELECT * FROM TABLE" for each page.

This begs the question. Websites are basically databases connected to servers through some controller logic.

And isn't that the point, that now we're in an information age?

Great thought.

Though, there's always a single choke point at which you could deny ANY number of services, including all the externalities. Even if that point is a little worst-of-the-worst case scenario.

I agree that all of the Google X projects of today will ultimately be what defines Google tomorrow. The fact that they have the guts to tackle projects that are incredibly risky for a business but meaningful for humanity is a major reason I'm happy to use their products. I love the geek factor.

I'm not sure it's that risky for them. Google tends to try a bunch of different stuff, but doesn't seem too shy about cuttings its losses and failing reasonably fast when needed.

What happens when they fail one too many times and the seemingly endless supply of R&D money runs out?

Every day I become a little more scared I will live my adulthood in an episode of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWN9WEU2NP8

EDIT: I see it has been mentioned downthread. Charlie Brooker is indeed a genius.

Two things:

Both facebook and google are playing catchup on social. Facebook with monetization, google with popularity. This leaves them wide open to disruption from companies that nail the fundamentals from the get go and bring significant value-add to the table.

Second, both companies view users like cattle. Just headcount to convert to dollars.

Overall my hunch is that there's a 50/50 chance that neither google nor faceebook will be king of social in 2020. There's a lot of potential for disruption right now and both of these companies are so focused on each other I doubt they'd even notice a successful upstart until it was too late. The real risk to both, I think, is small companies which don't have billion dollar obligations on their backs already.

While I agree that both Facebook and Google have those respective problems, I think social is an area where user base is not easily portable. It would be tough to convert all the moms and dads to switch from Facebook to another platform...It was difficult enough to get them on Facebook.

Some trust fund kid spouting off, blah blah blah.

Farcebook is of grannies and prole working moms.

Most of farcebook's income is from games. The rest is just the internet with training wheels for morons, just like AOL was a few years ago, and we all know how well that worked out.

The Google glasses thing is beyond stupid. Any fool can stream video from a strap on mini cam hat, have been able to for years. Ever wonder why that has not caught on?

Nice try at topicality and posing as someone in the know.

For anyone who didn't rtfa, here's a cool link of Sebastian Thrun demonstrating Project Glass on Charlie Rose:


i did read the article, clicked to the interview link, saw only a picture and left.

now i saw your comment, clicked the link and was about to dismiss the page a second time thinking all it had was a silly image when i finally decided to click it.

so much for usability. how difficult it is to add a "play" triangle to video?

Charlie Rose, despite his quality as an interviewer, is still part of "Old Media" and their crotchety inability to get "New Media". I don't mean Rose specifically, but the people he's paid by.

Also, I sound completely stupid in that paragraph but I can't figure out how to say it better. :P

Google needs to have some sort of brain interface to project glass. I.e. control it via your mind.

The speaking out loud is distracting. It wont work. It's too complicated. And nobody wants to talk with his glasses (like noone wants to talk to Siri in public). People will not use it.

None of the demos I've seen have involved any speaking. They've involved tapping something and what might be eye tracking or head movements, but all the speaking was pretty obviously superfluous.

It seems that Google's products have future utility to them that seems to be lacking from FB.

Facebook is focused on sharing. That can be an action, but until the action is focused, it doesn't seem to be useful (other than as a time-suck of course).

I fail to see how photos which provide pleasure, foster relationships, enlighten and educate is not useful but a camera you wear on your head is.

The camera is a prototype for the direction they're headed. Driverless cars and glasses which provide information about objects you look certainly have more utility than a "camera you wear on your head."

Ultimately he's making a pretty big claim about Google's future here that isn't grounded in reality. This is the same sort of talk that crowned Microsoft the tablet king over a decade ago while reality waited for Apple to actually build a consumer viable version.

Whether it's the usual suspects like Google, MS and Apple who we know are already spending R&D here or a new entrant like Instagram which came out of nowhere with a handful of user friendly features, or some China anointed alternative it should be obvious that it's way to early to start counting chickens.

Author here: You're right that it's a big claim, and I think it requires a lot of imagination & even some suspension of disbelief. It's safer to be skeptical.

But specifically re: competition of all shapes & sizes, I do think that two of Google's long-term investments give it a pretty strong position:

1. Google Maps & Street View, which together comprise an amazingly detailed model of the real world. There are alternatives like OpenStreetMap of course, but there's a lot more going on in those products than just navigation.

2. The technology embedded in the self-driving car. I mean, a system that can interpret a live feed of the chaotic world around it and make important decisions based on what it sees? It doesn't feel to me like you can Instagram your way into that capability. (But, I don't know: maybe it's more commodified than I realize.)

To lend some credence to these claims: other than the well-known Sebastian Thrun, Google also has at least a dozen world-class computer vision researchers working on a variety of different products, from Maps to the self-driving car to Goggles and others. This is some serious fire power, and in so far as the technical problems are unsolved (which they mostly are right now), no other company can touch them in the near future.

Of course, there is always the important step of making something that consumers will use, but that's only possible if the technical problems are solved first. And perhaps Google is learning how to make more consumer-friendly things...

I don't have numbers to back it up, but I would gather that at least MS has as many if not more world class researchers in those fields.

I don't think Google Glass is about taking photos (or videos) of your life. If anything, it makes the most sense to think of it as the next step to Google Goggles, and halfway to a Google Goggles HUD.

As a moot sidenote, this story was submitted yesterday http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4038962 (yes, coincidently by me)

For me personally it was the title. For me, I am not as interested in "pictures and vision" as I am interested in the ongoing dominance struggle between Google and Facebook. Sensationalism, or at least a good teaser title, wins the day for me I'm afraid. It is a good find though. Good luck next time!

Here's the thing I see, Google has no meaningful history of monetizing things like self driving cars or video glasses or anything else except for via advertising. Yeah, they sell some web services, but that's a lot different from going head to head with companies that know about manufacturing like Toyota and BMW or those that know about consumer electronics like Samsung and Sony.

I guess they could create an advertising sponsored self driving car or vision glasses that pop up ads (ala Walter Williams recent novel "The Fourth Wall" ISBN-13: 978-0316133395). But how is either going to be more profitable than their current model given the fundamental retooling of their business which would be required and the radically different cost structures associated with making real stuff?

That's not to say Facebook is destined for significant innovation. As an advertising platform, they may be Yahoo 2.0 over the long term - too profitable from advertising to pivot and not growing fast enough to get love from analysts.

Why stick to ads if you can sell / license software for cars?

It could both work from a manufacturer or a personal POV.

    Buy my car, it comes with Google.

Hopefully they'll be smart enough to actually license the software. I half-suspect they'd do something stupid, like open-source it on the assumption that it would increase the demand for web advertising (since you could just use a tablet or laptop during your commute instead of driving).

Can you think of an example of Google successfully licensing technology to manufacturers on a scale sufficient to noticeably change their bottom line?

What is interesting is that we think of Facebook as a social networking company, but they are mostly a hacker company whether it is hacking social networks, photos, servers, phone, etc. They have a similar culture to Google except coming at it from a DIY, teach yourself, pull it apart to put it back together again better angle and not a academic PhD research angle.

Facebook is a global company and if they come out with a phone it is most likely not going to be pointed at the US market alone. They will be developing a phone aimed at the developing country markets where they have much of their traction. My guess is that the phone will have a low price point so that it is affordable to anyone in the world who wants it who currently doesn't have a smartphone. This included with mobile payments is what Facebook is after, they want to own the global mobile market.

I still think that the future of Facebook is data (not specifically picture data, that's just one piece). Advances in hardware and cloud computing have kick started an era where data mining and machine learning are pervasive in every field from pharmaceutical research to banking to sports and everywhere in between. Facebook is the single authoritative source for a whole bunch of personal data. People have started thinking about the basic applications for that data when it comes to things like online shopping (you're a 31 year old white male with an 8 month old daughter who likes rock and roll, so you probably want to buy diapers, zinfandel, and a radiohead album), but I think that lots of new interesting applications will emerge over the next several years that don't violate user privacy and will monetize well.

when he talks of sharing vision he nailed what google glasses is going to be. example:


Post of a video from a person jumping on a trampoline wearing the glasses.

I'm not sure I understand this article. What is it that he imagines actors and athletes doing that they don't do with Twitter now? People hold up their phones pretty close to their face when capturing photos and videos so it is already the first person POV. And it is pretty easy to do, I'm sure it will be harder taking pics with Glass than a phone, it is more flexible taking pictures with your hands than your face. The only successful consumer head-mounted cameras that I know of are the Go Pros which are used mainly for niche action shots. If the main advantage of Glass is just that you can take pictures in situations where both your hands are busy that does not seem like the huge use-case that is going to take down Facebook.

He imagines that the feed from, oh, say, a baseball player? (football is too violent) will, someday, be wearing one of these, and then you'll get to see the game from their perspective while they're doing other things, and it'll be awesome.

... I'll believe it's awesome, with copious amounts of editing. If you're just watching it raw, it'll be disorienting and shaky and distracting. :P I'm also dubious exactly what baseball team would bother to wear these things in the general case. Presumably they would just be a distraction to the players. Maybe someone like, oh, downhill skiiers would have a better time of things?

Go to youtube right now and watch any number of first person downhill skiing videos. What does Glass add to that?


Serious question - how is that different from this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNMyj2ftuZA

I think you're underrating just how cool things look in first person sometimes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZA-57h64kE

Google has a huge revenue generating machine in search, and adwords. This allows them the opportunity to spend massive amounts of money on a lot of projects that will mostly fail. They're hoping, at some point, one or more of these projects will turn profitable. But they're burning millions doing it.

The problem with this approach is that they end up neglecting their core search product, which I don't think has evolved much in the past decade. If someone else comes along and disrupts search, its goodbye Google.

In short, the most important company in our lives will be the one that best looks after our memories.

Despite of all innovation Google does, still past several years nearly 90% of their profit comes from online ads.

Google could have been the picture sharing site of choice with Picasa but for it's broken paradigm.

The only reason I don't delete my facebook is because of the pictures...and im not alone.

I view Google as a simulation company. The end game will be a real time whole earth simulation, with predictive power, and the associated opportunity for massive profits in any field where being ahead of the competition is an advantage.

This guy is reaching with a few of his statements

re: Google Glasses

I can never wear a pair of glasses that has a 3G connection.

For better or for worse, I experience heightened ElectroSensitivity to the point where a 3G device that's operating within a few feet of me gives me a headache.

Most mobile carriers are already starting to deprecate their 2G networks.

Wearable wireless devices like Google Glasses will be a hazard for me, and many others.

Within the next few years, I won't even be able to use a cell phone.

I find that hard to believe. Have a friend put a box beside you. Ask him to flip a coin every day for a week. If it comes up heads, he will put a 3g phone in that box. Otherwise, it should be empty.

I will bet you that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

And why would make that up?

I've done experiments like that plenty of times to prove it to people. I can tell whether my iPhone is in 2G or 3G mode with my eyes closed.

It's well-documented. Search for "ElectroSensitivity."

Phones with a high SAR value cause headaches for a subset of the population - I'm one of them.

Old Google = GoogleX (try outrageous things, see what sticks)

Current Google = Google+ (a beautiful bouquet of socially unified product experience)

Future Google = ??

GoogleX is still there.

Glass will be google's newton pad.

a new world promise, but in reality totally uncool and only used by a few san francisco hippies-yuppies. And then forgotten.

With a chance of a decade later becoming a game changer.

Sir I challenge you to a bet, $100 to our respective favorite charities.

In my opinion Google Glass is set to be a game changer from the start. I wager that when google glass is launched, it will be a cultural icon no more than 1.5 years later.

It's clear WHY google needs glass. Owning the channel between my eyes and the world is a huge potential pot of money. Targeted ads have a lot of potential to disrupt the ad space, and if facebook ever decides to make their own ad network (such as Google's ad sense) competition will be fierce. Google glass is a really good way to increase their competitive advantage, and cement their position in the advertising arena.

Additionally, of the companies that would be interested in making a product like google glass (facebook, microsoft, IBM etc) Google probably has the best mix of engineers to do it. I've always said that Google is an AI company first. Well a huge part of AI is machine vision, and a large part of successfully monetizing google glass is machine vision. Additionally, with street view, and other aggressive initiatives Google is in one of the best positions to actually understand what and where the world you are looking at. Finally, while google has proven in the past they are weak as a hardware company (nexus 1) they have demonstrated they are capable of bringing a consumer product to the mass market... though perhaps maybe not enough to make it anything less then a wild card.

Finally the last point is one of consumer adoption. The newton pad was not successful in part because the hardware was premature. But I would speculate it was also in part because consumers weren't at the point of understanding the value. The hardware in Google glass is unknown at this point, and potentially could under-deliver... and that will cause it to be a newton.. but for the reasons i said above I think Google is capable of delivering a quality product. However consumer readiness will not be an issue. 1 billion people are already on Facebook. Social interaction through technology is accepted today more then ever before. Using smartphones in public is not only accepted, its normal. Years ago using a PDA might have made you look like a yuppie, but today no one would notice.

What does "cultural icon" mean? Is the Segway a cultural icon even though only ~30,000 of them exist? Pretty much everyone knows what it is but most people have not benefited from them. I would be willing to take this bet if we determine some objective criteria.

"Cultural icon" means Glass will be the next iPhone, I think.

yeah, something like this. But perhaps to a lesser degree.

30,000, of which 19,500 are California security mall personnel.

I'll gladly take this bet. It is hard to frame since I don't think it will ever launch in any meaningful way (1.5 years from never, is still never). That being said, I think if they sell 20 million units globally before December 31, 2016 you will win the bet.

The marketplace is going to reject Glass.

I was thinking the same thing. I think one of the biggest issues with the Newton was timing. We are a different people now than then. The timing is right. If they don't mess it up with weird looking hardware, then it will probably be a success.

> If they don't mess it up with weird looking hardware


I don't follow.

Was an attempt at joke. Everyone do find the glasses a joke to be displayed in public environments already

oh, ok. I thought that is what you might have meant. These are prototypes so far I think. Hopefully the production version is less weird looking. :)

1. i don't believe in paying third party charity

2. you think all that for the same reason I also think all that: Wishful thinking... but deep inside i can see the truth. we are the hippies-yuppies who will buy it :)

put yourself on the shoes of people hearing about the newton back then: handwriting recognition!! how wouldn't want that instead of a 3x4 phone keyboard? Turned out 99.9% prefered T9. it's all the same. we are thinking as if the implementation and day-to-day use would be perfect on such a new concept on the first try. well, odds are it wont. but in one year can get back to it and see if my money goes to one of your charities or if your money will buy me something shinny (that's one bet i'd like to lose...)

So wait, you're morally against giving money to a charity but you're perfectly okay with betting his charity against your free money? Honestly curious.

Also - implementation and day-to-day use don't have to be perfect for it to be a game-changer/overnight success/cultural icon. As evidenced by... Well, pretty much every piece of successful consumer electronics ever made that has gone through multiple generations/revisions.

yes, I AM against. but if he wins the bet, my money goes to it since for me to lose means he won. as it seems to be what he's into.

and yes. they work like that. the discussion is if it will happen in 1 year as he says or in 10-15 years as history says.

see what i did there? i put my words as valid as "history". hah. clever.

> i don't believe in paying third party charity

Why? Some are really good: http://givewell.org/international/top-charities/

1.) Fair enough

Put your money where your mouth is.

Did you mean: No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.?

There are a lot of products that started as totally uncool, used by hippies/yuppies & eventually became mainstream.

PC. Twitter. I won't be surprised if cellphone was too.

Google Glass is a prototype. Product will evolve.

I bet decades ago, people would not have thought that PCs would fit inside a manila folder.

Yes, Apple will bring out a cool version in 2020.

How do you make wearing a headpiece cool? I wear glasses and imagine some teeny tiny thing embedded in one of the arms. What could 20/20 people do that would be socially acceptable? Maybe a bluetooth headset looking thing?

Make them exclusive. Only let a handful of people wear them, so that they become a social status symbol. Make them so rare that people share photos of them "in the wild" like they were pictures of celebrities. The early announcement and slow public roll-out are necessary for pragmatic reasons -- you can't test Glass in the real world if you're trying to keep it secret -- but I think it's also a brilliant marketing strategy. Right now the only people who have worn them are high-level Google folks and a handful of Friends of Google. They're living in the future, and we're living in the past. Exclusivity breeds desire. I think that's the general idea.

Nope, as far as I'm concerned they're still gonna be dorky. Wearing electronics on your face is irredeemably dorky, and I don't see any way around that.

Electronics in your pocket: cool

Electronics in your hand: cool

Electronics hanging out of your ears: cool

Electronics on your head, face, or built into your clothing: irredeemably uncool.

I can't explain why in words, all I can tell you is that the world sees these things differently. If you don't understand why computer-enabled glasses are unavoidably dorky then I can't explain it to you, but I'm pretty sure it's the case.

edit: That's not to say they won't sell well, to certain people. I envisage engineers on building sites walking around with 'em, or travelling salesmen, or police officers, or... I dunno, there's gotta be lots of good use cases for these sorts of things. But the very utility of 'em makes 'em desperately uncool, like Bluetooth earpieces.

Smartphones used to be dorky (less than a decade ago!). So did computers and even wrist watches. I'm pretty sure "electronic eyewear" (which ARE dorky now - see oakley's nerd product, the Thump) will follow suit. Dorky, then widespread, then sexy and desirable.


I might be getting old, but I remember a time where electronics ANYWHERE in your person were incredibly uncool.

They were called "wereables" from a reason.

A lot of people used to carry pens on their shirts. Many still do. Now using bluetooth earpieces is commonplace. I am sure people will get used to using very tiny gadgets on their clothing or ears if they assist them in meaningful ways.

I really don't see as much earpiece fashion anymore. To me it always screamed "extra device" which is the opposite of luxury or convenience. Or maybe I'm just blind to a common trend now.

A lot of people used to carry pens on their shirts

Isn't "pens in the front pocket" a defining characteristic of a 1950s-era nerd?

Now using bluetooth earpieces is commonplace

Sure, among two classes of people: travelling salesmen and complete toolbags.

I am sure people will get used to using very tiny gadgets on their clothing or ears if they assist them in meaningful ways.

Oh sure, I'm just arguing that it'll never be cool.

"Sure, among two classes of people: travelling salesmen and complete toolbags."

Yeah... next time you're walking through a crowded place, look at people's ears more closely.

If it works well enough, of course it will be cool. Once everyone has one to get shit done with, "cool" will be one of the biggest differentiators to determine which one to get.

If it doesn't work well enough, then it will be the new Newton—and even then, here we are 20 years later, and tablets are cool.

You already have kids wearing fake glasses for style. I think the trick here is just to make the fancy glasses look like normal ones.

> What could 20/20 people do that would be socially acceptable?

Wear glasses with non-corrective lenses.

I went from never wearing glasses for ten years to wearing glasses every day. (I was previously using contact lenses.) Hardly anyone batted an eye.

"How do you make wearing a headpiece cool?"

Cool people already puts on sunglasses yeahhh!

->"How do you make wearing a headpiece cool?" Beautiful women wearing your product?

> How do you make wearing a headpiece cool?

that's simple, you ask apple to make it.

Given where Lasik is at, aglasses are going to be a purely optional fashion statement in 10 years. It will be perfectly acceptable and fashionable ( at times ) to wear them.

Contact lenses


Simple. You put them in some hipster frames. BAM, instant success.


apple made walkmans cool again. After the 80s. with marketing alone.

When were they not cool? As a teen in the late 90s, everyone I knew had a discman. (Mine was bright orange, and got plenty of comments on how cool it looked. :) )

marketing alone? yeah, right.

edit: Adding a hard drive, making it easier to use than the competition, itunes store, app store. None of that had anything to do with it?

I remember my parents called all mp3 players "iPod" long before the appstore was announced. The first generations of iPods might have been easier to use than the other mp3 players at the time, but that alone does not explain the huge adoption by the general population. Marketing definitively had a lot to do with it, probably more than the quality of the product.

Indeed. The iPod was just a worse Nomad. (I already posted CmdrTaco's iconic summary in another comment in this article, so I will avoid it here.)

But nobody bought Nomad, and everyone bought an iPod. Why? Because Apple told people to buy an iPod, and people tend to do what they're told.

For me, the fantastic thing about the first iPod was immediate access to any track, combined with shuffle play. It changed the experience of listening to music. It was like my entire collection had a single, superfluid interface. And the thing FELT great.

Even if you credit marketing with bringing this to people's attention, it's a mistake to think that marketing closes the deal. That credit goes to the experience, which was as imaginative, compelling, and well-designed as the object itself. As the (very) old ad agency joke goes "Nothing destroys a bad product faster than good advertising." Clearly that's not happening here.

I will never understand people ignore the product itself while insisting success is "just" marketing (as though this were an invariably witless task). Usually this is followed by "to people who are idiots." Perhaps you just don't appreciate things that are carefully considered and well made. There are people like this, and there always have been. And they suck. Or as Shakespeare put it "you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things."

Ah, so the reason the ipod is successful is:

"Because Apple told people to buy an iPod, and people tend to do what they're told".

Yes, you've restated my comment successfully.

itunes and appstore is monetization of the post marketing success. you convert them to switch, and then lock them there.

hard drive was a step back. for the same price (and 5 months before ipod launched) you could get a creative flash memory mp3 player with 2/3 of the size. again, same price, you give away 1/3 of the storage for NO gravity or dropping of issues. far superior if you ask me... yet, bad marketing on creative. (btw, ipod evolved some 5yr later and what? 1/2 of the space and flash memory, so yeah, even apple consumers agree it was better without it.)



Oh god. Why did I even say that? Someone kill me now.

i feel like i'm on reddit :P

You are thinking of today's Glass. In 2-3 iterations, the camera will be so small and embedded in the frame that it won't be noticeable.

A camera that takes images comparable to a picture taken on a current iPhone? For every frame (such as in a video) the amount of work involved to reduce boredom increases. Raw video of people's lives is utterly, unimaginably boring, even if the person is a celebrity.

Still photos work b/c they capture a whole moment, with just enough detail to inspire the imagination and to ground the imaginings in reality.

My personal favorites are the slightly grainy and oversaturated images taken by the camera in the blackberry I had about 5 years ago. Still photos bring out the best parts of the human experience, while raw video makes everyone as boring as the worst video blogger.

It's not the device, it's the applications people will crave. Think about these apps for your glasses:

- adBlocker to remove ads from your view

- first person shooter missions with google maps integration. All you need is an empty cow-pasture.

- architects/renovators guiding people through their new/renovated house before the contract' signed.

- ...

You're suffering from a serious lack of realism if you discard them based on the camera quality. The iPhone drove R&D for cameras we have now, same will happen for these gizmos.

Edit: The only real opposition I see is another wave of reports on the impact of having a non-stop wireless RF device next to your skull.

If augmented reality glasses have adblockers, I hope it's possible to set the adblocker to "They Live" mode: http://www.jnack.com/finnegan/images/theyLive.jpg

I think the augmented reality aspect is going to be awesome, I just don't imagine wanting to watch the video someone else is seeing in real time -- though after some editing it could be very fun to watch.

i agree with you. all the haters on the project glass concept are not thinking of all the cool yet un thought of applications.

police officer gives you a hard time? not when you have these babies on.

-any- interaction with a portable or remote electronics could be done through glass

contextual info lookup, like price matching, comparison shopping, maps, directions, all of it

entertainment, eventually vr type emersion.

adBlocker to remove ads from your view

I hate ads, but not quite enough to go round blocking portions of my vision just to avoid seeing 'em. I envisage myself getting run over by an advertising-covered bus.

first person shooter missions with google maps integration. All you need is an empty cow-pasture

Sounds fun, but niche. Laser Tag isn't a big industry.

architects/renovators guiding people through their new/renovated house before the contract' signed

That's more the sort of application I'd envisage.

Or how about this? Imagine a store you'd walk into, get issued a pair of glasses, then you could walk around, look at things, and have information about 'em magically appear? How cool would that be? Answer: awesomely cool... the first time. In year one, that store would be the coolest thing on the planet. But the fiftieth time you go in there.... meh.

Or how about this? Imagine a store you'd walk into, get issued a pair of glasses, then you could walk around, look at things, and have information about 'em magically appear? How cool would that be? Answer: awesomely cool... the first time. In year one, that store would be the coolest thing on the planet. But the fiftieth time you go in there.... meh.

They're doing this in Korea already, I believe.

"A camera that takes images comparable to a picture taken on a current iPhone?"

I will be intrigued to see what pops out when this really becomes a priority. You may not be able to stick a single small camera in a glasses frame and get anywhere, but what about having 4 or 8 relatively cheap cameras and some image processing? With the cameras tuned to the needs of the image processing. Perhaps not even 4 or 8 identical cameras. Can we play games with optical interferometry [1] to extract surprising amounts of visual data from surprisingly small cameras? There's a crapload of optical tricks we've learned that we've not really needed to apply yet, and ahem IT IS OBVIOUS TO ONE SKILLED IN THE ART THAT THESE TECHNIQUES MAY BE USEFUL ON AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES. (ahem)

(Sorry, 2019, 2012 is just too cool for you.)

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_optical_interferom...

You might be interested in compressive sensing.

wow, sounds very cool. How many $20 micro cameras does it take to get an image of comparable quality to a high end SLR?

That may be the first time I've ever heard anyone wax nostalgic for the Blackberry camera. Wonder if there's already an iPhone app for that.


Instagram ;-)

Not sure there's a filter in Instagram that botches up your photos as much as early-2000's blackberry. So soon we forget the years of yellow skin tones, movement blur and jarring LED flash.

One day my kids are going to look at our old photos and ask "why did photo quality go to crap from 2002-2007? Did you lose the technology?"

This is a good comment. Google Glass is technologically amazing, but the demo video was incredibly distracting. You only want augmented reality when you want it. You don't want random notifications and messages from other people cropping up and making you walk into a lamppost.

On the other hand, if they can lick the distraction problem or even make the tool something that improves focus (say by reminding you unobtrusively of what you need to get done that day) it could be very cool in subsequent iterations. I don't think the product manager is thinking about minomizing distraction though.

Agreed. Meanwhile, they've ruined Picasa with G+.

Odd that you'd state that. My flickr-feed is dwindling because photographers are moving to Google+ for picasa's quality service.

really? I post photographs on G+ entirely out of network effects - that's the site that my friends check reliably. Flickr is like a black hole, now, socially. But the Flickr user experience is still nice compared to G+'s clunky too-much-javascript.

Yes. In the early weeks of G+ it was really weird. I had mainly people from flickr in my circles, they were very easy to find because they actively pointed at each other. Posts like "if you're into this kind of photography you should add these people" - this was before you could share circles. They also posted how-tos on using picasa images in posts and such. They really jumped on it.

One of the reasons I often heard was that facebook reduced quality too much (bad compression) and this resulted in bad press for FB among photographers. Apparently, many were on the lookout for something like fb with an integration of something like picasa.

I'm less on flickr now because of the "please post this in our group" spam. They really need to get a grip on that.

The only complaint I have about G+ photos is that it emphasizes albums instead of individual photos. If I want to share a single image, I have to create an album for it, and then have that album-containing-a-single-picture hanging around forever. I find it much easier to "scp photo.png jrock.us:/var/www/jrock.us" and host it myself.

As well as Reader.

"Imagine actors and athletes doing what they do today on Twitter—sharing their adventures from a first-person POV—except doing it with Glass."

Imagine having to click on a dozen copyright notices and pay for each image you see on Google/Facebook because the image they just took is owned by $ACTOR in europe, but $STUDIO in USA and $AGENCY in Japan but a blank page because Facebook doesn't have a right to use it in Canada.

That's pretty much true, distribution for content will be a nightmare -- but that's due to the content-distributors being crazy and not so much due to the device being crazy.

So, like, just to be totally clear, the business which doesn't have this problem with videos is porn. I don't know how interested they are in Project Glass in particular, but if Project Glass becomes a way to shoot amateur porn, you can bet that there will be web sites which cater to it. Distribution rights problems will not be a main concern because it's just not a general concern in that industry -- at least, it doesn't get in the way of the day-to-day transmission of the vast amounts of data.

Why is this different than say Instagram by a celeb which happens all the time?

People don't "follow" images on Instagram by actors - the google glasses example is proposing a twitter-like system where users follow an actor's view live.

Imagine a system where Napster had a musician bugged and could stream what they were playing in the studio - think there might be right's issues ?

Naive question:

The author says image views are a subset of page views. Is this accurate when the photos are shown in a light box capable of cycling through thousands of photos without leaving the initial page?

Good question, I'd like to know the answer too. Javascript abstracts the whole theory of a "webpage" but I'm sure the image viewer reports back metrics and they have some system to track it all. In the end I'd guess it's probably treated similarly for marketing purposes.

Google is really good at seamlessly integrating the companies they acquire to give the appearance to users that Google develops much more than they actually do. The Google brand becomes synonymous with development that they actually did not themselves do.

Smart. Facebook nailed photos and now they need to nail mobile. No wonder they bought Instagram.

Saw this on reddit yesterday. Hacker News is the new Digg.

Show me google glass embedded in a pair of contact lenses, and then we'll talk.

That google glass picture scares the fuck out of me. It instantly devalues humanity and values voyeurism and narcissism over family.

If this becomes the norm, I'm going all Luddite.

I think it will also become: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma8NbpCvSwo

Can you elaborate how a picture taken with a camera you wear like glasses "devalues humanity and values voyeurism and narcissism over family" compared to a picture taken with a more (I guess) traditional camera?

Simply intent.

The intent shipped with google glass is social by default. share. Identify. Record. There is no other reason to use it.

The intent with a camera is to take a photo then decide the intent.

The former is a dangerous paradigm shift.

I didn't realize you had a Google Glass. How do you get one, and how can I get one?

I don't and never will have. The marketing is pointing to deep integration like this.


I'm sorry, but the notion that we're going to draw wide-reaching conclusions and reference "marketing" based on... basically absolutely nothing is just silliness.

A camera is alienating, and a camera that you constantly wear is even more alienating; like a locked cell is more imprisoning than a locked country.

Recommendation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mirror_%28TV_series%29#3...

+1 for black mirror and well anything by Charlie brooker. Definitely worth watching!

Thanks for reminding me about Black Mirror. Watched all 3 for the first time today. Bloody good, all.

Instead of a wearable camera, what if it was technology that could tap into your own eyes and connect to the internet? Same result, different presentation. Would that change perception do you think?

I'm confused as to what a set of glasses has to do with an implanted camera that caused issues for a fictional group of people who were cheating on each other?

Any examples that aren't absurd from the get go?

Join the rest of us Luddites. It's a liberating world out there.

How does Google Glass have anything to do taking picture of yourself, or the pain of others (or am I looking at the wrong definition)?

It doesn't. Watch this, or read the description if you can't get it where you are:


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