Top of the blogs

The Web Services blog only started in April but in that time we’ve posted over 100 entries. As seems to be common around these times, I’ve done some digging into our Google Analytics stats and come up with a top ten list of popular posts. First the list then maybe I’ll talk a little about them!

1. Web development with symfony

2. Facebook > MySpace

3. Go PHP5!

4. Facebook Applications

5. The Paris Hilton effect…

6. Where Am I?

7. We’re still being used

8. Release Early, Release Often!

9. Jobs Website Live

10. University email from Google

So what does this show us? It shows the continued interest in Facebook. It’s just over a year since Facebook opened the doors to non-students and in that time growth has been massive. They’ve continued to innovate with their developer platform but have perhaps misread their users on the Beacon advertising system.

About half of the top posts are technical in nature including many about our use of the symfony framework. In the last year we’ve developed several symfony-powered sites including Hi, the applicant community and the brand new GO portal. Work is well underway on a couple of new parts of the corporate website – look out for more in the new year!

More on OpenSocial

It seems that Google had more up their sleeves than the early announcements that leaked out. Today they added MySpace, Bebo and Six Apart (of Moveable Type, LiveJournal, TypePad and Vox fame) to the list of relatively minor players. MySpace announced back in June that they’re looking to open up and it would appear that this deal with Google goes back over a year.

This significantly increases the potential market for the OpenSocial platform and will be a definite draw to developers looking to engage with MySpace and Bebo users. This is unlikely to change my personal views on either of these sites but by having a standard API to write for it removes the problems of having to pander to NewsCorp’s whims.

Alison commented yesterday about Facebook’s next move:

I’ll be interested to see how long it is before Facebook choose to support Open Social… surely that’s the next obvious step for them?!

I’m more tempted to agree now, but it’s still not a given. Facebook are saying they’ve not been asked to join, itself not a great surprise but Google won’t be able to stop Facebook from joining in once the API is released. A bigger factor is perhaps Facebook’s plans for their Social Advertising Network. If they see OpenSocial as an opportunity to push targetted adverts out on competitor’s sites through embedded applications then there’s a strong financial motivation to join in.

Facebook > MySpace

You could see this one coming – Facebook has finally overtaken MySpace in terms of unique visitors. TechCrunch UK is surprised that Facebook is no longer the fastest growing network:

In something of a revelation however, Facebook is no longer the fastest growing social network. Instead Perfspot, the US-based site where people “share their interests”, is fast gaining traction in the UK.

TechCrunch UK is forgetting that it’s percentage growth so small sites can get much higher growth rates more easily – PerfSpot is still less than one-twentieth the size of Facebook. It’s still worth taking all these figures with a large pinch of salt but it’s interesting that the one-time unstoppable MySpace is now looking decidedly shaky.

MySpace ready to open up?!

According to TechCrunch it looks as if MySpace are looking to follow Facebook down the route of an open platform for developers.

I can’t say I’m particularly surprised (given the success Facebook’s experienced) but I wonder if this is perhaps too little too late. At the moment MySpace still beats Facebook in the stats and they do have a greater critical mass but in the last few months many of it’s users have switched their allegiance to Facebook and with the networks growing every day I wonder how ready they’ll be to switch back.

For me Facebook offers so much more than MySpace. Aside from the obvious developer tools it has the stickiness that MySpace doesn’t. I can find out what my friends are up to alongside details of my colleagues and peers. Through Facebook I can find out about events I may be interested in, have discussions (in a relatively closed environment) about those events and strengthen my professional networks. Would I be as comfortable doing this on MySpace? I think not.

I think Facebook has a greater appeal for all ages. It has something for everyone. As a Web Developer many of the MySpace profiles make me cringe whereas I know what I’m getting with Facebook – it’s more about the information and the interaction than the layout.

It’s all down to individual preferences at the end of the day but I don’t think MySpace’s announcement will make much difference to Facebooks popularity and my money will still be on Facebook overtaking MySpace as the number one social networking in the not too distant future.

Online Excellence Scholarships

This year we’re launching our first “Online Excellence Scholarship” in a bid to reward students who are excelling in the construction and creative and interesting use of new media. Successful applicants could be upwarded £1,000 over 1 year (for PGCE students) or £2,000 over 3 years (for undergraduates) an attractive bonus for any student.

So how will we judge “excellence”? Well we’re particularly interested in the richness of content, creativity, innovation and/or technical accomplishment shown in the work and whilst most people have a MySpace page or a blog somewhere or other we’ll be looking for things that stand out from the crowd.

With all the web 2.0 technologies and sites available it’s easy enough for those creative and innovative individuals to really make their mark in the online space and we’re looking forward to seeing some of the best examples and awarding the scholarship to someone we feel can really add value to the growing online community. 

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