People Are Easy to Uniquely Identify

This research indicates that people can be uniquely identified with a tiny set of data: “87% of the U.S. Population are uniquely identified by {date of birth, gender, ZIP}.” That’s what you get as a proof of concept—imagine how much more precise it is when there are ad dollars at stake.

One of the nice things about ad targeting is that a near-miss is still valuable: if a targeting system mistakes one consumer for another one with basically identical preferences, the only problem is figuring out where in the conversion funnel they are.

The Stats Behind Twitter Sharing Versus Facebook Sharing

Here’s some great data on the most shared links on Facebook compared to Twitter. Basically, Twitter activity is still dominated by techies, but Facebook is far broader.

Meanwhile, within Facebook younger users “like” while older users click. Advertisers already use two-pronged campaigns: the primary goal is to get share-happy, low-monetization users to spread content, while higher-monetization users eventually get exposed to the same ad repeatedly from their friends. That works best if there’s a continuum between willingness to share ads and willingness to spend money: as sharing grinds to a halt, there’s a wave of paying instead.

And Facebook has made it easier to punish bad advertisers, which is another interaction of sorts.

Google’s Aggressive Distribution

Google used to be philosophically opposed to advertising. This SEOBook piece (between irrelevant bookends about the concept of ‘passive income’) explores how aggressively Google is buying users on new machines and through their browser.

In one sense, Google itself is the best advertiser for most of the remnant inventory Google controls, so it’s not surprising that they’re running ads on Youtube videos and the like. But getting distribution on new desktops is a very Bing way to acquire users.

Mail.ru Reports Solid Earnings

Internet grab-bag conglomerate Mail.ru reported revenue for the first half up 66%. They claim that this comes from integrating their properties, which could work. But the properties are pretty disparate—an ancient chat network, a Russia-specific social network, and Russia’s main email provider.

Baidu’s PR Outreach

Baidu has been working hard to get on the SEO industry’s good side, most recently by allowing a few PR puff pieces. It reads like most of these comments are not addressed to people who know how the game is played. Which is fine; every company has their PR myths. But it’s unfortunate that Baidu doesn’t engender as much skepticism as it should: they can’t monetize like Google can, and their entire set of incentives is far more complicated. That’s what you would expect, though: Google has a stronger market position than Baidu, so they can afford to run their business differently.

Did Greylock Grab Another LinkedIn Veteran?

LinkedIn’s VP of product is leaving, allegedly to Greylock. Greylock already hired LinkedIn’s chief data scientist, and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman is a partner there, too. This is an interesting pattern: was Hoffman using LinkedIn to recruit people he wanted to invest with later on?

NYT Explores New Presentation Methods

The NYT has mocked up a “Times table“—a giant tablet computer for communal news reading. This has been a science fiction staple for a long time, but people are much better at sharing newspapers than sharing screens. And it looks much more expensive than just buying everyone involved an iPad.

Google+ Uses Inline Translation

This is a very odd move: Google+ allows people to translate messages directly within the system. That’s a cool tool that increases human connection, but it doesn’t make any sense in a social network designed to reflect real-world connections. People very rarely have friends with whom they don’t share a language, and in a text-base medium, machine translation just won’t do.

This feature will be useful to voyeurs, but they’re not a huge market and nobody is gunning for their pageviews.

Dropbox Finally Closing That Massive VC Round

Dropbox, which previously raised under $8mm, is finally close to raising much much more at a $4bn valuation. This is down from earlier estimates of a $5bn to $10bn valuation, but still amazing. It’s also an indicator that Dropbox sees itself as more than a file-saving service; with a valuation like that, their thesis has gone from “Back up documents” to “Replace the hard drive for most consumers.”

One cool possibility: Dropbox could partner with computer manufacturers to create a sort of “Notebook for the Desktop”: a ridiculously cheap computer (with no hard drive, but with a discounted long-term Dropbox subscription).

More Vertical-Specific Group-Buying

Here’s a test of the thesis that group buying is such a hard business that it takes total focus: Gaypon, the Gay Groupon. Some stories claim that Fab.com did this in between being a gay social network and being a design-focused flash sale site. Since that didn’t work for Fab.com, which already had an email list and some brand recognition, Gaypon would appear to have bad odds. But as we’ve noted previously, many of the daily deal projects that slow down or shut down are the side projects; pure plays appear to have lower attrition.

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Facebook sharing versus Twitter sharing, Google’s Bing-style distribution, and an odd pattern at Greylock