Haters Gonna Hate — But Google Wallet is Significant

Google announced their Google Wallet program today where your phone is now your wallet.  This is made possible thanks to Near Field Communication, NFC, which I wrote back at the beginning of the year was key to so much of what Google was up to.  The test will begin this summer and run in 4 cities, and expansion to other cities will follow.

One particular “early review” from Jay Yarow at AlleyInsider says that adoption will be slow because using a credit card is too easy.  I think that is really near-sighted and here is why:

  • Security of your credit card in public places continues to be a problem.  In the UK for example, when you pay for a meal at a restaurant, they bring the credit card reader to your table so you can watch them scan the card.
  • Not everyone has the ability to have a credit card, as rules tighten around credit, and I assume they will continue to do so, Google Wallet gives parents the ability to distribute money to their kids to use.
  • Local deal and advertising via Google Wallet is going to be huge thanks to Google Offers.  While it is not a Groupon killer, Google has a head start on getting deals out to Android/Wallet users.
  • 5 years from now will we think about carrying a wallet, or will a single device do it all?  I am guessing/hoping it will be a single device.
  • Google just sent a huge shot across Apple’s bow with this feature.  I believe Apple will make some kind of NFC announcement at WWDC in 10 days, how can they not?

So haters can hate, but Google moved the ball down the field today with this announcement and for the first time since getting an iPhone 3+ years ago, it makes me question whether it’s time to switch.

Why Can’t Lance Armstrong Just Admit He Used Performance Enhancing Drugs?

Watching 60 Minutes this weekend, I caught an interview with two former teammates of Lance Armstrong admit to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and that they witnessed Lance Armstrong also using them as well.  Not surprising, these teammates testified to these facts recently.

Lance has categorically denied ever using PEDs and every test he has ever taken has been clean.  That has not stopped allegations from repeatedly popping up, 8 different times, since 2004.  Teammates, friends and competitors have all eluded to or admitted to knowing Lance used PEDs.  So why can’t Lance just come clean?

My theory on why he keeps denying the truth is that it would implicate much more than himself.  It is clear that the international cycling community may be just as complicit in ignoring and covering up the test results as anyone.  Interest in cycling was waning in the late 90s, but in 1999 Lance Armstrong started to change that when he won his first Tour de France and his story about his battle with cancer came out.  For most Americans, the only cycling race they know is the Tour de France, so it was a great story, and as he realed off 7 consecutive Tour de France titles.

It was in cycling’s best interest to keep Lance in the lead.  I believe that as fellow competitors tried to keep up with Lance they learned the only way was with PEDs and that because international cycling officials allowed Lance to do it, that they would be allowed too.  I find it nearly impossible to believe everyone was cheating around Lance, they could not keep up with him, and he remained clean.  What biological condition or bionic condition gives him that ability?

Armstrong has done so much for the sport of cycling, for cancer awareness through his Livestrong foundation, but his greatest contribution maybe his ability to lie to himself that he used PEDs.  He has done a better job avoiding getting caught than anyone in modern sports history.

Perhaps it is time for the all drug cycling competitons like SNL suggested a few years ago.

AIM and Google Talk Federate…Off with the Multihead

Can we finally put to rest the multiheaded IM clients that require me to log into 5 different services?  My former colleagues at AOL finally turned on federation with Google after 4 years of Google running an AIM multiheaded server in their data center.

The Old AIM GTalk Multihead Logo

Turning off the multihead unwinds one of the most over engineered solutions in the history of messaging.  When AOL and Google did the original deal around messaging in 2006, we were not ready to do federation, so we proposed a multihead.  At the time the negotiations started Google only had a desktop client, but soon after we started talking Google unleashed something called Caribou on us.  Caribou was the code name of Gtalk in GMail, and needless to say it threw a wrench into our plans.  In the end Google wrote a server side multiheaded experience using a client side library that had to handle 1000s of threads.  It was a miracle it worked, and a lot of great engineers made it happen.  Thank goodness we can turn it off now.

With federation comes the hope that we can break down the walls of the IM networks that have existed for 12+ years.  For users they get the ability to talk to their friends regardless of networks and use the application they like best.  For the networks, federation means an application battle royale.  Personally, I will use GTalk when I am at my laptop at work since we use Google Apps here at Clearspring.  For my iPhone and iPad I use AIM because Google’s mobile experience on iOS is lacking.

Let’s hope that the other networks can figure out how to federate with each other and we can all stop using clunky multiheaded IM applications.

Gizmodo’s Obit for AIM

Gizmodo did a nostalgia post about how AIM was the first Facebook before there was even MySpace.  We used to say that all the time when I was at AOL, that we beat Twitter and MySpace/Facebook to the punch with a lot of the features users of those service love today.

It definitely brought a smile to my face to see Gizmodo praise AIM 5.x.  My favorite AIM version I worked on was AIM 5.5 on Windows, back when I still used a Windows machine.  That particular client really was close to perfect, and achieved perfection thanks to James Dennis’ DeadAIM addon that removed the Ad and added a few other key features.  CNet calls it plain, but by then we had built a nice Expression engine and had audio and video chat.

What made AIM so important back then was the away message which were as irrelevant as a lot of Tweets are today, like “In the Shower” or “I am watching Survivor.”  We used to watch our users in usability tests view each of their friends Away Messages.  It even drove us to create a simple web page where you could view all of your buddies current Away Messages and their profiles.

Ah, profiles, 1024  characters (HTML markup included) of personalized goodness.  This was MySpace years before Tom became everyone’s friend.  Profiles were so important, that when we launched the ill fated AIM Triton without profiles, I added an AIM plugin to put them back. (Props to Justin for keeping his old Running Man blog alive on Blogspot after AOL Journals was shut down.)

So while Gizmodo declares AIM dead, I think they missed the AIM Desktop death by a few years.  AIM is making a big push on being a web destination and they still have a respected mobile experience.  Hopefully AIM 5.5 can rest in peace, as the real-time communication platform moves on to what’s next.


AIM Moves to the Web with AV

I am proud that the last thing I worked on during my 11 years at AOL finally was released yesterday. AIM AV was something that was a long time coming. It addressed two of the bigger weaknesses AIM suffered. It was getting lapped by messaging clients on the web by Meebo and GTalk among others. The other area AV addresses is a new set of audio and video technology.

AV finally starts to get AIM away from the original audio video stack I wrote with others back in 2003 and refreshed in 2006. I am proud of the work we did 5+ years ago when we had the foresight to move away from Microsoft RTC and integrate ON2’s VP7 and Global IP Solutions. Later both those companies were acquired by Google and now make up a major part of WebM.

The new experience lowers the barrier to entry, where anybody can arrive at aim.com/av and immediately start a video conversation with a friend.  With no download necessary, getting non-technical people to use the product is super easy, no Geek Squad required.  Simply just copy and send the link. The team did a great job getting AV out the door and making it the easiest audio and video experience on the internet, congrats guys.