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Bright Bright Great Invited to Present at Chicago Innovation Exchange

Bright Bright Great was thrilled to be invited to speak recently at the University of Chicago‘s Chicago Innovation Exchange at an open event centered on helping entrepreneurs build better brands.

Our Creative Director, Jason Schwartz, and Marketing Director, Nick Lush, were both on hand to give a short presentation on some of BBG’s past work in brand identity and strategy.

After the presentation, Jason and Nick stuck around to answer questions and talk one on one with some of the attendees, learning a little more about the ideas that are being developed at CIE, the issues they’re running into as entrepreneurs, and helping to provide answers where possible.

Both Jason and Nick look forward to continuing to help some of the attendees with their projects and getting better acquainted with more of the participants at CIE.

If you’d like to have BBG speak at an event you have coming up, say hello!13835566_10153622921141555_1078684702_o

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

After All These Years We’ve Finally Solved It! Cracking the Code: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

seo-bundle

In our strategy and marketing work, it is not uncommon for us to have in-depth conversations with our clients on the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In the heyday of the tech boom, SEO was everywhere, as companies took their competition online and fought to go to the top of search rankings by whatever means were at their disposal.

Early on, this meant essentially paying for advertising. Once Google broke through, with their purely algorithm-driven results,  as the search engine of choice for most users, this changed to making sure that companies were establishing a digital record of their prominence within their fields.

Some less scrupulous competitors turned to the dark arts, paying companies to load their pages and code with unusable links to irrelevant websites to trick search engines into thinking that more people were linking to their site than was actually the case. Eventually, this came full circle, with the only way to insert yourself into an otherwise algorithmically-determined search order being paying for placement.

Clients have been asking us for years how to trick people into buying their product on the internet and we haven’t had a concrete answer on how to do it. Today we think we finally got this right.

Jason Schwartz, SEO Specialist

Until today. Today, April 1st, Bright Bright Great is proud to announce that we have cracked Search Engine Optimization once and for all: by helpfully pointing out where search engines can find SEO,  namely in all of our links.

You will notice on our site that we have politely and helpfully appended the phrase “SEO” to all of the links on our site, in order to make it as plain as possible that these portions of our site are there to highlight our areas of expertise and that interested users should click those links in order to find relevant information.

With this new strategy, it has never been simpler to ensure that you are getting the maximum result for your content marketing efforts: by politely asking for more SEO by noting to search engines where they can find your optimized content on your site.

I mean, SEO is pretty much the best trick around.

Nick Lush, SEO Marketing, Strategy, Link-Building, Content Stuffing, White Hat Marketing Specialist

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

HHVM: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Over the past 20 years, PHP has become the de facto server-side programming language of the web.

From leading open-source software like WordPress to some of the Internet’s most heavily-trafficked sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia to name a few), you’ll find it everywhere.

But its developer-friendly syntax comes at a cost.

Before any Web Magic™ can happen, the human-readable PHP source code must be run through an interpreter. This process is expensive (particularly in terms of memory usage) and time-consuming. Ultimately, this sets an upper-bound on the number of simultaneous page requests a given server can handle. As a site nears this ceiling, it becomes necessary to either make the site more efficient, or upgrade the hardware.

For some sites, the answer is to sidestep PHP altogether and implement static page caching. But for others, where dynamic processing is unavoidable, the solution might lie in the interpreter itself.

As system administrators know, there is no shortage of PHP interpreters on the market.

Each has its own quirks, configurations, and compatibility issues, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But with a little experimentation and a lot of testing, performance gains can be substantial.

One of the most promising interpreters available today is the Hip-Hop Virtual Machine (HHVM). Developed in-house by Facebook, the name of the game for HHVM is speed. For one thing, HHVM meets the machine halfway, converting PHP source code into an intermediate bytecode (this bytecode, then, is what’s left to dynamically interpret at runtime).

This is similar to what PHP extensions like Xcache bring to the table. Another trick up its sleeves: HHVM uses a single multi-threaded process to handle requests (unlike, for example, PHP-FPM, which spawns multiple processes). This leads to much more stable CPU and memory usage for servers operating under heavy loads.

A couple months ago, one of the more resource-heavy sites managed by Bright Bright Great was suffering from a substantial increase in traffic. While publicity is one of the better problems to have, it did pose difficulties for the server, which simply wasn’t configured for that level of interest.

After some (read: lots of) compatibility testing, we successfully transitioned from PHP-FPM to HHVM. The results were astounding.

The average DOM-Ready time dropped by 46%. Simultaneous page serves increased by 112%. And CPU usage under load, once maxed out, remained stable at a healthy 55%.

In fact, the PHP gains were so successful the bottleneck was shifted to MySQL. After some code rewrites to help the site take advantage of object caching (via HHVM’s implementation of APC), the simultaneous page serving capacity was nearly doubled again.

But wait, there’s more!

As part of HHVM’s regular development cycle, its engineers are locked in a room with a surfeit of junk food and coffee (I imagine) and tasked to further optimize the code already in place. By focusing on improvements that directly benefit widely-used software, the real-world impact of any gains made is maximized. With the recent release of version 3.8, HHVM was able to serve 9.7% more pages per second for WordPress, 4.8% for MediaWiki, and 13.9% for Drupal8 (uncached).

We ran quick before and after tests ourselves (against the site previously mentioned) using the command line program siege. Sure enough, the upgrade was able to serve 4.3% more pages per second.

HHVM is indeed the gift that keeps on giving!

Posted By
Josh Stoik

Apprenticeship Recap – Dayan D’Aniello

Our intern, Dayan, recently returned to school after spending the summer with us. Before he left, we asked him to tell us what he learned during his time in our office.

My name is Dayan D’Aniello and I spent this past summer as a design intern at Bright Bright Great before going back to the University of Florida to finish out my senior year. During my time in the office, I was able to contribute to 5 projects and work on designing a typeface (a little better than just getting coffee, right?).

Dayan

The important thing with any internship is to pick up new lessons and skills that will help you once you start a full-time job and I definitely learned a lot that will help me as I get started in my career. With that in mind, here are my three biggest takeaways from my time at BBG:

Write everything down.

I mean everything. I took 77 pages of notes from various morning meetings. Client interactions, art direction presentations, art direction feedback, et cetera. While I stopped taking notes in my classes, it was definitely necessary to keep track of all the things you’re asked to do: write it down!

Ask questions, but not too many.

Don’t be afraid to shoot someone a message if you’re in need of some help. There is a limit to this, though. Everyone else is busy most of the time, so try to figure it out on your own first instead of making someone feel like you’re trying to source your answers from them.

Everything moves quickly, be ready to hustle.

This one speaks for itself. There were times I was in the office until 2 AM. On a Saturday. You have to put in the work to enjoy the rewards.

And that’s that! Keep track of what I’m up to during my senior year on my Behance page. Keep an eye out for open apprenticeships here.

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

How To Achieve an A+ SSL Configuration on Nginx

Qualys SSL Labs has a wonderful tool to help evaluate your server’s SSL configuration. I recommend you take a moment to scan your site and see how you fare. Go do that now. I’ll wait. If you didn’t get a perfect score, you aren’t alone.

The default configurations for popular server-side software like OpenSSL often support cryptographically weak standards that can put users at risk. Even major corporations have room for improvement.

Keep your server secure

If you’re on a shared server or at the mercy of control panel software like cPanel or Plesk, unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do. But if you have root access and a little knowing of the command-line, this article will help you harden your configuration so you can get a perfect A+.

While the following examples are specific to Nginx, they should be able to help point any readers running Apache or Lighttpd servers in the right direction.

Obtaining a Certificate

First, let’s start with a quick refresher on how you go about getting a certificate in the first place. Make a directory outside your web root, and once in that directory, generate a private key and certificate signing request (CSR). Your key should be at least 2048 bytes. In this example we’ll generate one that is 4096 bytes. If you have an existing key and can’t remember how strong it is, you can type:

openssl rsa -in domain.com.key -text -noout | head -n 1

To generate a new key, use:

mkdir /var/www/domain.com/ssl
cd /var/www/domain.com/ssl
openssl req -new -newkey rsa:4096 -nodes -keyout domain.com.key -out domain.com.csr

The openssl command will quiz you about your domain and organization. The Common Name (CN) needs to be the fully-qualified-domain-name for which you are purchasing the certificate. Remember, domain.com and www.domain.com are technically two different domains, so enter the CN exactly as visitors are expected to reach it. Some certificates, such as Comodo’s PositiveSSL, are magically valid for both www and non-www variants (aren’t they sweet?).

You should now find two files in your ssl directory: domain.com.key and domain.com.csr. That key is meant to be private, so take a moment to update its permissions. If 600 is too restrictive for your environment, 640 might do the trick.

chmod 0600 domain.com.key

Now go buy a certificate. Namecheap offers decent Comodo certificates from as low as $9, or you could spend more money elsewhere. It doesn’t much matter. As part of the certificate activation process, you’ll be asked for the CSR you just created, so keep that handy. Different Certificate Authorities (CA) have different validation processes, so just follow whatever instructions you’re given.

Once your certificate has been issued, upload them to the directory containing your key and CSR. If you are issued two or more bundled certificates (which is a common practice), they must be stitched together into a single file for Nginx. The order is important, so double-check the CA’s documentation. For Comodo PositiveSSL certificates, run the following:

cat domain.com.crt COMODORSADomainValidationSecureServerCA.crt COMODORSAAddTrustCA.crt AddTrustExternalCARoot.crt > domain.com.combined.crt

Nginx Set Up

By default, OpenSSL uses a weak 1024 byte key for Diffie Hellman key exchanges.  Let’s bump this up to 4096 by running the following command.  It can take a while to complete, so go make a sandwich:

openssl dhparam -out /etc/nginx/dhparams.pem 4096

Now let’s make Nginx’s SSL configuration a little more secure by adding the following code to the http{} block of your /etc/nginx/nginx.conf file:

http {
	...

	##
	# SSL Settings
	##

	## force modern protocols and ciphers
	## and enable ssl cache for a small
	## performance boost

	ssl_prefer_server_ciphers On;
	ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
	ssl_ciphers ECDH+AESGCM:DH+AESGCM:ECDH+AES256:DH+AES256:ECDH+AES128:DH+AES:ECDH+3DES:DH+3DES:RSA+AESGCM:RSA+AES:RSA+3DES:!aNULL:!MD5:!DSS;
	ssl_session_cache shared:ssl_session_cache:10m;
	ssl_dhparam /etc/nginx/dhparams.pem;

	...
}

Now that we have the general out of the way, let’s move onto site-specific configurations. Open the configuration file corresponding to your site, something like /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/domain.com.conf.

Let’s start by adding a server block to redirect www.domain.com to domain.com, and also force HTTPS connections for everything. If www.domain.com is your main domain, simply reverse the www and non-www in the following examples.

server {
	listen 80;
	listen [::]:80 ipv6only=on;

	server_name www.domain.com domain.com;

	rewrite ^(.*) https://domain.com$1 permanent;
}

Now in your main server block for the domain, add the following:

server {
	listen 443 ssl;
	listen [::]:443 ssl ipv6only=on;

	server_name domain.com www.domain.com;

	#point to the combined certificate and key we generated earlier.
	ssl_certificate /home/domain.com/ssl/domain.com.combined.crt;
	ssl_certificate_key /home/domain.com/ssl/domain.com.key;

	#enable HSTS (in supported browsers) to make sure all subsequent
	#user requests are done over HTTPS regardless of protocol typed.
	add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";

	#redirect non-canonical domain over SSL.
	#this will only work if your SSL certificate also covers www.domain.com.
	if ($host = 'www.domain.com' ) {
		rewrite ^(.*)$ https://domain.com$1 permanent;
	}
	...
}

If your server is not configured for IPv6, remove the second listen lines from the above examples. Speaking of IPv6, Nginx only wants to see a single ipv6only=on attribute per port across all your server blocks. If you have additional server blocks defined, simply omit that string from their definitions.

That’s it! Restart Nginx to apply the changes:

service nginx restart

Last Thoughts

You should now have pretty darn good SSL support! But the fun doesn’t end here!

New threats or vulnerabilities can pop up any time, to say nothing of the inevitable march of progress (advances in technology will eventually make your once great setup laughably inadequate).  Make sure you regularly apply any security patches made available to your distribution.  You should also periodically rerun the Qualys SSL Labs scan to see if any tweaks are needed to stay on top.

Posted By
Josh Stoik

Opinion – What Does @3x Resolution Really Mean (iPhone 6, @3x.png)

By: Jason Schwartz

This is just a shot in the dark. Until the new iPhone 6 is announced, there really is no way to know true specs, resolution, or graphic requirements, but I wanted to point out a few of the logistic pieces addressing the rumors.

Over the last few months there has been a good amount of writing/guessing at the new iPhone 6 display resolution. Daring Fireball wrote a great article about how he came to the conclusion of definitive pixels.

I wanted to talk about 2 things.

First let me use Daring Fireball’s explanation as to what @2x and @3x mean:

“@2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels.”

When the “retina” or @2x resolutions came to iOS devices and the Retina MacBook Pro, immediately the internet looked broken. It was a sea of blurry images that brought back memories of early web. Designers were better than that, but all of the work they created to date was pretty much outdated, they just hadn’t caught up yet.

Three years later, most companies still don’t know that their websites are blurry on retina Mac computers and certain devices.

Since that introduction, good web designers have been incredibly diligent about creating for retina to make sure that pixel perfect really means pixel perfect.

The addition of the @3x resolution means a few things.

  • 1. Servers will now be serving up much larger images. This adds to load times as well as data that sites will need to serve. Since hosting has data caps depending on where you have purchased, this might require more expensive hosting for media intense sites.
  • 2. Designers who create in Photoshop will need to make assets at 3x instead of 2x. This is a big deal for a good portion of designers who still don’t work in code. For anyone who has created a 2x page at 2800×100000+ pixels you know that it destroys your memory. Only the best computers will be able to handle huge mock-ups at these sizes.

This change may warrant new expenses for designers.

  • 3. Depending on execution, adding the @3x will add time to both design and development. Not every designer uses .SVG for icons and scalable elements. Not every designer even understands the reality of @2x images yet. Adding a 3rd component into the mix makes for additional work whether it be in site problem solving, data architecture, hosting, or creation of elements.

I’m interested to see what happens once the next iPhone comes out.

Update: The iPhone 6 has been announced with no change to the retina imagery, we’re still going strong at @2x.

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Venture Beat – The 4 Dangers Of Hiring A Web Designer + Response

VentureBeat posted an extremely offensive article today talking about the dangers of hiring a web designer. Yes, this was sponsored, but it’s pretty shallow and minimally thought out.

Full article here… you should read it – http://venturebeat.com/2013/09/11/the-4-dangers-of-hiring-a-web-designer/

Here’s our response from our Creative Director, Jason Schwartz.

+

This is borderline offensive and honestly, pretty shitty especially coming from someone “in our industry,” sorry guys.

Whomever put this garbage together should really dig deep into what a “web designer” does, the problems they solve and how the good ones work.

1. They’re expensive.

Great web designers of varying levels of skill sets and talent range in price. They also do different things. If you are approaching this from a “make me something pretty” standpoint, yes it might be expensive to reskin your brand.

However, that said, web designers often solve problems working on websites, mobile sites and applications (as well as marketing) that can wholly change your business.

For example, changing the experience of how people check-out of your store, use your product online, or even engage with you can mean the difference of millions of dollars, active returning brand fans and even business development.

If you are saying that $50,000 for intimate problem solving and shoring up user experience on a website that annually nets millions of dollars, you are insane. Creating good experiences allows people to come back and engage with you in the future.

If that costs money, so be it. If you don’t think it’s worth spending money creating, updating and growing the digital tools for your brand, you probably are misinformed about what a “web designer” does anyway in this day and age. Web designers solve problems with your interactive properties to make you money and convert people to do what you want them to do. Gone are the days of pretty pictures. We’re smarter than that, folks.

2.They’re too slow.

“The beauty of the web is the speed it allows business to happen.” Agreed, there are also web designers out there who are willing to jump daily on projects for you. Projects happen at varying speeds and honestly, that depends on what goes into making it happen.

There is no excuse for poor communication and slow execution from any employee/contractor that you hire, however let’s take this AdWords campaign for example and break it down. Calendars should be set by the company paying a web designer to do work for them. Set deliverable dates!

A marketing person needs to lead with specific messaging and intent. They need to work with the designer to make sure that what is being launched to handle that traffic is correct. Unfortunately, that’n not even a designer problem. Non-updated headlines, elements below the fold etc should’ve been shored up in QA. Do you not look at the work people are doing for you? ESPECIALLY, if they are contractors and you are spending $10,000/day on it? C’mon, last time I checked, that’s a pretty big budget. So much in fact that there should be multiple QA checkpoints.

If the designer billed you for less than an hour of work on that, kind of sounds like the designer wasn’t that expensive (See Point 1 after all) and that sounds like bad campaign management.

3. They don’t know your business.

It is the business of a good designer to not only be able to make something attractive, but as your relationship grows, be able to solve creative and experience issues that should improve the ways users use your interactive properties.

Over years, yes a design should know pretty well what you do. That’s been a long-term partnership that probably expanded beyond your website.

“I had the data that showed this change had lowered by conversion rates by over 35 percent, and I know how much that was costing my business.” That is your responsibility as a manager to assign to-dos to your designer to make that change.

Not only that, but if this sticky-point can raise/lower conversion rates by THAT MUCH, there should be whole additional conversations about what this interaction should be doing in full. That conversation includes management, QA, designers, developers and marketing. Remember, you are leading someone to do work for you, lead them, its your responsibility as well to make this successful.

4. They can disappear with your website

Every reputable designer has a contract. In that contract it should very clearly state how check-ins, hand-offs and site updates and Git pushes should happen. As a manager it is your responsibility to set up a project calendar that clearly includes these dates. The reason why contractors have different rates has to do with this as well as talent. You want to work with someone who is “legit,” that means they need to make themselves a legitimate and active registered LLC and costs go up.

“After a couple of months the guy decided to leave the country” shouldn’t matter. If having accountability as a company/LLC is important for you to go after them, use web designers that are registered as a business. Most are.

Being in the country shouldn’t matter at all. After all this is the “Web.” Good work and amazing projects happen with teams scattered across the globe. There has never been a single instance in the 7 years of my interactive company that I’ve had to drive to a developers house to find them.

Contracts are pretty cut and dry. Use them to control project flow.

 

Related Articles:
The 4 Dangers of Hiring Freemium Web Design Services like Webstarts by Sharlene King

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

5 Platforms In 5 Years – Everyone Else Plug-In

5-for-5

By Jason Schwartz

This is an opinion piece. I’ve been talking about tech’s “5 year plan” at design lecture events 2 years. Let’s talk about tech’s 5-year plan and the future segmentation of brands over time and how everyone else will just be bought-out, merged in, or overrun natively.

Every year end, I write a manifesto for the year to come. In December 2010, I wrote my 5 year prediction for the tech world called, “In 5 years there will be 5 platforms, everyone else will be a plug-in.” The biggest change that I see coming as these brands mature is that platforms will start locking each other out from inclusion of any apps and information on their devices.

We are at this weird time where computers (to a user) are less useful than they used to be. That is entirely a result of mobile computing IE the iPhone has taken over. It’s no longer a Mac Vs PC era. It’s about apps! Especially because use of the term “PC” no longer describes personal computing in the traditional sense at a desktop and mobile computing has taken over as dominant for search, local plays, gaming and even social connections. Mobile has also taken over desktop in almost all regards.

As Google steps up into physical hardware and OS production and Amazon introduces new hardware products and application environments, we now have a choice. Mac (Apple) vs. PC (Google) vs. Amazon vs. Microsoft vs. Wild Card (who is the wild card, more info below.)

As these 5 platforms tighten the grip on their unique environments, I predict that they are going to play “less nice.” For example, there is a reason why Google Maps isn’t on the new iPhone and it’s not because “Oops, we weren’t ready,” as Google released in their official statement. Apple pulled the plug on Google Maps a year early from the Google contract because they made their own. Apple basically said fuck you Google in a big way. (Google Maps was later added as was the entire Google apps suite.)

And that is going to continue and segment the environments more. Currently Apple uses Yahoo weather, removed YouTube and Google Maps as official apps and allows integration from the big guns… Facebook and Twitter. They still allow all mail accounts and I would be SHOCKED if they pulled the plug on Gmail in Mail, but it could very well be a possibility.

Every company wants their closed ecosystem so they can drive as much revenue themselves without sharing it. Why in an business model, would Apple Maps start you off on your journey, Safari give you suggestions (and serve you ads) and then handoff to Google for the conversion? They wont. Currently, Yahoo and AOL are more than happy being a plug-in for ads to Apple, Microsoft and Google, but those days will run out when respective parties want that $.

So who are these future tech platforms? What are the requirements to be one of the big guys?

Elements Required:

There are a few key elements required to be one of these 5 leaders. The more elements in place, the stronger the play for platform domination.

  • Desktop/Home OS
  • Mobile OS
  • Desktop Device (Hardware)
  • Mobile Device (Hardware)
  • Email Platform
  • Apps
  • E-Commerce Platform (Apple OS store, App Store, Amazon, Google Play/Marketplace)
  • Social Network (Google Play)
  • Cellular/Mobile Network (Google Fiber)
  • Gaming Platform (Amazon Fire)
  • Cloud Data
  • Big Data
  • Search Engine (to serve ads)
  • IM/Messaging

Newly Added (2013):

  • Map System
  • Connected Home (Will Jun ’15 Apple TV be the connected home Hub)
  • Connected Home Devices (Next, acquired by Google)

 

The Leaders:

 

 

 

Apple

Apple is already there.

MacBook +  OS. iPhone & iPad + iOS,  the App Store, iCloud, .me email addresses. The biggest missing piece here for Apple is a Social Network. Apple really hasn’t even tried to jump into this at this point except for in a very small way with Game Center. The synced iMessage is a huge messaging win for Apple. It’s ridiculously easy. It’ll be easy for everyone to catch up, but Apple has it first and it works really well.

No need to go as in-depth with Apple because they are hands down the most prepared. One thing I do want to note is that Apple’s “Refine, not Redesign” that has been apparent on iOS doesn’t really work for me anymore. iOS feels dated to me, and has for the last 3 major releases. (Not to nitpick, but iOS 6 top blue bar, really?) Google and Microsofts UI work has been superior to Apple in my opinion, but Apple still reigns supreme for UX.

 

 

 

Google

Google is making the fastest progress strides in the pack because they are copying Apple. And that is OK.

Apple is doing these pieces really well and Google has a nice basis of comparison. If Steve Jobs were still around, he said his mission was going to be to destroy Android. He was very smart to focus on that as Android is the hands-down biggest threat to Apple and their future mobile play.

One thing to note is that Google is making the biggest strides per release, infinitely faster pushes than Apple. Android’s UI has made significant visual and experience improvements since initial release, where iOS is staying stagnant.

Google has the best eyes on social of all the predicted leaders. Google+ is a disaster, BUT it IS integrated into all Google devices, so it might be a slow grind, BUT it’s going to be more seamlessly integrated and used by Android users.

Google hands down has the best play on Search Engine and Email. Gmail is not only the best personal email address, but also the best business email client. Most people don’t see it, but Google has that on lock in terms of ease for small businesses (and big ones.)

So why is having a search engine so important? Because search has changed in the last 5 years. SEO is dead. Paid search, social and local results are going to 100% dominate search in the future. As the search engine leader, you can curate those results however you see fit. Oh yeah, and people will pay you to be there. Mobile search will continue to be more important and everyone’s eyes will be on who can help users find the product, get there and get the most complete info and best deals during the trip.

I’ve added Maps because Apple controlled most of that trip, but people were leaving to Google for the last step of “getting there” and Apple didn’t like it.

 

 

 

Microsoft

Microsoft is an odd player having the best connections of the pack. They are also the underdog of the last 15 years and need to prove that they “get it.” Microsoft is invested in Facebook (+Instagram) & Skype. This play intrigues me the most. Microsoft is invested in Facebook, who owns Instagram as well as in Skype and a bunch of other smaller tech tools. Instragram is probably the most exciting new social network at this point and the hope is that Facebook doesn’t fuck it up.

Facebook is a mess. There Marketplace never took off. Ads and paid results don’t work and Facebook is figuring out how to actually make money. Facebook’s inherent value is in the information it has about millions and millions of people.

I typically use my friend group as the earliest adopters AND earliest killers and almost all of my friends find little to no value in Facebook anymore. I personally expect a Facebook pivot in the next few years to stay relevant, BUT Facebook will remain a key player.

At this point, to me, Instagram is a more intriguing play than Facebook.

Microsoft is the competitor here with the most to prove. They got stale and tech noted it. They tried to launch phones (remember the Microsoft Kin) and they didn’t gain any traction. That said, they are learning. They are the underdog, but have the most to gain to share the market. Microsoft’s biggest asset is their OS. Unlike Apple, they are not typically a hardware creator, but they don’t need to be.

Microsoft’s Xbox has done an excellent job of being “not-Microsofty.” Microsoft is ahead of the pack in gaming however Apple is doing a good job of keeping gaming “on their devices” not on a new platform.

 

 

 

Amazon

Amazon clearly cares about books and media. Where Apple has iTunes and the App Store and Google has the Marketplace, Amazon has the largest collection/network of physical media and is pushing hard with the Kindle platform.

What Amazon lacks in some of the most important elements to compete in the future (Email, OS, mobile-OS), they are a leader in digital books. They are going after a different market than Apple in digital media and stand a chance. So much in fact that I don’t ever see the iPad killing the Kindle, which is ironic because I don’t think anyone can stand a chance against iPhone & iPad.

I see the Kindle apps disappearing from the iPad and iPhone in the near future and the Kindle Fire becoming even more robust and more like the iPad. The Kindle line-up, especially the Fire line-up in less than half price of the iPad and although the Amazon store and user experience is a little bit messy, they are learning and figuring out new features (book loan) to keep users on their platform.

Amazon’s e-commerce platform, Amazon.com has always been a leader and will continue to be.

Although Amazon.com and the Kindle platform are strong assets for the company, Amazon’s BIGGEST asset and one that most people aren’t aware of is Amazon’s massive Cloud data storage. Some of the biggest and highest traffic sites (Pinterest, Netflix, Instagram, Dropbox and Zynga) all use Amazon cloud storage and will continue to do so because it’s robust and cheap.

However, when Amazon goes down. So do their sites.

 

 

 

Wildcard

Here’s where it’s going to get wild. Over the last 3 years, I’ve seen companies jockeying in my eyes for this spot, Yahoo and Comcast/Xfinity are my wild card picks.

Comcast/Xfinity surprisingly has many of these in place already. Comcast.net emails. Physical hardware in different places than the others (TV, a location Apple and Google are focusing on) an e-commerce system of pay-per-view movies, but here is where it gets weird, Comcast owns 51% of NBC Universal which gives them not only rights to, but ability to promote digital content in a way that can dramtically effect the others.

Apple, Google, Netflix, Hulu, etc. WANT that content. Comcast holds the best hand.

Comcast also owns part of Hulu, which is their sneaky way of being able to potentially charge you twice for the same NBC content. ABC/Disney & NewsCorp also are partners.

Oh yeah, Comcast is also one of the biggest providers of internet and telephone, which helps. You need Comcast internet to download apps, Apple TV content to your computer and phone via Wifi.

The biggest thing going against Comcast is that everyone hates them, which is why they are in the process of changing their name to Xfinity.

I don’t believe Yahoo has a chance. They have the same pieces in place as Google, but have shown their inability to adapt over the last 10 years. Yahoo’s hiring of Google’s Marissa Meyer, shows a spark of life and is pretty ingenius, however one of her first moves was to give everyone at Yahoo an iPhone 5.

Mayer held key roles in some of Google’s best products: Google Search, Google Images, Google News, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Product Search, Google Toolbar, iGoogle and Gmail.

Mayer gets it and I would be surprised if she doesn’t push Yahoo into a totally new chapter for the company. Wildcard… who knows.

So What About Everyone Else

Everyone else is just going to be a plug-in and most likely platform-neutral. Twitter will have an app in the marketplace for Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. I wouldn’t be surprised if applications (where the mentioned leaders have an investing role) start disappearing from all platforms. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Twitter popping up as an app on your TV (Xfinity, Apple TV, etc.)

Sky Is The Limit
(None of the items below were acquired at time of writing this.)

  • Twitter
  • Instagram (Acquired by Facebook)
  • Skype (Partially owned by Microsoft)
  • Groupon
  • Waze (Acquired by Facebook)
  • LinkedIn
  • GrubHub (Yahoo in talks to purchase 2015)
  • Uber
  • Magazines (Digital distribution through Newsstand & Google Play)
  • Newspapers (Digital distribution through Newsstand & Google Play)
  • Banking (Apple Pay, Google Wallet)
  • Specialized Transportation (Google self-driving car, Tesla)
  • Tesla (Also exploring
  • Music Programs (Spotify, Turntable.fm, Myspace, etc., Apple’s HUGE purchase of Beats)
  • AND Pretty much everything else that currently exists on these devices.

Conclusion

So those are my thoughts. I think the future holds closed and more exclusive platforms, addition of new services from the above list, and maturation into new environments. If the next Apple TV doesn’t look and function EXACTLY like an iPhone, I would be shocked.

Post Conclusion (TV & Music Content)

This is the last section, I promise. I think now is also a good time to mention that MySpace should go BALLS TO THE WALL and purchase Soundcloud, Turntable.fm and Spotify to create the big play in the future of music.

Posted By
Jason Schwartz

Coca-Cola (and Duffy Partners) Launch Global Rebrand of Minute Maid

Minute Maid Rebrand Nov 2009

Today Coca-Cola showed Pepsi how to redesign packaging for a beverage line without major backlash from the design/consumer/every community.

If you remember, earlier in the year Pepsi rebranded and then debranded Tropicana, due to some serious backlash from the modern and minimalistic design, which was a bit much for the seasoned OJ drinker.

Take a peek, this is a pretty nice packaging update.
Via The Dieline.

Posted By
Jason Schwartz