Yo: One reason it doesn't suck, completely

10:34 PM , , , 0 Comments

There has been a lot of talk about Yo recently. Initially it seems like the talk was all driven by the fact that this seemingly pointless app had raised $1million in angel funding (a good way to generate publicity and hype I guess if you happen to have a milli lying around). A lot of people speculated this as further proof of the tech bubble they had been long predicted. Others just talked about how crappy it was (albeit indirectly)

At a glance, neither the app nor the funding round seem particularly interesting - The app sounds distinctly like a novelty app that has only generated interest (and therefore users) on account of the funding, and seems destined to be a blip in the tech-history books much like Chat Roulette etc (although I can't really see it hitting he heights of Chat Roulette - at least people still make an occasional joke about Chat Roulette - I think give it three months and no one will be talking about Yo). The funding is less interesting when you hear the full story: according to Forbes, the app was created by a chap called Or Abel, after his former boss, Moshe Hogeg apparently asked him to make the app so he could buzz his PA without having to call, when Or Abel then switched up the idea a little bit Moshe lead the funding round (so a guy invested in what was basically his own idea, probably wasn't the world's hardest pitch).

Context based messaging

One reason cited for the app not being that lame, is apparently that it is actually trying to fill in a gap - providing context-based-messaging e.g. when you ping someone a "yo" they know the context of the message so you don't need to know anything else.

I don't agree. At least with the examples cited so far, it still seems pretty lame. The main example that has been used is the World Cup - you could subscribe to WORLDCUP by yo-ing them and then you will get a "yo" back everytime a goal is scored. Which honestly doesn't sound that great. I have been following the WC pretty avidly, but getting intermittent messages saying someone scored doesn't sound useful, and the main problem is that I would then have to launch another app to actually get the context (e.g. which team scored).  There are lots of other solutions to this that provide simple notifications including the context.

Some other examples:

Wanna say "good morning"? just Yo. 
Wanna say "Baby I'm thinking about you"? -- Yo. 
"I've finished my meeting, come by my office" -- Yo. 
"Are you up?" -- Yo.

These all make sense, but what next? How do you continue the conversation? how do you confirm/agree that all important context of the message? All these simple "yo"s all drive users to other apps - which means more effort/taps so why bother starting the conversation in Yo at all? why not just use WhatsApp/SMS/Facebook/GChat/etc from the start?

Ok, so clearly Context-Free messaging is a bad idea..

However, in my opinion, there is a glimmer of hope for the app, but the question for me is really just does it have enough runway to execute it before it just becomes another novelty app in the history books.

A few years back, just before Twitter went all dick-ish with their API and started locking out the entire developer community and third party eco-system there was a few good articles discussing an alternative business model for Twitter, and rather than becoming a media company (that it has become, rich content including pics/videos & trying to drive all eyeballs onto twitter.com or official apps - not via third party clients) it should become a global messaging system - it had the infrastructure made to be a massive pub-sub/notification system (I think at the time there was a better article that I read, but can't find the link now, so that one will have to do - if anyone thinks they know the one I mean then please add to the comments!).

This is a space that I think Yo could step up and fill. And its possible that they are thinking the same - having already announced their API, they already suggest some simple notification systems that could utilise it - In which case, it could become a really interesting platform.

So who knows, there is potential for it to become something pretty neat. Odds are on it will just end up a passing gimmick though.


The Idiot Box: Disrupting TV

There has been a lot written in recent months about the changing role of content on the web and devices, particularly recently with Apple's acquisition of Beats (things just aint the same for gangsters) - and Benedict Evans recently wrote questioning whether content is actually still king. And I think we can agree he makes a good point, when it comes to music, it is no longer a USP, its just expected. Between YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Google's Play services etc there is no reason people can't just stream any music they like, fairly seamlessly, and switch between providers/apps just as easily.  Apple had invested massively in iTunes, but the iTunes buy-download model isn't what people want any more (hence buying Beats, actually for their streaming service maybe).

A more interesting area is Television - content is still a key factor, NetFlix, Amazon Instant(formerly LoveFilm) etc are largely compared entirely based on their content - as a service there is little between them, other than content.  So really it's no suprise to see all the normal big players getting involved in the market Google (ChromeCast etc), Amazon Instant, Apple TV.

Within 5years I think we will see a massive shift in viewing patterns, with pretty much all new TVs sold today being web-enabled I think its an inevitability that people will move to all on-demand services rather than being dependent on scheduled programming. Within a further 5years I wouldn't be surprised if scheduled programming was all but dead and gone.

We recently bought a NowTV box - at just £10 its a pretty low barrier to web-enabling your TV - and we have pretty much switched over to entirely on-demand service - despite having a PVR we still go for the on demand options.

I think there will be some interesting things that come from this:

Platform Fragmentation

I think this is the biggest problem facing the market at the moment, and to me looks like a massive opportunity. At the moment there is so much fragmentation across the platform: Playstations, Xbox, Android, iOS, TVs (Sony, Samsung, etc) - all have their own platforms, and any on-demand service that wants to offer an app on every platform needs work from either the platform owners or the service providers - if its the platform owner then the provider looses control of UI/UX app features and consistency across platforms, and if its the service provider then they have a lot of work to do to support the different platforms, and they will inevitably have to make decisions whether or not to bother with each platform.

At the moment, in the UK, if you buy a web-enabled device then you can't guarantee that it will have the basic UK free-to-air OD services (BBC, ITV, Channel4, Channel5) - When I bought the NowTV it didn't have Channel4 apps and still doesn't have ITV (and that's a platform backed by BSkyB, which is a fairly large organisation and platform). There are already some Sony TVs that are no longer supported and provider apps are no longer being developed/maintained/supported. 

Android and iOS aside, all platforms will suffer this problem - that is until someone comes with a platform standard/OS that is open and can be re-used across devices. And given Android's prevalence, and Google's investment in TV it would seem like the best placed candidate to tackle that, but let's see!

What is driving creation production?

With scheduled TV there are quiet times, early hours of the morning, working week daytime - and content is created for that specifically. Providers have to each fill their schedules for these hours, so these are commissioned/bought/run.  However, if scheduling was to end, and it was all on-demand then would people still make this content? I'm sure there will still be a demand for some of this content, but people who watch it just because its on will obviously diminish. Students in the UK have had a tradition of watching daytime TV, whether it be Countdown, Diagnosis Murder or Quincy - but in the era of on-demand why would they search out this content?