Why the New Android Market is Bad News for Both Users and Developers

The Android Market might have a lot of shortcomings, especially when compared to Apple’s App Store. However, it has one big advantage – it allows users to return purchased apps for a full refund within 24 hours of the first purchase. Unfortunately, the recently rolled out overhaul of the Market will neuter this advantage by slashing the refund window to just 15 minutes.

Android-Market

Google claims that this will benefit developers, and that might indeed be true for some devs. However, it might also end up hurting several others.

For short games, comics, and (in general) apps with less content, the twenty four hours refund window led to lost sales as many users downloaded paid apps, utilized it to the fullest and then returned it. These are the apps that will benefit the most from the reduced refund window.

On the other hand, apps that regularly add new content through updates, and apps that can’t be exhausted within 24 hours (e.g. system tools, keyboard apps, media players etc.) stand to lose the most from the Market update. One of the benefits of Google’s previous refund policy was that it encouraged users to purchase and try new premium apps. I have purchased multiple apps from the Market. Some of them I liked and I kept them. While others didn’t live up to my expectations, and I simply refunded them. The twenty four hour refund window enabled me to judge an app before spending money on it. This allowed me to be more adventurous, which in turn led me to purchase a greater number of apps.

The new fifteen minutes refund period is simply too less to judge the quality of an app. Heck, on my EDGE connection, the download alone can take more than fifteen minutes to complete. The lack of availability of demo version for many apps, coupled with the truncated refund window is bad news for both users and developers. I can understand the reasons for reducing the refund period; however, anything less than 90 minutes is simply too little time for users to even get an abstract idea about an app.

The Notion Ink Adam Fiasco Worsens: Why I Am Not Pre-Ordering, and You Shouldn’t Too

Notion Ink’s Adam was expected by many to be the dream tablet – a tablet that will successfully marry iPad’s elegance and usability with Android’s flexibility. Critiques questioned the ability of a startup with little experience to pull off such grand plans, while others, including me, hoped that Notion Ink might just have what it takes to succeed.

Notion-Ink-Adam

After a long delay, Notion Ink finally opened pre-orders for Adam yesterday. However, things have gone rapidly downhill since then. It’s been one disaster after another. Keith discussed some of the issues raised by Android Police and others. However, that’s not all that bothers me. Some of the other factors raising eyebrows and causing suspicion are:

  1. As pointed out by PhanDroid, NI takes your money even without asking for a shipping address. This has now been fixed, and was possibly an oversight. However, how many oversights can one ignore from a company that is launching an international product that costs around about half a thousand bucks (depends on the model).
  2. We had earlier pointed out the lack of any real pictures or videos of Adam. Once again, it’s possible that this is just a marketing strategy gone wrong. Notion Ink had been building up hype by slowly unveiling the product, and Rohan probably thought that holding back the hands-on videos will probably help sustain the air of mystery. The trouble is that you can’t just expect people to shell out money in blind-faith, especially when you are the new kid in town.

    Notion Ink has now stated that an in-depth video will be released on December 18. The justification being offered is that NI wanted to hold back videos and photos of the actual product, as they intended to demo it at CES 2011. That is a pretty flimsy logic, and also brings me to the third caveat.

  3. Although Notion Ink claims that they will be demoing Adam at the CES, as pointed out by Android Police, they aren’t anywhere to be found in the official CES exhibitors list.

    It’s also worth mentioning that, Adam is yet to receive a formal approval from the FCC. Without that, Notion Ink can’t even ship it to the US. Obviously, NI is confident that Adam will soon be approved. However, this only adds another element of uncertainty to the entire equation.

    Even if all of this is just a series of massive but honest mistakes by Notion Ink, and Adam is not an elaborate scam, I don’t think I can recommend Adam any longer. The main culprit being the refund and return policy.

  4. There is a lot that can go wrong with electronic gadgets, and that is why warranty and return policies are extremely important. Unlike its competition (Apple and Samsung), Notion Ink doesn’t have established retail presence or support centers spread across the globe. Hence, if something goes wrong, you will have to simply ship your device to Notion Ink. This is not an ideal scenario, but could have been acceptable. The trouble is that Notion Ink wants you to bear most of the charges, as a result of which, you will end up paying a hefty amount, even during the warranty period. Here are the relevant sections from the ToS.

    In case your products needs a physical inspection or repair, you need to ship the product with return shipping paid to Notion Ink’s International Service Centre’s along with an transaction number of 9USD payment made on Notion Ink Website as International Service Assistance Fees.

I hope that I am wrong and Notion Ink succeeds. I really do. However, at this moment things are looking bleak. I still believe that the device is real. However, we have to remember that Notion Ink is a new startup without any proven track record. There is uncertainty regarding how they are sourcing the hardware for the device and its quality. There are simply too many unknowns at this moment. It’s obvious that a lot of people are willing to give Notion Ink a chance – the Pixel Qi editions were sold out within hours. Unfortunately, I can no longer be among those recommending Adam.

Why Notion Ink’s Grand Adam Tablet Could Be a BIG Fail

Before I start this post, I have to tell you that being an Indian I had high hopes over what Notion Ink was doing and how they were building a tablet which could take over the world. I had also interviewed Rohan Shravan the founder of Notion Ink back in March 2010 to get the details about Adam and how Notion Ink were working towards their goals of releasing the product.

Notion Ink Adam

I am very sure that you might have already read several articles from Engadget, CrunchGear and Android Police panning the product. I do want to  chime in with my own thoughts here which I discussed over with people within Techie Buzz, who were equally disappointed about it. Before I head start into the article, here are some of my 2 cents about things, the way I perceive it to be:

  • Notion Ink does not have any formal funding to research and create such a tablet on a grand scale. Of course, they would have been able to self-fund or get funds through people without letting it out, so this could just be something that is un-important.
  • As Police pointed out, US laws require product pictures which are final before posting them on sales site. Though Adam got the FCC backing on December 4, it would be hard to get that into a product so soon. Nevertheless, they could have at-least used that model to display what the device is actually.
  • Flat rate shipping costs does not bode well with everyone in general, specially when sites like Amazon do free shipping. Heck, try shipping a product in India and getting $50 for it.
  • The company either didn’t have time or money to get a proper lawyer to frame their documents. Android Police is all over it. This is definitely a bad and hurried signage for a product launch.
  • As Android Police pointed out, Notion Ink are competing with Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, unlike Samsung, Notion Ink does not have that clout in the market to get the raw materials for their products at a low cost. Of course, this can be done by importing the raw materials from China, but if you have even been to India and seen Chinese imports, they are as good as garbage.

I really do not want to delve into the problems that the sites I mentioned above went into and neither am I calling this as a failure but what the heck we have had $35 tablets which were Chinese made.

Here is what is totally wrong about this product. Notion Ink made a big announcement of the product launch on their blog, this was a norm. The post had pictures galore, but there were two things missing which are a norm in product launches.

  1. The picture of the actual product.
  2. A video that demoes the actual product.

All the Notion Ink blog post about the announcement had to show were pictures of their UI, which were pretty good, but nothing more. There were no pictures of any device running that UI, there were no videos displaying the UI. Also all the pictures of the actual product on the blog are sketchy at best, including the one I added to this post. Heck, even RIM did that with the  Playbook even if they came out of the blue, but they actually showcased some device.

What I really want to see from Rohan and the other folks at Notion Ink is to quell all these doubts and just show the two things I mentioned above. Once they do that everyone will just shut up. If they don’t, it will be a huge disaster for them and go the JooJoo way.

Although 3 of the current Adam variants show sold out on their site, I really doubt as to how many orders they got. It could just be 100 and sold out, it could all just be an hype.

All things aside. I really want everything I wrote to be untrue. I really had faith in this product, but it was a huge turndown. I sincerely hope I am wrong, unfortunately I don’t believe in that.

Update 1: More Bad News: In a post written by the CEO Rohan, which is …, well go ahead and read it. The CEO says that they held back full videos due to CES 2011, however, he promises a video on 18th December now. I really did not know that it took 8 days to produce a video.

Update 2: Things are only getting worse for Notion Ink. Here’s our follow-up on the situation.

Microsoft Pushing Personal Propaganda Against Google Using Watchdog?

In what could be a devastating revelation, The Telegraph has written a post which has dirty Microsoft games written all over it. According to the research done by the paper, Microsoft has been the chief funding source for a Brussels-based "Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace", or ICOMP which has been lobbying for an antitrust investigation against Google.

ICOMP Logo

Recently, the European Union has started an investigation against Google where they are looking into claims that Google is pushing their own products in search engine results and are not giving preference to other search engines. First of all, that claim is totally absurd, no search engine would point to another search engine in their results, unless the search is very specific and calls for it. Danny Sullivan has written a good post revealing the absurdity of this investigation, you might want to read it to get a better insight.

Coming back to ICOMP, the organization came into picture when Google purchased DoubleClick a few years ago. Microsoft had vehemently opposed the acquisition and had a public duel over it, stating that it would create unfair competition. However, the EU ratified the deal and Google went through with the purchase for $3.1 billion. However, ICOMP has kept coming back at Google and have been filing investigation requests galore.

According to The Telegraph, Microsoft is ICOMP’s sole trustee and underwrites its funding. The company also has a say in appointing directors to ICOMP. Having so much clout in an organization whose sole job is going after Google doesn’t bode well for Microsoft.

A courtesy look at the blog of the organization shows that they are solely there to go after Google and nothing else. Google is the search engine market leader in several countries including the US of A. Bing, the Microsoft search engine has been able to gain over 10% of market share thanks to their collaboration with Yahoo, however, it looks like Microsoft is not just happy with the 10% share and are playing a proxy war to ensure that investigators step in and rein in Google.

This is not just shameful, but also demeaning way of using money to launch investigations against competitors. Google is not new to all these investigations and have been constantly dealing with it. Back in February 2010, Google had also written about how regulators should keep out of search engine’s way, which was also related to a EU investigation, which was most likely than not forced on by ICOMP.

Nevertheless, it looks like Microsoft has been at the center of all their decisions in filing investigation claims against Google in particular. So does this call for an investigation now?

Hey Google, Here is How You Can Make Google News Spam Free

Google has been removing publishers from Google News index for vague reasons because of new policy reviews. This was confirmed by a recent tweet from @mattcutts where he said:

@AuctionBytes I’ll mention this. The news folks are actually starting a nice crackdown on low-quality/spammy news sources.

So what is low-quality and spammy according to Google? Search Engine Land has an answer for that where they got an update from a Google News spokesperson who said “Yes, we recently removed a number of websites from Google News that we determined were not following Google’s quality guidelines”

Google News Spam

So what exactly are those quality guidelines? According to several forum posts on the Google News forum, quality websites are those who write original content. And what is original content? A post on a site which does not reference anyone else through links or otherwise. So sites which link to other sources provide low-quality news?

Google News Spam Gaming Websites

In my experience, one of the biggest spamming in news occurs for trending topics in Google search. Several hundred websites follow these trends and then post accordingly about them. Now the problem here is not those websites, it is with Google who display “Google News listings” above organic listings in Google search results.

Anyone with a bit of brain can game Google and write original pieces of news without attributing anyone and get tons of traffic. The throw in your face news results acts like a tonic for spammy publishers to push content and game the system.

I have been counting thousands of sites which do this everyday along with posting duplicate content on the same topic to get on top of the listings once they have been forced down by another site. This was a known fact but was more in news after CNET and Search Engine Land wrote about it.

This is one of the biggest reasons why sites which are originally good become spammy after they have tasted the traffic dose from Google. My one and only suggestion to Google is to not display Google News results in search results. Give everyone a level playing field and you will automatically see less spam in your index.

Of course, Google wants to do all the real-time fancy stuff too, so just display the Google News results there or post a link to the Google News search or provide it as an option, that too opt-in and not opt-out.

Once Google does this, we will all see less spam in the index. Removing websites from listings is just a way of telling publishers that we control the internet and will do as we want without caring about you. Sadly that is the attitude Google has right now.

Why Is Chrome Winning And Firefox Losing Market Share?

, once the darling of the tech and IT crowd is slowly but surely losing love from the same people who used it because of the crappy Internet Explorer. In the years since it launched, Firefox has become a browser loved and used by a broader range of people. At one point of time, Firefox looked all set to conquer the world and overtake IE.

Firefox vs Google Chrome

However, in the past two years, a browser called has been making dents into both Firefox and IE’s market share. The browser which is barely 2 years old almost has 10% market share. This is definitely something that is worth talking about.

Also Read: Google Chrome Extensions vs. Firefox Add-ons: Head to Head Comparison

So where is Chrome winning users from? Chrome is winning over the same users that Firefox stole from IE, the tech and IT crowd. This has been made more than clear with recent Tech powerhouse sites like TechCrunch and Techmeme reporting that most of their users now use Google Chrome, pushing Firefox to the second position.

So why this change? When Firefox came out more than 6 years ago, it brought about a fresh perspective to a software in which we spent most of our time in on a computer. It also introduced which made our lives easier. However, with all those additions, Firefox in itself started to become bloated, eating precious memory and CPU.

Once Chrome came in, it defined a minimalistic approach to browsing. It got rid of unwanted toolbars and presented users with a simple way of browsing and searching. It also brought a much more sleeker look which helped users focus more on what they needed to have rather than what they should have had.

One of the key reasons people I had talked to who were not switching to Chrome was the lack of extensions, which made them stick with Firefox. However, once Chrome came out with extensions, many users switched to it. Top that with cloud sync and security and it made Chrome a darling of the tech crowd.

Frankly speaking, for the past two years I have used Firefox only when necessary. I hate the fact that it is so bloated that it makes me less productive than I would like to be.

I would say that Mozilla and Nokia are two similar companies who were sitting on the top of the pile, but have been struggling to keep up ever since competition has cropped up. I admit that does provide a better experience, however, people would now ask the question; Why should I switch to Firefox 4 from Chrome when they have delaying it for so long and Chrome is dedicated to adding features every 6 weeks?

Once again, Chrome is bound to grow leaps and bounds in the future. With the Google Web Store around the corner, it would bring more and more people towards it. Alas, Firefox 4 is still a long way from release, hopefully once it comes out it should make the competition more even.

In the end, this is my honest opinion about a browser I loved at one point of time. I have been struggling to find reasons to use it now and I feel that several other users do the same which is why Chrome is gaining over Firefox. There are few questions though which only you can answer. Do you use Google Chrome? Do you prefer it over Firefox now? Would you switch back to Firefox 4 when it comes out? Do let me know your thoughts.

Statistics Is A Joke, Not Reality

Statistics is not only for junkies. It is used by businesses, webmasters, mobile industry and practically everyone who has access to some sort of data, inventory or anything tangible or intangible. However, Statistics in general has been biased towards data one agency has and does not reflect reality in general. I could not think of any industry where statistics was not based on speculation or was based on what one company has to say.

statistics_measuring

In webmaster’s world, Alexa is a base of ranking in many cases. However, Alexa ranking is highly biased. A site which receives 300K page views per month is ranked higher than a site which receives 2 million visits. How is this possible? Because, Alexa uses their own data which is collected through their toolbars and other hidden methods to judge the ranking. If people don’t install a toolbar to visit your website your website will be ranked lower.

This is not a problem, it is a very big problem, because advertisers use this data to judge your site. And it is an irony because it does not in any way display reality.

Today, Hit Wise an analytics company says that 1 in 4 users in US are referred through . This data is not wrong at all, but the bigger question here is how many users in US are being tracked by Hit Wise? It is 1 in 4 or is it 1 in 100? Though these companies make their data public, it is really hard to sit and figure out data from hundreds of sources to put two and two together.

This is why statistics is a funny business. One company will walk up and say Facebook does well. Then a second will come in and say Google does well. Who should we believe in? People have to understand that this data is coming from individual companies which do not have access to more than 10% of the entire data (see I added my own 10% here) and in no way represents what is actually happening in the US or anywhere else.

So What Is The Big Problem?

The big problem in every industry including television is that no one controls a right to ascertain who visits which website or watches which television show. However, no central agency can step in here and assert that they want this data too. This is of course done to protect a user’s privacy. But several individual services/agencies track views across websites. One of the things these services track are referrers which is where this type of data comes from.

So assuming that a company tracks 100 million users a month, they will determine that out of it 30 million came from US and out of it 10 million came from Facebook and then say that 1 in 3 users in US came from Facebook. Now there is no problem in that data, it is only based on the data that company has and not the entire US internet traffic. So saying that 1 in 3 visits came from Facebook is true for that company. However, in a pure statistical view that data is speculation at it’s best when you take the entire traffic into consideration.

Imagine 10 companies have a survey to determine something. Each company can only target 100 people. Each of this company will have something different to report, however, it does not mean that each of these companies are right. However, when you take the data from all these companies and collectively measure it, it will have a true measure of what all of those people wanted.

What Is the Second Big Problem?

The second big problem is that none of the big companies including Google, Facebook or actually make their traffic public. So everything is left to speculation. Considering how many companies run analytics we will always see different results from different companies. If this is not a joke, what is it?

Agreed that we have to use some sort of data to judge popularity of websites and it has been done successfully throughout all these years, but the way we determine it is always based on partial data accumulated by one company or the other, which might be a fraction of the entire industry in general and will never lead to a fair conclusion.

If we need to really determine who is ruling in this industry, let’s just base data on one thing or nothing. There is no point in sitting up every morning to see that one stats company say that this one is the biggest one and then the next morning having to read some other site saying that this is the big one.

Let’s have these statistics company contribute basic data to a central agency/source and then let’s figure that out by adding two and two up. Let’s make this joke some sort of a reality where we can truly measure something rather than having conflicting reports come up everyday.

(Image Credit: http://www.stat.columbia.edu)

Why WordPress Needs To Overhaul Their Plugin Repository and Introduce Safety Checks

I have written quite a few plugins including WordPress Automatic Upgrade and understand how things work within WordPress.

Earlier today, I wrote about a very dangerous plugin doing the rounds of the Internet called BlogPress SEO. The plugin is nothing but a Trojan horse which siphoned sensitive data to a third party and allowed them to login to the plugin user’s admin interface without having access to the admin password.

WordPress Security

That plugin is not in the WordPress repository and will never be, but there are thousands of plugins which are already in the repository and thousands which will eventually be part of it. Here is the catch, adding a WordPress plugin to the repository is as easy as sending an email, you just create a legitimate plugin, upload it to SVN and it’s there in the repository for everyone to use.

Now, here is the problem. As far as I believe there are no checks on what code is added to a plugin and to top that there are no checks at all to future updates. In plain words, I can create a legitimate plugin and introduce it to the repository. After that, whatever updates I make to it will never be checked (other than by clever WordPress users who sift through code), since the WordPress plugin updates are based on SVN trunks.

Any new trunks you create will be made available as a update to the end user, regardless of what code you put into it. Now, this may not be alarming since there are hardly any scams related to WordPress plugins within the repository, but today’s event goes on to show that it can be exploited. It does not take much effort to get in a plugin into the repository itself, so a scammer/hacker will be able to create multiple plugins and then add exploit code to it and offer it as updates. By the time the exploit is discovered, it might be too late for users who have already updated and sent out sensitive information to the hacker.

Now, while I am making a valid point here, there is really no foolproof way to stop this problem. Of course, it would help if there are safety checks and maybe a community based checking of code before it actually is made available as an update to users. Community based code checks are hard, if not impossible, because it will involve people to actually check the updated code before it is made available to users. This will also add a hassle to developers who are contributing for free, however, in the end it will be beneficial to everyone.

Once again the approach of checking code is not exactly foolproof. A recent example involves and , who now have a very strict process of approving extensions and it causes problems to developers. However, both of them did let through/had or which snooped on sensitive information and passed them on to third parties, some without even you having to install those extensions. The most recent example being Firesheep, an extension which allowed you to extract cookies for and and then used it to login to these networks (P.S. Install BlackSheep to stay safe from Firesheep).

Now here is the big problem, none of these harmful extensions are available through the repositories, if they are, they are quickly taken off, but people can still go ahead and install these. Just like Firefox has the ability to block extensions (they blocked .NET and WPF add-ons from Microsoft), and Google Chrome has developed features in the browser to block unsafe extensions, WordPress has to take steps to block harmful plugins at the core. They have to have the ability to inform users or explicitly block plugins which are harmful.

Considering how huge a community WordPress has, it would be easy to have a system in place to report unsafe extensions, no matter if they are present in the repository or not, along with providing a friendly warning to users that the plugin they are about to install might be unsafe. In addition to that, they have to move towards encouraging more and more developers to use the WordPress repository for plugins. I had written about the benefits of users adding their plugins to the WP repo on WLTC and saw many developers unhappy with the system, so this might take a while.

If they add this feature, and it works on the fly, it would be one of the best features I could use. Though I am a experienced plugin developer and have coded plugins such as WordPress Automatic Upgrade, I fear for the millions of people who might start adding plugins which are really bad.

Hope WordPress does something about this as this could easily get out of hand. The coder of BlogPress was foolish, he wrote code that could easily be identified, imagine intelligent people being able to write code which cannot be identified and the threats just multiply.

(Image Credit: Clickonf5.org)

Complete Guide To Using Google DFP: Part I – Advantages

A few months ago, I started using Google’s Double Click for Publishers (DFP), which is an ad serving solution for website owners. Google DFP is a bit overwhelming at first and it took me few days to get around to using it. However, I have now made a successful transition to using Google DFP and serve all the ads using it.

Google DFP Logo

In my experience Google DFP is a bit complicated at start, however, it does have several advantages over traditional way of adding advertisements to your website. In this series, I will talk about the benefits of using Google DFP and also how to effectively use it on your own website with some handy tips and tricks thrown in.

Advantages of Using Google DFP

There are several advantages of using Google DFP over traditional ad insertion. I will list a few here which I have found beneficial to me and might come in handy to you too.

Less Code and Easy to Maintain

Once you start using Google DFP, you will notice that you are dealing with much lesser code while inserting or positioning advertisements. This is one thing I have found beneficial as I am able to insert ads into code with just a single click.

Create Once and Use Forever

Unlike traditional advertisement code, you can create a line item and insert it into your theme. The next time you want to display advertisements from a different network, you don’t need to create new code and that can be handled within the DFP interface itself. This makes it much more easier to experiment with different networks and quickly remove/change them if you are not satisfied with the revenue. I will talk about this in more detail in the future parts of the series.

Geo and Demographic Targeting

One of the best features of DFP is that it allows you to geo-target your ads. Using this feature you can display different ads to different locations to maximize your revenue. Another good feature is demographic targeting which allows you to target people using certain browsers or operating systems.

Demographic targeting can be very useful when you want to say advertise a certain browser; for example ; to users using , or want to pitch to someone using Linux or Mac OS X.

Serve Your Own Ads/Promotions Without Worries

With the help of Google DFP you can serve your own promotions or promote your own content without having to worry about delivery or assets. You can create custom In-house ads on Google DFP and upload images etc. to Google’s servers and directly display them on your website.

In addition to that, you can also serve ads that you have directly sold on your site and provide advertisers with detailed statistics along with tracking clicks and more.

Track and Compare Impressions

Sometimes advertising companies may not show correct impressions. With the help of Google DFP, you will be able to cross-check and verify impression counts displayed by advertising networks against your own inventory.

Target Ads To Advertisers

Google and Double Click have a huge advertiser base. When you use Google DFP, you will be able to target your ad-slots to these advertisers and sell your inventory to them.

Google AdSense Integration

Using Google DFP, you will easily be able to integrate in your ads and maximize your revenue. In the future parts we will talk about how to do this and also create Link units for Google AdSense and serve them using Google DFP.

Rotate Ads and Banners

With the help of Google DFP, you will be able to easily rotate ads and banners without having to worry about logic. I will talk about rotating ads using Google DFP in the next part of the series.

Concluding Part I

As you can see, there are several advantages of using Google DFP over traditional advertising code. In my experience, managing advertisers has become more easier. With the ease with which I can target specific users, I am able to maximize my revenue and almost fill-up the entire inventory.

In the next part of the series, we will take a dive into Google DFP and learn how to create and manage ads using the service. Do feel free to ask questions/doubts if you have any.

What’s Facebook Going to Announce Tomorrow? Facebook Phone, Email or Skype Acquisition?

will be making a big announcement tomorrow and there are wild speculations of what they could be announcing tomorrow. There are few big things doing the round of rumor mills today including a deeper integration with Skype to bring voice and video chat to Facebook, announcement of Facebook Phone or the resurrection of Project Titan, an email service from Facebook.

facebook

So which of these sound more realistic? Let’s take a look at each situations and how it would work out for Facebook.

Acquisition of Skype or Deeper Integration With It

Facebook provides users with an option to chat with their friends, but it is limited to text right now. Adding voice and video chat to Facebook would definitely be a win win situation for them, because most Facebook users would love to interact and share through these mediums rather than having to just do text. Facebook would also be able to capture a huge market of instant messaging users if they add this feature.

Facebook Skype

So where does Skype fit in? Skype is definitely one of the most popular voice and video software which is heavily used for individual chat, group chats, conferencing and podcasting among other things. Integrating it with Facebook would bring a much needed feature to site, allowing users to do something for which they have had to use separate clients.

Recently also added a feature to allow users in US to call mobile phones and landlines in US for free and to make calls to other countries for a small charge. Imagine giving 500 million Facebook users the same benefits and you would have more and more users and advertisers running towards them.

This makes me very optimistic that Facebook would announce some sort of partnership with Skype tomorrow.

Facebook Phone

Facebook Phone

The smartphone market has exploded and there are tons of players in it. There were rumors about the Facebook Phone which were later confirmed. However, announcing a phone which just tightly integrates with Facebook is not going to bring in customers.

If Facebook is doing a phone it has to do a lot more than just contacts and events. It has to allow users to make use of the entire Facebook platform including games and apps.

For example, if the Facebook event app could integrate with the Calendar, it would make it easier to schedule events and then invite contacts from your phone itself. However, I am now very keen on seeing a Facebook Phone tomorrow.

Facebook Email – Project Titan

Facebook Email

Project Titan was a secret project rumored to being developed by Facebook. According to people who were in the know about the project, it is an email system similar to several available today and would allow users to access email through POP or IMAP and send email through SMTP.

Users would be get a @facebook.com email address to send and receive emails. Though not much information is available about this project, it could definitely be something Facebook would want to do.

Take a look at some stats. Hotmail has 360 million users, Yahoo Mail has ~303 million users and Gmail has ~200 million users. Now, Facebook currently has over 500 million users, if they launch email they become the biggest email provider in the world, albeit if all of their users actively use it.

The email system combined with voice and video chat would ensure that people would get everything they want on Facebook itself, rather than having to use multiple services. This also has huge revenue potential for Facebook, because people would spend more and more time on the site to check emails, chat and have fun too.

Note: Yahoo and Gmail email users are estimates from Wikipedia and other sources. Hotmail users is actual count sourced from a recent Microsoft press release.

All of these are mere speculations, but looking at how Facebook has grown in the past few years, they might hit their peak at one point of time, and adding some or all of these features definitely make sense for them, both for growth as well as for revenues.

So what do you think will Facebook reveal in their announcement tomorrow? Any wild guesses?