BEST OF THE WEB: The smartest people in tech you’ve never heard of
There’s no doubt that Silicon Valley is filled to overflowing with tens of thousands of intelligent men and women. Whether they’re part of a giant corporation like Apple or Google, or starting up their own companies attempting to take on established players, it’s clear tech entrepreneurs are some of the smartest workers around.
A new Fortune piece examines the smartest people in technology – and some of the results may surprise you. In fact, you’ve probably never heard of them.
Number one is John Hering, whose company Lookout has produced a smartphone application that allows you to find which of your other apps are using private data, and whether the websites you are visiting are safe to access. It has 10 million users, and Hering – who is only 28 – built the program specifically for mobiles.
Hering also has another claim to fame, by holding the world record for extending the range of a Bluetooth device by up to 1.2 miles.
Google’s vice president of advertising at Google, Susan Wojcicki, also made the list, with Fortune listing her as “best known to the outside world as the person who rented her Menlo Park garage to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, then a couple of computer scientists looking to build a better search engine”.
“Inside Google (she was employee number 18), however, she's known as a prescient thinker who has figured out ways to extend Google's reach.”
Not only did Wojcicki license the Google search engine to other websites, she also helped found AdSense, and is in charge of the company’s advertising division – where most of its money is made.
Are daily deals dying?
The steam in the daily deals industry is running out. Last week Experian Hitwise showed off data that revealed traffic to Groupon is continuing to fall, as much as 50% in the past few months. And traffic to overall web deals site is down by 25%, the company said.
This accompanies the recent talks regarding the viability of the daily deals industry, after Groupon chief executive Andrew Mason sent an email around to employees explaining why the company should feel confident, despite industry speculation to the contrary.
This new piece from Forbes examines why exactly the group buying market is beginning to lose some of its power. One reason – “merchants can’t take anymore”.
“Lots of them have been complaining that whenever they offer a deal, other services come out of the woodwork and pitch them incessantly.”
“Others think they’re no good for their businesses in the first place, since they condition customers to expect profit-killing discounts. Most of the deals I’ve taken are for businesses I already frequent and probably still would, deal or no deal.”
The piece also highlights some reasons why they continue to exist – the fact they offer significant discounts and an increased number of competitors are partly to blame.
The problem with Facebook groups
Facebook sparked some discussion earlier this week when it made a number of changes to its privacy settings, some of which were extremely similar to how Google has gone about grouping friends together on the Google+ network.
Now on Facebook, the feature that allows users to decide which users see which updates is now prominently placed next to the status update bar. And as this piece from MG Siegler on TechCrunch points out, it gives them a big advantage over Google in the social networking war.
“Now that we’re exiting the Google+ post-launch hype cycle and we’re starting to see if the service will actually be useful, a realisation about the Circles feature seems to be setting in: Circles, like all lists, are a pain in the ass to maintain,” he argues.
“Sure, Google perfected a way to get users to create these lists. But managing those people once they’re in there is just not something people are going to do.”
But Siegler goes further, saying that no matter which social network attempts to solve the “groups” problem, they all face the same hurdle – that users just don’t want to separate their friends into different groups.
“I think all plans have been too grandiose. Most lists are ephemeral. That’s why they actually do work well on mobile with services like group messaging. And I would bet that we’ll see a lot of start-ups spring up around the idea of group creation on the fly based on location.”
Steve Jobs’ trove of patents
The resignation of Steve Jobs last week prompted a lot of interesting discussion about the former chief executive, his role at Apple and the future of the company under Tim Cook, who until now has avoided much of the public scrutiny that has been directed towards Jobs.
But in all of the discussion, many forgot that Jobs holds much more value to the company not only as a key designer and marketer, but also as a holder of several key patents for devices including Macs, the iPhone itself and yes, even a staircase.
This interactive feature on the New York Times lists some of Jobs’ patents, including some of the more fascinating listings – a staircase for Apple stores, software for voicemail management, and the scroll-wheel used on classic iPods.
The feature is a good reminder that while Jobs may have left Apple’s top role, his influence will still be felt in the company for many years to come.