Once upon a time, we were told that markets are “conversations”. But that’s all changed. At least if you listen to Jeremiah Owyang, a much respected “Internet Analyst” at the Altimeter Group. As Owyang explained to me when he came into our San Francisco studio, today’s Internet is now in what he calls its third “optimization” phase in which the online conversation has been replaced by hyper-targeted ads from companies like Google and Facebook. Indeed, Owyang told me, the big online battle today is between Facebook and Google over how our data will be controlled and leveraged.
Unlike other analysts, Owyang is actually much more bullish about Google and Facebook. He sees Google goggles, for example, as a major screen type in the future and, in spite of the relative failure of Google + and SPYW, believes that search is intrinsically social. Indeed, he predicts that Facebook will soon look like Myspace in the way it will be plastered with annoyingly garish advertising. Owyang is also bullish about Adobe and Salesforce who, he sees, as having made impressive acquisitions in the social space. But the M&A market in social is closing rapidly, Owyang warns. It’s 1:40am on the dance floor when it comes to promising social companies being acquired, he says.