The biggest names in the tech industry seem to have collectively decided it's time to make the billions. Sure Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have sold some ads and Foursquare brokered some promotional deals. But with the second wave of IPOs on the horizon and investors' eyeballs getting as round as the tech bubble, the time is nigh for tech demigods to show that they can make money off all those users they've spent years accumulating. And hopefully not alienate them in the process. Today, Mark Zuckerberg inched closer to that dream of a trillion dollars by offering streaming movies — and tanking Netflix's stock. Meanwhile, YouTube closed a deal on a production company presumably to make its very own content. Intel cast a wide net to examine tech companies' latest money-making ventures. Then we looked into our CrystalBall app to see what they might try next.
Moneymaker: Warner Bros. just became the first Hollywood studio to stream movies directly on the social network. Facebook has been making a big move toward e-commerce lately, and the fact that you have to use Facebook Credits to buy movies and TV shows could be the tipping point to get users to hand their credit card info over to Mark Zuckerberg. Plus, studios looking for a way to stop Netflix's growth might not make Facebook suffer the same 28-day waiting period for new content.
Downside: At 30 credits (or $3) for a 48-hour rental for The Dark Knight, it will cost you. Plus, you have to "like" the movie or the director to get the privilege. Do you really want hundreds of your Facebook friends to see you "liked" and watched Valentine's Day on Valentine's Day?
What's next: Why should you use a credit card to buy Facebook Credits when you can use Zuckerbills (coming to a U.S. Treasury in 2020)?
Moneymaker: In order to make money off its free iPhone app, this weekend Twitter introduced a number of new features, including Quickbar, a "forced trending topics bar" that includes promoted tweets — negating the idea of a service that quickly shows you what's actually trending.
Downside: Pundit John Gruber quickly dubbed the feature "Dickbar" after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, but Gruber issued the unfortunate nickname on Twitter and it was widely retweeted. Advantage Costolo.
What's next: Can we pay someone to monitor our Twitter feed for us? It's getting overwhelming. Either that or design personalized lists of the best people to follow based on what's important to us, like updates on Libya and breaking bear-cub news.
Moneymaker: At SXSW this week, Foursquare is set to announce a partnership with American Express that will link users' credit cards with their Foursquare accounts. The incentive to consumers? Deals like "spend $5, save $5" at participating merchants. Although Foursquare said its motivation is to increase membership and loyalty and that it won't charge Amex for the privilege, it's hard to believe that will stay the case if it catches on.
Downside: We don't have an Amex card. And (confession) although we use the app for recommendations, we've never actually checked in anywhere. Sorry, Dennis and Naveen! But if they add other credit cards, we would.
What's next: How about a service that warns you beforehand if you're about to friend one of those compulsive people who check in with handfuls of people at name-dropping locales?
Moneymaker: YouTube just closed a deal to buy Internet video company Next New Networks, the producers behind Auto-Tune the News, for less than $50 million. Although rumor had it that Google was trying to get into the video-production business, Business Insider reports that the move is actually designed to help existing YouTube partners make "more and better content." Which then leads to more users and, subsequently, more expensive ads.
Downside: Isn't YouTube's strength either grainy weird viral videos or pirated television, movie, and music content? The second could definitely use better quality, but does it even matter for the former?
What's next: How about veering into Hulu territory?
Moneymaker: Just regular old advertising on the Windows version of its paid video communications service.
Downside: Although Skype says it won't show ads during the video conferencing yet, this could devolve into a Minority Report-style advertising assault.
What's next: Would it be possible to embed microphone/receiver in our brain so we don't have to use the special headset? Just curious.
Update: TechCrunch makes an important clarification. Facebook hasn't announced its own streaming movie service. Rather the movie offering comes from Warner Brothers app that uses Facebook Credits' payment system. But if it proves successful and other studios follow suit, Zuckberg can still count on more personal credit card info coming his way. Someone better go tell Netflix's shareholders.