Category Archives: Web 2.0

Web 2.0 Summit: Evan Williams

I’d expected Sequoia’s inimitable Mike Moritz and Microsoft’s energetic Steve Balmer to be my favorite speakers of the Web 2.0 Summit and they did not disappoint. Moritz provided a fascinating, cerebral discussion yesterday afternoon and Balmer rocked the house this morning: see this CNN story on Balmer’s speech with this great quote regarding Live vs. Google:

“You’re just 3 years old, and we’ve got you in there playing basketball with a 12-year-old,” Ballmer gushed and gesticulated, nearly popping out of his seat. “You’re growing up quick and getting better every day, and you’ve got all the potential in world, and it may take you ’til you’re 7, 8, 9 or 10, but you’re gonna dunk and you’re gonna dunk on the other guy some day, Johnny.”

But the surprise for me thus far has been Evan Williams of Twitter who, in a very brief presentation, had quite a bit to say on the merits of definition by removal and focus, instead of addition.

  • I want to discuss learning by the aggressive application of constraints
  • Our decision to use SMS as a messaging vehicle in Twitter meant that we had to support short (140 character) format-less messages. This was a huge constraint.
  • We didn’t define Twitter as Blogger less comments, tags, template editors, titles, etc. But it is an interesting way to look at it. (We defined it as a ubiquitous friend status network.)
  • What else can we define by taking away?
  • In my prior life at Blogger, I spent most of my time trying to add things.
  • What would happen if you had Flickr without tags and with a one photo/day limit? You’d get higher quality photos and more and better comments on them … and you’d be Fotolog which recently sold for $90M.
  • What would happen if you had Blogger without titles, tags, comments, and a 140-character limit? You’d get Twitter.
  • What would happen if you had Yahoo! without the home page and just a blank screen, with a search box? You’d get Google.
  • What would happen if you had MySpace but you could only use it if you were in college? You’d get Facebook.

Web 2.0 Summit: Mary Meeker

Mary Meeker, the semi-famous Morgan Stanley Internet stock analyst, gave her usual blistering, data-loaded presentation at the Web 2.0 Summit today. Rather than attempt to summarize the 48 slides she presented in 15 minutes, I will simply attach them here.

There’s fantastic stuff in here. I’d take the time to read it. You can download the PDF via SlideShare, or go get it directly at www.morganstanley.com/techresearch.

Web 2.0 Summit: The Arrival

This is my 2nd year attending the Web 2.0 Summit and I must say the whole conference gives me an odd feeling because, to me, it’s such an odd event. Where else can you:

  • Pay $3.2K to attend a conference and not be able to find a seat (and then be encouraged to go upstairs to watch the conference on a video feed in the “overflow” room)
  • Sit down and hear the guy behind you say something like ” … well … I was interviewed by the New York Times … and they asked me if I thought there was another bubble … and I wanted to be measured [in my reply] …” (It turned out to be Roelof Botha from Sequoia Capital who, among other things, led the partnership’s investment in YouTube and is quoted in the the article I blogged about here.)
  • Find an event where a moderately disheveled, professorial book publisher is regarded as an icon, seemingly trailed by groupies? (Tim O’Reilly)
  • Have such a weird agglomeration of the following people: venture capitalists, founders, startup-up CEOs, PR handlers, journalists, photographers, old media executives, alpha geeks, and a smattering of large company executives.

New York Times Article on Web 2.0

The New York Times had an article on Web 2.0 and the Web 2.0 Summit today, entitled: Silicon Valley Start-Ups Awash in Dollars, Again.

Here are some excerpts:

Internet companies with funny names, little revenue and few customers are commanding high prices … Consider Facebook, … which is reportedly being valued by investors at up to $15 billion. … nearly half the value of Yahoo, a company with 38 times the number of employees and … 32 times the revenue.

The trend is described as a return to madness (by skeptics) or as a rational approach to unlimited opportunities presented by the Internet (by true believers) …

“There’s definitely a lot of betting going on, and it’s not rational,” said Tim O’Reilly, a technology conference promoter and book publisher.

Mr. O’Reilly is credited with coining the phrase “Web 2.0,” which refers to a new generation of Web sites that encourage users to contribute material. His Web 2.0 conference, which begins Wednesday in San Francisco, has become a nexus for the optimism around the latest set of society-changing online tools.

But that has not stopped Mr. O’Reilly from worrying that the industry is minting too many copycat companies, half-baked business plans and overpriced buyouts.

The article is a must read.

My own rather cynical take is that Web 2.0 is like the Web 1.0 without the exits. Which, from a venture capital perspective, is akin to saying that it’s like beer but without the alcohol. Or hockey without the fighting. Or as Woody Allen once said, sex without the love.

Yes, there are a few amazing deals (e.g., the VMware IPO, the YouTube and Skype acquisitions). And even more amazing are the valuations/employee — e.g., YouTube was $1.6B for what I’m told was 30 people — or an amazing $53M per head. Zuckerberg today said that Facebook had 300 people, so if Microsoft is investing at a $15B valuation, then that equates to a equally amazing $50M per head. Those are the truly stunning numbers in my opinion.

But, for the most part, these “Internet companies with funny names” aren’t going public or getting acquired as far as I can tell.

Perhaps I’m not seeing it because the IPO bar has been raised and perhaps there really is a bubble in M&A valuations and maybe more of these little companies are getting bought than I think. But what I think is happening is that a few companies are getting sold at stellar valuations and making big headlines and for every one of those there are 100 other ones living on the VC dole, with 30 guys, a few servers, and a lot of hope.

One of the nice things about Web 2.0 is the barriers to entry are pretty low. That means lots of companies. Which in turn means lots of carnage down the road. This site, for example, tracks over 2,500 web 2.0 companies in 172 categories.

Go Check Out Facebook, Now!

The other day I was updating my LinkedIn contacts and I ended up sending a wide broadcast email asking friends and associates to join my LinkedIn network. I like LinkedIn and I use it as a way to keep in touch with a broad network of people with whom I’ve worked in the past. We also use it for recruiting and sometimes sales.

I’d setup a Facebook profile several months ago in response to an invitation, but I’d left it blank and never spent much time on the site. I’d noticed a steady up-tick in my rate of Facebook invitations during the past few months, so I’d been thinking about taking a serious look. In addition, I’d read about Facebook’s strategy to become a “platform” (whose meaning was not immediately clear to me in the context of a social networking site) so investigating it was rising on my to-do list.

But it was only after receiving multiple responses to my broadcast email of “dude, LinkedIn is Facebook for dinosaurs” that I decided that I needed to do something. I’m pleased to report that I now have a complete Facebook profile, about 50 friends (compared to 450 on LinkedIn), and I must say I really like the site. Why?

  • It combines the best aspects of LinkedIn (e.g., biography, contacts, contact network, friend finding) with those of MySpace (messaging, updates, photos)
  • Unlike MySpace, it’s not loaded with spam sites and flashing lights.
  • It has groups and networks that you can (easily) join and leave
  • It has a certain hominess that blurs personal and work lines
  • It has both Facebook-provided apps (e.g., calendar, photos) and user-provided ones (this is the platform part)
  • It has a clean, simple user interface

In fact, my only reservation about Facebook relates to one of the things I currently like about it — the work/personal life blurring. Amongst my current friends I have former co-workers, Mark Logic customers, high school friends, a board member, some industry analysts, current employees, and even my High School aged son. That’s cool.

While that’s cute and homey, it’s already created some awkwardness. After my son starting using a user-provided “compare people” app on me, I decided to use it on my friends and was quickly asked questions like “who has a better body?” comparing a current customer with a former employee. Not good. Mercifully, there was a “skip” button of which I made prodigious use.

So one nice thing about LinkedIn is that it’s purely professional, at least as I’ve set it up. Going forward I think Facebook will need to provide a “role separation” solution and hopefully they will do a better job at it than Amazon, which still gives me recommendations for children’s books and golf balls based on my buying them — for others — in the past.

In playing with Facebook, I realized something else: I really like their focused marketing strategy. Instead of a general, broad attack, they started out with one segment (university students — actually barring others from joining for years), established dominance in that segment, and then expanded from there.

So, call me a fan. Given the potential to become a serious platform, replace email communications, and hide lots of content from Internet spiders in so doing, I think everyone should check it out.

In addition, I’d recommend this post, which provides an excellent introduction and overview — Web Strategy: What the Web Strategist Should Know About Facebook.

Bubble 2.0? 5,000 Web Apps in 333 Seconds

Here’s a great piece of PR from SimpleSpark, a Web 2.0 applications directory site which they call “the place to find and share a new world of web applications.” As of this instant, SimpleSpark is tracking 5,108 apps. They made a video that shows in 333 seconds the logos of the first 5,000 applications they are tracking.

(In fact, in the Captain Anal department, I think it’s 5,001 if you include SimpleSpark itself.)

Think of all the venture capital that went into funding all these companies. Happily, most aren’t capital intensive, but in any case — it’s a lot of companies. Browse the catalog a bit if you’re not convinced. Bubbly anyone?

The 2007 Web Trend Map, Version 2.0

Check this out. It’s the top 200 sites on the web, visualized as a subway map, where the lines are trends and the stations show supplemental information, such as the momentum of the site.

It’s very creative and quite interesting; it’s produced by a Japanese firm called Information Architects. Go here for IA’s blog post on this. Go here for my favorite version, the interactive clickable one.