Something interesting happened in the last few years. Something that I haven't explicity realized until I read Ross Levinsohn's statement. (Maybe you already know - Ross Levinsohn is the president of Fox Interactive Media, a large company who owns the the CNet/ZDNet duo, along with the very young MySpace.com)
>>> if you sit and wait for perfection, it's not going to be there. In the meantime, somebody else is reaching them every day
And I agree. Thinking of these "media titans" I realized that their days are numbered. I mean, the traditional news channels, as we know them, will fade away.
>>>Storming the walls is a matter of survival for Fox. According to Levinsohn, "Rupert [Murdoch] and the chairmen of the board really believe that, if we don't transform News Corp. into something broader than its existing businesses, we will literally be faced with something that makes us a bit irrelevant in 10 years."
Which made me thinking. Is this only about the news channels? Even more, how come that lately we see so many young, solid companies that just took the internet experience by storm? I am just thinking to a few of them:
- Digg.com - it's probably now more popular than Slashdot, and I think that it's the number one source of fresh news. It gives you the right balance between early news and garbage shifting, something where the slashdot.com failed to deliver (partly due to the dictatorial behavior of their editors?). Digg.com is simply unbiased. It's secret? Let the users publish their content. Let other users surface out the interesting stuff.
- MySpace.com - enough said. It's a fantastically popular web site. And keep in mind that exactly one year ago, MySpace.com was virtually non-existent.
- Livejournal.com - another succesful company that popped out from nothing in a relatively short amount of time.
- Flickr.com - so good that Yahoo bought them. Where on earth did they came from?
- Skype - well, it's not about publishing user content, but still, I agree that they are popular today as a social communication tool. And they too started from nothing, not very long ago. By the way, Skype is not developed in Silicon Valley, but in a small country in Eastern Europe, in Estonia to be more exact.
- (What else did I miss? Let me know)
The next question is to rationally ask ourselves why so many small companies are now succesful? Maybe the explanation is somewhat related with how web technology evolved in the last years. It is easier now to hire engineers with operational expertise in architecting and running large web farms. It is easier now to architect deploy a huge social service (By the way, I just mentioned the other day that MySpace.com uses only 33 servers for their front-end!). In the end, running a succesful service is cheaper and more predictable these days. There is another thing too: while the total mass of users you can reach is a finite number, the technology gets better every year. So it is logical to conclude that we will have a "tipping point" in the evolution of web economy, where any nascent company will know how to develop a solid internet-ready social service at a very affordable cost, and in a relatively short time. Maybe we already passed that tipping point?
So, looking to the list above, do I see a real trend here? I see more and more small companies that are amazingly succesful. All it takes is one, two years to start from nothing and get all the attention. And maybe that's how our Internet experience will look like five years from now. My bet is that five years from now, the real battle won't be between Google, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft. The battle will be between all these new, fresh companies learning how to come out with cool things.
And the giants will fade away in the background. Yes, including Microsoft. Well, what can I say - that's what my crystall ball says today!