Flickr and Picnik have teamed up to do something around online photo imagery. All the best to them and I'm sure it will be an exciting marriage in the end.
However, I look at this and like many others are starting to see patterns emerge, and this is going to get quite interesting in the next 2-5 years.
Your first target audience, is developers.
Interesting thought really, as when you think about it why do developers care if there is no audience. It's true, it comes back to a balance, but you need to think two moves ahead. You need to produce an idea that you think consumers will be excited about, even if it's short term. You then to need to plan ahead for the developer market as they are the ones that will give you the extra boost you desire.
Flickr and Facebook are two classic examples of this story. I look at the two and think to myself, what value do they give to consumers? Flickr in its basic state allows consumers to upload and browser through an online photo album.
Facebook on the flipside, allows people to reconnect. Yet, what are two common elements within these two entities online? they have people, social networking if you will. That's not enough though, there is something else about these two that has given them success as we know it today.
Developers, Developers, Developers! - Yes the big cheese Steve Ballmer did a dance a while back, and most poked fun at him for it. Yet back then he knew how this game was going to be played, and if it took dancing around a stage to get everyone's attention then so be it.
Flickr was the classic tool in most corporate evangelist toolbox. "Look how I took x technology and wrote this code so easily, now let's spice it up, let me show you how we can mashup Flickr photos into the demonstration".
In this context, you have a corporation promoting Flickr to developer audience and not costing Flickr a dime. Facebook is in the same boat and there are many sides to the story of it's success but I'd argue a common piece is the developers.
I log into Facebook to confirm friends? that's my entire usage of the product (don't ask me why). Others are playing with it or adding applications in and out of the product. Zombie vs Vampire fights are occurring, yet Facebook didn't sit down and go "Lets write a social networking site to produce Zombie vs Vampire fights, as that's going to give us billions!!".
Developers are your workforce, the trick is to not pay them directly but reward them.
Acquire me until death do us part.
Ask any startup in this Web 2.0 world, and some would dare say out loud "I'm in this to be acquired". I'd bet the farm that majority think about it silently, but rarely any admit it.
To be acquired means you have to have some X-factor. You needed to be that rough diamond in a room of polished diamonds, but in certain lights you gave off a different hue to the rest. You make no difference to the competitor in a technical sense, but for some reason you were the William Hung of American Idol.
The world enjoyed what you had on offer, but not enough to support you. Nope to support you, you still need that talent, something that compounds the interest further.
To be acquired means you will now do greater things, as chances are the empire or corporation that sucked you up into their virtual portfolio have bigger plans for your technology and want to see it amplified in a different way.
This in turn is dangerous for both and so the acquisition may first start out as a partnership. Let's go on a date first, see where we end up and if we like one another - death do us part.
Pick your weaponry.
You need to figure out what it looks like now under the hood, as remember you have to focus on developers and being acquired one day. If you choose your toolbox that is made up of stuff no one corporation out there owns, you need to figure out a way later to entice them to being apart of it. If you choose some of the mainstream technology you get free PR if your idea becomes great / bold.
"...With DotComIdea2002 they chose to use .NET, look at how they have been able to optimize it with our new range of products.."
There is always a good story from this and let's face it, why shouldn't there be as you're taking some of the mainstream technology, pushing it to what the brochure says it can do and no doubt you have a story to tell how you did it. In the end it's a win/win as in this case Microsoft gets to tell the world that it's bet in .NET paid off, and you the DotComIdea2002 get free PR and peoples attention and most importantly of all... developers attention.
RIA will be the dangerous route, but it can payoff if done well.
This can make or break you before you even start. I mentioned to pick the easiest route as this will get you on the GetRichQuickDot.Com stock market faster. Yet, if you are courageous enough and are looking for a long-term win, RIA will be the one thing that you can use as large point of difference.
You have one of two options here. You can create an asset that is similar to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter etc and bolt this inside Flash, Silverlight, WPF or AIR. Whatever your choice, this can be done and all come with a price (I've seen many great ideas built in Flash die of a fast death simply because when you emulate a desktop, you inherit expectations and if you come up short you don't get forgiven). Silverlight is still new, so you have to think about your approach with this product and same with WPF and AIR. All have their unique value proposition, and again think about whom your Evangelism team are going to be and where they fit into your targeted developer market.
The other option is to take a page out of Popfly.ms, let's aggregate and reappropriate the content differently. Why be the Flickr and Picknik when you can be the surface ontop of the two? RIA can provide this by uniting the views under one view.
Picking your weaponry is important, figuring out whom your developer audience is also important and last but not lease how does this help your consumer whom in the end is your eyeballs. If you succeed in figuring this out, then as a free bonus until pay day, you get Scoble, TechCrunch, Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Apple or whomever you like, evanglising your products without your permission. Not bad...
The next wave of the social web is about acquisitions, partners and eyeballs. Getting eyeballs is the easiest part (Look at Chris Crocker RE: Britney Spears) retaining them 3 months later, now that is the hard part. There is a way, let the developer mesh node system build lego style webparts ontop of it. Provide an SDK and they will be your work force whom will look to retain the eyeballs.
It all has to do with Vampires and Zombies fighting one another (Facebook).
Now how I manage to use both Chris Crocker, William Hung and Steve Ballmer in the one post is truly freakin brilliant. I am a star.