GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

November 7, 2005

In response to Dion Hinchcliffe’s list of issues and problems facing Web 2.0 today, Paul Montgomery comments,

“How about Thinking The Whole World Is Like Silicon Valley? … Web 2.0 is still a very small, insular movement. There should be far more attention paid to what people who aren’t impossibly well-connected and highly technologically savvy will want from these new services.”

As others have also agreed, I believe Paul’s comments are extremely valid. And I think along two levels: location and community. First, and more superficially, location – Web 2.0 companies are clearly Valley-centric. A perfect example is Yelp.com, a local reviews and social networking site which just raised financing. The site only covers the San Francisco area, just as many other emerging services have narrowed their scope in a similar manner.

But the heart of Paul’s thoughts is really centered towards the community. There’s no question that there’s an echo-chamber effect of discussion and excitement surrounding Web 2.0. I know many internet-savvy people who aren’t completely “plugged in” who consistently ask me what this buzz is about. Take the poster-child Web 2.0 startup, delicious. Its widespread acceptance in the digerati crowd has put it at the forefront as the strongest and most accepted platform for social bookmarks. I personally use it because of this fact. But its reception outside that circle isn’t as favorable. Take this PC magazine round-up which rates it the worst (1 ½ out of 5 stars) of an entire field of social tagging related services. Clearly there is some disconnect here. (Other upstarts like Clipmarks have a compelling offering, and the “mainstream,” or at least one indicator of it in this case, notices and promotes that fact.)

All of the above said, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater in taking this critique to far. By definition, early adopters come first. We are in the period of experimentation with new technologies and models, and the natural people to play with these new services are the “well-connected and highly technologically savvy.” (And on the whole, most, but not all, of those people are in the Valley.)

Delicious is geeky for a reason, and will undoubtedly work on its UI as it shifts towards a mainstream site. Likewise, in announcing its funding, Yelp also revealed that it will be expanding to other cities. Web 2.0 as a movement will grow out of its Valley-centric techie roots, and that process is starting, but it needs/needed time in fertile soil to germinate.

  • http://southerncrossventures.com Daniel Nerezov

    The echo-chamber is so true.

    Forget tagging, most people I know have no idea what’s blogs and rss. No kidding.

    But hey…I’d imagine the 90′s bubble was well over before e-commerce became mainstream. I’d imagine this time around the same thing is gonna happen and you guys are gonna make money well before my mother can pronounce YouTube.

    It seems there are so many early adopters that we don’t need the other demographics. We can just sell to eachother and make an industry. Syke.

  • http://hybernaut.com Brian Del Vecchio

    David, I know where you’re coming from with del.icio.us. Many competitors have better design and more features, and yet you can hear the frustration from their developers asking, why aren’t we growing like Del.icio.us? It seems that as users choose their social bookmarking service, they’re valuing a critical mass of content over design and features. As we’ve discussed in the past, seeding that critical mass of user-contributed content is the main challenge to services like these. In the meantime you need for the service to be useful up front for individuals (remember your bookmarks) in order to build long term value (the world’s juiciest collection of search engine hints).

    As for Yelp et al building full working services in a single city, that makes a lot of sense for a startup. If you can only attract a few hundred users a month, then restricting them all in one metro area means your user-contributed content will be denser and therefore more valuable to your users. The feedback loop is tighter and more efficient. I think that the DodgeBall guys (students of Clay Shirky’s at NYU) likewise started in NYC and later spread to other metros.
    Also, isn’t the “SF first, everywhere else later” model taking a page right out of the Craigslist book? Hard to argue with that kind of success.

  • http://www.apple.com Gabriel Blanton

    It’s a very nice website you’re having here. thins that excited you at 14: http://www.yahoo.co.uk , thins that excited you at 14 , think that will make relief

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