Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Shadow services will fail again

The single biggest failing I see in 90 per cent of Web 2.0 plays is that they’re dependent on generating a critical mass of users but don’t seem to have any real hook that says to me that they have a snow ball’s chance in hell of getting there.

Having a business model that relies of critical mass is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for the few who achieve it and a curse for the majority of others who never do. If you get to a market first and the market is a goer and you execute well then you stand a very good chance of 1) establishing critical mass and 2) keeping your advantage because its very hard for a site without critical mass to compete with a site that has it

If your not first or your market is not a smack-you-in-the-face-with-a-wet-fish goer than you have to buy critical mass. That’s what Netscape.com is trying to do in its war with Digg.com right now, buying off their top users. Don’t think it has to be cash though. When I started MediaConnect, which was essentially a press release bulletin board for journalists I essentially “bought off” my audience with editorial; ie i gave away a valuable service in order to generate mass to make work a monetisable service that required critical mass.

But most Web 2.0 companies aren’t doing anything to buy off the audience to get that critical mass that turns a neat idea into a self-perpetuating organism, which is what most Web 2.0 plays set out to be. Take Bordee featured today on TechCrunch. Neat idea, but it won’t fly.

Essentially it requires you to download an extension so that you can start message boards for any site you’d like to start a messageboard for. Not only do they have one big massive hump to get over. ie Why would I bother to start a message board that no body else is posting to, they have the double disadvantage that they have to first encourage the user to download a browser extension. They’re not “buying off” the user, they’re asking the user to “buy in”, not once, but twice. Won’t happen.

I also might add, that I hate the “shadows” concept. Feasibly, I can think of very few cases where it might work, but I’m also philosophically opposed to sites that leach off other sites which is what shadowing is really about. Thankfully, services like ThirdVoice don’t work and I’m struggling to get why people are getting excited about a model that has already proved to fail.

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