The web became a powerful productivity, entertainment, education and information platform. It’s easy to use but needs improvement to deliver on relevance, reliability and privacy. The closed-garden approach of Facebook is not the total solution, so I make a case for a player like Yahoo to help addressing the problem.
I have had lot of fun over the past 2 years helping entrepreneurs and even becoming one. Web2.0 technologies finally started to deliver value for end users, yet some core platform challenges remain unsolved.
Authentication, Relevance, Reliability and Privacy are core themes that need solutions at two levels: for the end users and for the businesses trying to serve those end users. Just like Yahoo did, many years ago, making the web easier to use, today there is room for a player to "make the web relevant, private and reliable".
I spoke this week at a roundtable with entrepreneurs in Seattle. The room seemed to agree on cloud computing as a commodity layer and the need for a middleware layer of marketing, CRM, analytics, productivity, etc that adds value for entrepreneurs and end-users. I argued that Facebook was trying to address the issue, at least within their closed-gardens. (see post here)
For example many startup do their web authentication services using Facebook credentials. But they aren’t a platform and we are all at the mercy of non-robust and undocumented APIs. When something is failing, it can take hours, days or even months to get fixed (I am suffering this right now with one startup and with two companies I advise). One particularly nasty bug has been waiting for resolution since May! (see users report here)
Facebook seems not to care, because (rightly) they are first and foremost about making Facebook relevant, private and reliable... note the difference: They make the closed-garden better, not the whole web.
Many entrepreneurs would love to have something like "Yahoo Connect" or “Google connect” available and with some sort of SLA. And they would pay for that… as long as Yahoo and Google take care of the expensive part: keeping their audience engaged, so millions of users actually see value on those login credentials on a daily base. To address some privacy and relevancy issues, authentication mechanisms can be of help, but those need to be architected for scale and need to be of value for end users.
Making the web relevant, reliable and private is not a small task and there are many entrepreneurs addressing different pieces of the puzzle. When I look at the hundreds of startups I was exposed to over the past years, I see a pattern where the problem is not writing great code or having the right idea, but the issues are having a great team, architecting for scale, cash management and the very expensive act of generating demand (building an audience). Facebook could help as they have an audience (500m) and have cash, but they are focused on “their web” not “the web”. Yahoo has an audience (600m) and cash. They could make the web “friendly v2”, meaning, "making the web relevant, private and reliable"