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June 2007 Archives

June 21, 2007

Are network effects getting weaker?

"This place is dead anyway."

I was thinking about how fast Facebook has replaced Linkedin for my valley connections. In a period of about 2 months, it seems like most of my contacts have all deserted linkedin and moved to facebook. They seemed to seed it through connections with their board, investors, etc, making a deliberate effort to invite lots of valley techies, journos, etc. and it worked.

Now the little remaining linkedin activity I have is from mostly from outside the sfbay area.

The move was easier than I thought. Facebook seems a little more open, so it's easy to browse around and connect with people you know. And, rather than my store of data in LinkedIn holding me there, starting fresh with a blank slate was a great way to clean up my contact list.

Friendster, Linkedin, Orkut, Myspace, Facebook. Orkut? Yeah it was hot for a little while too. I had a bunch of contacts in there. Not to mention even earlier stuff, like AIM buddy lists, email lists, etc.

Myspace was the king just a few months ago. Apparently it's not hip anymore:

MySpace is a tired social network that may have a ton of traffic but it has peaked. It doesn't have mojo anymore.

Like AOL in 1999, it will take years before people realize it.

MySpace isn't worth 25% of the combined company.

Facebook, yes, MySpace no.

    -- Fred Wilson

So what's going on here?

In an environment where travel is free and instantaneous, you get flash mobs.

If a place is cool, or new, or interesting, you go there to check it out.

A place might be interesting simply because there are a lot of other people there at the moment. We're instinctively drawn towards crowds. "Why are all those people gathered over there? I'll check it out too."

A swarm of bees clumped on a particular tree branch doesn't mean that the branch is some magical bee-place with a lock-in for centuries.

Sure, maybe they stay there.

Or maybe the bees move to a new hive.

Another analogy would be a new restaurant that is the hip new place to go.

Maybe they have great food, or maybe it's just the scene, but a lot of times the bloom fades and the crowd moves on to a new place.

Customers had a billing relationship with AOL. Moving to a new ISP was a hassle. They left in the end anwyay.

It's easier than ever to move from one service to another. Blog reader? No problem. Photo site? I have accounts on all of them anyway. Social networks? Yeah I'm signed up on all of them. I use the ones everyone else is using, at the moment. Just like we all do. The rest have a stub profile for me, but don't see much activity.

I started wondering if there was less lock-in than I thought on other services supposedly protected by strong network effects. Like eBay, for instance.

They've got all the buyers, and all the sellers. But what fraction of their transactions are "Buy it now" from their 700,000 merchants? Is there an 80/20 rule to those merchants? Could a core be drawn to a new service?

Ebay hasn't updated itself significantly, ever. I'd like to see a Facebook marketplace. The stronger identity around facebook profiles would be better than the anonymous "trust" ratings.


June 27, 2007

Leaving Topix... (but in very good hands)

As has been announced elsewhere, I've stepped down as CEO of Topix, and my longtime friend and co-founder Chris Tolles has been promoted into the top spot.

Topix has been experiencing very strong traffic growth over the past 6 months. We launched a substantial set of improvements to the site in April, and traffic since then has soared. Topix's local forum activity continues to grow at double digit rates per month. Topix is a monster in local community and is growing like a weed.

So why the change, then...? Well, first let me say that this was a change that I personally initiated with our board. I have always seen myself as a product guy first and foremost. And some of the magic tricks I rely on tend to be based on technical architectural advantages, injecting attack products into market holes, and new product boot-up strategies. I have managed medium-sized groups before effectively, and I can certainly hold my own with PR, but at the end of the day if I find myself only doing those things I start to get a little grouchy. Also, the skills Topix needs now are not really based on innovating some new algorithm or launch magic. Rather, marketing, sales, and operations are key to Topix achieving its full potential.

So in looking at who would be best to take Topix to the next level, promoting Chris into this spot was the obvious choice. He has a depth of experience in sales and marketing, has managed successful community products before at Netscape/AOL, and provides great continuity of management with the company. Furthermore, he and I have actually traded positions previously. He's worked for me, and I and other folks on our team have worked for him before, several times ... at Sun, Netscape and AOL. So I know he can do the job, and the passion and experience that he'll bring to the role will be a huge asset for Topix.

Others agree with this assessment. Ben Smith wrote:

Congratulations to Mr. Tolles. Chris is going to do an incredible job making things happen. He is a marketing machine who knows product, can sell and has more passion to win than 90% of the executives in the valley.

This is the perfect opportunity to take what he helped create with Skrenta, Markson and others to the next level.

I will also say for the record that our board, with members from Tribune, Gannett, and Mayfield Fund, have been absolutely outstanding from the very beginning of our partnership with them, throughout this transition. Their advice, vision and support have been essential, and it's been a real pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with them.

I'll be continuing to serve on the board, and provide assistance wherever I can. As I still represent the third largest equity stake in Topix, after Tribune and Gannett, I have every interest in seeing Topix continue to grow and succeed.

Congratulations to Chris, and here's looking forward to Topix's inevitable victory in the local community space. :)

Also check out Mike's thoughts on the transition...

June 29, 2007

Palo Alto iPhone line pics


June 30, 2007


The DVD box said "The best 6 minutes of film ever created."

I agree.

Mark Osborne's MORE took 9 months to create, but is only 6 minutes long. One reviewer compared it to a cross between Brazil and Citizen Kane. You can watch it on the web, but do yourself a favor and buy the DVD. It looks much better at a proper resolution and encoding. Plus there are exta commentary tracks and features which are pretty interesting. And you can feel good about supporting Mark, this is clearly a labor of love and he's working on new stuff too.

About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Skrentablog in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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