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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Digg, Over-Extrapolation, and Monoculture 2.0

I just read So What Can Netscape Do Now? Here Are Four Options. in Deep Jive Interests. Tony Hung understands that Jason Calacanis threw away an existing business, the Netscape portal, by changing the existing product to a new one (a Digg-alike) that did not appeal to the customer base. He didn’t even get the Digg crowd (a much smaller group than the existing Netscape users) to switch. (Dr. Tony thinks first-mover advantage is very difficult to overcome, but it all depends. Remember Friendster.)

What would cause Jason Calacanis, a very smart person, to make such a huge mistake?

Bad assumptions/axioms.

My guess is that he believed that (a) what the cool kids were doing would spread to the larger population, and (b) Digg users were the cool kids. If so, he was far from the only person in the Web 2.0 world to have these beliefs; many have drunk of the Kool-Aid.

(b) first. Digg users are not the cool kids. For one thing, they’re overwhelmingly male, and in addition I’d bet that overall they’re pretty dorky. They don’t seem to be interested in what other cool kids are, like clothes. Meanwhile, one of the front-page stories when I checked just now was “Having a clue as the main requirement for open source”.

As for (a), cool kids are herd animals more than the rest of the population. Popular nightclub? Not for long: a newer one will become cool and everyone will go there instead. (Which is why Ken Schafer and Ross Rader predicted that MySpace would lose its #1 spot.) Fortunately for the general economy, not everyone makes purchasing decisions based on what is most popular at this very moment. And not everyone wants their news items selected that way either.

To be fair, there is also reddit, which has a slightly older demographic, and furthermore tries to deliver items of interest to the particular reader by checking popularity among readers with similar histories. But, so far anyway, it’s not all that different from Digg.

Is the Digg approach viable within communities that are less skewed? I think Jason Calacanis thought it would be, hence the reinvented Netscape. That he failed does not prove that it can’t be done, so let’s watch and see.

More for the Monoculture 2.0 file.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Digg also experienced a surge in traffic this april or so -- I don't know if this is the one related to the Paris Hilton-stolen-phone or not.

It maybe that Netscape is one giant media scoop away from catapaulting into the stratosphere as well.

Although 8 months later, it is harder to scoop with so many social bookmarkers looking for things, and most mainstream media outlets now using news aggregators and so on to find their news as well.

J-cal has a point -- but its all worth watching.

t @ dji
PS are you coming to MESH 07 Rohan? Mr. Calacanis? :)

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 7:25:00 p.m. EST  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Jason, thanks for your comment. I'm still skeptical, but clearly we'll have to wait and see what happens. I do hope that AOL stays the course.

Tony, it's hard for me to imagine digg or Netscape getting much credit in future for having led to a story being broken. For now, journalists think such sites are worth mentioning when they file stories, but as the novelty wears off I expect only the original sources to be referred to.

I'll be at mesh '07; in fact I'm going to register as soon as they'll take my money, because the last one sold out.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 9:48:00 p.m. EST  

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