Comments Are Dead, Long Live Comments

Yet another mainstream media site took down comments this week. In the post explaining the move, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher explained that “as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

That led to a fair bit of discussion around the notion that “commenting is dead.” And like many things that are “dead”, the truth is that they are flourishing elsewhere.

Just this week we had a post here at AVC with 880 comments, which is not a record but is damn close to one. Commenting activity has been fairly steady here at AVC over the past two years with comments down a bit and voting on comments up a bit:

comment history comment history

But let’s look elsewhere on the web.

Let’s take Reddit where comments are the center of activity. They are growing faster than pretty much any site out there and are now #38 globally and #10 in the US according to Alexa. And the time spent on site is a whopping 17mins.

reddit

 

Let’s look at Buzzfeed, another super fast growing content site. Buzzfeed uses Facebook comments as they drive a lot of traffic from Facebook to Buzzfeed. But the comment activity at Buzzfeed is strong and some posts, like this one, get over 1000 comments. Buzzfeed is a top 30 site in the US and is a top 100 site globally.

buzzfeed

 

Here are some stats from Disqus, a USV portfolio company that powers the comments here at AVC (from their about page):

– 20 million comments a month

– 80 million votes on comments a month

– 1 bn visits to disqus comments a month

– 2mm new commenter sign ups a month

And although they don’t show trends on their about page (they should), all of these numbers are up and to the right year after year after year.

Commenting is alive and well on the web and mobile. It’s just dead on sites that would prefer to have the conversation happen elsewhere. AVC is not one of those places, and even though I sometimes find the discussions hard to take here, I am committed to making this a two way experience for everyone who wants it to be.

Video Of The Week: Hating On People

I’m not a celebrity by any means, but I get hated on in public every so often.

It doesn’t feel good to be honest.

I really like what Jimmy Kimmel did here to highlight the issue

Immigration

Damn. The President has done it twice in the past few weeks. He’s showing a new side of him and I like it very much.

Last night he announced a series of executive actions that “will shield up to five million people from deportation and allow many to work legally, although it offers no path to citizenship”, to quote from the New York Times.

It bothers me very much that the US, a nation of immigrants, a place where many (most?) new businesses are started by immigrants or the children of immigrants, a country that has historically welcomed others with open arms, has become closed minded when it comes to the issue of immigration. We have given a lot of time and money, and airtime here at AVC, in support of immigration reform and I have come to understand that the issue is hostage to the politics of our two main parties.

The Democrats want to remain the party of the immigrant and have been pushing for “comprehensive immigration reform” in search of a big win for its constituents. The Republicans don’t want to let tens of millions of likely Democratic voters into the voting booths in the coming years and have been against any path to citizenship and the voting booth. Both positions are understandable and rational in the context of politics. But caught in the middle are tens of millions of people who are in our country, have been in our country for a long time, and who provide much of the foundation of the hard work that gets done every day. This is not right. We must change it.

And so the President has thrown down the gauntlet and said “I’m going to do what must be done, regardless of whether you like it or not, and I have the legal right to do it.” Is this politically motivated. Hell yes. Is it the right thing to do. Hell yes. Now it is time for the Republicans to do the right thing to. Because they really have no choice.

Every once in a while good politics results in good policy. This is one of those times. Thanks Mr President.

Twitter Time Machine

I saw my partner Andy tweeting last night about the first time certain words showed up in Twitter:

twitter firsts

That told me that Twitter had rolled out the ability to search the entire archive. I’m not sure when that happened but this morning I took a trip down memory lane and revisited my first four months on Twitter, from my first tweet on March 12, 2007 until the end of June 2007. The query is “from:fredwilson until:2007-6-30″ and it returned these results.

There are a few gems in there but its mostly “I had grilled cheese for lunch” sort of stuff.

What is more interesting is I did four tweets over the span of two days and then stopped tweeting for three weeks. Then I found myself in LA and for some reason I started tweeting again. From then on, I tweeted almost every day for the next three months, sometimes two or three times a day. I was hooked. And lots of good things came of the habit I started in LA in early April 2007.

Here are a few favorites from those early days on Twitter:

Getting married in a downpour is good luck

I think this was my first visit to Twitter HQ

Still is

What’s a Blackberry?

When I met Ali for the first time (and mispelled her name, sorry Ali). Might also have been when Mark convinced me to invest in Zynga

Anniversaries were big that month for me

I still remember that moment. The kids went nuts.

Values and Culture

If the Uber mess over the past few days tells us anything, it is that values and culture matter more than anything. They seep into the product, the user experience, the brand, and ultimately define the company in the market. And all of this comes from the top.

It is absolutely true that when you hit the bigtime, which Uber most certainly has, the media will take it to you with a vengeance. I still cringe when I think about Jessi Hempel’s Fortune cover story about Twitter in 2011. They build you up and then they bring you down. That’s the media game. You have to expect it. And right now is Uber’s turn to get the takedown.

But Uber makes it so damn easy. The win at all cost approach is so deeply ingrained in the culture that they take that attitude with the media as well. And that’s not a winning strategy with journalists. I prefer the “turn the other cheek” approach when it’s my turn to get savaged. You just have to take the heat and move on. Fighting back will get you nowhere but a world of hurt.

USV has investments in not one, but two Uber competitors. So I’m not the least bit objective here. But I’ve watched this company closely for a long time now and what I see is ruthless execution combined with total arrogance. I am in awe of what they have done. It is about the best execution I’ve witnessed in a long long time. But I am not in awe of how they conduct themselves. And I wonder if the two are connected at the hip. Can they lose the swagger without losing the execution? I guess we will see. That is the $100bn question.

Tipping Tuesday

One of the most promising use cases for Bitcoin is micropayments. And one of the most promising use cases for micropayments is funding content. There are two primary ideas for how to do this with micropayments.

1) A paywall that requires a tiny micropayment to read something (like a penny or less).

2) A tip mechanism. Think of a facebook like or a twitter star with money attached.

We are testing out the latter on AVC starting today. Our portfolio company Coinbase launched a tip button today.

You will notice a tip icon at the bottom of this post (and every post at AVC). If you click on that tip icon, you will see this dialog box:

coinbase popup

For those that don’t know, CSNYC is a non-profit I helped to start that is bringing computer science education to the NYC public school system. They will be the beneficiary of all tipping here at AVC.

300 “bits” is 0.0003 bitcoin, or roughy 10 cents. If you are logged into Coinbase on the web or on your phone, you will see the option to use Coinbase wallet to send the money. If you are not, you can type in a bitcoin wallet address and send the money. If you enable one click tip, you will send 300 bits every time you click on the tip button. You can also do this on William’s blog.

Since not all AVC readers have Coinbase wallets or own Bitcoin, we are doing a Bitcoin giveaway today on AVC to jumpstart the bitcoin tipping thing. We will give away $10 in bitcoin to the first 200 people to raise their hands, virtually, for this giveaway.

Here’s how the AVC Bitcoin Giveaway works:

2.) Receive an email back from Coinbase to “claim $10 worth of free bitcoin”
3.) Create a Coinbase account with that link
4.) Receive funds

Please don’t send that email if you don’t think you will go through this entire flow as you’ll be taking one of the 200 spots.

I think that’s all there is to say about this right now. Let’s see how this goes. Should be an interesting experiment. Here are some other blogs you can tip at today:

Capital And Success

In a post early last week I asserted this:

Access to capital and raising a boatload of it is rarely the thing that wins the market.

And then later in the week I saw this tweet

And then this one

These tweets are about the competition between our portfolio company DuckDuckGo and another search engine called Blekko.

Blekko has raised $60mm to date and DuckDuckGo has raised $3mm (and never spent it).

In that post last week, I also asserted this:

Product execution, network effects, go to market strategies, and a few other things are what allows companies to win the market

It is what you build, how you go to market with it, and how you monetize it that will determine your success. By all means raise money, from USV if at all possible, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that raising money is the secret to success. It is decidedly not.

The Cable Model and The Internet Model

The cable industry used the following model to build out the industry in the US:

1) cable operators were given local monopolies as incentive to build out the expensive last mile networks into every home in the market

2) cable operators leveraged this last mile monopoly to determine which cable channels to carry on their networks and which they would not carry

3) cable operators often required large free slugs of equity in the cable channels in order to agree to carry them on their networks

4) even with digital cable technology, cable systems rarely carry more than 1000 channels on their networks

 

The internet industry used the following model to build out the industry globally:

1) the internet was deployed on top of existing telecommunications infrastructure, initially dial-up modems that moved data over voice lines

2) no monopolies were given out as incentives to build out networks. entrepreneurs jumped in, financed by venture capital and other equity capital markets

3) anyone can put a server on the global internet and offer service to anyone. there are no gatekeepers

4) entrepreneurs don’t have to hand over slugs of their equity in order to get carriage on the global public internet

5) there are between 750mm and 1bn active domains on the global internet according to some estimates

 

These are two very different models but in one way they are converging. The last mile telcos and cable companies have taken over the internet access (last mile) market by virtue of the move from dial-up to broadband and today there is a duopoly in most local markets. It is very possible that these internet access providers could evolve the internet industry to the cable model.

And that is why Ted Cruz is wrong when he says this (at 3:50min in this talk):

This whole net neutrality thing is a fight between big boys, between gigantic companies on one side and gigantic companies on the other.

It’s actually a fight between the 1bn active domains and the roughly six or seven wired and wireless carriers who own the internet access market in the US. This is a David vs Goliath issue and the Davids don’t have the ability to go toe to toe in the market with the Goliaths. And that is why Net Neutrality is a conservative idea. Let’s keep the Internet industry operating on the Internet model and not allow it to be moved to a cable model. That is all that this is about. And I am going to do what I can to make that case to Ted Cruz and his conservative colleagues as soon as I get the chance.

Feature Friday: Distributed Identity

Last year at LeWeb I talked about four areas that we are looking at closely to make investments in. One of them is identity. I said this at the very end of my talk:

I predicted that there would emerge a “bitcoin like protocol” for identity. And we’ve been looking for that.

One thing we realized along the way is that this could be built on top of bitcoin or another blockchain. And so earlier this year we made a seed investment in a startup called OneName that is building exactly that. On Wednesday of this week, OneName announced a bunch of things, including our investment, and my partner Albert wrote about OneName at usv.com.

Now many will say “well Facebook, Google, and Twitter handle that pretty well for me” and they would be right. But are you really comfortable with Facebook or Google operating the identity layer of the Internet? I am not. And I think over time less and less of us will be.

But the answer isn’t another startup controlling the identity layer of the Internet either. The answer is a distributed ledger of identity that is open and not controlled by any entity. And that sounds like an application for a blockchain if there ever was one.

I have cleared my identity on the blockchain and it is here. I have verified it on Twitter and Facebook and you can send me bitcoins through it. It’s not much today, but in some ways it is everything. Because everything can be built on this and our hope is it will.

To date about 20,000 people have cleared their identity on the blockchain via OneName. My hope is that number will be in the millions within the next year. If you want do do that today, go here and get started.