The Independent Web

John Battelle has put forth his vision for The Independent Web. John is thinking of this concept in the context of the world he lives in, publishing and advertising, which makes total sense. 

I too am very taken with the idea of The Independent Web, but I am thinking of it in the context of the world I live in, investing in and working with web and mobile web services.

My partner Albert Wenger posted a "letter to Larry" (my words not his) yesterday on his blog. One of his wishes for Larry's vision for Google is this:

Supporting independent third party services instead of either trying to acquire them or competing head on with them.  Figure out how to succeed by making others succeed.

We have seen again and again that when a large company acquires a startup, they most often let it wither and die (myspace, delicious, etc). We have also seen that if that web services can be spun out (skype, stumbleupon), they can often be resuscitated. And so we believe that buying web services and aggregating them under some uber holding company model is not a great thing for the acquirer or the web at large.

Now Google is possibly the exception to this rule. As I said on stage at Web 2 last fall, Google has been hands down the best acquirer of web services. YouTube, Android, Doubleclick, Keyhole, and many more are proof that this is what Google does best.

But acquiring innovating emerging web services is not the only thing that big companies do that can be detrimental to the web. Worse is competing head on with them. Look at Facebook. They have ripped off Twitter, Foursquare, Quora, and many more small innovative startups. They haven't "killed" any of these companies but they have muddled the market and caused users to have to make choices that may turn out to be the wrong choices for them.

What I would like to see (and obviously Albert would too) is the emergence of a cooperative attitude on the web and mobile web where the big Internet companies and the innovative emerging web services work together to "succeed by making others succeed." 

Tim O'Reilly has been promoting this concept for a decade or more under the rubric of the Internet as an open operating system. This is an ideal I totally subscribe to. And I'd like to see more companies think this way, including companies that we are invested in that may not entirely see the world this way.

You can try to get as much of the pie for yourself or you can try to make the pie bigger and thus make your piece of the pie bigger. An independent web vision is the latter approach and, I think, the right approach.