Living On The Edge (the rise of the edge feeders)
I believe that the value in any network is created on the edge.
That is not where Google Base sits. Google Base is in the center.
In the freebase model, you give your content to Google and they keep it.
In the myspace model, you create your content on your page and you keep it.
I am for the myspace model and against the freebase model. And so is most everyone I know who has spent anytime thinking about this stuff.
Michael Arrington says this on CrunchNotes this morning:
Google Base has a lot of problems. The big one for me
is that is another centralized content play, when all of the really
interesting content is created at the edge. Jeff points out some other
issues with Base, including the fact that the data is not only
centralized but there is no API for non-Google search engines to access
Jeff Jarvis says this on Buzzmachine this morning:
If I were a VC, I’d be investing in a company that tries to use tags and microformats and social interaction to link together the topics and opinions and information people care about
on that distributed web. For that’s the company that won’t waste effort
and expense trying to get people to change their behavior and reverse
the natural flow of the web out to the edges — ‘come to us and give us
your good stuff’ — but instead takes advantage of the essence of the
web and leaves control out at those edges by saying: ‘We know you have
good stuff and we’re going to help people find it.’ The consumer
proposition is then clear: This is how you find the good stuff. This
will be the real successor to and competitor against Google. Oh, Google
could do it, too, but judging by Base, they’re not doing that. They’re taking control rather than giving it.
Well I am a VC and I sure would like to find "the real successor to Google" so I pay attention when someone as smart as Jeff is giving free advice to me and my colleagues.
But as a content creator living on the edge, I am not sure we are ready for microformats and tags and social interaction to do all the work for us. We’ll get there, I am sure of that, but we need an interim step and that step are services that feel centralized but are really application specific edge feeders. I need a better word for these services, but for now I’ll call them the edge feeders.
What edge feeders do is provide mechanisms to faciliate the content creation on the edge.
Flickr is an edge feeder and the best one I know of. I could take my photos and simply post them to my blog. But I don’t do that. I put them on Flickr and then from Flickr, I post them to my blog. Flickr makes that dead simple. But they also give me a badge to show aggregated photos. And they let me post other’s photos to my blog. They are the photo feeder of the blog world.
Blip.tv, vimeo, and youtube are the video feeders. I could post a video directly to my blog, but I don’t. I post it to vimeo, youtube, or blip.tv, and then from there I post it to my blog. These services are rolling out lots of video specific blog integration techniques that will make it even easier to be a video content creator living on the edge.
Delicious is a link feeder. I could post a linkroll to my blog, but I don’t. I use delicious to host all of my links, and I use a tag (mine is linkroll) to feed my linkroll. Delicious makes it easier to be a link content creator living on the edge.
And the service that got Jeff, Michael, and me talking about all of this today, Riffs, can be a feeder too. Jeff points out in the same post that I quoted from above that, "Gotham Gal has all kinds of
reviews already on her blog."
Yes, Gotham Gal writes a lot of reviews. But its a pain to do that. She’s got to find a permalink of the movie, restaurant, record, book, whatever. She’s got to find a thumbnail. And then once she’s done all that, she can blog it.
A review/opinion feeder will do all that for you. When I review a record, I go to Amazon because its the one place I know that I can find a permalink and a thumbnail. I use Amazon as my review/opinion feeder. But its not built to do that. It has no blog integration other than what Typepad has built for them on top of Amazon’s API.
Riffs has some work to do if it wants to be a review/opinion feeder but that’s an opportunity that is worth pursuing.
The other thing these feeders do, as pointed out by Bruce Spector (one of the people who built Riffs) in his comment on Jeff’s post, is that feeders also make great lightweight blog platforms for those who may not be willing to make the committment to seriously blog.
Mark Ghuniem has an amazing blog that is built on delicious
Missinfo has an amazing video/audio blog that is built on blip.tv
Thomas Hawk has an amazing photo blog that is built on Flickr
Some of these people have blogs, some don’t, but these application specific blogs they’ve built on these edge feeders are really compelling, more compelling than most blogs I come across.
So to summarize, centralized is bad, really bad. It won’t work in the world we are headed into where all the value is created on the edge. But just because a web service has a centralized organizing structure doesn’t mean it is centralized. The key is what they do to feed the edge. If they can become an application specific edge feeder, and the best of its kind, then they will help facilitate a massive amount of content creation on the edge and will also build a centralized organizing system (like Flickr’s interestingness) that can create enormous value. If the centralized organizing system itself can be distributed out to the edge, then its a home run.
In reading this over a couple times, I hope this isn’t too dense and obtuse. It makes a lot of sense to me. I hope it makes sense to you too.