SquidWho - When A Product Becomes A Platform

I wrote a post a week ago talking about products that become platforms.

I started it off with a discussion about the Mahalo/Gnomedex thing. That was a mistake. It clouded the point I was trying to make. And that point is that the best products become platforms at some point. And things that start out as platforms have a hard time becoming products.

The other day I stumbled upon SquidWho. SquidWho is one of a number people search engines that are cropping up. Other notable "people search engines" include WikiYou, WInk, and of course LinkedIn and Wikipedia can be used for searching people.

What’s more interesting to me about SquidWho is what it represents. It’s an application built on top of Squidoo, the service that let’s people make webpages about things they are passionate about. Squidoo is kind of like a truly peer produced About.com. And despite some recent controversy about Squidoo being spammed up, it’s a fairly popular service.

Squidoo is one of the 500 most popular websites according to Alexa. comScore says Squidoo has over 4mm unique visitors per month worldwide. Squidoo has excellent search engine optimization so the pages you create in it get indexed highly in Google.

That’s a good place to start when you want to build a web app. Like a mini version of Facebook, Squidoo is a platform because it has eyeballs and unlike Facebook, it has great google juice.

According to Seth Godin, the founder of Squidoo, SquidWho was built in five weeks from initial idea to launch. And they have a bunch more of these "apps" coming. What’s next? I sure hope they open up the Squidoo platform to web developers so thousands of apps can be built on top of Squidoo. That’s how a product becomes a platform.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. jasoncalacanis

    I just went to SquidWho and typed in Steve Jobs and it gave me a bunch of syndicated content from:a) wikipediab) flickrc) amazond) youtubeetc.Confused… what’s the platform part? Am I missing something? This feels like a polished blog scraper tool to be honest.If you type in the name of someone you don’t know it autobuilds a page based on these syndicated sources. This kind of stuff has been around for a while I think, what’s the platform piece of it?Is there a way for folks to tap into some original content on Squidoo and use it/play with it?best j

    1. Kimberly Dawn Wells

      Jason, Squidoo and SquidWho are absolutely built on original content. What we give you is just a starting point with some ideas. All the modules are fully customizable. Check out what some of our lensmasters have done for “regular people:” http://www.squidoo.com/grou…~KimberlySquidoo’s Community Organizer

  2. RacerRick

    Seth champions the idea of helping others helps oneself so I’m not surprised that Squidoo could become some sort of platform.Whereas Jason is more into the idea of helping oneself helps oneself.

  3. Fred

    Product -> platform evolution is definitely an interesting topic. Squidoo is just dipping their toe into the external developer API model with their module development program, although it’s certainly not open as they have right of refusal as to whether the module gets included. After the Google Squidoo Slap back in July that seemed to drop virtually all lenses in rank and the Squidoo policy changes to discourage spammers, I’m curious to see how much SEO juice Squidoo will continue to have and how growth is affected.

  4. Paul Montgomery

    Yes Fred, but what about when a product becomes a platform for spammers? SquidWho looks to me like a goldmine for SEO operatives to increase their linklove for free. For instance, this person spams his own Jessica Alba eBay auction items:http://ebaysquidoo.blogspot…I distrust applications that look like they haven’t had much effort put into them, and SquidWho looks like a very quickly developed application which has very little worth.

  5. Aire

    Fred,Long time reader but first time I comment here. Two things.You say “Squidoo is a platform because it has eyeballs” , but the truth is that eyeballs are just what they’ve always been: audience, and a platform doesn’t need an audience to be, well, a platform. Let me explain.If you’re talking (as I believe you are) about Products becoming a platform, then yes, they probably need the eyeballs to become successful as a platform, but there are many platforms out there that don’t give you the eyeballs. They give you, well, the platform, so you can go and build a product for yourself. Think Ning, think coRank, think Salesforce… Tons of them.These are sites that are true platforms, probably even more than Facebook’s. They’re just not platforms on top of an already established product with an audience – at least Ning and coRank aren’t. In fact, I’m working on a project that combines a social network built on Ning and a collaborative “wiki-able” bookmarking site built on coRank, and neither Ning nor coRank are giving me any users.The path Product -> Platform may make sense and yes, your product needs eyeballs to make your platform attractive.The path Platform -> Product as in “we’ve created a platform, now we’re going to hope people build a product for us” will rarely ever work. But…The path Platform -> Product as in “here’s the platform now go build your product” exists since ONElist and Geocities and it’s perfectly valid.

    1. fredwilson

      Airethis is the essential debate i want to foster.let’s take two “platforms”one robust, easy to build on, and no eyeballsthe other thin, hard to build on, and a ton of eyeballs.which platform would the rational developer choose to use?it may be the second.when wallstrip got started one of the questions was – which video hosting service are we going to use?i pushed for youtube, even though there were better video hosts out therethey didn’t go with youtube, but you get my point.and i realize that a videohost is less than a full blown platform.the challenge for ning and coRank and other “platforms” is becoming like Facebook, a place where developers get both functionality and usersfred

      1. Aire

        Fred, did you read Marc Andreesen’s last post? Either he’s reading your blog or his timing is extremely coincidental 🙂 Funny he mentions Ning and Salesforce (two of the companies I mentioned in my comment) as examples of what he calls “level 3 platforms”.He also includes Second Life in that group, and I disagree (if SL had no audience, their platform wouldn’t matter, if they remove the platform, they still have a product). Too bad he’s not allowing comments anymore.

    2. Joel

      The issue with this is what the goals are for the application you’re developing. If you’re looking to make a quick buck? Go with a “platform” that has eyeballs already (eg, Facebook). If you’re looking to make an application that is built to last, you might be better server with a platform like Ning. *First off, I hesitate to say Squidoo has eyeballs. Yes, I’m sure it has millions of users already or whatever, but so do many sites that we never hear about anymore (43things anyone?). Then it brings up the question of active users, good traffic vs garbage traffic, etc.SquidWho is essentially an entirely new product that is tangentially related to the original one. It’s definitely a good idea, but I don’t think it quite validates Squidoo as a “platform” (the move does reflect well on them as a company though). For it to really be a platform I think it would have to be open for external developers (who are hopefully developing products related to the original one).* = if you really want something that’s built to last, take the time to develop it yourself from scratch. If your business is your application, you might as well make it properly and have full control over it.

  6. sebastian

    SquidWho is a fun thing, but it has the same (serious) problem that Spock (you missed this people search engine! ;)) and other people search engines have: Getting “everybody on the planet” into their engine.So far, I haven’t heard of any plans to index social networks or other sources rather than Wikipedia, Flickr, Amazon and YouTube. And guess what: People that are listed on Wikipedia, Amazon and YouTube are NOT the majority! So it’s – once again – a search engine for celebrities.SquidWho shouldn’t count in people creating profiles for their friends. You can do that if you are a social network that already has a huge amount of traffic. 4 million eyeballs don’t count anything if 99% of them came there for one topic they found on Google. This isn’t that kind of audience that will create content on your site. Facebook could do SquidWhoo. They have a huge amount of traffic from people that come to Facebook on purpose.In the end, social networks are the best people search engines. Why? Cause my profile there will always be up to date and I don’t have to care about a second (or third or fourth or sixth) profile just to be searchable for people that are not in my friends network anyway. (If they were, they could simply go to a social network that I’m registered with…)

  7. Bob Warfield

    There are many reasons why great products and platforms are intertwined. More on my blog:http://smoothspan.wordpress

  8. dan

    Unfortunately, the amount of spam that is coming from Squidoo sponsored sites pushes it right into the realm of Blogger and Live Journal. So far there is nothing being heard about Squidoo taking on splogs at this point, the people search engine squidwho might be cool, but they are going to have a harder time of it because of the amount of splogs on the system.

    1. Seth Godin

      Hi Dan.There’s a huge difference between “spam,” which is a noxious interruption, and “splogs,” which are largely in the eye of the beholder. You need to track down and bump into a splog or a squidoo page that you find useless… it doesn’t come track you down. Squidoo’s ranking system pushes the empty/stupid/vapid/promotional pages down and they don’t get traffic.I can’t imagine how any site like ours can be in the business of deciding whether or not a page is “good enough” in the early stages. We have eliminated 99.9% of the spam activity on Squidoo, we’ve eliminated all pages about common spam topics as well. I think our top 5,000 pages are pretty great.The power of the web really kicks in when many sites and pages compete for an audience. When they do, quality goes up pretty quickly.