Default Behavior and the Internet Operating System

When you want to search for something on the Internet, most people go to Google without even thinking about it. 

When I want to buy something on the Internet, my default behavior is to go to Amazon and search for it. 

When my kids want to get tix for a concert, they go right to Craigslist and post a ticket wanted listing and search for a seller.

These are 'default behaviors'. We do these things by second nature without even thinking about it. 

Tim O'Reilly talks about the Internet as an operating system. The web services are functions in the operating system.

And some of the most valuable businesses on the web are default functions as if they came pre-installed in the Internet operating system. 

Only they didn't. Somehow they got to be the default. Most often by being sufficiently superior to the other services of their kind. Or in some cases, by simply being first and building up a network effect or a data asset that was unassailable by newcomers. 

But however a web service attains default status, it is a hugely valuable position to secure.

Default positions can be lost but not easily. Most often they are eroded by new web services that cleave off parts of their functionality. Less frequently are they just replaced by a newcomer. 

If Google's power over the web wanes, and I think it will in time, it will not likely be the result of Microsoft or someone else replacing it as the default search service. It will be because new default functions emerge that lessen the number of times we want to use the search function. 

So what does this mean for entrepreneurs and VCs? Well for one, don't make a frontal assault on a default service. Build or finance a service that can become a new default function in the Internet operating system. And if you have a shot at becoming one of these default functions, invest all of your time and energy attaining and solidifying that default position before working on monetizing it. Because its a very tough position to secure and once you get there it's pretty hard to knock you out.
#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. John Furrier

    very true indeed. Game changing ventures require game changing thinking. Well said Fred.For example to add to your post. I’ve been a big fan of Twitter’s approach and have blogged about it many times – nail the user experience and they will own the new category then monetization will be as easy as brushing your teeth. Well that was when they had 2m users. Bada bing. Sill no monetization and boom hello hockey stick growth.. they still have money in the bank so they won’t be going out of business anytime soon but more importantly they can just wait til a match between user experience and monetization “shows its head”.That’s my ANGLE

    1. fredwilson

      i agree John

      1. John Furrier

        Thanks Fred what’s more impressive is the feeding frenzy the open data is to developers. If you guys keep in jamming and keep it friendly to us entrepreneurs – twitter will continue to soar higher. Oh yeah being plugged on TV help push the default positioning that you mentioned. Watching CNN, to ESPN say follow us on twitter reminds me when I first saw a URL on TV. I think you guys are all ready there. Congrats.

  2. Michael Lewkowitz

    That’s actually a reason I think that Twitter is particularly powerful. It is cementing a default to public behaviour which is generating real-time value for people. I think what’s coming up under it is actually a new medium (the public micro-message medium) which has potential as the most accessible, interactive public medium in our history.Default to public is a DNA shift that goes back to the original spirit of the web. It will interesting to see how other behaviours change as a result (e.g. moving from RSS to links I find in my twitter stream).

    1. fredwilson

      i think the default behavior that twitter has a shot of obtaining is the “i want to tell everyone something right now” behavior

      1. Michael Lewkowitz

        Yes and perhaps:- “I want to know what’s happening right now”- “I want to check what ‘Jane Doe’ is up to.”Both stem from the behaviour you said.

        1. markslater

          but what to me is much more attractive is “what i want to DO right now’. This pulls businesses in to the exchange by default – by attaching an action to a result. If i want to do something with the wife right now (lets say eat) – i cant use twitter – it wont give me a laser like set of suggestions in an exceptable exchange.If i want to say that i am going to eat, i can see what other people might be suggesting or doing – but really – this is transient information as over time i will learn all the habits of all those people that meaning anything to me, and i will begin to see a drastically diminished value in peer recommendation and frankly little or no value in status. i see no lasting value in it right now (thus my struggle with twitter).What i want is this. i want a social concierge service that i can quickly communicate with that will suggest a result to my action (in this instance eating) – by telling me any deals that places it knows i might like may be offering right now. (free apps from 5-7). i confirm and it books. it can also communicate a social exhaust to the ‘status’ tools if i want it to. But i want a service that helps me find real-time solutions to my actions across my social activities. Eat, drink, dance, meet etc.A restaurant would love to look at their book, and be able to move inventory in real time in a measurable fashion. I love a deal.

          1. fredwilson

            Prediction: someone is going to read this and build it for you

  3. Mark Essel

    We search for something that works then make it our first choice. Human psychology transforming the internet much like any other tool we use into comfortable defaults. More disruption and momentum interaction. Which do we chase after as new forming businesses.(typo fefault functions)Non sequitur but anyone in Manhattan that’s looking to hang out or stop in a friendly bar, please say howdy to my buddy Benjamin Powers (tell him I said hi)…

    1. fredwilson

      mark, thanks for finding that typo. i banged out this post on my blackberry on the subway to brooklyn last evening and i’m frankly surprised that there’s only one (that i know of)

      1. Mark Essel

        Not too shabby for mobile posting, my iphone FF discussions or blog posts are spooky animals in comparison (typos, grammar errors).

  4. Jason

    i agree 100% but have to say that there are a few default services that are built on an outdated infrastructure which in itself is an opportunity for innovative newcomers with a strategy to come along and take the crown.

    1. Steve Poland

      evite, but yet new services with their sexy graphics can’t take this one down.

    2. fredwilson

      got any examples for us?

      1. Kiril

        I think the classic example used here is CraigsList. But I’m convinced that just modernizing CraigsList isn’t going to supplant it- you’d have to find the angle where they’re lacking (my take: services around tracking interaction with respondents), and deliver a quantum leap in service around that.

        1. Michael R. Bernstein

          I think that there are probably a few others. For example, while CL is perfectly adequate for announcing the availability of various things that are either free or being sold for money, it is not very useful for non-monetary transactions such as barter.

          1. markslater

            agree. where is the real time contextual craigslist?

      2. Jason

        i’ll share 1 because i am 99.99% certain that no one else in the world is taking the tech angle that i will be taking, even rarer to see internet the way i do…are you ready to laugh? eBay.just as i finished writing this, i just heard word of another eBay “glitch”. now i am laughing too 🙂

      3. pwb

        I think Ebay and Paypal could be vulnerable. Both have scaled extremely poorly (organizationally) to the point they would have trouble withstanding a solid attack.

        1. fredwilson

          Etsy and others have shown how to cleave off parts of ebayI think the way to take on paypal is mobile payments or pssibly social payments

  5. lawrence coburn

    The example verticals you mention – shopping, search, classifieds – all existed prior to Amazon, Google, and Craigslist becoming the default behaviors.Twitter is even more interesting because they invented the behavior, and became the default through invention.

    1. Mark Essel

      friendfeed is my preference for real time feeds, but they use twitter as a backbone as well. I’m happy enough with ff that I use it on my blog (and can interact with it there as well).

      1. fredwilson

        it’s possible that the default service you use to send real time updates and the default service you use to receive them will be different ones

        1. Anu Nigam

          I think that you could have two different sources for sending and receiving. Classic failure of Twitter maybe that is could be the source to send, but someone else figures out a better way to filter the noise. I’d switch to a better way to sort through the noise. Then Twitter may become the platform that someone else makes money from…like the Zynga has done on Facebook.

          1. fredwilson

            I’m not sure that’s a failure. Maybe twitter would see it as failure. But with open apis on top of facebook and twitter, it sure seems like there are going to be a lot of valuable and important services built on top of them. To me that’s success, not failure

    2. Bulging Bracket

      They didn’t really invent the behavior. It’s been in messenging apps for a while and Facebook.Twitter broadened the reach of the status update. You don’t have to be at your desktop to get the feed as with MSN or pulling it with Facebook for BlackBerry. It’s pervasive and device independent (well less so in some countries with cost of SMS).So many people are kicking themselves over not seeing the value of the status update.

  6. Edwin Khodabakchian

    Interesting post. Google is a giant and sustain their growth is going to be hard but with YouTube, GoogleApps, Android and Chrome, they have 4 areas of hyper growth on which they seem to be executing very well. Re: twitter, they are definitely become a phenomenon, but it is not clear if such a default can remain centralized on the long run. It feels like the infancy of email. I could be wrong. It will be interesting to see what happens over time.

  7. Facebook User

    Agreed but the details are important. Remember that Yahoo or maybe Altavista was the default search before Google. Google simply scaled so much better than the default early on didn’t matter. It’s hard to imagine there being a search algorithm so much better than Google right now, but who knows what people are working on.On the other hand, this is an evolutionary way of thinking about growth, and to run with it, I’d suggest further that the best way to outgrow a Google is to find an ecological niche that Google doesn’t yet occupy, but which meets similar needs along with other similar needs not met.What does Google do at bottom? It connects people. There are mechanisms for connecting people that have been around for much longer than Google. There is still plenty of room for aggressive entrepreneurs to design interfaces that will allow us to connect with each other more like the ways that we have done so for thousands of years in offline social networks. Google is just the beginning.

    1. Mark Essel

      As in face to face life video interaction? Youtube allows for that with instant video response but it’s not quite like video conferencing. One of the beauties of modern internet social networks is the one to many broadcast method. I feel sorry for the broadcaster when they feel compelled to respond to every incoming message though, it just doesn’t scale backwards well (linear time for exponentially growing coverage).

      1. Facebook User

        I don’t know exactly how this will look. You make a good point about the benefits of broadcasting. But people were doing even that at Speaker’s Corner in London long before Twitter.My main point is that web designers need to work harder at designing tools and interfaces that mimic the patterns of social interaction offline. Many (although not all) of those patterns are hardwired into our biology. Inventors and entrepreneurs that find the ways to do this are going to have companies that grow as fast as they can build them.

  8. Scott McDowell

    Everyone has a great point here about the default, I look at Google as yesterday’s relevance to what I’m searching for where as Twitter is here and now. Google’s model is great if I want to find an auto repair shop in my home town as it points me to sites like Kudzu or AngiesList however if I want to know the realtime impact of the LA earthquake, political debates, movie trends, etc. my default is Twitter. I have this debate everyday why Twitter will become the next default and it is because they’ve created a real-time information platform that even 800 lbs gorillas like Google, MS, Yahoo or Apple are falling behind. I just hope that Sangeeta (head of recruiting at Twitter) reads my email & resume before it’s too late 😉

    1. faithmight

      Agreed! When searching for real-time, right now info, my default has become Twitter. When I need to do research, my default is Google. Twitter has redefined search. Search has become real-time. Research of archival info is, well, research. Not search. And the 2 require different default behavior.GREAT article Fred!

    2. James Arsenault

      Speaking of Yahoo – I saw a curious article shortly after reading this post by Fred.Yahoo has just announced that they will be developing mobile apps exclusively for the iPhone from this point on. No blackberry, no palm, no android. (…)I’m curious to see if this is evidence of new DNA finally coming through at Yahoo. They’ve been second place for far too long, and I think someone there has finally figured out that they need to be developing truly compelling applications, not struggling to pick up Google’s leftovers. It’s possible that by exhibiting focus in winnable new markets (such as iPhone apps), Yahoo can experience the upside of developing applications and services worthy of being a default choice.I can’t imagine them ever catching up to Google in search or ads…this type of bold move may be precisely what they need.

  9. John K. McCaw

    Hmmmm, what to make of this attitude if you are an entrepreneur or VC who is considering building Internet services on top of these potential new defaults?

    1. fredwilson

      it’s a good question. can a new default function be built on top of an older default function. i have to think about that one.

      1. Doug Kersten

        Sure, why not. First there was DOS, Windows (originally built on top of DOS, even today there are bits of DOS around in new versions of Windows), and Word, and Photoshop, and Netscape, IE, and Firefox, then APIs and web-services, etc.etc.etc. Default services built on default services built on default services. Each becoming a new default in its field of expertise. The key is whether the older default is prevalent and does not dramatically change over time (think legacy support in an OS) then successful default functions on top of older default functions can emerge. Developers creating for Facebook have run into this problem when Facebook changes the rules of the game. Without the concept of legacy support built into a default function, so that the provider of the function is not inclined to change the function without negatively impacting functions built on top of it for competitive/product related reasons, I don’t think default functions on default functions can succeed. Part of this comes with function maturity. Perhaps e-Bay and Google fit into this category. Although you do see this occurring based on the adoption of the API in modern web applications like Twitter. What happens when ‘legacy’ support is removed from Twitter? You hear about it. This tends to force Twitter to provide legacy support. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

        1. fredwilson

          ThanksThat’s a great way to think about this

  10. anonymousvc

    I’ve been thinking about this topic for the last couple of weeks, specifically the second to last sentence of Fred’s post regarding solidifying a default position before trying to monetize it. This tactic is in conflict with what seems to be the mantra of the day, capital efficiency, and I fear that we may be setting ourselves up to see a wave of sub-par companies in the next couple of years as their managers and investors stress cash flow in the short term rather than building a great product or service. Some companies can be bootstrapped or built on the cheap, mostly the adjunct services that, at best, hope to cleave off a piece of a default company but the truly revolutionary companies that have default potential can rarely, if ever, succeed with a “profit now, build later” mentality.

    1. Michael Lewkowitz

      heh – interesting – might like this article too about first to market/competitive advantage. Of course I found it (it showed up in my twitter stream) a couple of hours ago via @bfeld.

    2. kidmercury

      lol, great avatar. good job.

  11. dave

    Of course Fred you are thinking of Twitter. :-)I would add something else — spread the love around, don’t hog it all for yourself, if you manage to get in that default position. That’s the magic of Google, they spread the flow around to everyone on the web. And when they decided it was time to make money, they spread that around too. Not just to their friends, Fred, but to anyone and everyone.Twitter is giving gifts to a very select group of its friends. That does not bode well for it being a default. It’s going to inspire stiff competition with all the people you’re not rewarding.

    1. Michael Lewkowitz

      True – as per your tweet about url shorteners.This new ‘default’ is really more about public micro-messaging and default to public than it is about Twitter. Twitter popularized and is benefiting from the momentum but if they drift into things that aren’t compatible with that default I think they are going to stumble. It’s really a DNA question for the organization – and does that DNA match the DNA of the thing they’ve created. Not always a given.

    2. fredwilson

      well twitter is certainly on my mind dave, but this post was actually inspired by an entrepreneur friend of mine who challenged me a few weeks ago to only invest in “internet treasures”. and i’ve been thinking for a while about that. what is an “internet treasure”? and that’s how i got to default functions in the internet OS.your point about twitter is a very good one, but i’d suggest that their behavior which you don’t like (and rightly so) is a temporary one because they don’t have the technology to do what needs to be done automatically and at scale.they are building the tools to “spread it around”.also, as I said earlier in the comment thread, it’s not clear to me that twitter will be default function for all of micro messaging. already they have ceded much of the read side of the equation. so it may be that they are the default for the write side, but not the read side.

      1. dave

        Okay but the Twitter habit is bigger than the SUL.

        1. fredwilson

          What is SUL? I’m a bit dense today dave. Sorry about that

          1. dave

            Suggested User List

          2. fredwilson

            Not if you ask howard.He’s irritated that he can’t get them to return a phone call or email.And that the follow/day limit has hurt themWith friends like that who needs enemies?

    3. jonathanmendez

      great point re: google and their “monetization stream.” true from the very beginning of amazon (affiliates) and craigslist (marketplace) too.

  12. Bill Davenport

    While most folks here are commenting on twitter, I’ll comment on your defaults. I’m with you on Google. Sort of with you with Amazon, I find myself doing a product search half the time on Google and sometimes going to Amazon. But Craigslist I think is a big pain in the neck for tix. As a buyer I’ve sent numerous emails to sellers that don’t always respond and from there a meetup is not always convenient (I live in the suburbs of MA.) I think it’s only the default because nothing better. I think as soon as something better comes along people would jump on it. A cool iphone app I’d love to see is a geo-aware P2P type app where sellers and buyers can post interests to sell / buy tix and then use a mobile app to find each other more easily.

    1. fredwilson

      you can cleave off parts of what craigslist has now. and a secondary market for tix is a good one to focus on.etsy and others have done the same thing with ebay.but even when parts of their default functions are cleaved off, craigslist and ebay remain widely used default functions

  13. Dave Hendricks

    It seems to me that becoming a default service is more of a ‘democratic process’ than a ‘will to power’. Can you try to create a default service?Twitter. l’example de l’annee. Did they set out to create a default service? No and it is not a default service yet, but it’s on its way. Once the search element matures, it may become the default live search engine, or the default news alert or something. Whatever it is, to your point on dethroning, its adoption rate and the loyalty of its users are seemingly unassailable now and there is an economy built around it.It would seem to me that once a service has an ecosystem around it, then it has become socially disruptive and it cements its position as a default service. People store their credit card info on it, bookmark it, have the userid remembered, download the iPhone app, set up their wishlists, friend lists, hook up to their APIs, etc.With the exception of Amazon, none of the services that are default now are things that most of us even thought about 8 or 16 years ago. Methinks it’s easier to invent a category and become the default app for that category than to dethrone. If Gmail can’t dethrone Yahoo Mail, what chance does anyone have to replace a default service? It’s possible. It just can’t be a frontal assault.Good advice: chip away at the margins. Come up with something entirely new that your friends think is really cool. Make it something that your mother understands. Make it cheap. Hook ’em, then monetize.

  14. mattmaroon

    Not that long ago, the default behavior for searching was going to Yahoo. In fact, I feel like the only reason they still exist at all is because some people still haven’t changed. But a full frontal assault on them actually did work.

    1. Vlad

      I think that Yahoo survived because of the peripheral “defaults” that it built and that are still heavily used: Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, etc. Their search engine just wasn’t good enough.

    2. Random Guy

      Full frontal attack worked because network effect was not at play…

  15. Vlad

    Fred, what do you think is still left to conquer? There is a default for most of the basic needs now. Has the Internet reached the saturation level of more traditional mediums now, i.e. creating AND fulfilling vs. just fulfilling established needs.

    1. Jason Laster

      I don’t think we’ve reached a saturated point and even if we have – there’s still super-saturated! I’m currently working on cleaving a use case off from the spreadsheet. Nothing is more engrained than excel, yet it really fails in many ways.niche solution businesses are everywhere: the user-experience / workflow can really be enhanced in so many ways. Connect that with Aza Raskin’s ubiquity or ideas like that that let you get at a site or applications functionality directly without breaking up your concentration and a lot of things fit together.Crowd-sourcing (threadless) and collaboration (37signals) are pushing forward very well. Local networks and listings are hot (yelp, meetup) and are in sync with the general trend of “make it real” (zuckerburg).I think commerce is going to explode soon, just a hunch, but communication costs have gone through the floor, the hub spoke model is proven, and distribution and production are solved problems. This leaves a lot of room and opportunity for niche sites and communities to focus on the customer experience. This can be done, even if they don’t have an inventory – just pull from amazon and the rest via api and take a small margin. I would be happy to pay an extra dollar if i’m really happy that I found the right thing.

      1. markslater

        i agree – but what has to happen is that the business (seller) is brought meaningfully in to the network – where a pull action (i want something and have taken action to get it) – is cleverly but simply mapped to an organized set of supply constructs that are solving challenges for the seller in real time. The easiest analogy being the restaurant example of filling seats on a slow day. i think that commerce will emerge quickly within the social sphere of a consumer – eating, drinking, dancing, meeting and all services that contribute to these social actions.Its not enough anymore to share what i am doing – it now has to become about what i WANT to do, and building a light weight set of services that really meaningfully help me with this.

    2. fredwilson

      i don’t think we are close to being done. you just have to imagine what more you’d want in your OS and then build stuff that is not there.

  16. johndodds

    Holding the default position is indeed powerful, but if you don’t give some serious thought to how it will be monetised, don’t you run the risk of creating something that can’t be monetised? Owning the default position does not guarantee you a revenue stream and many recent entrepreneurs don’t seem to realise that. First mover advantage per se has always been questionable – it’s only an advantage if you are moving in the right direction towards fulfilling a long-term and valued user need.p.s. On a side-note, did you deliberately change your writing style on this post?

    1. fredwilson

      i wrote this on the subway to brooklyn last night. i composed it on my blackberry in about 10 mins. the thoughts have been rumbling around my brain ever since a friend challenged me to aim higher with our investment strategy (see my reply to dave winer above). so i didn’t consciously change my style, but i didn’t have long to say what i wanted to say and i was typing on a mobile in a subway. so that’s why it came out the way it to the question of monetization, yes it’s an issue. skype faced it. facebook faced it. i think both have built large half a billion or thereabouts revenue streams by now though.

      1. johndodds

        Just a touch of devil’s advocacy on my part. (and I liked the style)

  17. saieva

    Getting to “default” is fortified by trust.

  18. ceonyc

    I don’t think that anyone aims to be anything else but the default behavior, but here’s the problem. Hindsight is 20/20 and no one really knows what it takes to be default until after you get there. Therefore, if you don’t come up with financing to get you there, you basically have one shot at it. If you make it, great, but should you learn a few things along the way that can then get you there, it doesn’t matter because you’re not funded, got no revenues, and you’re not the default behavior yet–so who funds that? Answer: No one.Realistically, coming up with a way to make money to keep the lights on while not hindering your ability to become the default is the best way to give yourself the runway to do it in this environment.Amazon and Google had funding before they became the default–funding from frothy late 90’s markets. Craigslist had a way to make money and bring home enough profit to keep the lights on.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t agree.We have a bunch of companies who took their shot at becoming the default and missed and then morphed into a business that doesn’t require being the deafultYou don’t have to be the default to be successfulMy point is only that those few businesses that do become the default have a different playbook and value proposition

      1. ceonyc

        Yes but they had funding.As a general mantra for company building, securing a rev stream allows you to explore options….so long as it doesnt hinder growth.

  19. Eric Friedman

    I have been referring to this as behavior streams (shameless plug: and referring to this as a way of getting into a default behavior to show value, and hopefully influence a change. I think that is one of the only ways to make someone change their default behavior.

  20. pwb

    Google has a sleeping giant with Google Apps. Gapps currently work well enough for many people to avoid MS Office (Excel power usage is the primary exception). And there are already a *lot* or people using Gapps.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes indeed. I am slowly moving my world from microsoft to google and I am starting to love google’s apps

      1. Doug Kersten

        Yes, and as you become more reliant on Google, people will begin to fear Google in the way that they did/do Microsoft.

  21. toddsattersten

    This is another illustration of what Ries and Trout talked about in Positioning almost 25 years. The job of any company is to own a word/thought/potential action. The internet companies you named all occupy very important positions in the lives of many people as does the first place we think of for pizza or the first book we recommend for someone starting a business. I highly recommend Positioning if you haven’t read it

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. I’ll check it out

  22. jer979

    A slight build off the first set of comments and it ties in with your prediction of a waning Google influence. I think the default behavior is going to be “tap the network.” Your search engine (I called it a web portal in the post below about Reed’s law) is going to be Twitter or Facebook. It’s a mix of Mahalo/Delicious/Google, but all from sources you trust.We’ve always “asked our network” but now that we’re interconnected, we can do it easily. Over time, the default internet behavior will mirror the default offline behavior….

    1. fredwilson

      Social search, eh?

      1. jer979

        Yep. Kind of what Delicious really is all about…could’ve been about. Search, but filtered by your network of trusted experts.

  23. ShanaC

    Ok-I’m going to break from the comments:I would suggest that our functions/behaviors on the web are as much a transformation of our society’s relationship with a sort of Panoptic-like (J. Bentham/ M. Foucault) default into something more broad.As we change our position in relation to the “Panopticon,” with some of our behaviors opening up what was formerly considered private (and hence as a society we watched ourselves and others for them) and other behaviors switch into the private sphere, this social upheaval will cause monetization opportunities.The question to ask is- in the context of what the internet is causing, and what social changes that have been proceed and what you can guess will happen in the future, is the object offered to you likely to have an effect. If yes- you’ll probably make money. If no- probably not.Just from looking around a little.

  24. Garin Kilpatrick

    The important thing to remember is that default behavior can and does change.Everyone’s default behavior used to be to use either Internet Explorer, or Netscape, for surfing the web. Variation away from these defaults has given us Chrome, and Firefox and all of its Plug-ins which have added value to the Web in significant ways.Deviating away from the default is a great way to gain a competitive edge, or for a VC, it is a great way to discover emerging new technologies that will become default behaviors as more people become aware of them.For software to survive it must integrate itself as fully as possible with the web.Default behavior for most students who write papers now is to use Microsoft word, but companies like are challenging that default by offering a Web Based word processor for free with Facebook connect integration, citation toolbar, and other great tools. We are releasing beta invites starting next week so for those who want to be ahead of the default curve make sure to request yours and check us out!

    1. fredwilson

      I am not sure if software apps fit into this thinking. I am talking about web services and the internet OS not apps that run on the desktop OS

  25. JK Wen

    If I may build on this excellent post, I think this attitude is worth applying by thinking from outside the typical industry market segment or strategy. For example, Safaricom in Kenya becomes the largest money transfer provider (a la Western Union) acquiring millions of customers when the traditional financial services are struggling to grow. Safaricom did not intend to be one, but their customers see the service as an outstanding alternative to the “default” behaviour. Recently, CNN did a feature report on how their customers have figured out ways to use Safaricom for banking services, thus dismissing the banks and use Safaricom exclusively to hold their money.

    1. fredwilson

      Great example of many things. I love it!!!

  26. Facebook User

    I completely agree;a newcommer can’t just compete against a default service without bringing something new to the attract users. my case study is and google.comI’ve been watching which is a search engine by ex-google engineers; their new thing is that they claim they search more pages than google; their result page layout is different than google, but confusing to me.neither of their claimed advantage over google got me the results I want. I tried for a while, but I went back to google.

  27. markslater

    next prediction: it will be built in boston 😉

  28. RacerRick

    My wife, when researching a potential purchase, used to do endless Google searches.Now she rarely uses google – she asks her friends on Facebook.

  29. Ari Herzog

    I bought–and received yesterday–replacement printer ink cartridges off eBay, which is my default service for buying things online. Amazon I continue to equate with books, ingrained for its service long before it entered the marketplace for other goods. I agree it’s foolish for wannabe companies to compete with eBay, so maybe they could offer a complementary service or a specific function that is only part of a bigger picture today.For instance, wouldn’t it be great if you could purchase a computer from, a printer from, and a desk from, but instead of visiting three different websites, you could visit one?

  30. Prokofy

    I’m glad to hear you talk about Google’s power waning. It needs to have its power wane in the worst way. It’s very important for diversity and freedom that competitors emerge, and not just Yahoo, real competitors with massive numbers of users. Facebook and Twitter are those competitors, but Google is constantly encroaching on them. Wolfram Alpha, as wonky as it seems now, is an important competitor. Even Mahalo, based on its concept, although the execution isn’t compelling (yet). Twitter seems to be the most important search competitor now, I definitely search Twitter as much as, if not more than, Google these days.

    1. fredwilson

      Competition is a constant. Nobody rules forever. Witness the death of newspapers and the record labels

  31. charanjit

    Very insightful article. Interestingly just came across some data from the Smart phone industry that validates your point of how specialised functions will eat away at Google’s search power.iPhone apps are Google’s biggest threat in mobile search – http://blogs.techrepublic.c

  32. Doug Kersten

    Exactly! This is why Twitter and Facebook are impacting Google, even if they don’t want to admit it. and Facebook have become my first stopping places, depending on the type of information I am looking for. This can’t be good for Google, who was always my first stopping point. In a way Google is conceding this by putting up a ‘Most Visited’ page, instead of setting Google as the home page in Chrome. They are no longer the default destination but still want to be seen. Fortunately, they are still a most visited page. I wonder what they will do when they don’t show up in the top nine any more?

  33. fredwilson

    They’d still need to overcome the default behavior which is now ingrained for almost a decade. Its not easy to do