Good commentary on Google buying Pyra (blogger) by Kevin Werbach. Note his three usage scenarios:
The first is a Personal Web Space; the value is info filtering.
The second is enterprise blogging as a lightweight Groove, a peer-to-peer communications system that does not require an up-front data structure (let the links self-organize structure).
The third is the special value of blogging for mobile workers. Kevin believes that everyone will have a blog just to post and connect their stuff from multiple connected devices. Web pix first, and so on. Could start as a managed service ie unbranded and offered by wireless carriers.
Question for the creative Yelnick readers: is there a spreadsheet in here somewhere?
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March 13, 2003
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Why Blogging Matters
Google's acquisition of Pyra, makers of the popular Blogger tool,
rekindled a regular debate up about whether Weblogs. Are they just a
fad, or a serious business and social phenomenon?
It's a fair question. After all, blogs are just Web pages with posts
in reverse-chronological order. Blog software is so easy to develop
that the first release of one popular application, Bloxsom, involved
just 61 lines of code. Even the biggest blog software vendors are
self-funded startups with five or fewer employees. And blogs are self- referential, almost sickeningly so. The biggest fans of blogs are
themselves bloggers (present company included). It's easy to look at
whole blog phenomenon as the chatterings of a clique with, as Marc
Andreessen recently put it, "time and ego need."
It's much more than that. Blogs matter in a big way. They are the
first new format to take hold on the Web in years. They will have
important consequences for both personal and business activity online.
The critical fact to appreciate about blogs is that they lower the
costs of creating, aggregating, and absorbing information. Think about
that for a second. Like the Web itself, blogs really aren't a tool,
they are a process. They aren't the best mechanism we could come up
with, just the one with the right combination of power and simplicity
to be adopted. Their importance lies in the ecosystems they generate.
In other words, don't go looking for the value of blogs in the market
value of blog software vendors. You'll miss the real action.
Some years ago, Stewart Brand made the famous declaration that
information wants to be free. His next sentence is widely forgotten,
though equally true. Information, Brand pointed out, also wants to be
expensive. That tension drives the business dynamics of any industry
based on the flow of information. Weblogs help make information free
by simplifying and automating the tedious process of filtering,
highlighting, and connecting. Along the way, they add value to the
information. A blogged link from a blogger you respect, associated
with commentary and reader comments, is worth much more than the
linked item itself.
Everyone will have a blog. I'll explain why below. This doesn't mean
that everyone will be an active blogger, posting commentary and links
every day on a Web page. Some of us find that rewarding, both
personally and professionally, but most people don't. As in most
communities, only a minority of participants are motivated to do the
organizational grunt work. Yet everyone benefits from their efforts,
and everyone has the opportunity to speak up or pitch in from time to
Three Blog Scenarios
So what does this mean in concrete terms? Below are three scenarios
for blogging to generate significant revenues and other benefits.
(1) Personal information filtering
The Net is overwhelmingly big, and growing fast. Information overload
is a constant threat. Ever tried to track down a link you remember
seeing, but didn't bookmark? Or how about keeping up with discussions
and published content on topics that interest you? Email and Web
browsers just aren't good enough. Yahoo!'s directory is one mechanism
to make sense of the Web's ocean of data; Google's search engine is
another. Both (and their competitors) have strengths and weaknesses.
They aren't perfect, but they are good enough to be the foundation of
very profitable, valuable businesses.
Blogs are the next step. Where directories and search engines are
centralized, blogs are distributed. Every blogger is an information
filter, both in what they create and, crucially, in what they consume.
Your circle of friends and my circle of business experts may use the
same words, but we don't necessarily overlap in our interests. Blogs
make it easy for those communities to organize themselves.
This phenomenon will manifest itself in several ways. Pyra already
powers over 1 million blogs, 200,000 of them active, despite being run
on a shoestring. Google may not have had a precise plan in mind when
it bought Pyra, but clearly it saw opportunities in bringing together
the blog community with its existing search tools. Steven Berlin
Johnson, writing for Slate < http://slate.msn.com/id/2079747/>
speculates that Google could create a version of the Memex, a personal
research tool proposed in the 1940s by Vannevar Bush.
(2) Bottom-up collaboration
The information overload problem is even more acute in the enterprise.
Every corporation wishes its employees could share knowledge more
effectively. Huge amounts of money are wasted on duplicative efforts,
on finding the right expert to answer a question, and on hunting down
documents and emails that are already on the corporate network.
Knowledge management, customer relationship management, and groupware
were all supposed to address these problems. But they never have.
Quite simply, enterprise information exchange is a distributed problem
that requires distributed, bottom-up solutions. Blogs fit the bill.
At the simplest level, blogs are a great, lightweight mechanism for
employees to post information of interest to their co-workers, or
under the right circumstances, their customers, partners, and
suppliers. The basic functionality can easily be incorporated into
other tools, including enterprise applications. Blogging will become
an idiom, a standard way of doing work, just as email has.
The biggest business opportunity for blogs may not be on the Web at
all. Already, some five million Japanese have mobile phones with
built-in digital cameras. It's a matter of time, a few years at most,
before a mobile phone without a camera is like one without a display
screen: an oxymoron.
These cameras will be used in all sorts of situations, from the
serious to the silly. Either way, there will be a lot of them. There
are more than a billion mobile phones in use worldwide today, more
than the number of PCs or even landline telephones. Imagine hundreds
of millions of people taking billions of photos, and using the same
devices to generate text messages. There will be a tidal wave of user- generated content. And by the way, carriers will charge usage fees for
most if not all of it.
What does this have to do with Weblogs? The hard part in the camera
phone equation is getting the photos and text from the phone to some
place useful. The phones have built-in Internet connections, but
emailing photos to your friends has limited value. Blogs are a perfect
solution. Give every mobile phone customer a blog, whether they use it
or not. The Web just increased an order of magnitude in size. Purpose- built blog tools will simplify sending, organizing, filtering, and
annotating photos and other content generated through mobile devices.
Bigger Than You Think
As I noted before, the money won't necessarily go to today's blog tool
vendors. Blogs are bigger than Blogger, Radio Userland, LiveJournal,
and Moveable Type, just as the Web is bigger than Mosaic and Netscape
Navigator. One could easily have dismissed the crude personal home
pages and corporate billboardware of the Web circa-1994, but that
would have been a mistake. It's just as big a mistake to dismiss blogs
There is plenty of junk out there. And there is plenty of hyperbole
about how blogs will change the world based purely on non-commercial
sites with readership in the thousands. Ignore all that, and focus on
the real issue: do blogs provide real, sustainable, unique value? If
so (and I think the answer is clear) we'll find profitable ways to
make use of them.