Archive for February, 2008

Direction of the Web

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Directions sign[Direction of the Web] – It is unclear to me where the Web is headed in the very near future. The big guys (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) seem to be a bit lost. In addition, no clear trends or “hot spaces” are emerging. Social networking seems to have cooled down a bit and micro-blogging, though still rising in popularity, seems to be taking a breather.

A few categories are showing promise, but lacking overall direction. These include online video, wikis, podcasting, and personal finances (to name a few). It seems that interest in these areas is present as many players continue to enter the game. Having said that, no-one seems to know how each space will play out. Everyone is providing their own take on the situation, choosing a different audience, vertical, or worse yet, generalizing.

What I’m surprised about is the lack of focus around local. I truly believe this to be the most lucrative niche by far. After all, it relates to real people – think Craigslist or YellowPages. Let’s be honest with ourselves – blog aggregators and social bookmarking sites preach the choir.

With local, a revenue model is not only achievable, but feasible. It’s also sustainable as people can relate (and understand) the business model. Whether income is generated via targeted advertising or premium directory placement, local is an area that needs to be explored more thoroughly.

What do you see in the near-term future of the Web? What sectors will catch fire and which will fizzle out?

My Health Status

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

As most of you know, I haven`t written a blog post in almost two weeks, which is highly uncharacteristic of me. What most of you probably don`t know is that my life has changed quite a bit in the past week and a half.

While on a family reunion in Mexico, I hit my head on the ocean floor during a diving accident. My head snapped forward and I cracked my C2 vetebrae. Fortunately, I was able to make it to shore where I went into shock and fell unconscious for several minutes. I woke up on a spinal board on my way to the ambulance…

To make a long story short, I took two ambulance rides to two hospitals. I had CT scans, MRIs, numerous X-rays, blood test, electrocardiograms, etc… I spent two days in ICU and one in recovery. In the end, they (luckily) found no internal bleeding on the brain. I simply had a swollen neck and a cracked disc.

Today, I am counting my blessings. Though I am in a full neck brace for several months, I am able to walk and move all parts of my body. Most are not so fortunate after such an accident. Rehabilitation is necessary, but it is the least of my worries. My changed lifestyle, which includes very little physical activity and a lot of rest, is what lies ahead. In any case, I feel very fortunate to be where I am and I would like to thank everyone for their continuing support and encouragement. I`m anxious to make a full comeback to blogging in the next week or so, so watch for new posts.

In closing, people have been asking me what they can do or how they can help. I say this: tell your family and friends you love them. You never know what tomorrow may bring. What you take for granted now may not be there tomorrow.

What Does The Future of Yahoo Look Like?

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Your guess is as good as mine. The future of Yahoo remains yet again the topic of manyYahoo logo discussions. The recent rejection of Microsoft’s takeover attempt once again leaves the search giant without a concrete plan, wondering what to do next.

Simply put, Yahoo is losing ground against Google in two very important areas – search and advertising. These two areas are key to Yahoo’s future success and strength as a portal.

The management shake-up and subsequent appointment of Jerry Yang as interim CEO have done little to turn this story around. Strategic hurdles are prevalent and unresolved. I also sense a bit of an identity crisis as the company struggle to estabish priorities. May I add “urgency” as a theme?

What about all the recent acquisitions? No-one has been able to identify a pattern or determine a logical strategy behind Yahoo’s sporadic purchasing of web properties.

All these questions leave me (and others) wondering, “What now?” I truly believe that Yahoo needs to develop strategic plan very quickly or it will lose serious ground against Google – and other rivals.

What do you think Yahoo should do? Is there anything Yahoo shouldn’t do?

The Debate Over Mandatory Registration

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Some companies force potential users to sign up for an account before using the service, i.e. mandatory registration. Others immerse the user in the experience immediately. Obviously there are pros and cons to both approaches, but I would prefer the latter.

Obligating a new user (better yet, a first-time visitor) to register for a service they knowContracts little or nothing about is a big leap of faith. Many are unwilling to provide personal information simply to gain access to a service they aren’t certain they will ever use again. Such a structure acts like a barrier to entry.

In addition, a negative byproduct of the aforementioned approach is inactive accounts. Many who simply register to try the service will ultimately end up dropping their account after their first (and only) experience, skewing user data and statistics.

From an opposing point-of-view, it is clear why any company would want as much information from a user as possible. For this reason, I don’t think it is necessary to expand on this point.

Perhaps the perfect solution is a “tiered” registration system. For example, anyone can browse Digg and discover news stories without signing up for an account. But in order to submit a story, an account is needed. Such a system removes the initial registration disparity. Once the service is confirmed as being valuable by the new user, additional functionality may be sought. At this point, it is fair to impose a sign-up process. Last.fm is also a very good example of this situation.

Removing as many initial obstacles as possible expedites the learning process and maximizes the experience. This translates to a more desirable first impression, a more credible service, and (hopefully) an increased user base.

What do you think? Should registration be required before a user can try a given service?

Entrecard: More Viral Than BlogRush?

Friday, February 8th, 2008

In late September 2007, I wrote about the explosive “success” of BlogRush. At one point,Entrecard logo BlogRush nearly hit 500 on the Alexa rankings – an amazing feat in such a short period of time. This rise to glory was quickly followed by a fade into oblivion. Nevertheless, a new kid is in town and his name is Entrecard. He claims to be the next big thing, but can he live up to the hype? Even more importantly, can he sustain long-term success where so many others have failed?

Since the launch of Entrecard in mid November, the site/service has exploded onto the scene. Traffic has soared. The site has nearly broken into the Alexa top 1,000 – a phenomenal feat in just 3 months. Sound familiar?

The success of these two start-ups have followed a similar path, although the long-term prospects of Entrecard have yet to play out. Don’t get me wrong, BlogRush has only been around two months longer than Entrecard, but with such viral and volatile services, two months seems like an eternity.

In short, Entrecard is an easy way to network with other bloggers and market your blog. Although it seems like a novel idea, I’m not convinced the model is sustainable. It “feels” like an affiliate/MLM-type process, which doesn’t interest or excite me. Those who use it, swear by it – somewhat akin to MLM associates. These fly-by-night type deals tend to exploit an inefficiency in the market that quickly gets filled or copied by others. For this reason, I don’t see success over the long-term as more players move into the space, saturating the market.

I can bash all I want, but my gut simply tells me this won’t work out. I give it another 3 months tops. In any case, check it out and let me know your thoughts. If you happen to be using the service, post your comments and opinions.