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Last Few Days to Submit to the Web 2 Launchpad

By - September 28, 2007


The submissions deadline is Oct. 1 for the Launchpad, for those of you who need a gentle reminder. We’ve got a great group of applicants already, but the deadline is very strict, as we have to have time for the final judging process.

A reminder on the new approach this year:

At this year’s Web 2.0 Summit, we are evolving Launch Pad a bit. While it’s great to be chosen to launch your new company at a conference like Web 2.0 Summit, the reality of the market is that the majority of successful Web 2.0 companies do more than just launch products. They also often pass the test of VC scrutiny— that’s how the market determines who wins and loses in the world of startups. To that end, this year there is no fee for companies involved, instead, the VCs are sponsoring the program.

The New Approach

This VC Edition of Launch Pad has several adjustments to the typical judging process:

* The judging panel will be comprised of six venture capitalists who will review Launch Pad companies as if considering them for funding.

* Judges will select up to eight finalists, that will be given ten minutes each, to pitch themselves on stage, in front of the entire Web 2.0 Summit audience and the VC judging panel.

* Each company will be provided feedback on its presentation in real time, by both the VC judges and the audience.

* The VCs may, at any time, offer these applicants non-binding term sheets for financing.

Entrants no longer need to launch their company or major product/service to qualify. Instead, those that apply will be reviewed by our panel of venture capitalists. If they make the first cut, they will pitch their company in front of the Web 2.0 Summit audience – the top executives, financiers, press, and analysts in the Internet industry. The audience will also have the opportunity to vote, along with the VC panel.

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CM Summit Videos

By - September 23, 2007


If you’re interested in that conference FM hosted earlier this month, the first batch of videos are up. Some are quite long, and take a while to load in flash, but once they do, they play smoothly. My favorites:

The Opening (yeah, it’s me, but I frame what I mean by all this, if that interests you.)

Scott Cook (very thoughtful)

Steve Hayden sets up the day

More will be up as time permits, so check back if you’re interested.

Thinking Out Loud: Rupert Murdoch and Chris DeWolfe

By - September 18, 2007

MurdochChris Dewolfe

Continuing my series on folks I’ll be interviewing at Web 2 this year, next up is Rupert Murdoch and Chris DeWolfe, who will be our dinner guests on the first night. As previously noted (thanks for all your input), we start the day with Mark Zuckerberg, and it has a certain balance to end day one with Murdoch and DeWolfe, whose MySpace ruled the social networking roost uncontested until Facebook’s rapid acension. Regardless, the purchase of MySpace still ranks as one of the smartest moves ever made by an “old media” company.

Now, MySpace is still much bigger than Facebook, but as many are quick to point out, Facebook is growing much faster (more here). Clearly one topic of conversation will be how MySpace will respond to its new competitor – will it open up to the extent Facebook has, for example? It’s already well down the path of making money – in fact, it recently introduced a new self service ad platform based on six months of research into leveraging personal profile information.

This brings MySpace squarely into the same privacy conversation as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, and the rest of the ad-driven world. So we’ll clearly address that issue, and tons of other MySpace related questions – the future of the service, thoughts on being part of the Newscorp empire, those interesting contract conversations, its relationship with Google.

But with Murdoch in the room, there is a lot more to discuss.

As Time put it, Murdoch is one of the last true individual media tycoons, running an empire that stretches around the world with nearly every flavor of packaged goods media you might imagine, not to mention FIM, the arm that owns MySpace and various other interactive businesses like IGN and Scout. He’s also very controversial, eliciting alarmist articles like this one at a rate of at least one or two a day. In fact, if we were to compare Murdoch to anyone, it might be Bill Gates at the height of his power in the mid 1990s. At least, that’s a fair comparison in terms of Murdoch’s reputation in the mainstream media world – it compares to Gates’ reputation in the mainstream IT world ten years ago. I wonder how he feels about that? And how does Chris feel about working for him?

Then there’s the impending launch of the Fox Business News Channel. The battle for Dow Jones, the case for making its properties free, among other issues. Murdoch and DeWolfe’s view on the China problem/opportunity. The question of who might run the company when he is gone, and what he wants his legacy to be.

Murdoch is not without a sense of humor and a clear sense of what many think of him. Great quotes from the Time article: “When you’re a catalyst for change, you make enemies — and I’m proud of the ones I’ve got.” And this one, on changes he might make at the WSJ: “When the Journal gets its Page 3 girls,” (Murdoch) jokes late one night, “we’ll make sure they have M.B.A.s.”

I’d love to play the word association game with both of them – asking for a one word or one phrase response to a number of topics and/or companies – Google, Facebook, net neutrality, Microsoft, Comcast…

In fact, the more I think about this interview, the more I realize I need your help. We’ll have plenty of time to talk – dinner interviews are longer than the mainstage plenaries, but there are so many possible angles to take, your input will help me focus.

So what do you guys want to hear about from DeWolfe and Murdoch?

Thinking Out Loud: Facebook

By - September 16, 2007

B 1186426617 Mark Zuckerberg 071 Rev

As part of my preparation for Web 2, I am going to think out loud and ask for all of your help. This year’s program for Web 2 includes an amazing array of leaders, and it’ll be my job, along with my co-producer Tim O’Reilly, to engage these folks in conversation worthy of the audience’s time.

So as I have in the past, I’ll use this space as a sketch pad of sorts.

First up is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (stats). I’ll be interviewing him in the opening slot of the show. It’s not by accident. Last year the opening slot was Eric Schmidt, and this year it’s clear that Facebook has diverted the Valley’s short attention span from Google, at least for now.

The press is always looking for the “next (insert current fascination here)”, and there is no question that Mark and Facebook are getting the Google circa 2004 treatment. Once again, a young entrepreneur has dropped out of a top school (Harvard this time) and nurtured a simple but powerful idea – harnessing the The Force of Many (that’d be us) – into a billion dollar business. (And Facebook has scale – 60 million uniques and counting according to the new conversational media report from Comscore.)

There are significant differences between Google and Facebook, of course, and as something of a historian in this field, I can’t help but note them. One thing I’ve noticed is voice – Google tried from the very beginning to have a certain voice – quirky, fun, smart, non confrontational. Facebook’s voice, such as it is, is neutral, nearly non existent. The voice is its users, not the service itself.

I’m looking forward to talking with Mark, and framing the Facebook phenomenon in the context of the Web2 world and beyond. Here are the questions/issues/ideas that come to mind as I think out loud about our conversation. Please, add your own in comments, and help me make the conversation we have worth everyone’s time.

– Facebook’s recent success has created many imitators – the latest being Yahoo Mash and certain, er, upgrades at Orkut and Myspace. How do you handicap the competition, and what will keep Facebook on its current growth trajectory?

– The lactation incident (among many others, including the Islam food fight) brings Facebook into the world Google has been in for some time – as arbiter of acceptable speech. How do you plan to play in this world?

– As long as it’s been brought up, may as well ask: Folks have for some time been looking for the next Google. Increasingly, Facebook is being held up as a prime candidate. Your promulgation of the social graph – not unlike the Web graph which led to PageRank – only heightens the comparison. Are you comfortable with that role?

– Can you imagine Facebook as a broader search or portal company?

– Facebook aquired Parakey in July. Why? Is this the start of a trend? Will business plans be launched with the exit of “flipping it to Facebook?”

– On that subject (the Facebook economy), Facebook Platform has certainly been a hit, but some questions do arise. As an entrepreneur, I might see leveraging Facebook as a bit dangerous – the point of view of a developer or investor, what insurance do I have that Facebook won’t change its policies at some point, and my dependance on the platform becomes a liability?

– What is your companies Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Do you wish for Facebook to become “the identity platform for the Internet“?

– You are in your twenties. Do you feel a need to get a “grownup” to run the company, or at least bring in a partner, as Larry and Sergey did with Eric?

– Let’s talk Facebook’s business model. Many of your developers are making money via Google ads, which means Google is making money off Facebook. But you are not. Thoughts on that?

– Clearly you are already in the ad business – reportedly half your revenue is from ads you sell yourself, and the other half comes from your Microsoft deal. But how might you go deeper? Do you want to get into the ad operating system business – the domain of Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Google? How might you do that?

– Facebook seems prime territory for a test of sell side advertising. Thoughts?

– How is the deal with Microsoft going? No, really, how is it going?

– Speaking of the ad business, what did you and Walmart learn from this incident? From the new Flyer business model?

– You recently decided to leverage search by making profiles public. Let’s discuss.

– What is your approach to the public markets – Peter Theil says not for 18 months – and the future financing of the company? Will you go on a hiring/new product/international tear? For example, Google has internationalized quickly. Will you? What do you make of the knockoffs?

– Did you really say no to $1billion from Semel?!

– Let’s talk about the privacy issue. You have a ton of data on your users. Some are concerned about using that data for advertising, but it goes well beyond that – now you are in the world of, er, Google again. Would Facebook ever proclaim or endorse this statement: Don’t Be Evil?

Whew. That’s a lot. No wonder Facebook is our current fascination.

What did I miss? Looking forward to your input.

Snap Preview Anywhere

By - November 14, 2006

Picture 2-27Snap Anywhere, announced today, is a smooth scroll-over widget that allows readers to visually preview external sites from in situ links. SPA is available free to site owners, by pasting a short snippet of code in their page. Snap hopes the tool will save readers some “wasted outbound trips,” as well as grow their own database of web images.

Happy Election Day

By - November 07, 2006

The Rimm-Kaufman Group offers some very interesting results in a study of paid search ads in the swing Senate races of 2006. A few highlights from the study results:

* Political pay-per-click advertisers use Google. Few political advertisers use Yahoo Paid Search.

* There are few political advertisers: the average search results page for queries in this study returned only 3.7 ads.

* The most prevalent advertisers within this query set were Accoona (search engine), (social networking), CafePress (retailer), and (National Republican Senatorial Committee).

* “Red” ads (pro-Republican or anti-Democrat) outnumbered “blue ads” (pro-Democrat or anti-Republican) two-to-one.

* No campaign ads referenced President Bush.

RKG focused on Google AdWords, in part because they found that the vast majority of political online ads went through AdWords. Their findings fuel the study’s conclusion that paid search is still in its infancy–despite providing similar reach at a fraction of a cost. And they’re likely quite right in predicting that online search ads will become increasingly important in the American political campaigns.

Plus: This week Battelle is busy on stage at Web 2.0. But though away from Searchblog on election day, he put the question to a few prominent business leaders, asking how their companies handle freedom of speech and privacy issues when federal law stands in opposition— interviewing Eric Schmidt, Arthur Sulzberger, and Barry Diller. There was a spontaneous round of applause for Google’s refusal to respect a federal demand for users’ search histories, and for The New York Times’ decision to disclose evidence of the government’s stealth spy program on its own citizens. Diller and Sulzberger also intoned on the multiplied difficulty of operating globally, where they face a variegated array of laws and cultures of government control. That was a point underlined when Jack Ma of Yahoo China/Alibaba said that, for him, abiding by the Chinese government’s censorship was simply a decision of ensuring that the areas where his company could improve peoples’ lives would continue to thrive.

Help Us With a Web 2 Tagline

By - January 14, 2006

Web205Logo-5This year will mark the third annual Web 2.0 conference. It’s not till November (the 7th-9th in SF, for anyone marking their calendars), but it’s never too early to start thinking about it, at least, if you’re the program chair like I am.

One thing we have to do is give the conference a tagline, sort of like a theme in four words or less. The first year, we declared “The Web Is a Platform.” That felt spot on, because the idea of the web as a place you could build on the work of others was a pretty new idea. Last year we tagged it “Revving the Web,” because it was all about the services and businesses and opportunities that arose from the Web – all of which taken together made the web more robust and more exciting.

This year Tim and I have been bouncing around some ideas, and I’d love your take on what you think is an overarching theme to the Internet business for the year to come.

I’ve got one that I can’t seem to get out of my teeth, so as with all things, I wanted to bounce it off you all. I think this is the year of Disruption – the year the Web – in all its forms – really flexes its muscle and begins to seriously turn the soil of the global economy in deep and permanent ways. Think of the disruptions in the media and entertainment industries – probably the deepest disruptions so far. But we’re only in the first inning or so of the disruptions in the mobile and communications space (how excited do YOU think AT&T is about Google offering free Wifi, for example? Or eBay buying Skype?). And the disruptions of search and clickstreams on commerce is only now beginning, and the same is true for the massive IT industry (Microsoft Live, anyone?). And the disruption on our cultural life – in government, for example (can you say warrantless wiretaps meets the Database of Intentions?) – is only beginning to dawn on all of us.

What do you think of the theme? The goal is to tie together a lot of issues, companies,and ideas. I think this one does it. What themes do you think might work?

MSFT: Next Step, Web 2.0

By - September 08, 2005

Microsoft has grand plans for a new “web platform” strategy. Cnet has the coverage. From it:

The software company plans to open access to its MSN and other public Web sites to let developers assemble new applications that build on those sites–a technique used successfully at Google and at other Web companies to promote their properties.

Microsoft will detail its “Web platform” strategy at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles next week, company executives told CNET It intends to publish the application programming interfaces, or APIs, to some of its public Web sites, including MSN Search, and deliver better tools to write those applications.

More on this as I get smart(er) on it….the key of course, is how they plan to integrate Windows and Office…their main revenue lines….there is some detail on that in the Cnet piece…read to the second page…

On one hand, Microsoft is appealing to the trend of making Web applications that run entirely in the browser across all operating systems. But at the same time, it continues to espouse so-called thick clients, or what Microsoft calls “smart clients,” where the application front end fully exploits the features of Windows and Office on a PC. In its own Dynamics-branded business applications, announced Wednesday, integration with Office is a top priority, for instance


By - June 16, 2005

YubnubI’ve been pointed twice in one week to YubNub, which bills itself as a “(social) command line for the web.”

YubNub is the result of a “program like hell for 24 hours” project, in fact, it came out of one guy’s attempt to win a contest around the new Ruby on Rails framework.

The idea of search as the command line for the web is well established, this takes the idea one step (or more) further, letting you set up commands in the search line itself. You can use the search line as a single point of reference for searching just about any web resource, and you can add your own, if you’re geeky enough (others will do it for you if you’re challenged like I am). From the post explaining YubNub:

I was tired of setting up the same Firefox keywords on each of the 5 computers that I use. By putting my keywords into YubNub, I can hit “am mark twain” for an Amazon search, or “gmap vancouver” for a Google Maps search, no matter which computer I’m on.

But on a bigger scale, YubNub is the realization of a very big idea: the URL command line of the web OS.

Web applications were once considered slow and unreliable, compared to their desktop counterparts. But these days, people are increasingly choosing web applications over desktop applications. Amazingly, GMail is found to be faster than desktop email programs. The snappy Google Maps interface feels as responsive as a desktop application. The web is morphing into the desktop, and today we are witness to the command line making its appearance in this new world, as YubNub, the (social) command-line for the web.

The beauty of YubNub is that anyone can help to extend it. If there is an existing web service with a submit form, they can add it pretty easily (like I did with the Amazon example above). But even more interesting is the adding of complex data-processing services (like validating an RSS feed, or converting webpages to audio using text-to-speech).

Very Web 2.0.