For some time I’ve been meaning to hook up with Pierre Omidyar, the founder and Chair of eBay. We finally got together at lunch earlier this week in Redwood City, where his foundation is based. I’d heard Pierre is just about the most down-to-earth, “normal” fellow one might want to meet, it in fact it turned out to be true. He kicked out of Valley life in 1999 and moved to the desert outside Las Vegas (he also spends a lot of time in France). He comes back every so often for eBay meetings and to meet with his foundation staff, and it’s this foundation that really gets him up in the morning these days. He’s made news recently by announcing a new strategy for the organization, one which blends a bent for social change with capitalism – in other words, he’s expanding from philanthropy into the investment game, but he plans to focus on businesses that connect people to each other to create the kind of wholesale change that eBay did. Omidyar repeated to me a very repeatable observation: that eBay has been the vehicle for millions of strangers to establish relationships of trust with each other.
Pierre and I had a good lunch, talking over many issues for the book. But really, our conversation always came back to community, the core driver of value at eBay. We discussed Tim’s concept of the “architecture of participation” and how critical it is in the Web 2.0 world, and how much of the media world has yet to grok it. You can’t outsource participation to the ghettos of discussion threads, in other words. The online media world is still looking for its Pong, as Martin says, but I think we’re getting close. Publications are essentially reflections of communities. And I believe the best blogs are publications, in a very classical sense.
In any case, those were the kind of tangents we took during lunch. We did talk search and SFO and such, but I’ve gotta save that for the book.