Web 2.0 and the Future of Pervasive Computing

Monday, May 22, 2006

StumbleUpon Pioneering Discovery

Canadian start-up StumbleUpon recently landed funding from luminary technology angels including Mitch Kapor and Ram Shriram. Geoff Smith, cofounder of StumbleUpon, and author of the Firefox Plug-in, describes the service as follows:
StumbleUpon lets you "channelsurf" the best-reviewed sites on the web. It is a collaborative surfing tool for browsing, reviewing and sharing great sites with like-minded people. This helps you find interesting web pages you wouldn't think to search for.
The service has been in the making for nearly four years, but has recently experienced a surge of interest. Last I heard, they have nearly 875,000 people using the tool. More importantly perhaps, is that their users seem to demonstrate a cult-like, passion for the service akin to drug-addiction. Fellow web-slinger, Pete Cashmore effectively captures the "StumbleUpon effect" as follows:’s just so darned addictive - once you Stumble, you just can’t stop. What’s more, it’s incredibly accessible to the mainstream demographic - while mining the social bookmarking sites for gems takes a lot of work, Stumbling takes no effort whatsoever.
Pete is not the only one that has "stumbled" upon StumbleUpon. According to a reviewer from PCPro:
I'm hooked on the thing, and rate it as the second most useful web browsing tool after Google itself.
This type of comment should not be taken lightly and is consistent with the idea that discovery could be the new search. Recall that there was a time when search was considered secondary to the portal experience.

I strongly believe that this service is just the tip of the discovery iceberg. As people demand better mechanisms to effectively sate their penchant for the "kind of know what I am looking for" class of queries online, more effective discovery tools - like StumbleUpon - will undoubtedly continue to emerge. I suppose only time will tell, fan-boys. For more information pertaining to StumbleUpon, check-out this post by the ever-vigilant Om Malik.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Traditional Media Moving Online

Unless you have been living in a hole for the past year, you have probably noticed that high-quality media content has been slowly, but surely, moving to a new home - the Web. Not only is more high-quality content being published online, but it is being received successfully. An example of a major media provider that has been championing online publication of content is Disney. According to a recent article from Reuters:
"Viewers have watched ABC television shows available online about 3 million times since the Walt Disney Co. network launched the free service just over two weeks ago, Disney's chief executive said on Thursday.

The figure provides an early sign of demand for television programs available on the Internet as broadcasters experiment with new ways of reaching viewers."
The moves being made by ABC and other large media companies are a big deal. Their resurgence of interest in the web not only indicates that will there be more high quality content available for consumption via networked devices (pc, cell phone, etc), but also that incumbent media companies are not about to let next generation media companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft take over without a fight. In the midst of this battle, there will be ample opportunities for new players to capitalize on the changing perspective surrounding content creation, distribution, and consumption. Investors open up your checkbooks - it is time to search (no pun intended) for the next Google.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Marissa Mayer is a Fox

Has anyone ever noticed that Marissa Mayer is an absolute fox? Couple that with that fact that she has two degrees from Stanford and is responsible for driving product innovation at one of the most successful companies on the planet and you have got yourself quite a catch. This really has nothing to do with pervasive computing, Web 2.0, or anything even remotely future-thinking. In fact, it is just plain stupid - I just felt like sharing. Good night and good luck America. This web-slinger needs to hit the sack.

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Coolest Display Ever - Touch Screen Interface that Floats in Mid-Air!

To all my fellow geeks out there that have been aching for more Star Trek-esque innovations to be released into the market - behold!

This slick technology was crafted by the mad scientists at IO2 Technologies. It would be really interesting to give to the folks at the Multi-Touch Interaction Group at NYU (responsible for the bad-boy below) a chance to hack at this stuff.

Can you imagine plugging the expoding number of web services into remixed versions of the UI voodoo shown above? Yikes! I am getting chills just thinking about it. Check out this post by my man Dan G. for more dish on the NYU project.

Enjoy, fan-boys - it's back to work for this web-slinger.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

AOL Strikes Back

The name AOL was once synonymous with the Internet. Many of us grew up addicted to the familiar "You Got Mail!" and spending countless hours flirting on IM. Although AOL clearly set the standards for Web 1.0, following the AOL/Time Warner merger, AOL kinda went bust.

Kids no longer beg mom and dad to sign up for AOL. Subscription rates are declining. Key employees have jumped ship. The generation that grew up on America Online has long since abandoned the safety of the sandbox - preferring to test their luck with best of breed services on the wild, wild, web.

The bottom line is that AOL clearly dropped the ball. They have been so sluggish in fact, that many folks are convinced that they are down for the count. But it seems that the giant that once made the web tremble still has a bit of life left in them - AOL Instant Messenger.

This seemingly innocuous little program currently still has a commanding user base and is one of the largest active social networks on the planet. AOL has recently made massive strides to expand upon the AIM platform and tear down their walled garden with AIMPages. This MySpace competitor automatically creates a customizable publishing space for every single AIM user on the planet. Talk about leveraging an existing user base.

Although the product is clearly buggy, it is definitely a huge step in the right direction. Their move to capitalize on AIM, coupled with their aggressive thrust into the emerging Web 2.0 ecosystem - acquiring Weblogs, Truveo, and most recently introducing their slick new video service - are waking people up to the possibility that the folks in Dulles might still have a couple tricks up their sleeves. If AOL can manage to keep running (no pun intended) to open up their platform around AIM, they might still have a seat at the table.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

They Call It "The Internet"

I just saw a video that absolutely blew my mind on Throw away your TV Archive. This news clip from 1991 discusses a budding cultural phenomenon called "The Internet." Sound familiar? This definitely gives you some perspective on not only how far the Internet has come, but on how far we still have to go. I highly recommend taking a couple minutes to watch it. As an interesting aside, the majority of the discussion deals with the unique social experience enabled by the Internet. It is eerie to hear folks from 15 years ago discuss feelings of "democratic connectedness" in a world where Social Networks are all the rage. Check out more comments on Digg. Later fan-boys.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006


Josh Kopelman, founder of turned Web 2.0 investor, had a great post on his blog pertaining to what Fred Wilson refers to as Second Derivative Companies. "

The long and short of it is that the Web 2.0 is all the rage and tons of folks trying to "ride the wave" by emulating the success of established Web 2.0 companies. I can't tell you how many business plans and ideas that I have reviewed claiming to be the "Flickr of X," the " of Y," or the "mySpace of Z." With mashups becoming more prevalent, there is also a subset of new companies following the ever-popular, formula: Google Maps + Blogging + Social Networks + [INSERT BS SERVICE HERE].

I call the emerging class of Web 2.0 companies that subscribe to this approach Echo Companies 2.0. Echo Companies have become particularly fashionable on the East Coast, where there is a relative dearth of activity in the Web 2.0 space relative to Silicon Valley.

Bottom line, I am elated to see a resurgence of interest in the web. A ton of this stuff is amazingly fun to play with. But, I also couldn't agree more with Josh and Fred - some of this stuff is just plain fluff. Does that mean that all Web 2.0 companies are created equal? More importantly, perhaps, does that mean that investors are not itching to dive in? No and NO! That being said, however, entrepreneurs beware - if you want to get VC dollars, you need to create something valuable enough to capture an audience larger than 53,651.

technorati tags: 53651, joshkopelman, web2.0, fredwilson

Monday, May 08, 2006

Discovery is the New Search

Google's tremendous IPO in 2004 made search all the rage. The aftershocks of the IPO are still being felt today and are apparent by Microsoft's $2B investment in the web. Search has become such a hot topic that Blogstar John Battelle of Wired fame wrote a book on the topic - aptly entitled "The Search." Perhaps even more amazing is that I have finally gotten around to reading the book. Although search is undoubtedly a large piece of the emerging web puzzle, however, it is still only a piece.

The market for search is absolutely enormous. Analysts at META Group (now Gartner) estimated that the current market for contextual advertising - the primary monetization mechanism for search - will be $5B in 2006. This number is expected to double to a whopping $10B in 2009.

In its current incarnation, search is pretty simple. In return for entering a couple keywords in a little box you get a shiny list of results related to your query. If you know exactly what you are looking for, search is pretty decent. But what about that fuzzy space between knowing exactly what you want and not knowing jack? What do I mean? Well, do you ever find yourself stuck while exploring for "cool new music", or all the "flicks your friends are watching?" That is where discovery comes in.

Discovery is the process by which a user effectively visualizes, contextualizes, and organizes massive sets of information and services to explore relevant knowledge. To date, discovery has been a bit ad-hoc. Most information discovery online has been restricted to leveraging Google in tandem with some serious web browsing, bookmarks, emails, etc. Effectively navigating the unstructured web via this approach is messy to say the least. Even more frustrating is the act of organizing relevant facts that you discover along the way.

Recently, however, a number of services have popped up in response to the pressing need for better discovery tools. Some examples of emerging players in the "discovery space" include LivePlasma, Pandora,, and of course - the mother of all Web 2.0 sites - Each of these sites enables users to traverse disconnected information and services via some combination of classification and visualization mechanisms. Pandora, for instance, let's users traverse a graphical taxonomy to discover new artists and songs. On the other hand, leverages tagging and charting mechanisms in conjunction with bottom-up content provided by users to enable a dramatically new music discovery experience. I believe that a combination of the two approaches will ultimately prevail.

Better discovery mechanisms are important not only because they will enable a 10X improvement on user experience, but also because they will have a bottom-line impact on companies. Discovery mechanisms could eventually displace search engines as major gateways to information and - effectively - become intermediaries to purchases. Pandora has already connected discovery with purchases via Amazon's web service.

This area is extremely nascent and it will take a great deal of work before we see anything that captures mainstream attention. But it will happen - it has to. Information overload is already a severe problem and the data just keeps coming. So keep your eyes peeled boys and girls - discovery is the new search.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Want to Follow Yahoo's Tracks?

Dave Beckett, one of Yahoo's resident Digerati, recently posted a tag to help the world follow his virtual "trail" as he reads about his company online:

Dave is a well-respected Semantic Web guru and is probably best known for his work on the Redland Framework. He even maintains a list of Semantic Web Logs to help us SemGeeks keep things in context. No pun intended. Just in case you are wondering, Convergence is listed under the category of "Weblogs with Occasional Semantic Web Items." Can't win 'em all, can we?

For those of you that are interested in following folks like Jeremy Zawodony to keep up with the latest and greatest from GYM, this feed might be a good resource for you to leverage. Be good, fan-boys.

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