Friday, August 31, 2012

Specialists Become Specialty Aggregators


Andy Weissman of USV posted about the unbundling of all things web--apps become APIs, and ...
"that education is being unbundled into its component parts: content, teachers, credentials, community, physical campus, mentors, hiring and network."

I weighed in... 
Hasn't Google become more like AOL in some senses? Plus, hangouts, docs, email, etc. 
It seems inevitable for the niche gorilla to continue to add new products and more niches, becoming an aggregator like the one they might have initially displaced. 
Interesting that Twitter has not taken that approach. Facebook has. LinkedIn has, though perhaps more naturally and narrower than Google. Stack has (hi joel), in very natural and sensible ways.
And Andy asked...
that's interesting - is the tendency of the unbundler to always try to re-bundle?
...so I thought about it some more... 
The tendency is toward revenue growth, which leads to adding products or features that drive revenue toward the core model. If Twitter were public, the public market demand for revenue growth would likely lead it to "portalize" or add services (say image storage, archiving, analytics, front end tools, etc)
With Google, it makes sense for them to capture more web traffic to drive its revenue engine; that explains Android, the wifi investments, Plus, etc. Search is--as big as it is--a finite market (number of people x avg number of searches). 
Note Google hasn't added other revenue models in any significant way; at its core its a lead-gen engine and needs to feed it in any way possible.
That's the armchair view, anyway. EDIT: I guess that's a way of saying that fragmentation is not a final state of any market; there's a natural ebb and flow from specializing to generalizing, and a new crop of specialists disrupting the new generalists.

It's an interesting discussion to me, which is partly why I'm reblogging it. But what's also interesting to me is that it in itself is content that I felt like reblogging, but it was a pain to do it. 

Plus, the most interesting part of the blog post was the in the commentary itself; some of the comments are what I'd consider top-level content. But it's not treated as that.

You'll see in the upper right of this blog, under my Office Hours, is a search box supplied by Gawk.it. Gawk.it indexes both the blog post and the comments, which makes discovering relevant content much more useful and robust than typical site search. 

I'm particularly interested in community and theses around it; the one that strikes me the most is that a community strengthens with increases in the number and quality of connections among its members. 

Last year I started toying with some ideas around that thesis, specifically with respect to comments and other web activity and discovering people with similar interests or expertise, which is a big part of Jawaya. So I was pretty stoked to see Gawk.it a few months ago--it's a step in the right direction.

If you're interested in trying Gawk.it, please email me and I'll get you hooked up, or contact Kevin Marshall, the mind behind the tool. 
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