This week: Social tools in disasters, VC trends, Custom Web 2.0 Business Plans, Web-based Office, Techie post of the week - APIs and control.
Social tools help in Katrina Hurricane
First things first. We've all been shocked by the Hurricane Katrina devastation. Dina Mehta has a couple of great posts that show the way for people to help, using blogs and social software (we all do what we can with the tools we know). Dina wrote:
"The KatrinaHelp wiki and blog teams, made up of people across USA, Europe, Bahrain, India and many more places, are currently also working with some of the developers around the Skype API and the SkypeJournal team (all independents, and Skype too has been supportive by offering up free SkypeOut minutes) and have managed to set up a kind of messaging centre between volunteers on the ground to connect those needing help with those that have it to offer. [...] Lets see how it emerges. What we could build around blogs and wikis and RSS and tagging and VOIP There are so many possibilities."
In a not unrelated follow-up post, Dina tells us what it's like to be poor in her home country of India. Also check out Nancy White's Full Circle blog, which is covering the Katrina crisis and pointing to resources.
If you've been following the Web 2.0 space (there's a good lingo word to use), you'll have noticed that Venture Capitalists have taken up blogging in a big way. I take this as an encouraging sign for both the market and the blogosphere - the latter because most VCs have an excellent strategic sense and are not shy about blogging their insights. I won't try and name every VC blogger, but a good RSS feed to subscribe to is The VC Channel - it aggregates a lot of the top VC bloggers. There's also a VC Channel website.
Some of the hot trends that VCs are looking at are: China (particularly Bokee, China's biggest blog network), mobile, consumer software aimed at The Long Tail, social media, Web 2.0. As Venture Capitalist David Cowan commented in RedHerring:
"Investments such as Bokee extend our consumer portfolio into the realm of applications widely known as web2.0, which to us means applications that are viral in nature and leverage consumer-generated content—two elements of a business that lead to rapid growth and high margins."
In another VC post this week, Jeremy Levine wrote about shorts and longs - meaning short-term and long-term investment opportunities. An example of a 'long' is what Levine terms "eBay for" businesses, which he defined as marketplaces that "make money by providing a forum for buyers and sellers to come together."
Custom Web 2.0 Business Plan
So if you're a humble developer or wanna-be entrepreneur, how does one attract the attention of a VC? Well you could try the odio.us Gateway to Web 2.0 Riches, developed by Nathan Torkington. It automatically generates a Web 2.0 business plan elevator pitch for you. Examples are:
- Decentralized Web 2.0 Ruby on Rails IM infrastructure that leverages the basic human need to connect.
- Mobile hybridized AJAX photo Firefox extension that leverages grassroots talent.
- Multi-device open source tagging-enabled voice web-app that leverages ubiquitous broadband.
- Long invite-only beta disruptive emergent calendaring Firefox extension that leverages network effects.
This reminds me - I wonder when the first Web 2.0 Reality TV show will be made? How about Tim O'Reilly as the Donald Trump character in 'The Apprentice 2.0'? ("MacManus, you failed to leverage the Long Tail and I didn't see any evidence of Network Effects. You're fired!") ;-)
Web 2.0 Office
I wrote a post this week summarizing some recent trends in Web-based Office software. I mentioned new and trendy products like Writely (Web-based word processing) and Kiko (online calendar). My post got some great comments. Ian mentioned his new product called Openomy, which he describes as an "online file-system". Jay pointed out that "the first Ajax app was Microsoft's web version of Outlook". Phil Pearson (who I met for the first time this week, in Wellington) mentioned that a company called HalfBrain developed an AJAX office suite back in the late 90's. Phil said it was made available to the public, "but then it got bought by IBM and disappeared".
I just updated that post tonight, with some more Web 2.0 Office products, so check it out.
Techie Post of the Week: APIs and control
Thought-provoking essay by William Blaze, who asks: who really has control in an API-powered Web 2.0 world. William says that the API is actually "a system of control", in which "the API creator has a nearly limitless ability to regulate what can go in and out of their system." He goes on to write:
"Privilege is what the Web 2.0 is really about. What separates the Web 2.0 from that plain old "web" is the establishment and entrenchment of a hierarchy of power and control. This is not the same control that Microsoft, AOL and other closed system / walled garden companies tried unsuccessfully to push upon internet users. Power in the Web 2.0 comes not from controlling the whole system, but in controlling the connections in a larger network of systems. It is the power of those who create not open systems, but semi-open systems, the power of API writers, network builders and standards definers."
Michal Migurski also posted some thoughts on this.
While I don't agree entirely with William's thesis - it's too cynical to say that privilege is what Web 2.0 is about - he does make you think about the implications of APIs. William's right, APIs from the likes of Google, Amazon and Flickr always come with restrictions and strings attached. While we use the platforms of those companies, via their APIs, we're never in complete control.
That's a Wrap!
OK, that's just about it for the week. Before I go, I want to give a shout-out to fellow Web 2.0 chroniclers TechCrunch. I'll be rooming with the TechCrunch crew in October, when I'm over in Silicon Valley. I can't wait to visit the home of the Web and shmooze with all the great people I've gotten to know virtually via my blog.
That's a wrap for another week!