The New Wisdom of the Web, or the Continued Search for the Golden Search Goose that Lays the Golden Search Eggs

The Wisdom of the Web

The New Wisdom of the Web – Next Frontiers – MSNBC.com The blogosphere is a buzzin’ this morning with the latest MSP (that’s mainstream press) foray into the quirky and mysterious realm called Web 2.0. This time Newsweek is on the case in an article entitled The New Wisdom of the Web featuring campy polaroids of none other than our own beloved Flickr Founders Steven Butterfield and Cathy Fake (hat tip to George!).

The article is surprisingly mostly accurate and right on and is a reasonably well written introduction to Web 2.0 for the masses. Interestingly articulated was the statement that Tom Sawyer was an “early adopter.”

“When Mark Twain’s creation connived his buddies into painting the fence for him, he didn’t call it “user-generated content.” It took the Living Web to figure that one out.” hmm.

A few thoughts on the article.

1. Flickr now has 2.5 million users. This is the first time I’ve seen that number in print. Back on November 14th Business 2.0 said that they had 1.5 million users. A million more users in four months. Impressive. MySpace of course is too massive to even talk about.

2. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has the most relevant quote in the article: “”Everybody thinks we’re building operating systems, PCs and browsers. They clearly don’t get it,” he says. So where does Google want to go? “Look at MySpace,” he says cryptically. “Very interesting.”” Cryptically being the operative word.

There is a big reason why Schmidt is interested all of a sudden in social networking. There is an even bigger reason why Yahoo! has been assembling the equivalent of the Web 2.0 dreamteam. Along with Flickr, Delicious (I hate writing all those periods so I’m going to stop from here on out), Upcoming.org, WebJay, etc. The reason is that it doesn’t take much more than a freshman course in statistics to get that very small samples can produce very strong relevancy.

More than anything else, social networking is about search. The case for the superiority of the human filter for search has already been established with Flickr’s interestingness algorithm. I will not beat a dead horse here as I’ve written on this plenty in the past, but searching photos ranked by interestingness largely produces superior results to Yahoo! Google, Ask and everyone elses computer generated image search algorithm.

Small armies of individuals rating, ranking, tagging, organizing everything is where the power of 2.0 is going.

3. Flickr has succeeded in large part because they continuously delight their users again and again and again. They treat them respectfully and empower them and frequently try and find new ways to impress them. Do I mind that I’m down there painting Tom Sawyer’s fence in Sunnyvale? Hell no. Because I’m having way too much fun doing it. By keeping advertising minimally invasive and working on the dual powers of system stability (all that pesky growth) and new feature introductions Flickr has a winning program.

4. Newsweek also gets it right in listing Digg at the top of their list of “Who’s Building the Next Web.” I’ve suggested that Yahoo! should buy Digg in the past and still think that they would make an attractive contribution to the Yahoo! dream team. Delicious (web search), Flickr (image search), WebJay (music search), upcoming.org (event search), Digg (new search). Do we see a patern here?

Of course the Yahoo!/Digg thing’s already been chatted up to death when Kevin Burton got us all worked up over nothing a few months back. Still, if not Digg, some type of news based social networking thing would seem to be a good play for Yahoo! Unless I’m missing something (which is often the case).

Fraser Kelton also pulls out a good quote over at his Yahoo’s Science Experiment post: “The following paragraph made the story worth the read:

But that’s not why Yahoo bought it for an estimated $35 million. “With less than 10 people on the payroll, they had millions of users generating content, millions of users organizing that content for them, tens of thousands of users distributing that across the Internet, and thousands of people not on the payroll actually building the thing,” says Yahoo exec Bradley Horowitz.”

Good to see Steven and Cathy get such fine MSP and good to see Flickr so prominently featured in a national magazine.

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