Cloud based services – the future of the Internet

Fred Wilson has a response today to Eric Schmidt’s declaration in Edinburgh that Google+ is an “identity service”. He asks and answers his own question.

“whom Google built this service for? You or them. And the answer to why you need to use your real name in the service is because they need you to.”

Of course Facebook is also an identity service. Facebook Connect is the means of distributing it. And of course Facebook too is built using real names because “they need you to”.

At this level FaceBook and Google have much in common, and both are vying for us to use them for online authentication. Facebook is far ahead of course.

Late yesterday I posted an opinion piece as a guest author on TechCrunch. It is about the uncertain future of web services as mobile devices proliferate globally. We will soon all have awesome identity machines in our pocket. They will be capable of being used to authenticate us (even using 2 step authentication). Any cloud-based 3rd party identity system will be unnecessary.

The future of identity is distributed, under user control, and owned and managed by the user from their device. It will be capable of supporting anonymity and real names and will be able to be trusted by sites requiring you to authenticate. The idea of any 3rd party dictating how you can present yourself online will no longer be applicable. Of course, it still has to be built…..

Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Google and/or Facebook building an identity system that dictates how we present ourselves. Our choice is to use it or not…..We don’t have to.

Real Time Streams

John Borthwick has captured in words what many have been grappling with in a less articulate way for about 18 months. The new paradigm we need to think about the internet has finally emerged.

This snippet outlines the broad trend:

Start with this constant, real time, flowing stream of data getting published, republished, annotated and co-opt’d across a myriad of sites and tools. The social component is complex — consider where its happening. The facile view is to say its Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or FriendFeed — pick your favorite service. But its much more than that because all these sites are, to varying degrees, becoming open and distributed. Its blogs, media storage sites (ie: twitpic) comment boards or moderation tools (ie: disqus) — a whole site can emerge around an issue — become relevant for week and then resubmerge into the morass of the data stream, even publishers are jumping in, only this week the Times pushed out the Times Wire. The now web — or real time web — is still very much under construction but we are back in the dark room trying to understand the dimensions and contours of something new, or even to how to map and outline its borders. Its exciting stuff

John draws a single, and important, conclusion from this:

First and foremost what emerges out of this is a new metaphor — think streams vs. pages.

With this insight I believe John has just moved the needle to a place where we can begin to talk about the third phase of the internet.

The first phase of the internet was about portalization. It was the age of Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek. This was the era in which DoubleClick came into its own as an advertising platform, with lots of big accounts on both the advertiser and the publisher side.

The second phase was what Fred Wilson characterized as deportalization. This was the era of the rise of user generated content – blogs, social portals like MySpace and Facebook, aggregators like Digg and an ad network built for lots of small advertisers and millions of web sites – Google AdSense.

The third, and new phase, is about real time data streams that emanate from the users and the myriad publishers. Blogs and rss remain important (sorry Steve) but added into the mix are Twitter, Friendfeed, and other forms of messaging. This third phase has a number of big consequences:

1. Search changes. Searching static pages remains important. Indexing and parsing the stream becomes a must have addition.

2. SEO takes on new meanings also. Having your URL’s in the stream means that those who attempt to index and classify the stream will find you. Using RDFa or Microformats to enable your data to be understood will also become important as semantics meets the stream.

3. Advertising changes too – in ways we cannot see, but it clearly involves the sources within the stream and the stream itself being made available to an advertiser who wants to target an audience.

3. Aggregation moves from a simple combination of sources created by users (DIGG) or by algorithm (Techmeme) into the need to parse and filter the stream into meaningful buckets. In this world bit.ly and other URL shortening services are simply adding a new signal to the pool that allows a filter to distinguish between an important and a less important URL. Managing and understanding the content they carry is the big challenge. (see http://www.seriouslywine.com and http://twitter.com/seriouslywine for an example of how John Merrells and his team are thinking about this. seriouslymedia is an experimental and as yet un-launched service in which I am a founder).

Erick Schonfeld has a great post on TechCrunch about this: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/17/jump-into-the-stream/

De-portalization and Internet Revenues I

I am re-posting this from the edgeio blog. Mainly because I think it has current relevance and will in future have historical value.

I’m not certain the edgeio blog will continue to exist, so this is the new home for the post. Since it was originally written we have seen the rise of Adbrite, Glam, Sugar Publishing, Digg and other businesses based on understanding the proliferation of publishing, reading habits, and advertising away from the big portals. I also note that Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame commented on the post, something I failed to notice originally. So, here is the original post

This post is a little more philosophical than most that you will see here. It provides a little bit of background as to why edgeio is in the business of bringing together, organizing and distributing listings to the edge of the network. In short it is because we believe that the Internet is moving away from big centralized portals, which have gathered the lions share of Internet traffic, towards a pattern where traffic is generally much flatter. The mountains, if you will, continue to exist. But the foothills advance and take up more of the overall pie. Fred Wilson had a post earlier this week about the de-portalization of the Internet which is essentially making the same point when seen from the point of view of Yahoo.


Update: 11am Pacific, Sunday 10 December

Several commentators are seeing the word “de-portalization” (first coined by Fred Wilson) and reading “end of portals”. To be clear, and apologies if I wasn’t already, de-portalization represents a change in the relative weight of portals in a traffic sense, and the emergence of what I call the “foothills” as a major source of traffic. This will affect money flows. Portals will remain both large and will continue to grow. But relatively less than the traffic in the foothills. The foothills will monetize under greater control of its publishers and the dollar value of its traffic is already large and will get much larger.


The following 3 graphics illustrate what we believe has happened already and is likely to continue.

The first picture is a rough depiction of Internet traffic before the flattening

2004 and all that

The second picture is a rough depiction of today – with the mountains still evident, but much less so

The rise of the foothills

The third picture is where these trends are leading. To a flatter world of more evenly disributed traffic.

The future pattern of web traffic

Some of the consequences of this trend are profound. Here are our top 10 things to watch as de-portalization continues..

1. The revenue growth that has characterized the Internet since 1994 will continue. But more and more of the revenue will be made in the foothills, not the mountains.
2. If the major destination sites want to participate in it they will need to find a way to be involved in the traffic that inhabits the foothills.
3. Widgets are a symptom of this need to embed yourself in the distributed traffic of the foothills.
4. Portals that try to widgetize the foothills will do less well than those who truly embrace distributed content, but better than those who ignore the trends.
5. Every pair of eyeballs in the foothills will have many competing advertisers looking to connect with them. Publishers will benefit from this.
6. Because of this competition the dollar value of the traffic that is in the foothills will be (already is) vastly more than a generic ad platform like Google Adsense or Yahoo’s Panama can realize. Techcrunch ($180,000 last month according to the SF Chronicle) is an example of how much more money a publisher who sells advertising and listings to target advertisers can make than when in the hands of an advertiser focused middleman like Google.
7. Publisher driven revenue models will increasingly replace middlemen. There will be no successful advertiser driven models in the foothills, only publisher centric models. Successful platform vendors will put the publisher at the center of the world in a sellers market for eyeballs. There will be more publishers able to make $180,000 a month.
8. Portals will need to evolve into platform companies in order to participate in a huge growth of Internet revenues. Service to publishers will be a huge part of this. Otherwise they will end up like Infospace, or maybe Infoseek. Relics of the past.
9. Search however will become more important as content becomes more distributed. Yet it will command less and less a proportion of the growing Internet traffic.
10. Smart companies will (a) help content find traffic by enabling its distribution. (b) help users find content that is widely dispersed by providing great search. (c) help the publishers in the rising foothills maximize the value of their publications.

Discussion

Kevin Burton
Techmeme
Mike Arrington
Syntagma
Keith Teare’s Weblog
Dan Farber at ZDNet
Mark Evans
Fred Wilson
Ivan Pope at Snipperoo
Tech Tailrank
Collaborative Thinking
David Black
Surfing the Chaos
Ben Griffiths
Dave Winer (great pics)
Kosso’s Braingarden
Dizzy Thinks
Mark Evans

Dare Obasanjo