Thursday, December 08, 2005

World Wide Webshite

Saw a link to an article in the New York Times by one John Batelle:
"In fact, syndication has become the de facto business model of many start-ups: if you build a new service that garners a decent audience, syndication can provide enough revenue to give you time to refine your services and find your true business model."

What a comprehensively ridiculous notion. Not the syndication bit, although that's overhyped as well, but the bit about finding your true business model.

This seems to be the fundamental basis for Internet bubbles past and present (and probably future). People somehow get it into their heads that the Internet is a magic new entity that completely changes the way the world works. It is no such thing. The Internet is a tool for human communication, and its dynamics are no more than a minor evolution of the rules of society - the underlying forces are the same, and they manifest themselves in the same way. Opening a business with no clear understanding of how you intend to make money, instead substituted by a vague philosophy of people coming to your website just because it's there and clicking on banners out of sheer gratitude, is a good way to lose money and be ridiculed. I mean, take Antyx for example. It's got its own domain name, appears high up in a lot of Google results, and has a lot of absolutely killer content - and yet in the three months it's been up, it has been viewed less than three thousand times.

Joel Spolsky says that the goal of an IT company should be converting capital into software that works. In a recent podcast he gave an example of how this benefitted him, allowing a situation where his company managed to take a raw idea and implement it into an excellent product in a very short time, using resources that were already in place. According to Joel, what you do is create a team capable of building a better mousetrap, knowing that there are plenty of ideas for the better mousetrap out there that you can implement.

Then again, in that same podcast he admits that a software vendor cannot succeed unless they are actually solving a problem that a lot of people are having. His own company made a content management system, which was a popular thing to make back then, but it never went anywhere; then they made something as pedestrian as a bug tracking system, and it became hugely successful.

You know why Microsoft is the ruler of all it surveys? I'll tell you. It's because I have a document on my work PC that I made months ago. It has a bunch of Visio drawings in it. I usually keep the VSD file with the original drawings for when I need to update them, but this time for some reason I couldn't find it. I'd have to remake the whole schematic, half a dozen drawings, by hand. Except I wouldn't. Because (as it turns out) if you copy and paste a Visio drawing into a Word file and then double-click on the image, it opens an embedded Visio editor, with all the individual objects already recognized.

That's why Microsoft is more successful than any other software company. But it's not why Microsoft is, to begin with, a successful company. That would be because it has a couple of programs which allow me to make documents and draw UML diagrams. If it cared about ease of use, rather than giving people something they needed to do their jobs, it would be... Well, I guess it would be Apple.

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