Blue pill or red pill?
2 days ago
Veterans of the software industry have, hardcoded into their DNA, the assumption that in any fight between a platform and an application, the platform will always win.
what Facebook is now doing is a lot more sophisticated than simply MySpace-style embedding: Facebook is providing a full suite of APIs -- including a network protocol, a database query language, and a text markup language -- that allow third party applications to integrate tightly with the Facebook user experience and database of user and activity information.
And then, on top of that, Facebook is providing a highly viral distribution engine for applications that plug into its platform. As a user, you get notified when your friends start using an application; you can then start using that same application with one click. At which point, all of your friends become aware that you have started using that application, and the cycle continues. The result is that a successful application on Facebook can grow to a million users or more within a couple of weeks of creation.
Finally, Facebook is promising economic freedom -- third-party applications can run ads and sell goods and services to their hearts' content.
First there are those thousands of ideas and technologies that are being developed by Google employees in the 20 percent of their week devoted specifically for that purpose. That number of new ideas is far too high to be practical and too high even to be considered safe.
Say the Google Geniuses come up with 4,000 business ideas or technologies per year, which is probably around the current number. Let's guess that one percent of these ideas are truly great -- boffo ideas that one could easily build a company around. That's 40 world-beating ideas. And after the 40 absolutely top ideas, let's say there are another 360 ideas that are pretty darned good -- certainly good enough to pitch to the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road. The remaining 3,600 ideas are, of course, crap, and can be forgotten by everyone except their inventors, whom I'll get back to in a minute.
Assuming Google executives have the insight to know which of their 4,000 proffered ideas are world-class, they then have to decide which 40 to pursue. Such an assumption is giving even Google too much credit, believe me. No matter how smart they are, issues of loyalty, prejudice, and the odd hangover will result in some less-good ideas making it through but mainly great ideas being eliminated. But this doesn't really matter because the larger question is: How many good ideas can Google pursue vigorously per year? The number isn't 40. It isn't even 20. The number of ideas that a company the size of Google can throw all its weight behind per year is about 10, of which five will probably not be the right ones.