Choose Your “All In One” – The Stage Is Set

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Is it time for one site to be everything to everyone (in a similar fashion that Yahoo or AOL was 10 years ago)? We are all now forced into situations where time and the efficient use of it have become acutely important.

The Web is simply too expansive and the tools utilized too varied for any of us to truly be efficient now. The bottom line is, we are all about ready for that elusive “all in one” platform to appear.

We all need a place where every service and feature we have come to expect can be utilized to at least simplify our lives. The technology, the need and the current situation for users and developers exists now to inspire one or several Web entities to build such a “home” for much of our activity.

Alpha and Beta Defined

Supposedly, beta or alpha testing was a conduit for building startups to suit the needs or wishes of the users. Most of the 350 startups I tested and reviewed over the last two years operated on this premise. Some adhered to this principal after their public launches and others simply pretended to do so out of political correctness.

However, it should be relatively evident that most sites operated like this only as needed and to an extent ceased really caring about users after they accumulated some “traction” as we call it. I will not go into examples for brevity sake, but the end result is a fragmented and essentially bored user base for most communities. The time is really right for one or a few to emerge as the big winners in number of users.

Who, Where and Which Ones

At this point everyone reading this is probably asking: “Ok smarty pants, so you have a point, but which site could fill this bill?” Though I hate lists as much as the next “real” writer, let’s explore who might have the potential to be the “all in one” destination for all our online activities.

MySpace – This is probably my least favorite community simply because it is so popular and to be honest – ugly. MySpace is still the number one destination for all things community on the Web, but that being said, it is still grossly over advertized and profoundly underdeveloped in many ways. Adding features and service accessibility as well as cleaning up the look of the place would be a big step, but ultimately MySpace is just too cluttered and messy to feasibly build what users need in the way of a real “hub” of activity.

Facebook – The fastest growing and one of the most loved sites could just pull it off save a couple of significant issues. Facebook as we know it now is nothing more than a glorified instant (semi) messenger or chat room. Sure there are scads of additions for sending beer to your friends, but the core utility of Facebook is really just “Twitter like” hollering into the wind. The addition of some real meat and potatoes aggregation, object oriented function and perhaps a better communications interface would help.

Personally, I never liked the site aesthetics and even more than this the “cutesy” feature additions. People need so much more than just relative “cool” in a site to operate out of. So, Facebook will have to go back to the drawing board in order to be the “end all” platform.

Particls – Chris Saad – CEO of this great development is a brilliant developer and a friend: Particls is one of the best developments of the last couple of years. Particls is essentially an attention management platform that conquers one of the premises of this article – it makes it a great deal easier to deal with data. Like the other platforms mentioned, Particls will need to be a little more in order to be an all in one. The aggregation aspect is there, but communication and community aspects would have to be addressed in my book. I know Chris is completely capable of tackling these aspects, and it will be interesting to see how this startup continues to develop.

Second Brain – This beta has all the potential to build just what we have described. Second Brain was one of the top such startups of Web 2.0, but fell into some scalability issues. The new upcoming release should prove this development to be perhaps the best platform for building any such “all in one” entity for several reasons.

First, the very definition of beta is that users play an crucial role in helping the community progress – and SB is a clean and powerful slate for users to sketch on. Secondly, technology today allows for adding more simply than changing. The other sites mentioned need to change or revisit much of their development to accommodate a real all in one. Lastly, Second Brain is a library. What people need is a fully functional, interactive and people filtered library. Second Brain is all of this and also a powerful community. Beyond this, new elements from any or all of the previously mentioned sites can easily be added to the new platform. I have followed SB since it first appeared and somehow have always visualized it as just this – the prefect platform for an all in one site or hub for Web activity.

The End All

There are opponents and proponents of the “all in one” site we have discussed – with validity to both sides of the argument. I talked with Dan Kalplan the other day (and a bunch more people on other occasions) about this very idea. Dan is a very astute expert on all things Web 2.0, and he agreed in essence that the Web is headed towards a “less is more” attitude as far as services are concerned. Dan’s favorite for the all in one was Facebook, but he was not closed to the idea that a newer platform might do it better.

I favor clean, powerful and nice looking sites like Second Brain because building new is faster than renovating in any venue. Particls, and I am sure a dozen more could fill this niche easily too with the right funding and development. The big question is just how fast people will migrate and contribute to any of these. In the case of Facebook, we have seen that the users seem to prefer “poking” friends to sharing documents or building libraries. What other sites might be the “end all”, I am sure you have suggestions.

Phil Butler
Phil Butler is theEditor at Everything PR, Argophilia Travel News,  and Senior Partner at Pamil Visions PR. He’s a widely cited authority on beta startups,... Read Full Bio
Phil Butler
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  • Phil, I think you forgot to mention the best part about Second Brain: the awesome contest they’ve got. I mean, which other of these social media portals ever launched anything with a notebook as a prize? SB gives away not just any notebook, but the coolest one: MacBook Air. Yeah, I know it is not the most performance oriented, but hey, it’s free, it’s high-tech and it fits in an envelope. 🙂

  • Yes Mig – there is a fantastic contest brewing at Second Brain – you are right I should have mentioned it, but it did not seem fair to the others.

    Second Brain was an is the most potentially “buildable” community out there. If Lars and Co. had not had back end problems, it would have already been the best of them all.

    I need the XBox 360 for the kids as you said tho. 🙂



  • I like the point you bring up that a lot of beta tests ask for user feedback until they grow to a big enough extent to just impose their own will on a large community…I think the sites that appreciate their communities the most and listen will increasingly grow in popularity. Great article!

  • We are definitely at a crossroads in web 2.0 – will be interesting to see who emerges on top – – and how many “mergers” go into this emergence.

  • Buzz – you are right on1 The emerging collaborations are what it will be all about. I know first hand that many are moving in this direction. Cheers – Phil

  • Dan Kaplan

    “A very astute expert on all things Web 2.0.” Perhaps a bit too much credit, but I like the way it sounds.

    You seem to have left out FriendFeed, which I think actually may, against most odds, have a shot against Facebook. Facebook has the dramatic advantage of being close to mainstream, while FriendFeed remains nearly totally techie.

    I think the battle could come down to filtration: which platform will do the best job at extracting the signals in the noise and presenting them in an easily-to-digest fashion? Like you astutely point out, Facebook is full of banal behavior, but it has the user base and the resources necessary to build a technology capable of doing just that.

    The only reason FriendFeed is a contender in my mind because of its API. Developers can build their own interfaces and find clever ways to filter information. Facebook’s going to have to do this on its own, and there’s a chance that some maverick could come along and beat them to the punch.

    Got more to add here, but must hop on a plane. I’m looking forward to seeing what Second Brain has under the hood.

    Great post.

  • Thank you for a great post, Phil. It’s an honor to be mentioned in such a prestigious company.

    The main difference between Second Brain and the other guys is our content centric focus.

    We are building a content aggregation platform where people can organize all their web content in personal libraries and share everything through the Second Brain public library.

    We’re more focused on content management and discovery than maintaining social relations, though we are going to take advantage of connections between people in our upcoming recommendation features.


  • Can i borrow some money?

  • (Sorry, imac can’t help you there).

    Phil, you raise an interesting point with ‘All In One’. And I think an interesting aspect is wether a candidate for this aims to add value to an existing ecology of services and databases or replace them altogether. Obviously I believe in the former and highly doubt services proposing the latter.

    I’m not going to talk down Facebook because they’re really good at their core offering – namely providing social utilities relating to real life social activities. Which means I might put an occasional photo or video if I want to share it with a friend that attended the same party or whatever. But I’ll keep using Flickr for Photos and YouTube for Videos because their better at treating that content specifically.

    But then, having all my stuff stored all over the place in services that suits that specific item best, I still miss functionality to support relations between all my content. Wether this is photos and links for a trip I’ve planned or a slideshow and videos for a school project, I have the need to access and work with content across services.

    And I think this frustration and lack of overview is what’s sparking a lot of the emerging sites nowadays. The last five years has brought us services that’ll let you upload, share and post enormous amounts of UGC. The next breed of services are now bringing sense, value, organization, productivity, efficiency etc. to this vast amount of content. I mean I have more personal content than I myself can keep track of. And similar to how Yahoo added value in categorizing and providing search functionality in a jungle of websites in the 90’s, some of us are now working on making life easier (and by all means, more fun!) dealing with content from and in all the services we’re connected to.

    I can’t promise we’ll be your no#1 ‘All In One’, but you can bet on us aiming for it. Thank you for including us in your list. We’re proud to be on it.

    Product Manager