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.