Web 2.0 Creator Communities

I loved Greg Yardley’s post on Creator Communities. be sure to check out Yahoo’s Brad Horowitz’s rebuttal in the comments section and his original post. Here is an excerpt:

“I’d call the ‘creator-community’ the primary lesson of Web 2.0, but in fact creation-demanding services have been around for ages. Think about e-mail. Think about instant messaging. These huge applications are just frameworks for delivering user-created content to other users. While it’s possible to just passively receive e-mails or instant messages the vast bulk of people add their own content to the system, which in turn acts as an incentive for others to participate. A virtuous circle sucks everyone in, and e-mail and IM are now near-universal. I expect BitTorrent — which forces the user to upload as they download — is on a similar trajectory.

As a counterexample — think about the feed reader. Another framework for delivering user-created content to other users. However, the feed reader hasn’t yet found an application that demands participation and creation. For every creator of an RSS feed I imagine there are a hundred passive consumers; the community of feed reader users looks a lot like Horowitz’s pyramid. And that’s why RSS feeds have minimal impact compared to e-mail and IM. That’s why RSS isn’t ‘mainstream’. Until an application is invented that makes publishing a useful feed a natural and painless consequence of reading one, it’llnever reach ubiquity. (An aside — ‘edge feeders‘ do indeed exist in a very early stage of development. Am watching them closely.)”

I think this is particularly instructive in the emerging web video space. This space is spinning up very quickly and satisfying many users because the community is involved in contributing the content, rating the content, sorting the content and consuming the content. Entertainment sites like Metacafe (Full disclosure: Benchmark portfolio company) and video-sharing sites like YouTube are roping users into editing and sorting functions in metacafe’s case and blog posting functions in YouTube’s case.

I think Yardley’s model is a good one to apply as a sniff test to web 2.0 companies. Think next gen game companies like Kartrider, Web 1.0 companies such as Epinions and Web 2.0 sites like Financial hub Seekingalpha. User contribution is a fairly good indicator of whether the site will increase in velocity beyond its initial users and contributors. Power Laws will still be major influencers on the degree to which individual members of the community will contribute and consume but as a core qualifier, Yardley hits the nail on the head.

[Originally published on 27th February 2006 by MIchael Eisenberg]