This Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Internet Outlook 2009 Roundtable. One of the major points of discussion was the trends driving the development of the Internet moving forward. The trends I identified were as follows:
1. Web as a platform for services
2. Social network as web foundational service
3. Mobile as a channel to deliver services
As you may have noticed, I used the word ‘service’ several times. The big shift in perspective that will make, or break, companies moving forward is their ability to understand that the web is not just a place to visit, but a platform for delivering services to their users.
Let’s take an example of a company that has helped define the leap to services, Amazon. Amazon started life as the best place to buy books online. They quickly expanded their offerings and became the place to buy things online. Recognizing that the personal computer was just one channel, they created mobile offerings to expand their reach. Now, they are not just the place, but the platform to buy things online. They have created widgets, and web services that enable developers to easily re-sell products from the Amazon catalog on any site. The icing on the cake? Amazon is actually getting us to fund the continued scaling of their commerce platform by offering their core developer stack and things like storage and queuing to developers. Their execution and strategy is nothing short of brilliant.
For those of you that are brave, here is a company that is now trying to make the leap, Facebook. Facebook started as an online tool to help college students connect. They quickly have expanded to become a general-purpose destination services over 150MM active users. Now they are making the big leap from millions, to billions. How? They are enabling Facebook to be everyone with FB Connect. If they are successful, they can power the experiences of billions of web users across multiple web applications.
It’s not about driving millions of people to a website. It’s about SERVING BILLIONS across multiple channels such as the PC, Mobile, and more by using the web as a platform. The companies that can manage to become foundational to every networked application will be those that last and drive the future of the web.
Does that mean that the destination is dead? No. You can still build a nice business that generates an amazing amount of money. But if you want to build a billion dollar company, you had better keep your head in the clouds – the web cloud that is. Good luck web-slingers.