Yahoo Mash – Yahoo!, don’t forget about Yahoo! Mash


Yahoo’s social networking tool “Yahoo Mash” offered up a good first entry into the social networking space by a major player.    But I’m noticing how it seems to be languishing after the initial positive buzz, and I think this is because Yahoo’s taking too long to go out with full bore, full online network promotion.  

Yahoo Mash offers some features I really like compared to Myspace and Facebook.  It’s an open architecture meaning that you can mashup mash with modules that show pictures or RSS feeds like this blog.   I think my favorite thing about Yahoo Mash is the way the comments stream from profile to profile, so you don’t have to keep bouncing back to a single spot to remember what you said to somebody.    I’m not enough of a social networking person to know if this is a real innovation or not because Myspace and Facebook also have some features that cross pollinate across profiles, but somehow Mash feels more like a “social networking” experience to me, even though I with it had the kinds of business networking features you find at LinkedIn.  

If Yahoo Mash is just working out kinks and getting ready to scale up to full release soon that is fine, but if the idea is to scale the project *slowly* over a year or so I think they are making a big mistake.  Why?   Because social networking is an explosive phenomenon both in the sense that it has quickly become a key online activity across all users but also because it seems to me that social networks don’t gain momentum gradually, rather they become “in fashion” as did Myspace and Facebook and grow quickly and explosively.   Facebook is still in this growth mode while I think Myspace growth is tapering off (I’m too lazy to go look at graphs to see if this is true).  

Disclaimer – I’ve got some Yahoo stock.  Not enough to prejudice my views, but perhaps enough to make me unreasonably optimistic. 

Social media frenzy may kill high quality content. Somebody fix this!


The news last month that Microsoft may wind up offering Facebook $500,000,000 for a 5% stake is great news … for the tiny number of Facebook insiders who stand to gain from this move which would effectively value the social media giant at about $10,000,000,000.    For the millions of Facebook folks like me who provide the content and faces that drive Facebook it means … um … more advertising.   

Gee, thanks Facebook.   

When people wake up they may start to realize that we’ve got a potential crisis as small numbers of “info intermediators” like Google and Facebook scoop up the lion’s share of the online ocean of cash while the “info creators” are distinctly second class citizens in the big show.   Small time web publishers and mom and pops are in this group.  So are major newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post and most other print outlets who tend to make relatively little online despite offering much of the web’s best content to date, especially now that the foolish paywalls of some newspaper outlets like NYT are coming down.   Having no paywall will allow them to make more, but it’s not clear to me they’ll make enough to keep all that high quality content coming.  

Print and newspapers are  hurting and that is going to continue.   That’s OK as long as websites and blogs continue to provide great insight and breaking news, but it’s about time the big players in the online world start working *a lot harder* to feed the hands that are feeding them.  It’s about time they realize that the best web ecosystem encourages high quality content and not just socializing for the sake of hanging online with friends.

Yes, it is true that revenue sharing programs like Google adsense give publishers a nice share of revenues that come directly from activity at their websites.  However lost in this debate is the fact that *most* of Google’s money  (and virtually all of Myspaces), goes into the pocket of Google and Fox (owners of Myspace).   This is because most of the cash comes from searches done at Google.com rather than publishing affiliate sites, and Google keeps all that despite the fact it’s generated *indirectly* from the ocean of content Google has categorized.  Sure Google should make *a lot* from categorizing *your content* so effectively, but should they make 100%?   You can argue this arrangement is fine if the big players turn around and do things with that money that make the internet ecosystem thrive and grow in ways it could not without their involvement.  I think that argument was far more valid a few years ago than it is now.  Literally thousands of  startups are dying off as the Youtubes and Facebooks – built squarely on the shoulders of other people’s content  – scoop up the super gigantic big money.    It is not a problem that startups die – in fact it’s a good part of the ruthless evolution of things – but it’s problematic when the lion’s share of online resources from the work of so many are redistributed to so few.    Not because this is “unfair”,  but because this type of  inequity does not lead to optimal system efficiency and growth.

Social media in all its various and sundry forms is a wonderful development.  Finally we see clearly that people, not computers, will be at the heart of future online developments – probably for some time into the future.    Facebook users are now leading the innovation in this area, though Alice at NYT thinks this could lead to unintended consequences.

To protect this new socially charged online environment from the ravages of our silly, stupid and prurient human interests we’ll need better incentives than the big players currently offer to quality content producers.   Those incentives will ultimately shape the quality of online content for years to come.