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Category: ibanks

Web 4.0: The Official Definition

Small Electronic Safe

Jason Calacanis has provided us with the official definition for Web 3.0 — smart people + Web 2.0 technology, a recipe that amazingly corresponds to his own Mahalo project. People around the blog-o-sphere were up in arms, gnashing their teeth, no one had realized that it was time to define Web 3.0. Bloggers quickly polished up their definitions, counter-definitions or attacks. Some claimed to have defined Web 3.0 sooner and pointed to prior art.

But when the din resided, they asked me, although we’re not sure what Web 3.0 is, and we’re not sure why it makes sense to assign numbers to the Web— what is Web 4.0? Surely if we are going to invest our blood and treasure in the Web, we should associate ourselves with the highest possible number.

So here it is, the official definition of Web 4.0: It’s Web 2.0 mashup/api/services technology + user-asserted identity + really private, important personal information. Smart people are in there somewhere, but really— that approach is soooo Web 3.0. You may ask, can we see any of these Web 4.0 companies? Sure, there are a few starting to emerge, take a look at: Microsoft’s HealthVault, whatever Google’s Health initiative turns out to be and on the financial side, things like Mint and CakeFinancial. Although on the financial side these companies aren’t really 4.0 yet. Look for a vault that contains all your financial data which the vendors with whom you do business will be obliged to deliver to you. You’ll be putting the digital media that you own in there as well. Oh, and throw Doc Searl’s idea about Vendor Relationship Management in there as well, you’ll store your VRM prefs there as well. Stuff you are, stuff you own, data about stuff you own, stuff you want, and of course, your attention data. But it’s gotta be secure and it’s gotta solve the identity problem.


Google Apps: Classic Innovator’s Dilemna

I suppose this has been noted before, but Microsoft Office overserves its users. It has too many features that no one uses. It has features that no one even knows about. If an MS Word feature falls in the woods, and no one hears it, does it make a sound? This is a classic Innovator’s Dilemna.

It’s easy to say that Google apps is not as good as Microsoft Office. But that’s an answer to the wrong question. The question is: is it good enough, for a lot less money. The folks at CapGemini seem to think so. It’ll cost a company $50 per year per employee for Google Apps. Microsoft will counter with Microsoft Live, but they don’t what to cannibalize their own product. Which means they leave the field open to Google Apps and Zoho. Speaking of Zoho, you’d think Yahoo or somebody would buy them.

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Frank’s Back

Frank Quattrone made a lot of people a lot of money. He was the i-banker of Web 1.0. Now he’s beaten the charges related to the IPOs he ran for CSFB during the Internet boom. Of course, those who actually remember ancient history (back around the turn of the millenium), would know that Quattrone was never charged directly with the securities violations everyone knew he committed. He was charged with the cover up. He beat that rap.


So now in this new era of Web 2.x, Frank’s back. But things have changed, there’s Sarbanes Oxley, start ups are trying get by without VC funding, and the “first day IPO pop” has been revealed to be the most expensive advertising a company could possible do (as well as an opportunity for the kind of securities violations that Quattrone was originally suspected of). It was the difference between the IPO price and the first trade price that traditional bankers like Quattrone were able to parlay into a network of favors, and a pipeline of deals.

Here in the Bay area, we think the new crop of Web businesses are probably due for a shake out. But it’s also acknowledged that there are some better business models out there that really organically fit into the Web. If there’s a bubble today, it’s a much smaller one. It’ll be interesting to see how Frank will emerge. He wants to get back into the scene, maybe it’ll be M&A this time.

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The Ombudsman: Understanding Wisdom, Power, the Weak and the Marginalized

Roses for Stalin

There’s a lot of capital invested in “the wisdom of crowds” Web companies. This idea that “we” are smarter than “me” is generally a good one. I find the collaborative filtering that Delicious provides a great way to find new information on topics of interest, or to follow the link blogs of people of interest. Obviously there’s a big unexplored territory here.

Sometimes it seems as though the Web has no sense of history, no reference points outside itself. The concept of the “wisdom of crowds” seems to live in some kind of socialist realist illustration from the Soviet era. Happy, productive workers collectively producing the best of the best. The crowd’s idea is better than an individual’s—and you can make some money off of the value of that better idea. In this case when we say “the crowd” is “wise,” we give the crowd power over what counts as “wise.” And of course “wisdom” is always better, smarter, and by definition, more “wise.”

And yet, when you replace the word “wisdom” with the word “power” and start doing some reading you’ll immediately encounter the dark side of this concept. Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power is one of the classics of the literature. Crowds, both consciously and unconsciously, create a dominant center and push things to the margins. (The opposite of The Long Tail) Sometimes this kind of filtering can be good and valuable, sometimes it can be cruel and dangerous. Instead of the Socialist Realist image of crowds, think of the image created by Billie Holiday in the song Strange Fruit. The crowd is a double-edged sword—it cuts both ways. The sword is real and the sword is sharp.

Jason Calacanis has a related problem with Mahalo. The wisdom of his editors creates the value of Mahalo’s search engine results pages. And there’s no question that Mahalo does create value. But if we replace the word “wisdom” with “power” we uncover the potential dark side of this concept. And that’s where we come to the concept of the Ombudsman.

If the future of the Web is really going to be filled with Social Networks and Distributed Editors filtering our experience, the future must also be filled with the Ombudman. Have the builders of these online filtering systems thought about how to make injustices right? Do they have an algorithm for that? Or is a human process of arbitration the only way to really set things right? Can this kind of process just be tacked on at the end? Shouldn’t it be an essential part of the structural design? Of course, the reason it’s not is that “justice” isn’t part of what creates value, rather it’s a pure expense. Although in the long run, it’s also part of what will make any such service a trusted authority. (See Reputation Management and Craig as Customer Service Rep)

It’s well understood what an Ombudsman is supposed to do, the question exposed by this little ramble of thought is: can an Ombudsman really provide a check and balance to the power of the crowd? Could an Ombudsman save Frankenstein’s monster from the crowd?

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