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Category: innovation

Stop with the Numbers already…

Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, on what comes after “Web 2.0.” He defines 2.0 as AJAX (xmlhttprequest) architecture. What comes after— I refuse to give it a number, will be mashup widgets spread virally through official or unofficial social networks.

The interesting point is that it doesn’t matter where, on what page on which site, something is. A store must be in one physical location, that’s not true on the Web. It could be everywhere. Applications don’t need to live anywhere in particular either. The low barrier to entry means there will be lots of creativity.

Identity, authentication and authorization issues will be the friction point that must be overcome before there’s wide-spread consumer acceptance. No one wants Web apps everywhere with multiple logins.

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The Phone is Dead

The blowback from the iPhone introduction is in full swing. If one posits that all publicity is good publicity, it’s been quite successful. One of the more interesting threads discusses the Closed Box aspect of the iPhone. Developers are upset that they can’t put their code on the iPhone. I wonder how upset they’d be if some other developer’s code caused OS X to crash on their phone just as they were expecting an important call? But of course it’s always other developers who write buggy code.

While I don’t think all computers should be closed boxes, I think there is an argument to be made for that position. If applications are primarily Web-based and Safari can sufficiently support the growing complexity of Web-based apps, then there’s a possibility of a different kind of openness. One of the worst things about computers for the average user is adding software, upgrading software, defending against unwanted software, making sure software is compatible, etc. If you can create a stable closed box based on a rock solid Unix operating system, you remove a large part of the noise in the user experience. Openness through Web apps and widgets might appear to be a step back for those who grew up during the personal computer revolution. It appears to be a victory for the client-server side. The fact is that both sides in that battle have transformed beyond recognition. Where client-server initially existed because of scarcity, and the desktop computer was the only reasonable path to abundance. Now the Network offers unexpected abundance and the personal computer is limited by disk size and a plague of maintenance duties.

Dave Winer complains that a product introduction should not be confused with news. I agree with this. It’s up to thoughtful bloggers to see through the hype and see if there’s anything new here. I see a couple of things. I see Unix on a small form factor device and a change in the KVM user interface.  This may be the beginning of the virtualization of the physical input device. Certainly it’s been done before, but never at this scale. Will our hands learn touch scrolling, pinching and the rest of these gestures? Typing seems to have suffered the biggest loss, it’s been reduced to a poor form of “hunt and peck.” The news seems to be that a standard user interface (keyboard and mouse) is not appropriate for all applications, and that a virtual physical interface opens up the possibility customizing the point of human/computer interaction for the particular function. For instance, ask yourself why gamers use joysticks and other input devices instead of keyboards.

Despite it’s slick looks, the iPhone is a device in its infancy. The news is that the phone is dead. Long live the, poorly named, iPhone. Software makes a computer anything, any application you need it to be. The iPhone can be a phone, but a phone is a function — not the thing itself. A computer is not a typewriter, and an iPhone is not a phone.

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Distributed Lending

Along with the phenomenon of micro-lending to the poor, the idea of social lending is starting to emerge. What’s the old saying? Banks only lend money to people who don’t need to borrow? Both of these trends require that we change the way we think about trust and risk. It also may change the way we think about financing. By using a dutch auction to set interest rates in a new online market, we may see loans that a bank would never consider, and higher interest rates to cover the additional risk. This is securitization of debt at a micro-level. If the long tail of the debt market is as large, or larger, than the head — social lending is a trend that bears watching.

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Calacanis: A Free Radical

The network will benefit from Jason Calacanis’s recent departure from AOL. While it takes a very talented executive to take a closed network and bring it into the open — while transforming the fundamental economics of the business entity — the politics of such an endevour can be soul crushing. The power in this type of situation always resides with the entity that must be changed and ultimately destroyed. Power rarely cooperates with its own destruction.

Jason has two qualities that the current crop of Web companies need to learn. He takes business personally. He wants to compete and win. Defining an opponent can focus creativity and innovation. The second quality is that he believes in paying for value. Paying Netscape Navigators to be editors and gatherers is the beginning of an important new economy. Building platforms where this kind of value can be created and where people can be compensated is the most important building block for the next generation of the commercial Web. We need to put an end to the idea of building for profit companies on the back of free user generated content. If the content has value, there needs to be a mechanism for compensation. The network needs Jason Calacanis to fill this hole.

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