Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The PeopleWeb

i believe we are close to the point where people will start to be organized online into a 'peopleweb' where browsers will surf and search through people not pages. i will attempt to describe the what, how and why below.

what is the peopleweb? as more people take on 'open' identities online, that can be crawled, found and linked to with bits of semantically organized data like 'profile', 'about me' or 'my tribes or groups', there will soon be an ability for search engines to organize people into relevant groupings. the key relevance here will be based on two intersections; people's group affiliations so that i can quickly find experts in flying bonanzas in baja and people's credibility which may be estimated in a number of ways from how 'linked' you are to who you're linked to to slashdot type ratings if they evolve to work in an independent fashion.

how will the peopleweb happen? along with my vision of the revolution of the ants, the big portals will all succumb to their audience's desire for openness and transportability of online identities. people will no longer choose to invest in a profile that is locked into msn or friendster (or tribe). just like email had to be free and compuserve lost out to aol, so too will profiles. we already have this with blogs. my company, tribe.net, will soon be launching open profiles which will let people compine elements of their blogs with social and community networks. this will occur with virtually every site, where users will decide who has access to what, whether it's by degrees of separation or group affiliation. this wont be decided by my company, friendster, linkedin, yahoo's new thing etc...

what will the peopleweb enable? well, imagine a future where the network acts as one database. you will tell the web that you are single and what your dating criteria is. your dating profile will only be shown to those people (so no more daily humiliation of your sisters and friends snickering that you describe yourself as a tall dark handsome romantic). kinda unhappy with your job. no problem. tell the network you're available for jobs paying over $150k, vp level, and maybe you want to limit to a few companies or block them. wanna organize a poltical revolution without leaving your home? just tell the network you are into 'emergent democracy' and 'legal revolution' (possibly through group tags) and you will automagically be connected with all the other archair revoultionaries.

i find it exciting that google has no inherent advantages in organizing the world's people and groups. google's forte has been normalizing disparate information that didnt necessarily intend to be found. the peopleweb will be much more about people wanting to be found. if people choose to semantically organize, then the act of aggregating them and sorting relevance will be a trivial task, quickly commoditized and performed by any service.

beyond the peopleweb, the network becomes the marketplace...wanna sell your car? just tell the network make, mileage and price. no more worrying about which network and price will work out best. in a world where all information is free, database lockin and its proponents go away. in this world, the ante is aggregation and syndication, winning is about surfacing better relevance. interesting questions to me are what role does ebay, amazon (used merch) and google play. if i can readily find any new or used book from any online bookstore; if i can just as easily get bids on my car with joecars.com as ebay, where is the value? does the traffic value go away? and then what value is left? do the intermediaries and marketplaces get commoditized and wiped out? will this be similar to how ECN's wiped out the huge spreads and profits of wall street market makers? i wonder if one day ebay's value gets disaaggregated into ratings, payment processing and escrow?

what will the roadmap look like? my guesss is that in the next year we'll see the more enlightened big players realize that they are better off aggregating and syndicating than trying to stand alone defending their franchises and competing with the overall network. join it and extend. dont fight it and get left behind. AOL couldnt keep up with the overall network. i dont believe ebay will be able to either. (in fact, ebay announced today that they are launching an int'l competitor to craigslist. i think they will soon learn that the most powerful approach will be to aggregate everyone out there and syndicate back out. we'll see.)

dont ask dont tell stage...today we're at a point where officially the big players say no crawling, but unofficially they let it fly. indeed.com is quietly crawling everyone job service from career builder to craigslist. i hear that lycos has a dating service crawling all. makes sense. if i'm match.com and have the biggest db of single women, i should be in the pimping business. you can find my women everywhere but pay me if you want to meet them.

all for now. love to hear where any of you are seeing the peopleweb and one marketplace happen.