Somewhere in between the launch of the Centrino platform and the present day I seem to have lost track on what the web means to a large share of online users, or have I? I mean, I’m cool with the “Web 2.0″ revolution, you know, user-driven content, blogging (how could I not?), platform independence, YouTube, social networking, and the list goes on…
But when I see at least a dozen sites reporting only on web startups getting serious funding like there is no tomorrow, I have to ask myself the question, did I miss something or is it 1999 all over again?
But wait, I’m not screaming it’s the Internet boom and bubble as we knew it in the past, unlike then today there are thousands of businesses relying on the web, actually doing something useful and generating millions in revenues. However I have to remain skeptical about the myriad of web businesses coming out of nowhere with big plans to take over the world… or at least become the “next Google” (phrase often used by traditional media that have no clue or online fanboys to describe a startup with the slight bit of promise, though the later prefer to say Google is now too big and too old, so the next Facebook would be more appropiate).
Ah, and there is Facebook… To be completely fair with them, I do believe they have a real stance in the web, not to mention they brought some elegance (before the open API) to a market otherwise dominated by the horrible Myspace. It’s not their fault its valuation has been catapulted to the stratosphere while today they are only trying to hang in there. You may argue how could I ever say this when Microsoft just agreed to invest $240 million for a 1.6% stake in the company, but it’s simple. A company that turns no profit and has such a limited scope in the real world cannot be valued at $15 billion. Only deep pocketed Microsoft could have invested so blindly with the only justification of getting some action where they are lacking against main web competitor Google. The latest news from Facebook? Ridiculous, of course, practically wanting to sell out your profile information and collecting further data for advertising purposes (that will then be shared with other parties).
So far the announcement is too recent to cause major reactions but what is at stake is Facebook’s own popularity when you consider social networking is very trendy and it could easily be handed off to one of its competitors if users are pissed off enough. The underlying reason to do this is that somehow, at some point, they will need to monetize its audience…
But back to the bubble talk. It’s unfortunate but investors seem to be driving this new wave of web services where not all but a large portion of startups seem to be aiming at a big acquisition (of themselves) rather than driving towards uniqueness and value.
So I leave it to you to decide, perhaps I’m just being short-sighted, only time will tell.