We’ve been hard on Mahalo, as we were unimpressed by the idea and the initial execution. However, over time the site has become a useful resource, which is far more than you can say for the vast majority of Web 2.0 startups in the past 18 months. Mahalo is now a vast resources, with tens of thousands of pages on popular topics and a number of well-written “how to” guides. The model may not be innovative, but at first it seemed to be working– the site took off like a rocket from launch, quickly ramping up to become a top 1,000 site on Alexa.
However, since February of this year, the site appears to have been declining or staying flat. What is the cause of this? It may be that Mahalo’s search results in Google are declining. It may be that they’ve simply run out of enough new articles to create that spur interest in searchers. Perhaps the biggest problem is that Mahalo’s top-down model creates very little incentive for users to contribute or interact on the site. This limits the power of the site to drive passionate users and build a community that promotes itself around the web.
Can Mahalo reverse the trend? Absolutely. The site has a ton of traffic, is actually useful, and has the potential to build a real community that can bring the site to new heights. The trick will be to figure out how to create a mutally beneficial relationship between the site’s users and its contributors. The site should focus on ways to create valuable content from its community at a rate that vastly exceeds the current pace.
Having failed to make out like a bandit ($10m before taxes is more then you or I will see in one shot, but it’s not exactly FU money) during Web 2.0, Jason Calacanis is determined that the same thing won’t happen on the next wave.
That’s why he’s decided that Web 3.0 = Mahalo, his ‘search service’ which pays people above minimum wage to write how to’s and group search results a la About.com in 1999. About.com, of course, sold in the $400m range so you can see what Calacanis is gunning for. And Mahalo’s not a bad site, just nothing special or revolutionary.
Which brings us to web 3.0, which Calacanis says is “the creation of high-quality content and services produced by gifted individuals using Web 2.0 technology as an enabling platform.”
If that doesn’t make you laugh just by reading it, then you’re reading the wrong site, but for the rest of you– what he’s really trying to say is that if you add editors to the wisdom of the crowds, you’ll get web 3.0. Just like Netscape, er Propeller, right?! In all reality this definition could have applied to any of Jason’s projects, past present or future. He’s an old school media guy, not there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the cloaking of basic media tenets in garbled nonsense that’s annoying as hell. Instead of leading the way and actually explaining a thing or two to web 2.0 whippersnappers, Calacanis has a way of leading by following which is clever but ultimately meaningless.
Perhaps this post is easily rebutted by the “we had to kill the village to save it” theory, but the new Netscape is shedding visitors like a snake sheds its fur. Alexa rankings are terribly inaccurate, except when showing general trends or when comparing two sites. And the trend for Netscape, even as it offers to pay its top bookmarkers, are terrible:
Reaching a Summer peak at close to 200, the site now languishes down near 450, despite all the new attention and new users. The continuing downward trend on Netscape may indeed be because of the loss of existing users, but one would expect to see positive growth after the initial decline, and indeed potentially rapid growth as the community features really kick in. However, we are not seeing this and it’s safe to say at this point if Netscape does not offer something exciting, different, or cool, it is destined to be a middling social news site without the reach, impact, or power of what it might have been.
The fundamental problem, it seems to us, is the lack of inspired features married with a clunky design. Enveloping the user like the black hand, Netscape aims for a total experience, rather then giving users freedom and earning their respect over time. The terribly fontography and overbearing editors (sorry, anchors) only exacerbate the problem– the site feels stillborn, a mashup of old and new that serves neither audience well enough.
The ideal Netscape site would be one that is more Digg-y then Digg, for those who want it, but also more old Netscape then the old Netscape. The site should get to know your habits, and present news in a clean, fresh, simple way so that you don’t need to worry about customizing or spending time doing anything other then reading interesting things. It should look incredibly simple, but have loads of personalization power running under the hood. It should above all not try so damn hard, especially with regard to branding, personalities, and faux-community.
Not to turn this into all-Calacanis all the time (he's not a bad guy, just annoying and a fun target) but, here's some collected Jason C wisdom on web 2.0:
Youtube.com = not a real business
Digg = extremely raw and suspect
Wikipedia = on the verge of coming apart
critical bloggers = freaks
The first three on the list have the distinct disadvantage of having either having more users/reach or being rumored to sell for more then Weblogsinc. The last item is true.