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.
TechCrunch has redesigned their index pages in an obvious bid to deliver more pageviews to advertisers. Just 6 months ago, it would have been inconceivable that the flagship of Michael Arrington‘s Crunch empire would need such a shot in the arm, but the traffic measurement services don’t lie:
Alexa Pageview Graph
Compete's Pageviews per visitor also shows the decline
Techcrunch blocks public info on Quantcast, but here's a small sparkline showing the last 4 months
The site actually looks pretty good with the new redesign, but that’s not the point of this post. What’s to blame for the sagging performance? Increased competition from traditional players such as Cnet, AOL, and the NYTimes? Increased migration from the web to RSS readers? Lack of bubbly exits and exciting news coming from the startups covered by TC? Probably a combination of all three. Luckily, it seems that the conference business is booming, as TechCrunch50 threatens to sell out of $3,000 tickets.
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.
Geeks are surprised that Yahoo! has not "integrated" rid.iculou.us.ly named delicious.com into the general Yahoo! (the ! is not optional) borg.
This is because companies like Yahoo! do not buy things like delicious in order to transfer their brand to an acquisition. Rather, you are supposed to give your good will and your favorite feature sets to the mothership. Delicious was on to something, that made it dangerous, and thus something worth snapping up.
What's even more funny then comments wondering why delicious hasn't been supported is TechCrunch wondering why Yahoo! dropped the "2.0" from Yahoo! MyWeb, saying it's due to "avoid confusion with the “web 2.0″ meme". What's not mentioned is that companies love confusion with popular, cool, or interesting memes and deplore overhyped ones which have essentially no meaning due to bubble-come-latelys.
In an insert to readers May 2, the New York Times announced new upcoming features to nytimes.com. One was a personalization feature called "My Times," which will allow readers to create a personalized homepage, organize the stories and blogs they read, including those from outside sources.
The twist is that they will present "models" based on the homepages of their writers and editors, in order to show people how this can be useful. While there's no way to know if this will catch on, or if modeling on other people's expertise is the way to go, it is admirable that the Times is doing what many Web 2.0 companies refuse to do, which is spell it out for regular people how this can be useful to them. This will be an interesting test of news personalization at a very high level, as NYTimes.com is consistently one of the top American news sources, and if they execute this correctly it could cement their position even further.
This also goes to show that most web 2.0 companies are at risk of being overtaken by larger players who wait for them to test out various features, and then co-opt them for their own use, combining the tech ideas with their own knowledge of their readership. Note that NYTimes.com did not have to make a major purchase of technology to implement these features.
TechCrunch has finally grown a pair and thrown a major web 2.0 property under the bus. In the process he has set up a delicious meta-bash of his own currently foundering project.
In today's post, entitled "Squidoo: Seth Godin's Purple Albatross", Mr. Arrington states the obvious that we mentioned weeks ago– Squidoo's traffic is flat, its concept is flawed, and its future is dim. Perhaps TechCrunch has been feeling the heat of being too positive on Web 2.0 (which as a general concept has petered out in a major way as 2006 marches on), and went for the easiest high-profile target.
But in doing so, he sets himself up for a righteous slap back which Godin probably does not have the balls to deliver except in a roundabout, professional marketer way. The simple fact of the matter is that Edgeio has similar problems– problematic concept, parabolic traffic, sub-par execution etc. The biggest difference between Edgeio and Squidoo is that Squidoo executes its shaky concept in a very mediocre way, while Edgeio executes its far better concept poorly.
While TechCrunch postulates that Godin will lose his hard-earned credibility, this goes double for TechCrunch. How can you critique other people's ideas when your own is gasping for air? How can you claim mental ownership of Web 2.0 ideas when on the execution side, you can clearly be shown to not have a handle on things? As a former (current?) VC, Arrington knows you're only as good as your last deal… perhaps TechCrunch (and its newfound ability to bash as well as praise) is the true business, but co-ownership of Edgeio is an albatross of a different color.
One of the founders of Flickr, who earlier this month posted a preposterous, unresearched, inside-the-bubble proclamation that now is a 'bad time to start a company', now says she wants a good argument online. But that's not all, she also says:
I noticed, however, that I don't like arguing online, in blog comments or online forums. Mostly because people don't argue well — often they don't know much about the things they hold opinions about, or don't take the time to support their arguments. They tend to react to things not mentioned in the blog posts or other people's comments, but veer off into other topics; when they can't come up with a good argument they resort to sour grapes or ad hominem attacks; and they rarely give credit when their opponent makes a good point. When your opponent makes a good point, you've both won, in my opinion.
Perhaps she ought to apply those same rules to herself, the next time she attempts to give startup or business advice on her blog.