July 28, 2003
Say Hello To Another Networking App

Looks like Friendster’s getting some competition: Tribe.net is a new social networking application that’s running an open beta test.

There’s a lot of buzz around these things at the moment, but someone’s gonna have to explain it to me: what’s the attraction? I tried Friendster and found it mildly novel, but crippled in the end by the insistence that anyone you care about has to be within the system for it to work. I’m not going to harangue my friends to sign up for something just so I can start to get some value out of it. Tribe.net looks interesting but as far as I can tell it’s handicapped in the same way. Is anyone looking to solve this problem in a way that’s more loosely coupled? [Seen on Marc’s Voice]

UPDATE: Looks like Robert Scoble agrees with me (never thought I’d see that happen!):

I was invited by several people to join Tribe.net. Yet more social software. Heck, Google is my social software. Think I’m kidding? OK, tell me how to get onto Bill Gates’ Tribe list. Then we’ll have something.

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at July 28, 2003

Why wouldn't I agree with you? :-)

Posted by: Robert Scoble on July 30, 2003 6:45 PM


it's nothing personal :-) It just seems like I end up disagreeing with stuff you post on your blog pretty often. Most of that goes on my personal blog, though, rather than this one; I try to keep my rants separate from my journalism.

An example is a piece I wrote, "Microsoft and the Magic Coffee Machine" (http://www.jasonlefkowitz.net/blog1archive/000420.html#000420), which came out of a disagreement I had with your analysis of the Eric Kidd piece on opportunities for software vendors.

Even when we disagree, though, I value your blog -- it's nice to hear a human voice coming from Microsoft, rather than standard PR noise. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Jason Lefkowitz on July 31, 2003 10:21 AM

Ahh, cool. I missed that comment.

Heh, you TOTALLY overestimate the quality of our software and the difficulty of doing business with us.

But, good debate is healthy.

We do have a blind spot here. We don't pay attention to things until they get to either a large audience (witness that we don't yet have a blog tool that's good) or that is making 100 million in revenue.

That leaves a whole lot of room for small companies to outrun us.

Did you see the report that almost all of Silicon Valley's growth since 1990 came from small companies?

Posted by: Robert Scoble on July 31, 2003 2:06 PM


I agree that Jason is overestimating the quality of MS stuff compared to 3rd party developers.

However, for most consumer applications it doesn't matter--I haven't known too many businesses who do business with Microsoft outside of areas where MS know you just won't gain ground for cultural reasons (usually graphics/design). Macromedia and who else successfully compete against Windows-based desktop apps where MS has a product? Quicken? That's all I can think of outside of games.

The fact is that as long as a company stays as small as Six Apart they can compete--because they're not competing. As soon as they get big enough that the giant that is MS notices them, they will be swatted aside. Pretty much you only have to announce a product and other companies sell out or go under--actually delivering the product isn't necessary, and quality is irrelevant. The fact is, you can preinstall and no one else can.

Outside of consumer software, you may have a point, though I imagine Olivetti is none too thrilled with the latest MS administration tools.

I'd say that the report on Silicon Valley's growth since 1990 is irrelvant, since growth generally comes from small companies. Large companies grow by acquisition, which isn't really growth, though it looks like it on an SEC declaration. Then the small companies become big companies, and the market is commoditized, and prices fall in an undistorted market. A shakeout ensues and the overall size of the market growth stagnates. So established players compete on efficiency and 2-3% market share changes.

Unless one becomes a monopoly, in which case they don't compete but look for other areas to acquire revenue, which means gobbling up or stomping out small companies when they get big enough to warrant the minimal R&D needed to clone the product.

As a result, it's not profitable to compete with a monopoly, which is why major innovation in PC operating systems and consumer applications pretty well petered out after 1995. Small companies aren't getting into that market anymore because you make it unprofitable to do so, and so innovation, pace Bill Gates, doesn't happen. So all the innovation and growth has been in server-side technologies where you don't yet have a monopoly.

And yes, this does mean Boeing-like future for MS. Eventually there will be walls in acquisition, and then the layoffs will start to preserve profits in the face of static or delining market size. And yes, your job will be in trouble. But then, that's why you guys are trying to move to the subscription model, aren't you?

So when you see Eric Kidd come in with this Freakin' Great idea, your boss will be in your door a minute later asking you to draw up the press release for MS Eric Kidd. That's 'cuz Apple didn't have everybody on Earth who could afford a computer buying one. You do. So who's going to look at Eric Kidd 1.0 and decide to buy a computer? Are you counting on reverse Apple switchers?

The only place Eric Kidd's software could mean growth for you is if he only makes it for Longhorn ONLY AND you don't compete--then you can sell upgrades. But your bosses won't let that happen. They won't even let server businesses be, and that's a place where there's significant market share for you to gain. Given your history, he'd be silly not to make it run for Windows Right Now(tm) instead of Windows Next Year Or Possibly Thereafter(tm).

Posted by: Sandy on July 31, 2003 3:32 PM
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Ant's Eye View is edited by Jason Lefkowitz, a consultant and Web developer in Alexandria, Virginia. Got a question, comment, or concern? Let me hear it!

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