Five Stars for the Dot-Com Revival
SAN FRANCISCO-Call it the Grand Summit of the Internet Digerati. Or a geekfest worthy of Star Trek. The Web 2.0 conference, held last month in San Francisco, is an annual gathering of those hardy souls in Silicon Valley and beyond who are still convinced the dot-com era has legs. This second generation of Internet business is more interactive and user-generated-social networking, video sharing, wikis, and blogs.
Web dreamers know there's money to be made online again: MySpace and YouTube, America's two most popular Web 2.0 companies, recently sold for a combined $2 billion plus to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Google, respectively. Yahoo!, Google, and eBay seem hungry for more. And venture capitalists are busy priming the pump, pouring $455 million into Web-based start-ups in the first three quarters of this year, over twice as much as in all of 2005.
What's going to be the next MySpace? At Web 2.0, U.S. News found five Internet companies poised to hit the big time:
Vox. An attempt to bring blogging to the masses, Vox is a Web refuge for those intimidated by the prospect of jumping into the ring with MySpace's 127 million users. Created by Six Apart, a small blogging-tools outfit based in San Francisco, the Vox service enables users to create their own private blogs-allowing them to control which parts of their sites they want their "friends" and "family" to see-complete with photo- and video-sharing features.
The inspiration for Vox came two years ago, when MySpace was beginning to draw huge numbers of visitors. Mena Trott and her husband, Ben, who cofounded Six Apart in 2002, felt the price of entry had gotten too high for would-be bloggers. "Trolls" left nasty comments on public sites; sharing photos with the world could be embarrassing. "Not everybody wants to be famous," says Mena Trott. "We thought, 'People will not want to be as public as they are now.'"
By creating a more private blogging space on the Web-where users can post pictures of their kids, say, knowing only relatives will see them-Vox seems to have tapped into a silent majority of sorts. In June, the site had 150 subscribers. By October, that number had jumped to 85,000-with most of those users between the ages of 25 and 45. Rupert, are you listening?
Ning. If Vox hopes to take blogging to the masses, Ning, which went live last year, is hoping to do the same for social networking. Backed by Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen, the site allows users to build their own small social networking sites, complete with customizable, easy-to-design pages that include all the tools available on sites like YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace. Ning is already home to everything from a 24-7 video channel for classic hip-hop to a social network for motocross enthusiasts.
Cyworld. If nothing else, this South Korea-based mash-up of social networking, music- and video-sharing, and blogging is a reminder that the American Internet market isn't the only show around. According to Hyun-Oh Yoo, CEO of SK Communications, which owns Cyworld, the site now has 20 million users in South Korea, 40 percent of the country's population. Some 96 percent of 20-to-29-year-olds use the site "regularly," he says. And with 100,000 daily video uploads, Cyworld has more traffic than YouTube.