Reid Hoffman gave an awesome talk at this years Startup School, if you haven't already I highly recommend watching the video: http://www.justin.tv/startupschool/b/272179996
One of the interesting things he said is that most people go to around seven sites +/- 2 on a regular basis.
As an Internet entrepreneur this idea is disconcerting for two reasons:
- Will I be able to make my website be one of those 7?
- How does innovation really happen on the Internet if people are only thinking of 7 websites!
There is a contradiction between these two things:
- People will only go to 7 sites regularly
- There are many many orders of magnitude more than 7 sites in terms of creativity/concepts/content on the Internet.
The answer to this contradiction is simple. The websites that thrive in the most important 7 are the ones that lead you to other peoples creativity. Here is a list of the top 10 US sites according to Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/US):
- Google - Leads you to other peoples websites based on keyword
- Facebook - Leads you to other peoples social sharing. Sites and other content
- Yahoo - similar to Google
- Youtube - Leads you to other peoples videos
- Amazon - Leads you to other peoples goods
- Wikipedia - Leads you to other peoples knowledge of the world
- Twitter - Leads you to other peoples thoughts and links
- eBay - Same as amazon
- Blogger - Same as twitter but long form
- Craigslist - Same as eBay and Amazon
Build on the Shoulders of Platforms
Internet platforms are so powerful that entire industries are built on them. SEO/SEM in the case of Google. Facebook Apps in the case of Facebook. If you want to be one of the 7 websites and be the centre of the Internet you should be giving an avenue for other peoples creativity. Helping them organise it in a way never done before, exposing an important medium/data that was previously unexposed.
Additionally the ideas that do well have to get the users off the existing sites that people are using, at least initially if not forever. Here are some examples that did this or are still doing it
- Youtube - Initially built traffic on Myspace
- Groupon - Most of their users come to them from email clients
- Paypal - Inititially built traffic on eBay
- Google - Initially built traffic on Yahoo
- Facebook - A slight contradiction since they build traffic on the real world School campuses rather than off other websites.
- Zynga - Built traffic on Facebook
This is in essence the idea of being a platform and why platforms make some of the most powerful businesses online. You can harness a collective power and build in powerful network effects. I could do another blog post that talks about the attributes that make a platform successful but one of the key takeaways is the broader your platform is the more successful it can be.
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