Friday, December 17, 2010

Yahoo's cuts, Delicious, etc., and dealing with ambiguity

Lots has been posted around the Web on Yahoo's decision to cut some services, such as the Declicious social bookmarking service. There's also some word that Flickr could be in danger.

Yet, as at least one comment has noted, this is also the Web and in five or 10 years, we may well be mourning the loss of Twitter or Facebook or, who knows, Google

These two - Delicious and Flickr - are what I would call "core" services, used by so many people and so interlinked by other sites that their demise would cause some serious damage. So let me just toss in my two quick cents:
  • This does highlight something we have yet to come to grips with: deciding if we should have a way to preserve such "core" services and, if so, how. It's easy to put a list out of alternatives to something like Delicious, but at some point a service has so many users and crosslinks that the reality of wholesale shifting is impractical.
  • If there is to be some way to preserve and provide an orderly transition, how do we fund and accomplish this? Delicious, for instance, says it is considering ways to exit from Yahoo and not shut down, but the impression is that this is more of a fire drill than the result of careful planning (more here on the problems).
  • This decade will gradually see the erosion of such "free" services. The Web is not free; there are server and bandwidth and other costs. And there probably will always be neat new useful services that will be free out of the starting gate. But at some point past the newness and the optimism and idealism, a business crossroads is reached - can an ad-based model or a freemium model actually support them? I think we will see more services closing or switching to some kind of subscription model. The challenge is how to keep the prices low enough that they are accessible. I'm thinking it has to be in the $5 to $10 a year - yes, a year - range.
  • I'm worried that this will just reinforce the paranoia some media managers/companies have about "free" and open-source services. As a result, they cut themselves off from useful innovation. News organizations must be willing to use all forms of software and services that can advance their journalism. The successful manager will be one who can evaluate what services are critical and must be kept on more proprietary platforms the organization can control and what are more flexible and short term and can be experimented with on free and low-cost platforms provided by others. Part of that will be keeping up with alternatives and having plans and strategies for migrating as the Web changes.
If there one thing we should know by now, it's that the Web is a living, morphing thing and that if you cannot deal with its ambiguity, your chances of success are much slimmer.
UPDATE: Read this post on ReadWriteWeb to get an idea how journalists can use sites such as Delicious to stay ahead of the competition.

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