The Online Media Explosion – What’s Still Missing


Over the past few years, a plethora of UGC (User-Generated Content) sites have sprouted up and exploded onto the Web. Overall, these are wonderful and progressive technological inventions. In one way or another, they all serve to streamline our information-seeking processes so that we can get to the content we want – be it a recommended news article, a friend’s photo, or a viral video clip – faster and with less expended effort.

Here is just a quick list of these 2.0 sites that are most well-known to me:

Video: YouTube, Vimeo, Imeem, Revver, vSocial, Tubearoo; Photo: Flickr, Picasa, Shutterfly, Snapfish, SmugMug; Chat: AIM, iChat, Skype, Yahoo, MSN, Google; Blogs: Blogger, WordPress, TypePad; Bookmarking: Digg,, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Furl, Spurl, Ma.gnolia; Networking: Facebook, MySpace, Ning, LinkedIn, Doostang, Xing, MEETin, Tribe, Ziggs; Bookmarking AND Networking: Mixx, Bebo, Gather; Randomness: Squidoo, 43things

If you look at the idea behind any of these sites, it’s usually an excellent one. YouTube is a go-to place for a video clip about anything; Flickr organizes and stores everyone’s photos for free; AIM lets you chat without having to pick up the phone; Digg tells you what’s worth reading based on how many other people already said it was worth reading; and Facebook is like a file cabinet with a chock-full folder for each of the 500 people you have met and connected with in the past several years. I love all of these sites, along with many of their uniquely featured competitors, and wouldn’t want to live without them.

The problem is that, with the rise of these new-wave sites, my mind, my Bookmarks menu, and my hard-drive are a-clutter each day with the 30 additional virtual places I need to go in order to keep up with the news, my social life, and my good-media-for-procrastination (photos, videos, blogs) collection. I’ve got messages to check in gmail, facebook, and my blog; my mom needs me to re-upload the photos I shared through Snapfish onto KodakGallery (meanwhile I’m signing in to Flickr where another friend just posted his); I want to put a MIXTT promotional video on the web, which means I need to submit it to 10 sites besides YouTube if I really want to be thorough; I’ve got to check out at least TechCrunch, Technorati, Mashable, and Digg, let alone 7 different online personals industry blogs, to be up on the latest news relevant to my business; and I’ve got Skype, G-chat, and iChat simultaneously running so that I can be in touch with the various people who have each chosen those separate chat services.

It’s no wonder that last night, my computer and I simultaneously crashed. My 4 year-old iBook, with 8 applications and 17 Firefox windows open, fell into its comatose state. (It’s actually sort of cute. It goes into sleep mode, where the screen is black, the drive stops whirring, and the only sign of life is a little white light “breathing” off and on. It will neither be woken up nor turned off via the usual commands). Of course I am projecting my mentality onto a machine – a ridiculous thing to do – but it really feels as though it is saying, “Enough already! Chill the f*** out or I’m going on strike!”.

So I took my little iBook’s protest as I sign that I, too, needed to step away for a while, and fell into a similarly comatose state (in spite of the drum circle that was ensuing on my roof – a perk of living in Buenos Aires, subject for another entry).

To return to the point – there are many great social mediums online, but the industry is lagging in terms of connecting them all. Meebo is a rare front-runner in this field – a site that enables users to synthesize their various modes of chat and communicate with their buddies from AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and many others all from one place. ShareThis is working toward a similar unification goal in the bookmarking field, but presents an advantage more from the publisher’s angle than from the consumer’s. As for photos, videos, blogs, networking, and everything else – I can’t think of a product that helps to unify the many streams of information in which I have stock. My photos and peers’ photos are hopelessly sprawled across Flickr, Picassa, Snapfish, Shutterfly, SmugMug, and Facebook; my professional contacts split between LinkedIn and Doostang; I can’t invite Blogger friends to join my community on WordPress . . . I could go on, but no need for overkill.

All this to say that, I think there is major market opportunity for the kinds of products and services that streamline our scattered streamlining processes. For example, imagine a photo management service that let you upload your photos one time, to one place, and then automated its distribution to the rest of the photo sites you and your peers use. Or a professional networking site that fed your resume and network connections through to LinkedIn, Doostang, and Xing. I’d be on those in a second.

This is my invitation to anyone who wants to start a Web 2.0 company but can’t think of an idea that hasn’t already been done: Take a heavily saturated section of the field and create something that unifies its parts. Remind us of the original philosophies behind Web 2.0 – that it is a tool to help us better connect.


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