Rich Skrenta, who runs the news aggregation site Topix , has written an interesting post (Are network effects getting weaker?) about how “social media” sites may end up being so many passing pads. Here is an excerpt:
“A place might be interesting simply because there are a lot of other people there at the moment. We’re instinctively drawn towards crowds . . . I started wondering if there was less lock-in than I thought on other services supposedly protected by strong network effects. Like eBay, for instance. They’ve got all the buyers, and all the sellers . . . is there an 80/20 rule to (their 700,000) merchants? Could a core be drawn to a new service? Ebay hasn’t updated itself significantly, ever.”
I have no inside information but from what I know of Skrenta and his crew they are not given to idle speculation (an affliction which sadly strikes me and 50 million other bloggers).
Is Topix eyeing local e-commerce? Maybe adding a marketplace to its community talk? Why? Let’s face it: click-thru ads don’t cut it. That’s chump change, There’s gotta be new ways to support the delivery of localized information. At the same time local sites have to be more useful and habitual than the current faddishness implicit on the Web where the next sensation is only a click away.
Topix has already localized info using artificial intelligence that sifts information into buckets by either zip code and/or category (see breakdown here). And people are starting to talk around its forums. Why not offer them something to buy?
Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part. Here is what Skrentra said about Topix in April.