What You Know and Web 2.0

Alexa reminds us how MySpace emerged out of nowhere. This sounds like the way services and companies will emerge nowadays, all the scrutiny about who will buy whom notwithstanding.
Heather Green

Alexa's look at the MySpace phenom is a reminder once again of how quickly so many of these new media phenoms are emerging, seemingly out of the mist.

How does this happen? MySpace went from nothing to a force to be reckoned with in less than two years. But until last summer, just as it was reaching its tipping point, most people still didn't have a clue about it.

After ten years of tracking the Internet, it feels to me like there is something very different going on now. It used to be pretty easy to track the up and coming trends. As long as you spent time online, kept up with a wide variety of newslists, tracked the Web ratings data, you could reason what was going on.

So what's different? I chatted with Clay Shirky about this a while ago, and he made a point that make sense. The Web is so big at this point that large subsegments (hundreds of thousands to even millions of people) can flock to a service without being noticed. Relative to the overall population online, that amount of people is pretty small. Eventually, as a service keeps growing, the rest of the Web begins to trip over it.

So, how do you find the next MySpace? I spoke with the folks at Alexa, and the advice is pretty basic. Be vigilant. Be on the lookout for interesting names. Track them over time. Somehow there seems like there has to be another way...

But maybe that's just reality, and we'll soon be hiring coolhunters to help us prospect different niches, demographics, and interests. Because the under-the-radar services aren't simply being driven by teens, the MySpace example notwithstanding. Baker loves Flickr. My friend Laurie can't get enough of photo sharing service YouTube. My 30-something collegues deftly describe the neat features on real estate service Zillow. These cut into different segments.

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