Posted by: rolfsky | June 19, 2007

what is email’s business model?

In a recent blog post, Dave Winer comments that:

“Eventually, soon I think, we’ll see an explosive unbundling of the services that make up social networks. What was centralized in the form of Facebook, Linked-in, even YouTube, is going to blow up and reconstitute itself. How exactly it will happen is something the historians can argue about 25 years from now. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will, unless the rules of technology evolution have been repealed (and they haven’t, trust me).”

In my talk I gave at Web 2.0 EXPO in April, I also speculated that “profile pages” will come bundled with your ISP the same way you receive a few complementary email accounts which you may or may not use. “Social Networking” is the internet embodiment of essential methods of communication we establish as humans.

Dave’s post sparked off a fair amount of discussion, and one comment that caught my attention in the fray from a review on Krishwords was playing at the when:

Once someone find a viable business model to make this shift possible, it will be huge, no doubt. Mark Zuckerberg was asked a question regarding this at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco (I believe), and his answer was basically the same. There is an underlying problem with the business model — there is no known viable model so far. He said that he would be up for decentralizing if they could find a way to make money. Start brainstorming. This is the next “Google”.

The commenter here is correct in acknowledging that “social networking” is inherently important, but what I think this comment falls flat is the belief that major monetization is necessary. The Web 2.0 world has made us believe that the product and the business can somehow be developed separately, something you would never do in a bricks and mortar business. Because of this, we are given the impression that all monetization must come from something “other” outside of the product because no one is willing to actually pay for the product itself. The truth is that no one is willing to pay for your waste associated with an unfocused business model. If you can’t create a product that people are willing to buy at personal profit, then you’re in the wrong business.

Eventually, the connection manager portion of our internet experience will move an open network accessible via private subsidized means, private for-pay systems and free (included with a package) methods. If you want to see the future of “social networking” please review the histories of email, instant messaging, and the postal system.



  1. Interesting summary of the issue. Thanks!

  2. […] It will come slowly, but not too far off in the future you will have no problem paying for access to a social network (even if it is bundled with something else, just like your email. […]

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