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Apr 19

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

"remove the web developer and the web gets developed"

Nat Torkington wrote on the Radar backchannel: "From my friend Jeff Root, one of the people behind this NZ gig guide":

By the end of the week we should have a module that lets people pull listings into their MySpace pages, based on genre/artist/venue preferences. This is going to be a relatively big boost for our branding and distribution, as MySpace is VERY popular with punters, artists & venues here in NZ. Many venues have better MySpace pages than websites. Example: v. (remove the web developer and the web gets developed, how ironic).

Nat added: "That last parenthetical has got my mind going. MySpace did simplify something in how to get a web presence, that's for sure. What's the bigger picture implication?"

Phil Torrone wrote:

i've always said that setting up a web site for most folks is scary and intimidating - but myspace, with all your friends there, lends itself to a helping culture. everyone shares how to do whatever with their circles of friends...they get by with a little help from their friends.

These are fascinating observations. Joe Krause (formerly of Jot, now at Google, and among other things, product manager for Google's blog properties) mentioned the other day to me that there are people who are saying that "blogging has peaked." Now he obviously has a vested interest in having that not be so, as Google's is still a major blogging platform. But it seems to me that MySpace is actually a kind of blogging platform, too, just a richer one, allowing for a host of additional popular features, including photo and video albums, music sharing, email and instant messaging, and social networking -- all pre-configured and ready to roll.

In short, it seems that while many people thought of "blogging" as a thing that was understood and more or less set, MySpace asked themselves what kind of job the software did for most users, and figured out how to do that job better. Myspace is actually not as good as any of the standalone apps -- blogging, photo sharing, IM, or email -- but it puts them all together into an easy to use package that is not only more comprehensive but also easier to get started with.

Meanwhile, Sarah Milstein responded:

This may be tangential, but my mind has been similarly going over the BoingBoing post about Wikipedia's coverage of Virginia Tech:
"In case you haven't seen it, the Wikipedia entry for the Virginia Tech Shootings is one of the most thorough and quite honestly amazing Wikipedia entries I've ever seen. The number of edits and the short time between edits in the History... kinda incredible."
That was yesterday [now a couple of days ago], and there's a chance the entry isn't keeping up today. But it was the first time I'd seen Wikipedia noted for news coverage. And it's the second time in a week I've seen the development of an entry referred to in the way that the number of Google results used to be cited as a measure of something's significance.

Yes, a thought-provoking tangent. One wouldn't think of Wikipedia as a news site, but it has indeed become one, as users find that they can make the software do what they want, rather than what it (originally) wanted. Ease of use can lead to new uses...

It's also an important reminder that the winners and losers of the Web 2.0 revolution aren't clear yet. This is still very much a moment in transition.

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pwb   [04.19.07 04:24 PM]

Without feeds, blogging is just Geocities in reverse chronological order. Any suggestion that Myspace is blogging is a bit of a stretch.

Tim O'Reilly   [04.19.07 04:47 PM]

I dunno. If you think of blogging as a personal home page vs. a business site, then the sequence from AOL and geocities through blogging to MySpace is pretty clear.

These things don't map exactly to each other, but myspace has more in common with many blogs than either does with, say, a corporate web site.

Patty Seybold   [04.19.07 05:03 PM]

This comment is right on! The biggest impression I came away with from your Web 2.0 Expo this week was that we really ARE on the cusp of the dream I've had for 30 years--customers (end-users/consumers) as developers--The environment and the tools are certainly there for blogging--and they are just about there for gadget creation...

Jake   [04.19.07 05:49 PM]

What have you been smoking? Myspace page looks better then the actual page? Are you blind? Are you sure you pasted the same links as your trying to talk about?

Jeff Root   [04.19.07 06:18 PM]

Jake, I agree with your comments about the graphic design of each certainly looks nicer--but what Nat and I were originally talking about is functionality: the MySpace page has accurate info on upcoming events, the bar's main site does not. The bar owner can quickly update his MySpace page by himself for free. Updating his main website, however, takes longer and costs money, which is perhaps why it's not as current.

Ed   [04.19.07 06:51 PM]

Jake, the quote isn't that it looks better, but that it is better - as in the current schedule is listed on the MySpace page, but the main page has "coming soon", it's interactive with customer/friend postings - and mostly, "better" as in which is better for their business.

Charlie Park   [04.19.07 07:07 PM]

Regarding Wikipedia-as-news-source: it is nice when it ends up as that. I remember the 2004 Tsunami had a similar cycle, in that the Wikipedia page gave a more succinct summary, more thorough coverage, and more current updates than any other outlet. (

Doug L.   [04.19.07 08:16 PM]

Re: ... the first time I'd seen Wikipedia noted for news coverage ... and Yes, a thought-provoking tangent. One wouldn't think of Wikipedia as a news site:

It has filled that role well for me, since the 2004 Tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean. Arguably, its neutral-by-policy articles are much more useful to people than the breathless scaremongering and celebrity pandering that seems to make up most mass news media these days.

Joseph Hunkins | Joe Duck   [04.19.07 08:31 PM]

Yes Tim, excellent thoughts. Myspace, in all it's publishing-as-kluge-nightmare glory, is a masterpiece of human engineering, bringing people and the information that they care about together in a highly functional and practical way.

The internet is about people much more than technology. The big online winners like Myspace, Flickr, Google, Youtube, etc. have correctly placed people issues, with all the quirky consequences, at the top of their techno heaps.

Jake Lockley   [04.19.07 11:16 PM]

Were you serious about comparing the two sites? One looks like it was built by a teenager with ADD and the other a professional design firm. I guess it depends on your audience. If I wanted to attract adolescents the MySpace route would work, if I wanted to attract people who give thought to their decision-making I'd choose a professional looking site.

Neil Cauldwell   [04.20.07 12:49 AM]

It's not that is badly designed - it just doesn't look used.

Websites should no longer be just a marketing brochure. Unfortunately, traditional web designers and site-owners still see them as such.

Every web site that wants repeat visitors (and a decent ROI) should have social functionality on the index page. Forget about Flash intros and swirling slogans.

Jan Bannister   [04.20.07 03:01 AM]

Both the MySpace and .com sites for Rankinos are pretty poor but since the MySpace site can be done with no technical experience it's ROI must be many orders of magnitude higher.

Does this spell disaster for the droves of 'Web Designers' graduating soon?

Rob Grady   [04.20.07 05:57 AM]

These tools allow the publishing of content and 'canned' functionality. It is significant in that people are now enabled to communicate easily and broadly without knowing the technical details. But I wouldn't say that developers are out of a job yet as software development is not a commodity (yet). The concept of wikipedia becoming a news site is very interesting.

Kreig Zimmerman   [04.20.07 06:14 AM]

At the risk of repeating others, my two cents.

I sniffed at MySpace when I originally saw it. By God, so gaudy! Don't these people understand a color wheel? :D

But then it occurred to me what had happened: good ol' "Web 0.9" had reappeared within this ecosystem. When the Web was young, many people (such as myself) with little IT background could easily borrow, copy, paste, and put together functional webpages. The web of 94-96 in many ways was just like MySpace... everyone had their personal webpage with some links to their interests and their friends' own webpages.

MySpace represents a strange "back to its roots" phenomenon, and thus we see the lodestone of the Web2.0 revolution has based most of its success on providing the new generation with a site which hearkens back to the original Wild Wild Web before it got turned into the outpost of all the dot-com (Web1.0) era companies.

My own take? Anything which enables people is good, and people like being given tools. HTML turned from an easy to utilize markup language to something only an engineer could love. By pushing back towards simplicity, MySpace has allowed many to establish the web presence that was lost under the stampede of well-funded commerical presences.

The only thing which can make MySpace lose in the end is when they seek to choose "revenue" over the enablement of its user community. Unfortunately for them, with their current rush to start stampeding out the third-party add-on ecosystem, they may just succeed in doing that...

Michael Pollock   [04.20.07 06:42 AM]

One site looks better but lacks contemporary publishing functionality ( The other site funtions better but looks horrendous (

It seems to me the site is a merely a nicer looking remnant of the Web 1.0, static website world, while the myspace site is more inline with the dynamic publishing platforms that have grown out of the Web 2.0 world.

The savvy web developers of today have mastered the art of integrating form and function. However, your typical Myspace user is not going to make the investment to hire any of them.

The real solution is not to eliminate web developers (besides, that will never happen) as the quote implies. The solution is for web developers to update their skills to align with the dominant technology of the Web 2.0 world.

Beyond that, we'd all do well to stop thinking in terms of a "website" or a "blog" and start thinking in terms of an "integrated web publishing platform."

Jesper Merrild   [04.20.07 01:01 PM]

The most important part of Tim's comment is the fact that Wikipedia developed itself to a news site. It's actually the first time I have seen a userbased newssite that has worked... Many have tried with useddriven news contribution, but it hasn't worked as well before.

Is it because of the episode itself or because of Wikipedias potential/ease of use?

Joe   [04.20.07 03:13 PM]

MySpace: The reason the horizontal scroll bar was invented.

MySpace is a very good example of why "mere mortals" should NOT be given the ability "design" their own web sites. Adding content to a layout created by someone with eyes is one thing - but letting people (like my Mom and your Uncle Harry and "Bob" from across the way) go crazy with their own "look and feel" is almost always fraught with disasterous results.

Michael R. Bernstein   [04.21.07 10:13 PM]

Tim, are you aware of WikiNews?

giafly   [04.22.07 05:07 AM]

Re: ... offering only their data.

Plus a better interface. Amazon conceeded that a better interface can be very valuable when they patented one-click.

Re: "Alexa's graphs are copyrighted, so simply hotlinking to them is illegal"

WTF? Everything on the Web is copyright of someone, so are you saying all links are illegal?

Re: trading off their name

Agreed, this was completely wrong.

Re: When they made him a nice offer, he should have taken it.

None of us knows what this offer was. There are many principled reasons to reject a contract, not just money.

giafly   [04.22.07 05:14 AM]

This blog adds a lot of extra lines doesn't it! For example when I previewed the previous post, "Re: ... offering only their data." and "Plus a better interface" were on adjacent lines with NO blank lines between them.

Caitlin   [04.23.07 06:00 AM]

Mainstream media noticed too. Naom Cohen of the New York Times, "The Latest on Virginia Tech, From Wikipedia" published April 23 2007:

michael holloway   [04.23.07 01:40 PM]

Tracking the story on that terrible morning, my discovery that Wikipedia had a real-time entry was surreal.
I Googled Virginia Tech, and there was the shooting entry. The Wikipedia volunteers were posting the same notes that I had just written. When the facts changed, I when back to Wikipedia to see how current they were; the new info was already up.
The encyclopaedia’s real time entry - hastily posted and changing by the minute - allowed me to research other aspects of the story while being able to quickly confirm the known facts.
As fast as a Fox without the headache.

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