Thursday, August 03, 2006

Schrodinger's Cat and Websites

James Governor over at RedMonk has some interesting thoughts on "Why Building Scalable Web Sites is only Half the Problem." It's a sort of Web 2.0 Schrodinger's Cat which he explains thusly:

As many of you are aware, RedMonk.com is completely lame from a portal stickiness standpoint, which is why we're working on a redesign right now. But our feeds rock, because the content is rich. So when it comes to Feed/Portal duality we're definitely skewed to Feed.

Intriguingly - Google is considerably stronger on Portal than feed/APIs. That is - people go to Google to do things. Yahoo would appear to have more APIs and feed-based services available, but hasn't found a way to successfully turn its Feediness to dollars.

It's a useful organizing notion. I'm not convinced that Google, or at least google.com, belongs in the portal category. Google News perhaps, but the search engine has always assiduously avoided the flashy piles of complementary drek that characterize all the (best?) portal search engine sites. Yahoo--and, especially, My Yahoo--would seem more portal-ish in this regard. The difference becomes even more pronounced if you consider that many (though perhaps not most) people access Google search through a browser toolbar--a Web services-ish form of interaction rather than a portal-oriented once. But classifications of particular sites aside, the basic notion makes sense even if the classification difficulty suggests a certain quantum fuzziness.

My other question is whether it's a duality or a tri-ality or something even more complex. Are feeds and a broader set of mashup-oriented APIs really the same thing? Is delivering RSS/Atom-style content really some mashed-up conglomeration of data? In one sense, I suppose it is; as defined by the negative, all of these things involve not going to a single site and viewing its content. On the other hand, from the perspective of business models, including AdSense and its brethren, a more complex taxonomy of "feed/APIs" may be, at the least, useful to understand the potential economics of various approaches which, after all, is a major driving force behind increasing Website/portal "stickiness."

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