Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can We Get Everything We Want...for Free?

Fred Wilson wrote a great post about the need for two-way openness. He was referring to the features where you can receive things like Facebook friends’ status updates via RSS. Fred likes that this is available, however it’s not enough for him. He wants two-way openness. He wants to be able to update his status on Facebook via Twitter.

As an end user, I’m right there with Fred Wilson: let me use whatever I want, to do whatever I want! But if I were working at Facebook I’d be scratching my head and thinking, “How the hell are we going to make Fred happy AND generate lots of revenue?”

This, by the way is a problem, for even one-way openness. Especially as RSS usage increases – and I believe this is inevitable because you really can finally create “The Daily Me.”

I read Engadget religiously. But they send full feeds out via RSS, and I never (or hardly ever) actually go to Engadget’s web site. I don’t see ANY of the ads on their site.

I know sites are struggling with full-feed vs. partial feed for this very reason. I’d much rather see Dave Winer focusing on the issue of how to utilize RSS to the fullest and still make money than to worry about Jason Calacanis’ mid-life crisis or Mahalo. And that’s with ONE way communication.

Now enter two way communication. Let’s take Fred’s example. He wants a world where he can find out whatever is happening in his Facebook world via RSS, and he wants to be able to update things via services like Twitter. When will Fred ever actually log on to Facebook? How will Facebook make any money on him?

While Fred and many others (perhaps even me) might be willing to pay $10/mo. for such flexibility, I don’t think the masses would. And maybe that’s the model: Give Fred what he wants, but make him pay.

Will there be a company that rolls up a bunch of great content sites and packages “Full Feed RSS without ads!” for a fee? Will there be subscription models that allow us to use whatever tools we want without actually ever visiting a web site?

I think there will have to be.

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