Walking home from the fourth annual f8 conference earlier this week I kept wondering why I hadnâ€™t gone over to the massive Sean Parker/Spotify after party. Over the past few years, Facebookâ€™s f8 after party was an opportunity to schmooze with people of all levels within the company. This year however, the â€œA-Listâ€ and â€œB-Listâ€ along with the press were shuttled over to listen to Snoop Dogg, Janeâ€™s Addiction, and others.
While I actually could have headed over thanks to my f8 press pass, I decided just to head home. There was something about this exclusivity that was genuinely frustrating me. Walking around the f8 after party, I had the opportunity to chat with Facebook employees, but none of the â€œimportantâ€ ones appeared to be there. Whatâ€™s just now starting to sink in is how tasteless the over the top party actually was. While Sean Parker spent tons of money earned from his Facebook shares on a Spotify party with top tier talent, the majority of Facebook employees got to listen to a second-rate artist screeching through the speakers in the main concourse center.
The ironic part is that the hard work of the individuals in the official f8 party are what helped make Facebook the company it is today. I can guarantee you that any of the people at the official event werenâ€™t feeling too positive about the experience. People who literally created some of the content that Mark Zuckerberg showcased on stage werenâ€™t invited. They also sounded pretty ticked off.
This sort of exclusive mentality is exactly the opposite of what has built Silicon Valley. I remember going to one of the early unofficial Facebook developer conferences and Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus, came to chat with developers who were building some of the first apps. Talk about being a humble billionaire. Having access to these people is exactly why I found Silicon Valley to be so incredible. Yet over the past couple years things have changed. At Techcrunch Disrupt Erick Schonfeld asked me naively, â€œYou would actually meet with other strangers?â€, referring to the Holler application. Correct me if Iâ€™m wrong but wasnâ€™t that the purpose of the very conference he was hosting?
As an employee who has felt both included and excluded from major organizational events, you have no idea how much more valued being included made me feel and how being excluded made me feel devalued.
Adam Rifkin at TechCrunch has a great post on how Facebook has divided the internet.
Reliability issues aside, thereâ€™s a deeper principle at stake here. Facebook has divided the Web into two: the Web with Facebook (your friends), and the Web without Facebook (people cooler than your friends). Our friends are who we are interested in, but they are not what we are interested in.
All the time we spend looking at repetitive posts and photos from people we already know, could be spent instead on the Web meeting new people who are interested in the same things we are. In other words, making cooler friends. Ambient Findability, as I like to call it, means that what (and who!) we find changes who (and what!) we become. Enabling that is what has always made the Web great.
So, in the spirit of One Web and Ambient Findability, Iâ€™m asking Facebook on behalf of all Web citizens to give us the benefits of being able to just look at things online without being tracked by you. Give us the option to treat Facebook like every other part of the Web, whenever we want, and I assure you it will benefit us all.
Give us an easy one-click way to truly and totally disconnect from Facebook Connect whenever we want. Iâ€™ll still spend just as much time on Facebook, I promise! But now I wonâ€™t have to see my friendsâ€™ faces every time I look up a restaurant review on Yelp, read the news on the New York Times, or wait for external modules to load on TechCrunch. Itâ€™s just an option, and an option confers valueâ€¦ Iâ€™m sure the vast majority of users love Facebook Connect and will continue to use it. But having the option to return the rest of One Web to its pre-Facebook statusâ€”useful but not fundamentally socialâ€”would be the best gift that Zuck could give back to the Web.
Michael Arringtonâ€™s blog post leads to a FBI investigation into price fixing and collusion among angel investors. I have a lot of respect for Arrington for doing this, taking a stand against friends is never easy but heâ€™s right, what those angel investors was doing (if true), was wrong and I would be enraged (although not shocked) if I was running an early stage start up and got taken advantage by these vultures.
Mark Andreesen was in New York yesterday and sat down with TechCrunch
Andreessen once famously put the New York Times on deathwatch for its stubborn insistence on trying to save and prolong its legacy print business. With all the recent excitement in media quarters recently over Appleâ€™s upcoming iPad and other tablet computers, and their potential to create a market for paid digital versions and subscriptions of newspapers and magazines, I wondered if Andreessen still felt the same way. Does he think the iPad will change anything?
Andreessen asked me if TechCrunch is working on an iPad app or planning on putting up a paywall. I gave him a blank stare. He laughed and noted that none of the newer Web publications (heâ€™s an investor in the Business Insider) are either. â€œâ€All the new companies are not spending a nanosecond on the iPad or thinking of ways to charge for content. The older companies, that is all they are thinking about.â€
But people pay for apps. Wouldnâ€™t he pay for a beautiful touchscreen version of a magazine? Maybe, if it were something genuinely new that blew him away. It would have to be more than an article with video and graphics though. (I agree, otherwise itâ€™s no better than a CD-ROM).
Oh, and he points out, that the iPad will have a â€œfantastic browser.â€ No matter how many iPads the Apple sells, the Web will always be the bigger market. â€œThere are 2 billion people on the Web,â€ he says. â€œThe iPad will be a huge success if it sells 5 million units.â€
Despite trying time and again, Andreessenâ€™s observation is that media companies have no aptitude for technology, nor do they really understand what technology companies do. The one thing technology companies do really well is deal with constant disruption. â€œMicrosoft is going through this right now,â€ he points out, â€œBallmer is not complaining about it.â€ Heâ€™stackling it head on. So did Intel when Andy Grove gutted it to shift from memory chips to microprocessors. So does every technology company CEO. It is ingrained in the industry Andreessen comes from, so it is just obvious to him: â€œYou are cruising along, and then technology changes. You have to adapt.â€ Media companies need to learn that lesson fast. To the extent that their products are now delivered and consumed as digital bits, they too are becoming technology companies.