Donna Bogatin at ZDNet has an interesting article today asking who’s making the real money in Web 2.0.
Is it really the application developers who spend countless hours and piles of money creating occasionally amazing products that they turn around and give us for free? No, at least not yet.
Or is it the VC community with a ton of money that needs to be invested somewhere, who are trying and mostly failing to recreate the once lucrative greater fool pipeline to sell these free products to rich fools like Yahoo or poor IPO-happy fools like you and me? No, at least not yet.
Or is it the thoughtful user who takes a free product, mixes in some hard work and self-promotion and becomes a new media star? Yep, at least so far.
If you don’t agree, ask yourself this: would you rather be a fledgling Web 2.0 developer, which is the functional equivalent of being in a pick-up basketball game and hoping to make it to the NBA, or would you rather be Mike Arrington or the guys at Techdirt, which is like being Bob Costas?
Would you rather be working on the 5,913th free online calendar application, or would you rather be the woman known as “Forbidden” on MySpace?
One more. Would you rather develop a YouTube clone, or be a film maker growing an audience and a reputation on YouTube’s nickel?
The real winners are the people who use the free infrastructure provided by these so-called businesses to create something that is both valuable and portable- a brand. If someone builds a freeway that leads to fame and fortune, it’s not the builder who makes the real money, it’s the people who ride that freeway as far as it will take them.
It’s almost like Web 2.0 has turned business theory upside down. It’s not the author of the book that gets the run in Web 2.0, it’s the company that binds the book. Maybe that’s the price they charge for giving everything away.
If so, that’s OK.
Forbidden and others will laugh their way to the bank, while the Web 2.0 companies sit and wait for the next AdSense check to arrive.
Knowing in the back of their minds that the next one might be the last one.