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19th / 20th June 2012: LeWeb in London



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19th / 20th June 2012: LeWeb in London

Post by Alex on Thu 28 Jun 2012, 6:40 am

LeWeb and Lessons in Long-Term Value

Being at LeWeb this week was fascinating for numerous reasons. Walking around a London venue and hearing all of the production staff talking French was a bit of a mind-slip. Seeing Robert Scoble get mobbed in the corridors like the Justin Bieber of the startup world (and kudos to him as it was quite hard to spot some of the other speakers and presenters mingle as much as him front of stage - we were lucky enough to find a back door into the speakers lounge after getting a little lost).

But the most fascinating thing for us was to see the sheer boredom on the faces of some of the most lauded and successful entrepreneurs of the past decade when asked what the future holds.

Especially telling was ex-PayPal-Eric and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley’s almost heretical position that he was bored of spending time providing status updates in social networks, wishing that the whole thing could be more passive.

Yet, earlier in the day, there was a high-octane interview by Milo Yannopoulos, editor of The Kernel, with Paul Davison, the founder of yet another app-based social network called Highlight, that was trying to fix the broken process of the real-world, of you can believe it. He likened meeting someone in real-life as an empty status page on a social network with just a photo and nothing else. What he was trying to solve was to provide an omniscient and omnipresent view of everyone, providing everything they wanted to share so that you could tell whether or not you wanted to interact with them.

There was some excitement about this within the audience, but to step back for a minute, one has to ask, is this really what we want or need? Once the novelty has worn off, is this firstly useful and secondly valuable? Wouldn’t it more likely close down the opportunity for serendipity, close minds even prior to opening up conversations? Wouldn’t it be incredibly interruptive? And, the inevitable question that needs to be asked, how would it be funded? Would it be ad-based?

Compare Chad’s view of social networks with this bright young thing’s evangelical call to fix reality and you have two ends of the same journey; it’s great at the beginning, but at the middle or the end, exactly how useful is it? Is there more pain involved than pleasure taken out? What was the purpose in doing it in the first place?

The value of technology has to be assessed in the long run; it can’t be measured over a period of years, it must be decades. If its still popular after the novelty has worn off, then it must have value. If technology is being developed simply because it’s shiny, then its half-life will be short.

Whilst we have time for social networking, I’m sure the future for this industry will be seen to be bright. Until its usefulness is embedded into everyday life without it becoming a bore, we’ll have to wait and see on its longevity. But it’s at the least concerning that billionaire entrepreneurs are feeling jaded by it; after all, their daily life revolves around networking.

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