Yesterday I participated in a Yahoo management offsite at the spectacular Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay. They invited two outsiders, myself and Om Malik, to come discuss the new ideas of 2006 with them. They asked what I thought would be the game-changers. They were interested not only in ways they could change the game on their competitors, but how a smaller upstart could be the Choice of a new generation and unseat them as king of whatever hills they’re king of.
Microsoft used to ask us to events like this, Google and Apple never have (except briefly while Amelio was in charge, but that went nowhere). Yahoo continues to impress as the exception to the rule of Silicon Valley. They don’t have the usual arrogance, they’re more inquisitive like the old Microsoft was. Refreshing.
So what did I talk about? Three things.
1. Of course I gave them an abbreviated Clone the Google API schpiel. No need to repeat it here. Search must become a developer platform. If you can’t make the current search engine do it, then hire a new team and build one that can.
2. BitTorrent. There’s no doubt that when we write the year-end pieces for 2006, BitTorrent is going to be at or near the top of the list of technologies that made a difference. Yahoo can make it two-way. Right now BT is largely serving as an (unwilling) channel of distribution for Hollywood, but now we have podcasting and videoblogging, and that stuff is just going to get bigger, and along with that the bandwidth bills for users will keep going up. Ordinary users should get the BitTorrent service for free (after all it doesn’t cost very much to provide) and Yahoo should charge advertisers to distribute their infomercials, ones that users subscribe to, willingly. This is the model for commercialization of the Internet as we go forward. It also is a game-changer on Google, which is going the DRM, appease-Hollywood sell-to-couch-potato approach. I said whereever you’re doing something to make another industry happy at the expense of users, switch polarity, immediately, and get on the side of the users. That in itself is the biggest game-change possible.
3. P2P webcasting. I wrote about this vaguely the other day, and no one apparently understood what I meant by Skype for webcasting. Come on guys, it’s pretty simple. Suppose we’re having a conversation, and I decide “Wow, this would be great for Scripting News, let’s do a webcast of this right now.” So I whip out my laptop, get onto the net (there’s wifi everywhere of course, heh) and launch my Yahoo Webcaster desktop app for the Mac. I choose New Webcast from the File menu. A window opens. There’s a button that says “Copy URL to clipboard.” I click it. Go over to my outliner, paste it into a post on Scripting News. “Tune into this webcast I’m about to do with Bull Mancuso about intellectual property and organized crime.” I highlight the word webcast and click on Add Link. Save. Then I go back to the Yahoo app and click Start. We talk for ten minutes, all the while people tune into the stream, which is managed via a realtime BitTorrent-like P2P connection. And of course when it’s all done it’s automatically archived to an MP3 and included in my RSS 2.0 feed for people who subscribe. If you’ve ever done a webcast, you know how much better this would be. And it’s ready to go, we know how to do all the bits.
PS: I’m a cheap date, probably too cheap. Today, to get me to cough up these ideas all you have to do is put me up in a swanky hotel with a Pacific Ocean view, and feed me. I sing for my dinner, so to speak.