Why I Came to Silicon Valley
Saturday, July 8, 2000 by Dave Winer.
I came to Silicon Valley twenty-one years ago, to make software.
In the last few years, lots of new people came here to make money, and some of them did, selling air, in a worldwide pyramid scheme, a trance of unprecedented proportion, that is now in the process of collapsing.
Even mighty Yahoo is under pressure, much of their revenue coming from cash guzzling startups, buying flow for big bucks. Now that the cash is drying up, investors are wondering where Yahoo's revenue will come from.
Technology has taken a backseat at technology companies. But not anymore. Now that the dot-com rage is dying, let's not forget that there's still a lot of work to do.
Even so, the Silicon Valley investment community is rushing head-on into a new rage called P2P, for Point-to-Point, that will wash out quicker than Push Technology, B2B, B2C and all the other stupid buzzwords that fed the pyramid schemes in the late 90s.
The hype is not as important as functionality delivered to users' desktops. It's so irritating to watch the hypesters vie for headlines, as if that had anything to do with it. I think the investing public has a clue now, this plan will be rejected, but hopefully they won't conclude that the technology industry has no more work to do. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The rage of Napster is not P2P, it's music! Get a clue.
If you want to be in P2P you'd better have good desktop tools, depth in protocols, and good content management, and a great server-side, and on and on.
And then remember, your job is to get the music to the ears in new interesting ways, and it must be easy. Ease of use is the hardest trick to pull off, the simple addition of desktop servers, an idea that I totally believe in btw, is a very small part of the puzzle. Don't focus on the path of communication.
Focus on the user and music, sharing and persistent net connections. Napster is a great start, but it's only a start. Fanning out to serve other kinds of objects in a Napster-like way is a dead-end. Napster will beat you, they're already there.
Giving people easy tools that publish and link over persistent net connections is the next step, imho. Napster blew that door open. The technology industry was reluctant to go there. Looking for the next level of growth, we're not that timid any more.
Look for service providers to change their user agreements, they must now universally allow servers to operate on home and business desktops.
And an aside to the music industry, which hopes to snuff out the user revolt by killing Napster, forget it. You're under water, the cat's out of the bag, you're closing the barn door after the (cash) cows left. You've already lost the battle. Along with the rest of us, you now have to struggle to make your business make sense in the new reality of the Internet.
A great scene from the movie Beetlejuice. A football player says to the Director of Afterlife, "Hey coach, I don't think we survived the crash." Right.
Music industry, it's time for you to propose a plan for users of high integrity to get money into the hands of the artists, with you getting a small cut. The users renegotiated. You don't get to keep all the money anymore. I can't believe they're so blind they don't see this.
This story lays the ground for a deeper technical piece coming soon, that looks at how standards really happen.
Napster's communication protocol is so simple and inelegant that it becomes the height of elegance. Quickly clonable, developed at Internet speed, but not very extensible, it should focus the XML community on what drives standards.
Two words: Killer App.