Google started as a search engine without knowing how they'd make money, and found a business they could be in because of the product they made. The product itself doesn't generate revenue. But the bigger it is, the more money they make.
That was a gutsy move on the part of the investors. It led to a new way of building companies, but I don't think people are fully comfortable with it yet. Because they still try to drive companies into making money in predictable ways and aren't looking for the serendipitous ways to make money. I think very often it's the latter that is the gusher, where the former yields ordinary growth.
This is an idea I've been discussing over the years with Doc Searls, as well as with the readers of this blog.
You can pick up a few nickels and dimes with ads. But you might get rich from the ideas that come to you because you're putting your ideas out there. You don't want to think of blogs as if they were print pubs, they can do something print pubs never could do -- talk back to you.
What made me think of this has been the long drawn out discussion over Twitter's business model. I've been thinking about it since 2007. Businesses that Twitter could be in because they have Twitter. But not seeing Twitter itself as a business.
The thing Twitter could do there that no one but Facebook can do, is what Google is doing with Google-Plus. Just take the picture and that's it. It's automatically up there shortly after taking it. From there you can push it anywhere. But by having a place, as Twitter has since 2006, and having lots of people coming to that place, it immediately becomes attractive to have buses, subways, roads that come into the place. Only in this case instead of cars and people, it's ideas, pictures, movies, location, etc.
One of the really amazing things about New York City is the extent to which the city anticipated its own growth. It built elevated rail systems to neighborhoods that didn't exist. A grid that went into the Bronx when the city barely made it to 14th St. A huge city park in the middle of nowhere. Tech guys have to think like that. So few do. Seriously.
People who do this think this way should win awards. It goes beyond design. It isn't a matter of how rich you are. It's how boldly you think, and then execute to that vision. And also how flexible you are, when you learn things about your framework that you didn't envision (so it goes beyond vision as well). And you not only let other people play, but build that in from the start.