Gain of Facebook

In How Facebook Could Create a Revolution, Do Good, and Make Billions, Bernard Lunn of ReadWriteWeb has put forth a generous and highly understanding take on VRM. Sitting here in a big house amidst countless members of two extended families, on the morning of my daughter’s wedding, is not the ideal place to post at length on what Bernard and his many commenters have put forth, so I’ll keep it to a minimum now and pick up the thread next week when I’m back home in Santa Barbara.

The two most important questions Bernard brings up are,

  1. What will it take for VRM to succeed?
  2. What big companies are in the best positions to step up and make billions by serving VRM-equipped customers?

His initial focus is on Facebook as a company well-positioned to step up. And I agree with him. I also agree with him on the “the three horsemen of the consumer-clypse” (phone companies, health care providers and credit card companies) — plus Joshua Hall’s suggestion of ISPs as a fourth horseman. (Of course, phone companies are ISPs too.)

Of course we need big companies of many kinds to step up. I think in general the biggest winners will be companies doing Fourth Party Services. Facebook could easily do that. So could others among the many “horsemen.” The problem for all of them is that they see their “consumers” as an asset to “monetize,” rather than seeing themselves as services to be driven by users. For more about that distinction, see Joe Andrieu’s postings that begin with this one on User Driven Services.

To drive services, users need code. Standards. Implementations. These take time, and there are a number of projects underway. Check out The Mine! Project, including Alec Muffett’s latest — his slides from a recent Google Tech Talk. Check out what Iain Henderson says about his work with VPI (volunteered personal information) and what he calls the personal data ecosystem. Check out Media Logging, Listen Log and EmanciPay, all of which move toward providing an additional source of revenue for media that cost nothing but have values that exceed $0 (or €0, ¥0 or £0).

All this and much more work has been done voluntarily, by the way. None of these are businesses. Yet all of them can make a lot of money for businesses, once they’re in use and adopted. Which some or all of them (plus others, not mentioned or not yet discovered or adapted) will be.

Okay, I need to go rehearse for this afternoon’s wedding. Happy 4th, ya’ll.

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