Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Cloning technology, aka technology barriers

Om Malik posted a great conversation starter entitled Attack of the You Tube Clones, talking about all the video sites that are out there now from the "majors".

AOL just announced Uncut Video, their own version of online video sharing ala You Tube. (Read Mashable’s take on it.) Niall Kennedy says that Yahoo is working on something similar as well, and said so in its analyst day meeting with the financial analysts. Niall says that “The new video site includes videos from around the web and a few from Yahoo! users as well.”

With Google Video and MySpace Video already up and running, I wonder what are the exits for companies like You Tube and other such services? Will someone buy YouTube for its traffic? What are your thoughts on this?

The bits of setting up a video sharing service are fairly simple. Or at least, the Web 2.0 tech platform for running a community website. Of course the Drupal framework can be used as one example (this story about Bryght in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix apparently quotes Roland as saying we'll build a clone of MySpace for $100K), but Ruby on Rails or any other decent web framework can be used to easily build web applications/community sites.

The hard parts? UI is one. We had good sessions at BarCamp Toronto on designing for the novice user, in part talking about Bubbleshare. You need to design for your target market -- be it teens or an older, mass market audience. Ignore the early adopters. Or? The best we could come up with was the concept of configurable or hackable user interfaces, progressive discovery as found in OS X, where everyone can find their own path, with good defaults that the majority won't change.

The other hard part is scaling. There aren't nearly enough examples of people talking tricks and techniques. And throwing lots of servers at the problem is not a viable solution, but may be the only solution when you don't have time to re-code from scratch. A good example of this done right is Markus Frind's Plenty of Fish. I talked with the fellow Vancouverite at Mesh, where he said that the entire system runs on *3 servers* -- and is one of the largest online dating sites in North America, vs. other sites which run over 600 servers for similar amount of users...(never mind that Markus runs the whole thing himself).

The hardest parts? What is the magic that will make people stay and use the site, the thing that made Flickr the Flickr of photos (heh). And the business model. Can you scale the business module as well as scaling the technology and community?

Ultimately, it may be that the open nature of many of today's systems may mean that people self-select for a variety of services, which interoperate with other tools, and lots of people have viable businesses.