Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Flock - Miniprofile

Interesting discussion in which the Flock model is taken to task. Bart (aka Mr Flock) responds:

"...There is a very straightforward business model for a web browser that doesn't sell out the user experience: that simple search box in the upper right corner. Mozilla folks have talked publicly about their search monetization deals, a simple Technorati search will show you rumors about how much money is involved, and Opera just went free thanks to their new search deal with Google."

Let's not give the whole game away (!). I think Flock is certainly cool, and the business model is viable. My concern is really traction. What's the mass market value prop?

As my post below talks about, if Web 2.0 plays want to transition to Media 2.0, they have to increase their valuations by orders of magnitude. That means they have to dramatically increase either penetration or revenues.

Now certainly, Flock can't jack up revenues that much, so it's penetration we're after. Skype, at ~ 50m users, is a nice example - you can think of it as approaching (in fact, surpassing) blockbuster film attendance.

I can see why the geeks of the world love it; they derive serious network benefits from being connected to other geeks, and Flock makes these benefits many to many, or exponential. But I'm not so sure about people in India, China, or Montana :) .

But I think there's a bigger reason I'm a bit skeptical. What is Flock, really? It's an integrated 2.0 model, just like I recommend. It's horizontally integrating across the range of 2.0 services, and vertically integrating across the stages necessary to deliver them. Think GM, it's not a bad analogy. So why am I skeptical?

Now, the rationale for bundlers/centralizers, like Flock, is not just that they will realize scale/scope economies. It's also that these economies will be greater than any specialization economies individual competitors derive.

Now, let's go back to GM for a sec. What happened? Well, the rise of more efficient Japanese production techniques eventually (massively) outwieghed any scale/scope economies GM realized.

In my analogy, this is basically like saying that specializers - Technorati, YouTube, etc - innovate more and faster. This is the big problem I see for Flock. Sure, integration offers huge benefits. But specializers are often able to, well, specialize, and offer consumers a hugely more attractive value prop.If this is the case, Flock is going to find driving mass-market adoption difficult.

Another point that's been bugging me is this. Disruptive techs are usually worse on some dimensions/features/etc and radically better on others. I'm not sure I see this in Flock - especially not the worse part; it seems more incremental to me. If it's incremental, can it really offer a strong enough value prop to entice people to switch?

-- umair // 6:09 PM // 2 comments


first, awesome post.

i think whether flock is a sustaining or disruptive innovation depends on how you perceive it.

if you look at flock as a browser, it is a sustaining technology; it is built upon firefox, and is an incremental improvement over firefox.

if you look at flock as a social search tool, though, it could be disruptive. where others have failed --, yahoo's MyWeb, Google's tagged search history -- flock may succeed, as its integration with the browser makes it more convenient (convenience is often a fundamental quality of successful disruptive innovations). given a large enough user base, the social bookmarking element of flock could allow it to disrupt the search engine industry. search would be commoditized, and value would shift back to the browser.

just my $.02. ultimately i'm not a big believer in flock and probably wont use it -- at least not at first anyway.
// Blogger kid mercury // 8:32 PM

Thanks for the comment.

I think you are right, but I wouldn't say the has failed - I think it's on an OK path.

Also, from what I understand, Flock social bookmarking has been shelved (!)
// Blogger umair // 9:12 PM
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