38 thoughts on “What Makes a Hit (Consumer) Internet Service”

  1. Om, somewhere there…probably in the fun element, there is the social standing that drives many people to participate and contribute. It’s true for Facebook, Twitter (which you don’t mention), Zynga, Foursquare, and Yelp, but not as much for Google, Netflix, and Groupon.

    1. Shyam

      I think Twitter is still trying to find its purpose and I argue that even now the service is evolving.

      Social standing is highly over-rated because not everyone does things because of social reasons. However, everyone does want their apps to give them a sense of joy.

      At least I think so.

      1. Om, I agree with you that not everyone does things for social standing, but I feel that the first wave of adopters do and they bring on others that just use it for the pure joy or utility of it. Foursquare is an example of a service that has not yet progressed from social standing for the few (badges) to utility/joy for the masses.

  2. Six!!! Cannot wait for the next over 🙂

    What about threadless, Innocentive??

    Doesn’t everything boil down to the innately narcissistic nature of humans? If you can offer any excuse or ways to satisfy their selfish needs, be it easy/convenient access to information/Knowledge/(Google, perhaps Quora if they heed your advice, wikipedia) or be it fun/need to be socially engaged (twitter, facebook, foursquare, zynga). Ultimately, all of these services cater to the human desire to be more efficient, better and happier.

  3. This is why I read Gigaom. Excellent analysis Om. Very detailed article with thorough analysis. Will be interesting to see how Quora tackles this problem. I personally think it is a q&a website with a great marketing team behind a simple product (q&a)

  4. Om,

    Excellent analysis. Look forward to your new post on what you think of Quora and what it needs to do in order to be successful.


    Vengo Ventures

  5. The trend I see is that most internet companies grow to a certain level and then halts or starts coming down.Then its taken over by a big company which tries to revamp it and then fails(Mostly). Also I see that only giants like facebook,twitter,google etc who have established themselves can really bring changes which do matter because most small companies wont be able to show it.

  6. Seems to me the better comparator for Quora is Wikipedia, similar as a participatory information site, and needs a similar model of dedicated peer-jurying, way beyond the casual Yahoo Answers model of thumbs and votes, to actual elimination of off-topic, useless or incorrect answers.

    1. Albin

      I think you might be right, though I still think it has higher/significant barriers to entry and scale issues than Wikipedia, because of how it is structured and its overall market focus.

  7. Applies to even companies like Boxee… they need get scale and for that they need to meet at least one of the criteria that you mention – simple to use. I think Boxee also struggles with purpose. For a Consumer Hardware company – Affordability – could be added as a fourth trait.

    No doubt, though, you need all three factors above to get scale.

  8. Think #1 and #2 can’t be emphasized enough in today’s world of noise and ADD.

    Perhaps #3 should be incredibly fun OR incredibly useful?

    Any interesting case studies come to mind of startups that met 2 or 3 of those criteria yet “failed”? Maybe due to timing, luck, competitors etc.

    1. I think if you take Apple as an example, then fun and useful somewhat coverage and represent the same thing. I think it is hard to underscore the value of that.

  9. OP,

    Great post! What about role of timing in the mix? We have seen countless companies that have appreared before their time and failed to make it. Look forward to part two.


    1. I don’t disagree on timing and I mention that early on in the post. there is that part of success which cannot be bottled. At best you can guess the timing.

  10. Pingback: Quora
  11. Hi Om
    Great post! Thank you
    I am now thinking about redesigning my pitch to investors around this idea. If I can fit my startup in the intersection of the 3 criteria, it should make a good pitch for angels.
    DO you agree?

    Thanks again for the post.
    Will read more of your posts


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