Can you really buy a community?

February 1, 2008

With all of the discussion around the Internet today centered on the potential acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft (which I have to admit I am not fond of), one must consider Yahoo’s community and Microsoft’s lack of community (besides the Developers Community of course) as a major reason we are at this point.

Many of the discussions so far, center around the Yahoo’s search engine and Microsoft’s desire to stay in the advertisement race. In my mind, it is not the technical abilities of Microsoft’s search which makes them unsuccessful it is the fact that they have no compelling content or applications which enhance an external community. Most people that go to msn.com only go there because it is the default page in the IE browser that they are “forced” to use.

Communities are hot (apparent when Microsoft attempted to buy Facebook). They represent excellent channels and offer great support for brand loyality. And with the growing numbers in advertising (and targeted advertising) dollars – a community site or set of applications make sense.

Take Flickr for example – many people were upset when Yahoo purchased Flickr (myself included). Since Yahoo is favorable in the public eye, the “sell-out” to Yahoo was more digestible than a “sell-out” to Microsoft however. And while Flickr does have some pretty nice technical features and it is easy to upload photos, it is the community that drives that site. What happens when the community falls out of the picture?

Obviously, Flickr would come along with the Yahoo purchase and I bet that the thought of being under a Microsoft umbrella makes Flickr members unhappy (go Picasa).

So the question that I ask is “Can you really buy a Community?” I think not. Communities grow organically, and most of them grow because people involved carry some of the same beliefs and share common ground.

You can’t buy that. This will fail.

Updated: Ok, after reading this article “CNN.com readers weigh in on Microsoft’s Yahoo bid” it seems that the “public” are concerned about Microsoft’s purchase of Yahoo as a method for them (Microsoft) to compete with Google.  I would agree on that if you think about search – other than that – Google is leaps and bounds above Microsoft when it comes to innovation.  Unfortunately, the folks over at Yahoo may not be innovative enough to help Microsoft.  Oh — this is sooo exciting.

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2 Responses to “Can you really buy a community?”

  1. mikull Says:

    Well, sort of. I won’t disagree with any of your main points, but the Web 2.0 movement is based in interactive technology… the “house”. Every community has a home on the web – so although you can’t buy the community, you can buy the house. How you run that house will define who stays and who moves out.

    For example, I am slow adopter, and a skeptical member… but I embraced flickr long after it was purchased. On the other hand, the Adobe purchase of Macromedia turns me off a little – being a member of the web development community, it wasn’t the brand… it was the house.

    People need to get over their own consumerism, and look around. Some people won’t buy something unless it’s got an Apple on it, others won’t go near anything with a Microsoft label – but I suppose community can always lead to mob mentality – they don’t call it the Apple cult for nothing.

    Rambling, so… on the web, maybe you can buy a “community”; at least initially. You can buy the house – but you better do what people want or better, or they’re all going to leave.

  2. notronwest Says:

    Well maybe you are correct – there may just be enough people to keep sites like Flickr alive after an acquisition.

    Microsoft should stop focusing on keeping up with everyone else’s ideas and start coming up with their own.

    Love them or hate them, Microsoft was the most innovative company in the 80’s and early 90’s. Sure the Macintosh introduced the mouse and the idea of “point and click”. Microsoft invented Desktop publishing and has facilitated most of our Internet based communications.

    Only problem is that the desktop publishing software is moving to the web and Microsoft is way behind. They need to drop a bomb soon. Or they will be phased out – with or without Yahoo.


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