Guest Post: Three Reasons Why Curation Is Not A Fad
Oliver Starr is the Chief Evangelist for Pearltrees. Prior to this he was the first employee at TechCrunch. He has also held numerous executive positions in technology companies and has founded and successfully exited two startups of his own. You can follow him @owstarr on twitter.
By Oliver Starr
Perhaps you won't believe me since it's my job to "spread the gospel" of curation as the Chief Evangelist of Pearltrees but I think curation is here to stay. These are the reasons why I believe this is the case:
This year there has been a tremendous amount of buzz in Silicon Valley about curation. Magnify.net CEO Steven Rosenbaum recently published a book, Curation Nation that has sparked a tremendous amount of conversation on the topic. Likewise a post by Brian Solis has been retweeted thousands of times, my company, Pearltrees has just surpassed 100k curators and 10 million page views a month, while in the past two years nearly a dozen companies that incorporate digital curation into their models have launched.
With all the attention curation has suddenly received people are probably wondering whether this is just another fad or is it something bigger? Is curation something more important than just the day's newest flavor; is it something that's going to have real sticking power? In short is curation something that really merits our attention?
First, curation is one of the underlying principles of the Web. This was recently discussed in an excellent post by Patrice Lamothe called "The Web's Third Frontier" In short, when Tim Berners Lee originally conceived of the Internet, he envisioned 3 principal functions:
The true history of the Internet is all about technologies and companies that made them mainstream. As a result, over the past 20 years what we've seen is the democratization of the first two of the three principles above; hypertext and Google made it possible for anyone to access any type of document, and it's difficult to argue that platforms like WordPress, YouTube, Twitter and even Flickr have done the same thing with respect to the dissemination of documents. As Twitter Co-Founder Ev Williams said at least year's Web 2.0 Summit, one of his overarching goals was to democratize publishing "by lowering the bar about as far as it could go".
Secondly, we have very strong evidence that curation has begun a similar process towards democratization, and that what we are seeing now is that curation is following an adoption curve similar to blogging. This has happened with Web 2.0 and it's why you now have to deal with friend requests from Grandma.
So what is this evidence?
These points all converge to give us a picture that we have crossed over from professional users to early adopters within the curation field.
Third, in recent months we have seen highly influential investors begin to focus on curation and also to make significant bets on the space. In fact, in a recent Huffington Post article on the topic, Steve Rosenbaum, the CEO of Magnify.net and one of the most outspoken proponents of the curation trend, quoted Russian Mega Investor Yuri Milner as saying "I think the next big theme is basically curation."
Similarly, Fred Wilson, another prominent investor - and one that is often seen as being particularly astute when it comes to predicting where the web is going - has also written a post about curation wherein he talks about the value of curation in social services. His contention is that curation improves the signal to noise ratio in social web services that he says have become "messy and hard to navigate". While yet another high profile thinker and investor, Paul Kedrosky, contends that curation begat search which is being replaced once again by curation.
Clearly there are forces at play here - mainly curation gaining mindshare with investors, and their subsequent deployment of capital into the curation space -- that are starting to provide the impetus for curation to truly take hold. Provided that these astute investors make their bets on the right entrepreneurs in this space, I believe it is highly likely that at least one of them will become the company Scoble suggests will come from capitalizing on the curation opportunity.
So is curation here to stay? I think it's safe to say it is. Curation is part of the DNA of the web from its very origin, we have strong evidence to support the contention that curation is at the beginning of the democratization process, and finally investors have identified this trend and are providing the capital to ensure that this process continues. Given these facts I'm growing ever more confident that curation is not just the flavor of the month, but a rapidly growing trend that represents both a clearly developing third phase of the Internet as well as a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors.