As a resident of San Francisco I'm not much into putting down new ideas,
but on this subject I find it very hard to be silent. I was shocked recently to find that
the web 1.0 company I worked at: alladvantage.com, was relaunching
as "AGLOCO" short for "a global community". 'What the ***' I thought,
'all the things I thought we learnt have been forgotten?'.
A little background, from August 1999 to August 2000 I worked for
one of the strangest companies ever to exist. At the tail end of the
first Internet bubble, AllAdvantage.com offered users the chance to
"get paid to surf". The concept was that if you installed a "Viewbar"
which sat below your browser and showed you ads when you were
active on the Internet, you would be paid money for your time. Not
that much initially, but if you referred users to the system
and they referred others and so on, you would receive more money
corresponding to the number of hours each of your referrals spent
online per month. Sounds like multi level marketing? Yeah - it was,
but wrapped up in all sorts of nice phrases like "infomediary" and
"alladvantage protects your privacy".
Ok - so maybe it wasn't the smartest company choice back in 1999 but
at the time I joined at 15 people, the company had signed up
over 3 million people in less than 4 months on the promise of
earning money for watching ads. Our belief at the time was that
we would use this INITIAL marketing technique as only one of the
methods for acquiring members, and that the TRUE mission of the
company was to offer this valuable set of tools for users to use on
the Internet to protect their privacy, give them ecommerce discounts etc.
Sounds great? Well... in November 1999 we got the first big VC
round of $30m I believe, with the specific mission - go public
fast and do it on the current model of "pay to surf".
I think people were genuinely surprised when they received their first
checks in late 1999, and after the first scans of checks hit the Internet
the craze really took off. I think by the time the company shut down
the "pay to surf" part of the business, they had handed out over
$100m to users. Probably the biggest redistribution of wealth ever?
Why am I writing this now? I have no regrets. I learnt a lot
and made some great friends at alladvantage, but I also learnt
- there's a lot more to life than advertising
- companies that offer no inherent value do not survive
I think agloco is a very bad idea, and I also think it is a bad
thing for the Internet right now. We are in the middle of a
regrowth in the web, and people are starting to do some
very cool things, e.g. flickr, 43things, delicious, youtube,
mashups etc. Muddying these waters with a "get rich quick"
scheme seems like a bad idea at best.