Seesmic’s Evolution Is the Latest Example of Innovation in Action
June 29, 2009 4 Comments
As I’ve written here before in one of my first blog posts, online video is a tough nut to crack. That apparently was hurting Seesmic’s video conversation efforts. As Allen Stern first noted, Seesmic is now de-emphasizing the video platfrom, putting its resources into its growing desktop client to manage Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Loic explains why:
Just because video is too narrow. Very few people do it the way you do. But I agree. I love it. The quality of friendship that were created by the site are just amazing. Just very few people do it. And so if I keep focusing only on that it’s a sure path to failure.
Loic’s honesty is great. It’s also a 180-degree shift for Seesmic. The Seesmic desktop client for managing social media is actually an acquisition the company made. When Seesmic bought Twitter desktop client Twhirl, the intention at the time was to leverage that for its video service. As Loic said at the time:
Twhirl will continue to support Twitter, and Le Meur has no plans to add text nanoblogging to Seesmic. His service is all about video, he says.
But the growth isn’t there for video, and now the company is competing to be the dominant application for managing the social media streams.
Parallels to Flickr and Twitter
As I’ve followed this change for Seesmic, I couldn’t help but notice its parallels to Flickr and Twitter. In the post Strategic Intuition: The Innovation of Flickr and Twitter, I noted that both of those services were actually outgrowths of earlier companies doing something completely different.
Here’s what I wrote for Flickr:
How many people know that Flickr got its start in a massively multiplayer online game? A company called Ludicorp offered this game, which didn’t really take off in usage. But as a part of that game, a Ludicorp engineer created a tool to upload and share photos on a public page. That particular tool got more response than the game itself did. Ludicorp’s Caterina Fake knew she had something of interest on her hands. She scrapped the online game, and pursued the online photo sharing idea.
Here’s where you really need to consider von Clausewitz vs. Jomini. The Jomini style of strategy would have had Fake continue to push on the multiplayer online game. She had a defined objective, and she had to pursue it come hell or high water.
The von Clausewitz and Dharma/Karma perspectives argue that Fake was being given a great gift. Some small piece in all that Ludicorp work was resonating, it just wasn’t the part they had anticipated. Fake had the presence of mind to recognize this, and to pursue the new idea where it took her.
And here’s the background on Twitter:
Interestingly, the roots of Twitter go all the way back to the year 2000. As Steve Parks documents, Jack Dorsey was starting a business at the tail end of the 1990s’ dot com boom. He started a company to dispatch couriers, taxis and emergency services through the web. At the same time, he was an early user of the new LiveJournal blogging service. You can also see that he was aware of AOL’s Instant Messenger application for chatting with friends.
As Dorsey tells it:
One night in July of that year I had an idea to make a more “live” LiveJournal. Real-time, up-to-date, from the road. Akin to updating your AIM status from wherever you are, and sharing it.
He carried this idea around for the next five years, until he had a chance to put it in place as the company for which he worked in 2006, Odeo, was flagging. His idea was coded by Odeo engineers, and Twitter was born.
Major shifts in strategy have actually been quite beneficial. In Flickr’s case, it was a case of going with “what’s working”. In Twitter’s case, it was something of a hail mary that has worked out beautifully.
For Seesmic, this is a case of the former. The desktop client is getting traction, and Loic is smartly pursuing that. Another innovation chapter continues.