BizPunkMitch Lasky's blog

Almost two years ago, I predicted that the future of the internet may look more like mobile than vice versa.

I was referring specifically to the growing influence of platforms — i.e., large traffic aggregation points with API’s and/or application eco-systems. It seemed inevitable that these platforms would end up playing a similar role in the internet to the role of the carrier in mobile. That role is something of a double-edged sword for the smaller companies in the eco-system: on the one hand, a phenomenally efficient means of customer acquisition; but on the other, a powerful and potentially capricious master, who controls the flow of money, owns the customers, and can snuff your business out like a candle if need be.

The precipitating event for me back then was Myspace’s power move on Photobucket, where the social network blocked the photo sharing site for violating terms of service relating to advertising. Myspace was probably a third of Photobucket’s business at the time. Thirty days later, Photobucket was acquired by Myspace’s parent, News Corp. That felt to me like the kind of thing a mobile carrier would do to a vendor. Show ’em who’s the boss.

Since then, my prediction has largely come true. I was talking to the CEO of a company the other day who makes applications for a large social network, and I had an uncanny sense of deja vu. He was losing sleep over whether or not the social network would change its terms of service, alter the economics of customer acquisition, or choose an incompatible monetization strategy and effectively kill his business. I remember having those same fears when we were launching services on the US carriers in 2002-3.

So, what did we learn from being in this position and growing a valuable, public company under this Sword of Damocles?

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