Monday, August 21, 2006

Digging empty shells

The Web 2.0 is a hot spot. Websites and startups are launched at a high pace and the big trouble for all the newcomers is to catch attention. The traditional strategy has been to create a site and to Google it. But now things change. Webdevelopers rely more on more on the "Digg an empty shell" strategy, trashing down Digg with ad-like posts. Here's why. Here's how.

Developers don't spend hours, days, weeks on developing a website the way they did a few years ago. Leveraging a complete, well-functioning website from the beginning is just not worth it.

The Thing is to create an empty shell. Call it an alpha version or a pre-Beta-version. When they have an idea, webdevelopers just buy a domain name, design a few pages to describe it, and add "This service will soon be available in its Beta Version. Please come back to check updates". They often also add a registration feature. Any visitor who adds his email address will be warned once the website is open. Such empty shells are perfect ways to gauge the potential market and the interest visitors have for the new idea.

Take for example (ironically the name of this site was well chosen!). The website has been online for 3 months now but is still completely empty. It boasts a brand new idea: Monetizing waiting lists, but no functionalities are accessible. Visitors have not been able to test it. Still, it has been dugg, techcrunched and blogged. So much fuss around an empty shell?

You might think that during this time, the webdeveloper is working hard, programming, developing. Well in many cases you would be wrong. (I can not tell about the specific case of SuperOyster, I am just talking about the general case here). Most of the time he is not. He is just as lazy as most of us and only wants to work if he believes the thing will really work. So the "empty shell" is just designed to see if the idea is popular or not.

The only thing he has to do once the shell is online is to Digg it. Then, wait for the diggs, wait for the big fishes to nap and see the database get filled with email address. Once the number of addresses reaches a certain limit, the development can really start. Else it will just die out.

So yes, Digg is trashed with empty shells, most of which will never contain anything. But that's not all. Websites also put "Digg it" links on their pages. Take a look at WeGottaEat. The question is just, why are you going to Digg something you can't test? The invitation systems are often completely blocked until large amounts of email addresses have been gathered, so in most cases, you can't expect to test it until quite some time.

For the information, WeGottaEat was posted on Digg half an hour ago, see here. I'm looking forward to seeing the number of Diggs they will get...


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