This decade's greatest Internet hits — Google and PayPal — make so much money because they help money change hands more efficiently. The next great wave of moneymakers on the Web won't be nearly so utilitarian, Keith Rabois, VP at widgetmaker Slide, argues in a guest post to AllThingsD. Rabois says the Web's next mint will be made on fun — a very underrated commodity, he says. To demonstrate his point, he harkens back to the week of April 21 and the electoral contest that captured all of America's attention. Not the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, Rabois writes. "I'm talking about American Idol." Then he lays down some convincing numbers:
Consider the value of other companies that deliver entertainment: Disney (DIS), Time Warner (TWX) and Sony (SNE) have a combined market cap of over $168 billion. Gross revenue for the NFL and MLB last year exceeded $12 billion. Apple (AAPL) made nearly $2 billion through iTunes music sales alone. Social networks benefit from increased activity, advertisers benefit from an exuberant audience, and widget users can, well, share favorite "American Idol" moments, send virtual margaritas or trout slap each other.
In the past, we've mostly sided with Swisher on the time-wasting inanity of widgets on Facebook and other social sites. Swayed by Rabois, we take it all back. Swisher, as my boss reminds me, "has become a boring soccer mom. Her idea of 'fun' involves picking up plastic toys." We, however, are very much in favor of fun. Especially the kind that adds up to market capitalizations in the billions of dollars.
We're just not sure Slide or any other of the widgetmakers are there yet. Scrolling through Facebook's application directory, we mostly find the Web's version of road-trip distractions like the find-all-50-states-license-plate game or the one where you guess the name of the person I'm thinking. They pass the time, sure. But are they the next American Idol? No.
Or not yet. Rabois, and his boss, Slide founder Max Levchin, will work until they get there. For an idea how they might, we suggest they and you check out Draw My Thing from Iminlikewithyou, a sort of Pictionary for the Web. Just remember, Keith: You type the answers rather than call them out.