Lightweight models and cost-effective scalability

Web 2.0 products or services today don’t follow conventional business, design or deployment methods. Conventionally, before venture capital is pumped into a launch, vast amounts of research and resources are required to conduct feasibility studies, consumer demand studies and so on, before a proof of concept can be developed or deployed. However with the emergence of Web 2.0, Open API, open source development toolkits and the like, it is becoming increasing easy to engage in rapid prototyping efforts that deliver products under very aggressive timelines. A particular brilliant example of this is reddit.com. Reddit features content that is voted up or down in priority based on community trends and interest in the particular news article or snippet over time.

Reddit opened up its source code to the Open Source community (downloadable here) under the Common Public Attribution License (CPAL), only 3 years after its launch, around June 2008. Though this might be considered as progressive by many, Reddit benefited almost instantly after going public with their develop base increasing from a mere 5 developers total, to the involvement of the entire Open Source community as a whole. But how did Reddit even get to be this popular? Simple. The answer lies in a simple, easy-to-use interface that served only one purpose – to transfer the ownership of relevant news to a community of voting patrons. Incremental functionality such as individual reddit channels was added almost 3 years after launch. The simplicity of the functionality is one of the significant factors in Reddit consumption.

The success of Reddit asks the questions: Is small really the new big? Can ventures truly start out of nowhere? How is this sustainable with just minimal advertising?

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Leveraging the Long Tail

The web has rewritten the rules of traditional marketing and copywriting. The latter has been done away with entirely, with the advent of search engines which serve up some of the most popular search trends and yet also showcase results that are truly unique to a specific user query. Marketing is now mostly about SEO – Search Engine Optimization on the web, which is the practice of refining content to suit the broadest variety of relevant search queries possible, in an effort to secure the highest pagerank possible. While it is expected that a majority of services chase after the volume of traffic bound to limited common trends, the web has emerged as an equitable platform to service customers also looking for the most unique of services. Those that cater to this traffic – along with the more mainstream content, equitably – make up the ‘Long Tail‘ of web traffic. Trip Advisor is one such service that serves up some of the most relevant travel content available online, usually within the top 5 results on search engines.

Lets take a closer look at how Trip Advisor works. Holiday – goers might look for the best fares, on a variety of services such as hotels, airfares, cruises, etc. For example, a search of Hotels for Dallas, TX, USA yields the top 185 user rated choices such as Grand Hyatt DFW, Embassy Suites Hotel Dallas – Love Field, The Magnolia Hotel Dallas, etc. While this kind of content services the bulk of internet traffic, the real value add with Trip Advisor is that it provides content that is also very unique for particular vacation goers. One method used is the range of keywords and metadata built into each header which, in turn is unique for the content being showcased. Having unique landing pages with highly specific content for each destination is certainly useful for search engines to assign high pageranks. However, Trip Advisor also provides a range of useful keywords that you could lookup to find a specific property or experience. More on this might be found here.

This is clearly demonstrated in some of the truly unique search results one might find on Trip Advisor such as “IN SEARCH OF WEIRD, WONDERFUL NEW ORLEANS”, Whale Watching Expeditions in British Columbia, etc.

Trip Advisor has emerged as one of the most respected, comprehensive sources of reviewed travel content on the web and it is entirely due to its ability to service the high volume traditional web-traffic while also supporting highly relevant unique content for the offbeat traveler, that has resulted in its service excellence and search engine dominance, as reported in ‘TripAdvisor: The Web’s Strongest Travel Community.’

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