Monday, November 08, 2010

Once upon a time, I had a Facebook-like idea in my mind...

True story. I was working for a company called Independent Online [IOL] and they were busy setting up online advertising and websites for small businesses. You know, hotels, B&B's, small restaurants and so forth. The idea was essentially to compile a database of various industries which one could then access online, all in one place. I guess those were the days when Googling wasn't as perfunctory as it is today.

They punted their database as an alternative to the Yellow Pages, and that got me thinking. What if you created a blog or a website, [this was how the idea was framed in my mind] which captured every single person in the world's basic details. The caveat to this would be that it would only record folks with internet access, or around 1/7th of the world's population. But the premise really was to build a global database of internet users. That - the database - is really the value of Facebook in a nutshell.

Back to my World Names Blog, the idea would be to record a searchable listing of everyone. This way you good instantly get someone's phone number and if you had their permission, additional details. Thus: Name and surname, age, sex, and you could add further details including work and relationship status if you were comfortable doing so. As far as I remember I came up with this idea in 2004, around the same time I started blogging, and started a blog with this idea in mind.  After a few days there was still just one name and so I gave it up and killed the project.  Little did I know that on February 4, 2003, Facebook had already begun.

Zuckerberg has said the premise for Facebook was simply that one could search someone's name and find out 'a bunch of stuff' about them. Not very different from my premise, except of course, Zuckerberg went to Harvard, is a programmer, put his idea into action and today he is a billionaire.

Having said that, I have another idea which has been stewing for yonks. I pitched it to Rand Merchant Bank, Bidvest, Mark Shuttleworth and others. So far it's still on the backburner...but you look at that Zuckerberg idea, the simplicity of it, and how the real world application has had such momentum and changed peoples lives universally. Which is quite encouraging for what I have in mind...

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