Fasten your seatbelts

betteWhen Cnet blows the whistle on social media, via Sean Parker of Napster fame, it’s time to break out the wallet and double down on that very same “immature” social media. We’re standing at the gaping maw of the biggest gold rush in many cycles, and the refs have just called a TV time out to allow us to regroup.

Certainly we’ve seen altogether way too much social community constructs at just the moment when we can’t stomach another additional stream entering the firehose. We’re fed up with authority algorithms, freemium models, top ten lost Twitter features, and bogus realtime protocol wars. It’s fine by most of us if it turns out Dave Winer invented everything that could or will be thought of back in 2001.

But calling the moment when the startup market matures is like giving your 16-year old the keys to the new car. No matter how sure we are that we’ve seen the last good idea and that’s it’s now all about sensible implementations around direct monetization, we’re absolutely sure of nothing of the kind. That’s because the very notion of maturity is a strong buy signal for the next stupid idea that’s about to spring up and conquer the world. Calling the bottom is easy; calling the top is hard.

Are we at the top just because our heads are exploding at the sound of the rain of stupid startup names that crescendo at TC50 and other industry events. This TC50 was the first one where I immediately deleted the name of the company from my awareness and never looked back. The only one I still remember (other than Bing which is now Old Stupid and therefore exempt) is Threadsy, and that’s because I love the thing, even though I doubt I’ll ever use it.

Now that’s an interesting data point for me, coming as it does after signing up for Twitter and Facebook at the insistence of Ross Mayfield and Gabe Rivera respectively and then promptly forgot about it for years. So I actually think the Threadsly experience will probably be highly successful precisely because I have no idea how or why I would use it. My idea of solving the Inbox crisis is to try and make the stream so informative I can skim email in seconds because I already know about everything there.

Similarly, looking at the cloud surrounding a person’s identity is a really cool trick, and one big reason why Threadsy is a two-trick pony. If I were trying to figure out authority or reputation, this would be a great pushbutton way of doing it, and the fact that the app is pulling all this social stuff together with some degree of coherence is a plus for the demo. But the real reason I like it is because of what it will do rather that what is currently does.

Just as Twitter emerged because of the intersection of a user-demanded function (Track) and its Follow social graph modeling, so might Threadsy emerge from the intersection of the death of email and RSS and its social whuffie modeling. It’s always instructive to remember that most big startups only take shape in the second wave of their existence, after the early rounds separate them from the pack and the talent congeals around the disruptions that emerge on the margins. Mint’s Intuit exit served more to validate the TC50 model than it did to signal the maturity of a social market that is barely at the breakout point.

It’s easy to call a top when Facebook goes revenue positive, but what it really says is that Facebook is now at the point where it can put pressure on Twitter to put up or shut up. By that I mean that they have had no pressure whatsoever to actually compete up til now, what with a virtually indestructible momentum that was only enhanced by the Fail Wail. But now, with FriendFeed driving the API strategy of the Everyone status of the open Facebook opportunity, Twitter has to put their A-Team on the floor. They’ll do just fine, by the way, as Dick Costolo demonstrated from the TC50 Peanut Gallery.

Notice how he didn’t see that much in Threadsly, questioning how easy it isn’t to monetize clients or some such. I could feel invisible fingers reaching into my wallet (not altogether an unpleasant experience strangely). Wait, that must mean there’s money in my wallet, or some on the way. Hmmm, that might mean that social media has some end game we haven’t yet seen. Uh huh.

All told, TC50 was a power shot at the notion of a frozen market, a clear signal that we’re finding out what we’re going to do when we grow up. Of course, we look a lot like our parents in the process, but that’s just something to deal with along with the mortgage and car payments.

Maturity can mean many things — responsibility, stability, success — but none of those things rule out the wild side of the realtime moment. Drama can come in many shapes and sizes, and this drama is gathering steam. When they ship AnyClip, you can look it up. As Margo Channing said in All About Eve: Fasten your seatbelts… it’s going to be a bumpy night.”