It’s always nice to see startups — particularly those in the social-media, Web 2.0-type landscape — get some funding, so I don’t want to dump on Gather.com, which has not only received $6-million in financing from Lotus founder Jim Manzi and VC group Allen & Co., but is also the subject of a laudatory article in the Boston Globe.
Still, I have to wonder what Gather.com has that’s worth $6-million (or maybe I have an unrealistic view of how much $6-million is nowadays). I’ve checked the site out several times, and apart from a garish and cluttered design that I find hard on the eyes, I don’t see much to make it stand out from the crowd — and it is a crowd (Andrew Watson also seems skeptical, as does Ben Barren and Kent Newsome). Not only are there old standbys like About.com (owned by the New York Times group, which also owns the Boston Globe), which also happens to be garish and cluttered, but there are dozens of startups from Digg.com and Reddit.com to more elaborate ventures.
For example, there are sites like PersonalBee.com and a news- and blog-oriented site called Newsvine.com — both of which I am beta-testing as a contributor. When it comes to design and layout, Newsvine wins hands down, and I find the way articles are contributed and voted on, plus the live chatting, to be very interesting features. Whether either one will last I don’t know. There are also local news ventures such as Backfence.com — which seems a bit like a vacant lot waiting for a party, in many ways — and others too numerous to mention, such as Squidoo.com.
Will any of these startups find success, or will they all? It’s a bit of a crapshoot at the moment. Fun to watch, but nerve-wracking to work in, I imagine. Steve Rubel says there is a Web 2.0 crash coming.
Mike Arrington of TechChrunch notes that Inform.com — which has been through a bit of a remake after some bad early reviews — is also pursuing this model. And Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc. (not surprisingly) prefers a different approach. My friend Paul Kedrosky says Gather is “AOL-lite-lite for the blogosphere” and that it just might succeed because some people want that. I think Kareem has a good point about Gather too in his recent post.