Over the past few years, a bunch of web-based marketplaces have gotten popular – Etsy, Kickstarter, AirBnb, to name a few. Many of these business ideas had been tried before but are succeeding only now.
When a trend like this emerges, it’s always interesting to ask “why now?” For example, for almost a decade, entrepreneurs tried to create video sharing services like YouTube, but only succeeded when certain key dependencies – broadband, digital video cameras, a version of Flash that “just worked” – became widespread.
I asked Roelof Botha the “why now” question regarding web-based marketplaces. He said something I thought was really interesting: marketplaces depend on trust, and trust requires knowing the reputation of a prospective counterparty. Today, for the first time, you can get background information on almost any prospective counterparty by searching Google, Facebook etc. Or put more simply: we finally have an internet of people.