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Well, stuck in the middle of all this high-tech dialogue I have been relegated to pen and pencil for the last 4 or 5 days as (1) my office moved and they just got my computer back up and (2) I tried messing around with the innards of my software on my laptop and paid the price ($175 software engineering charge, ready by this Thursday).

These difficulties are one reason why Infospace does and will continue to dominate. Naveen Jain (CEO INSP) understands that for the Web to become truly ubiquitous it must be so easy that you don't even know your using it. That the Web must provide content that you use and need daily, and not exotic materials, etc.

Back in 1996, before their was any mass Web, Naveen Jain envisioned that he would be the "private label" solutions for web-sites; in 1997 he began investing in being the "private label" source for wireless (thinking a wireless web even before the real web was really rolling); in 2000 Naveen Jain took a big step forward in pursuing his broadband, home interactive vision by acquiring Go2Net. So I think it can safely be said that Naveen Jain is a visionary. And not just an esoteric visionary, but a practical, nuts and bolts, WHERE IS THE MONEY, and WHO WILL RULE THE WORLD, visionary on the scale and par with Bill Gates, but just of a different era.

Bill Gates did not go out of his way to make the best software. On the contrary, when Bill Gates got his big break from IBM he bluffed, HE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE DOS! Instead he got the deal done and bought something that worked. Didn't matter if it sucked, it did the job. Bill Gates then went on looking at practical nuts and bolts on how to rule the world, allah, standardize.

Well Naveen Jain's vision and strategy is no different. He literally began Infospace as the operating system for the Web. He foresaw that the Web would evolve into a service based model. That what people would need was everyday information. He also foresaw the Internet appliance and the future broadband revolution. What he also saw was the power of the network.

Infospace does have some key intellectual property regarding consumer transactions, and payments. The little things that make one-click shopping a necessity once you've done it. Anything else becomes a pain-in-the-neck.

Jain also developed a database of almost infinite scaleable, platform ubiquity, and complete data integration. All these things sprung out of a very long-term strategic plan that is unfolding as we speak. Replicating this platform in and of itself would take a very mighty feat indeed.

But the real staying power is the network Jain has built. He has used merchant banks and the Baby Bells, to sign-up local merchants around the country for the INSP service. Jain provides the infrastructure to quickly put these businesses on the Web, at a low, recurring monthly fee, which is shared with his partners. These partners therefore have a continuing incentive to sign-up more merchants. These merchants have an incentive to go with INSP because they have by far the largest reach and best transactional technology, and the media properties stick with INSP because they have the most merchants and integration of services, and therefore the most revenue share to offer as well as the best customer experience. Allah, an EBay like networking effect which INSP continues to grow every day. And still no competitors in sight.

One of the great visions of m-commerce is the GPS services. A working GPS service requires a nation, and even a world-wide network of vendors to make the service useful and not just another great concept without delivery. Only Infospace is close to providing such a network of vendors to make GPS m-commerce a reality. Imagine trying to starty-up a new auction site to compete with EBAY. Maybe you could get a very niche site up and going. But if you wanted to auction off everything of mass interest forget it. Your product listings would pale so greatly in comparison to what EBAY was offering, and in the subsequent attraction of buyers and sellers that you would not have a chance. Infospace's merchant network places it in the same position.

It may seem menial putting out everyday basic information. But try integrating all this information, then formatting it for any device, and for any media service that wants to offer it, and then to fill in the commerce offerings, and link it into a piece of software the integrates credit card and other purchasing information and allows for one-touch shopping on devices as varied as the small cell-phone screen to a desktop computer.

Some may laugh, but then again, the original DOS which Bill Gates used to conquer the world, was literally a piece of crap software that any computer major at any decent univesity could have created in a few months time.

Well, disordered or not. The above is the basic premise of the Infospace story. By no means is it certain, but the position Infospace is creating for itself looks very much like it could evolve into a complete "private label" monopoly, truly the OS for the information age. Think I might buy me some more.

Back on the air and having suffered no withdrawal symptoms other than the shock in seeing how much backlogged e-mail I have.
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