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How Sequoia Venture Capital Will Pop the Bubble of Web 2.0 – Mahalo or MFAhollow?

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 6 years and 329 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

Starting the ridiculous round of investment in such a terrible idea. Continue doing this, and the end will definitely be near. This is so bad I will even give them a link (though I’ve decided it should contain the anchor text “squidoo crackbaby”). Seriously – if you guys are GIVING away money to shit like this, I’ve got an awesome bridge in Brooklyn that we can put google ads on. Scraped content commented on by people who are too lazy to get a real job? I’m sure the quality control level should stay very high, and there will be no incentive for payoffs on terms like “mortgage” (because that never happend on dmoz). Why not listen to some folks that know about search, and social media for investment advice and ideas in the space, instead of a guy with a giant ego that knows how to job jump? This cute little hawaiian phrase is gonna be the pets.com sock puppet of this era. Maybe high risk is good, but putting the money into this project is just the first sign that NO ONE with the money has much of a clue what is really going on, and that they’re only going to learn the economics of search the really hard way. Please stop the madness. I generally try to only write positively – but this was just too much to take without ranting, after all the BS we’ve seen spewed from this man just to get a reaction.

12 Reasons this is the worst idea ever and will never make money

  1. No real business model – Adsense is not a long term solution for a search engine.

  2. Shitty relevance – just because they’re people – doesn’t mean they’re smart.
  3. There is no google killer – there will be one google – at this point, we can only hope to contain them – the barrier to entry is far to high. How hard is it for them to snag and change the best ideas, or worst case, buy them out? Pick a narrow niche, and hope for a buyout, or an area where they’re weak, and get entrenched before they smell ya comin’.
  4. Aggregating content is not a $100 million dollar value add – A good programmer will make you a mashup MUCH cheaper, and there is plenty of ways to DIY.
  5. This was actually a pretty good idea the first time around – it was called Squidoo – and philanthropic motives helped it to get much closer to a tipping point than this ever will.
  6. Just because something is promoted with a negative energy, and becomes remarkable, doesn’t mean it will STAY remarkable and succeed. I might tell people ABOUT it – but not to use it.
  7. Paying people peanuts is not going to generate expert content. True motivation MIGHT, but I don’t really see the founder as a positive leader of men.
  8. Zero Trustrank (though this can probably be overcome though)
  9. G will stop indexing at some point (I hope they have a good PPC person for driving traffic)
  10. It’s a squidoo crackbaby – skinny (with content), diseased (with terrible ideas and aweful relevance), and needy (asking for money).
  11. Who the hell believes this will be a scaleable solution to good information?
  12. There is a name for people who write content on the web – they’re called bloggers, and they can make plenty more money writing on their OWN site, and keeping all of the ad money, once they figure out the distribution channels.

Sequoia’s VC’s are either really really smart – knowing that when people give up on a google killer, it will further inflate G’s stock, or really really stupid (believing that an MFA SE will work). To the other investors – social proof is not always a positive thing. Yes – there are plenty of smart folks on board, but just because Mark Cuban is generally a smart guy and has lots of money, does not mean he is always right.

More (why not listen to people who KNOW about search and what works?)
Threadwatch
Valleywag
Scoreboard – Mahalo Sucks
Tropical SEO
Search Engine Land


MFAhalo?
MFA Hollow?

(Just in case the VC’s don’t get it – MFA stands for MADE FOR ADSENSE – known as a pretty terrible long term business model in the SEO community – next time get a couple of SEO types, the folks who focus on REAL money making models, to give their two pennies if something will work making this kind of impulse buy.)

More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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  • Jay R

    Wow… I think this is the angriest post I’ve ever seen you whip up Todd! Their website and/or someone from their website must have really ruffled your feathers hard!

  • http://www.craigsblog.com Craig

    Hmm, So the last idea Jason had success with was MFA, seems to have done fine what is wrong with that business model ?

  • http://www.viperchill.com Glen

    Im glad im not alone in my thoughts on this site, I did a couple of searches and will certainly never use it again

  • http://www.stuntdubl.com Stuntdubl SEO

    >last idea Jason had success with was MFA

    That was also several years ago – and based solely on content. This is based on the farce of being a search engine and/or directory.

    >really ruffled your feathers hard

    The non-stop hypocritical criticism is really what did it. That and shirking on bets after getting good free work from my friends. If you can’t tell – I’m really not a fan:)

  • http://www.imnotadoctor.com imnotadoctor

    2. Shitty relevance – just because they’re people – doesn’t mean they’re smart.

    – Well Put! Who the hell says they are the experts!?

  • http://www.cameronolthuis.com Cameron Olthuis

    Damn it people, quit stroking his ego by writing about this piece of shit DMOZ 2.0.

    But you’re right, the investors were clueless on this one. Just goes to show if you have history you can raise funding for even the most ridiculous of ideas. This reminds me a little of Truemors in that NO ONE would’ve given this thing the time of day if there wasn’t a rockstar at the helm.

  • http://www.craigsblog.com Craig

    > That was also several years ago – and based solely on > content. This is based on the farce of being a search > engine and/or directory.

    OK, this is why people get upset with the many people in the SEO community, much of the retoric is in absolutes (MFA doesn’t work), but it isn’t Ad supported content you have issue with it is re-sampled content with Adsense — because it smells like spam.

  • Wil Reynolds

    Todd, I don’t comment much on here, but this post made me CRACK UP! The relevancy is Garbage, and I like you explanation on why.

  • http://www.stuntdubl.com Stuntdubl SEO

    >stroking his ego by writing about this piece

    I agree Cameron – I struggled with it, but couldn’t resist. It’s the car wreck phenomenon – I just can’t look the other way. You’ll notice his name will not be spoke. I haven’t checked out truemors, but I’ve heard the same. Fortunately I have lots of respect for Guy K. though, and he didn’t bilk a bunch of investors out of money for a shitty idea, he just decided he’d give it a shot, which I can respect even if it doesn’t come out great.

    I also couldn’t resist giving the VC folks a lil’ shit:)

    >OK, this is why people get upset with the many people in the SEO community, much of the retoric is in absolutes (MFA doesn’t work), but it isn’t Ad supported content you have issue with it is re-sampled content with Adsense – because it smells like spam.

    Personally, I’m not real sold on adsense as a business model in general. It CAN work – I just don’t think it’s a great long term play compared to something CPA based if you can make it work. You are definitely right about the last part though – there is a very fine line between aggregation and scraping.

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  • http://seosnafu.blogspot.com SEOsnafu

    >stroking his ego by writing about this piece

    Just coz his initials are JC it really goes to his head!

  • Nick Wilsdon

    >Hmm, So the last idea Jason had success with was MFA, seems to have done fine what is wrong with that business model ?

    The point here though is that a blogging network is very different from a search engine. Unless Jason expects people to stop searching and merely read through the ‘top pages of the day’, much like I enjoy reading dictionaries at the weekend.

    If people do search (hell why wouldn’t they, it’s a search engine and the search box is the first thing you see) then they will 99/100 end up at a dead end.

    As pointed out on Threadwatch – Udi Manber says that 20-25% of the searches Google see each day are completely unique. Think about that for a second.

    The only difference between JC’s plan and a thousand others, is VC funding and basing the content writers in Santa Monica not India.

    Anyway, good rant Todd. :)

  • http://www.evroccck.com Ev

    thanks for saying what most of us were thinking..

    I’m with Glen “Im glad im not alone in my thoughts on this site, I did a couple of searches and will certainly never use it again”

  • http://www.capecodseo.com/ dedmond29

    Interesting post – glad that it was written with links to other opinions because it can be difficult to keep up with everything when you are busy.

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  • http://www.calacanis.com Jason

    Mahalo for the feedback. I would encourage you to forget about the issue of scale when it comes to Mahalo for a second and think about the results.

    Take a moment to compare our iPhone, Apple, Paris Hotel, and Corvette to any search engine and ask yourself which is better for the average user. Our results are cleaner, more efficient when it comes to use of space, more organized, and 100% spam free.

    Also, we are only 60-70% done with each SeRP right now. We are looking for the public to submit links for each SeRP and debate the order of links on each SeRPs message board.

    We’ve already get folks submitting links to Apple and Twitter SeRPs–many of which are very high quality.

    My expectation is that the public will help us bring these SeRPs from 60-70% complete to 90%+ complete six months after the SeRP is completed.

    Also, think about this. If an SEO, or SEO’s client, has a problem with a search result what can they do? Well, they can try and figure out how the search engine works and game it. You can’t talk to anyone at Google, Ask, Yahoo, or MSN about the search results, but you can talk to the Guides at Mahalo about the results. We will listen to you too. If we make a mistake we will fix it, and if you have a client with a much better site we will recognize them.

    This will save millions of wasted hours of SEO a year. SEOs could move from optimizing for the algorithm and start optimizing for humans!

    Right now we have 4,000 pages that each serve a dozen searches. Soon we will have 10,000, then 25,000. Will we get to the long tail? Nope, but if you use Mahalo and we don’t have a result you get Google’s results anyway–so you don’t lose a thing!

    Now, the quote that “As pointed out on Threadwatch – Udi Manber says that 20-25% of the searches Google see each day are completely unique” is very interesting. One of the reasons for this is that people are very frustrated with search and do many searches they don’t need to because the indexes are so polluted.

    Finally, we don’t need to do more than the top 10-25% of search terms to have a very real business. As we all know most of the money in advertising is spent on the fat part of the tail–and that’s not going to change. The bottom part of the tail is not monitizable (i.e. you searching for the person you dated in college).

    Regarding Squidoo, we all know it is a dark dirty place filled with spam that provides no help to users. Go do a search on Squidoo for Paris Hotels and compare the page you get to Mahalo or Google. Also, Squidoo pages are filled with deceptive advertising and affiliate links. It’s a spammer/SEOs dream and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google just dropped it form the index. In fact, that would be in the best interest of their users.

    We’ve got a ton of work to do… I know that. We’re in ALPHA right now, and will be until the end of the year. Check back in six months and I think you’ll be slightly more impressed.

    Mahalo for the feedback,

    Jason

  • http://www.stuntdubl.com Stuntdubl SEO

    >forget about the issue of scale

    Fair enough, you are in alpha, but I certainly hope the solution is in the works.

    >Our results are cleaner, more efficient when it comes to use of space, more organized, and 100% spam free.

    They may be “cleaner”, but I don’t know that I’d say they are BETTER, and there is zero opportunity for drilldown to longer queries – there is also no incentive more gaming for monetary incentives at this point, thus no spam.

    If there’s zero monetary incentive – it’s gonna be damn tough to put a revenue model around as well.

    >We are looking for the public to submit links for each SeRP and debate the order of links on each SeRPs message board

    …>My expectation is that the public will help us bring these SeRPs from 60-70% complete to 90%+ complete six months

    I hope you know a ton of altruists with lots of time on their hands. Did you forget what happend to dmoz, or are you just conveniently ignoring it? Wikipedia has no business model, and would likely go down in flames quickly if it ever got one.

    >Apple and Twitter SeRPs
    2 down – 2 billion to go:)

    >You can’t talk to anyone at Google, Ask, Yahoo, or MSN about the search results, but you can talk to the Guides at Mahalo about the results.

    Well, at least I can appreciate your angle in all this now with the “seo is dead” nonsense. The reason you can’t talk to anyone is that it’s not a scaleable solution on a mass scale. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here for a bit, and try to forget about this, but I certainly hope you aren’t.

    >This will save millions of wasted hours of SEO a year. SEOs could move from optimizing for the algorithm and start optimizing for humans!

    While I can now appreciate your attack hook angle on SEO’s (which work brilliantly I might add), I think this is one of the big areas you have wrong. Good SEO’s ALREADY optimize for the delicate balance of user and bot experience. The reason bots are important is the sheer scale, that you must have some type of plan for. Optimizing for bots is not always a bad thing – it’s improved the quality of the titles, page quality, and search relevancy. Please see: http://tropicalseo.com/2007/why-the-rest-of-the-world-should-love-seos/

    >Squidoo
    You’re walking a fine line hoping that they get removed from the index, when it sounds like a majority of your bet hedges on substantial indexing and traffic from google. There is plenty of stuff on squidoo that is of very decent quality built by folks with no subversive motives. The trouble is – you’re gonna have to start making “judgement calls” in areas like mortgage, casino, pharmacy, loans, finance, etc. which is 1. where most of the money is 2. where most the spammers are due to 1. You had better be ready to have some damn good editorial folks in those areas with the highest ethical standards (not taking bribes etc.) The trouble is, if they are that knowledgeable on these subjects, they are likely making a damn nice living for themselves.

    >indexes are so polluted.
    And they have hundreds of very smart, very well paid folks sorting that on a daily basis. One of the reasons it is great is the sheer size of the index, that you CAN find stuff if you’re looking in the right way. This analogy is like saying you’re going to recreate New York City because it’s a little dirty rather than clean it up.

    >spammer/SEOs
    Must you always put these in the same sentence? This is why most of us that do legitimate stuff think you’re a douchebag, and will do nothing but criticize your project even if it DID have promise. Even if you’re successful and the project works – you’ll still be an asshole for stuff like that. You’re generalizing an entire industry of people – many of who take a lot of pride in their work, and have worked hard to bootstrap and accomplish some cool things with the web.

    It’s good to know your hook now. All seo’s can now be happy that you called us all spammers?You did get our attention. That you are now going to save the industry by making it easier on us and our clients by opening better lines of communication than the big 3 – a delusion at best – is suppose to earn forgiveness for the offensiveness? I hate to tell you, but you can’t just 180 on a group of people like that, and expect them to take you seriously. They’re all rooting for your failure because of the lack of respect you showed several times towards a profession we all take pride in.

    I think it’s time to get off that soapbox, and start worrying about that scalability issue we’re conveniently ignoring. How long are the investors gonna ignore it, and keep pumping money in when the adsense CPCs drop to a nickel a click due to the fact that the only ads being clicked are off of a twitter page (with no conversions in any industry of value)? Or when google stops indexing the rest of your aggregated crap (other than the 10k articles). I really hope the revenue model is much more than adsense, and the marketing plan is much more than attacking seo’s.

    You’d probably be getting much more respect now, if you hadn’t tried baiting a bunch of people who study human behavior for a living. Don’t think that doing the 180 now is going to garner the respect of most of these folks, and have them take anything you say seriously. Thanks for taking the time to comment anyways.

    This wasn’t feedback either – it was straight criticism, feedback would be valuable, and there’s no way I would intentionally help on this – I’m not quite that easy to win over once I’m kinda pissed. I’m just trying to warn your investors to run, and not get duped again, by the pretty hawaiian bow you’re trying to tie around this turd.

    MFA Hallow to you as well.

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  • http://www.sharpseo.com/blog Adam Sharp

    Outstanding… by far the most blunt, honest, and accurate argument as to why Mahalo won’t work.

    I almost hate that attention is being drawn to this project, but I really have become convinced that it has no chance to succeed – regardless of how much free press it gets. Scalability will be the stick in the spokes, as many have predicted. So Bravo!

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  • http://www.jehochman.com Jonathan Hochman

    Great posts guys.

    Todd, the business model at Mahalo is to prove the concept and attract enough of an audience that they can sell the operation to one of the bigger search engines, who then bolt it onto their universal search results. The ads are there to measure click through rates, not to make money.

    I don’t want to defend Jason, but many top SEOs have no clue how to run a business for maximum profit. Doing a great job and making a lot of money are two completely different things.

    By the way, I have no stake in any of this. I’m just an amused fly on the wall.

  • http://www.stuntdubl.com Stuntdubl SEO

    >The ads are there to measure click through rates, not to make money.

    That’s a great observation, and makes a lot of sense Jonathan.

    >that they can sell the operation to one of the bigger search engines

    Yea – I guess I kind of assumed that – which is a pretty good play on his part, but if I’m gonna be a critic, I’m gonna go balls out;)

    I just don’t see how the audience is really that important to a bigger operation, and the technology certainly isn’t rocket science. I can appreciate good execution – but offending folks as a business model isn’t great marketing imo.

    >but many top SEOs have no clue how to run a business for maximum profit.

    You are definitely correct in that observation, in many regards. I think (myself included) that we often get a bit cocky about our understanding of business models due to the fact that we generally see them from the top down when working with clients. This experience gives us a lot of understanding in the MODELS – but not necessarily always the execution and experience that are extremely important when running a business.

    It was great to see you at SMX by the way.

  • http://www.cavanmoon.com Cavan Moon

    Well, I’m definately a latecomer to this conversation, but Mahalo is one of those VC investments that makes you scratch your head. Certainly Calacanis has had a lot of success doing things his way, and he knows how to play the game: see Jonathan Hochman’s response to Danny’s June 8th article on Wikipedia on what a good Wikipedia listing should look like, http://searchengineland.com/070608-132400.php

  • http://blog.auinteractive.com markus941

    “Adsense is not a long term solution for a search engine.” Ding!

    From the comment, it looks like poor Jason has been drinking the Mahalo-aid – its enthusiasm reminds me of someone who just signed up for an MLM.

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  • http://www.eyefall.co.uk/blog Ciaran

    Nice post Todd – exactly matches my own thoughts. Did a post about this (won’t spam you with a link – it’s on the blog if you click on my name) and found that they hadn’t managed to get round to creating a page for the TV Show Big Brother (which is huge globally) – but had found the time to do one on…. Jason Mahalo.

    What a surprise!

    ;)

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  • http://www.visual3d.net Mike

    Arg, didn’t yahoo try this in the 90′s and fail horribly at it, I thought everyone knew this didn’t work. Who ever heard of or cared about Mahla-Whatever.com anyways.

    Jese, Elon Musk is one of my personal heroes (because of SpaceX http://www.spacex.com), it pains me to see him invest in a retard-bingo venture like this.

    Yes, I’m getting fed up with the web2.0 ventures, people are working very hard in these startups to bring people better ways to what? Waste their time?

    DotCom + 1849′s gold rush all over again.

  • http://www.spotesya.com/ hans

    That was also several years ago – and based solely on > content. This is based on the farce of being a search > engine and/or directory.

  • Mike

    Justa quick note. Last night I went onto Mahalo Blog and posted a response to their celebration over adding 500+ new SERPs. It wasn’t flattering but it wasn’t out of line either. I just said I didn’t think it would work and gave an example of one page that was horrendously out of date. It’s recent news listings were from May 7! The page (which I had individually commented on days prior) had since been updated. The point is, today, the “Comments” feature attached to the blog articles on Mahalo has now been turned off. I guess Jason doesn’t want to here what the public thinks about his little gift to them?

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