I don’t know how many search people are aware of the Digg vs Netscape “battle” that’s raging in the so-called Web 2.0 arena at the moment. To summarise, Netscape have a new Digg clone, a system in which users nominate and vote for stories, and Netscape have offered to pay top Diggers to do their stuff for Netscape. Digg don’t pay their users.
This highlights a key battle in the Web 2.0 arena: just like with old-media, your power lies in your audience share. The additional problem for Web 2.0 is that it often relies heavily on a user base, given the user base actually create the product.
I think it is also true to say that once an environment is established, and users are happily using it, then it becomes very difficult for them to tear themselves away. There is a very real cost in leaving, which involves, amongst other things, status, familiarity, and habit.
Pundits often say the same thing about Google. They say the user base can change to competitors very easily. I disagree. I think that habit can be a very hard thing to break, and it takes a lot more than a mee-too competitor in order for that switch to occur.
It will be interesting to see if dangling the dollar actually works…