03/28/2011 09:42 am ET | Updated May 28, 2011

Fred Wilson, Uri Milner: Is Curation VC's Big New Thing?

There are some things we all agree are broken. Finding stuff on the web is broken. The volume of 'stuff' has rapidly exceeded the tools we've counted on for the past 10 years or so. And, the speed of 'stuff' makes validating new data harder and harder.

Now a number of the web's most trusted voices (and interestingly, deepest pockets) have started to embrace a concept that could have massive ramifications.

To manage, and make useful, the massive growth of content on the web, sites must embrace curation.

Fred Wilson, who's blog AVC often heralds the changing nature of the web, explored the trend yesterday in a blog post titled "Curation." 2011-03-28-fred.jpg

We largely invest in consumer web services with a large number of engaged users where the users create the content. Services like this can become messy and hard to navigate. There is always a signal to noise issue. I'm a big fan of curation in these services. Twitter has lists. Etsy has favorites. Tumblr has tag pages. These are all variations of curation in services that have a lot of noise in them. Recently Kickstarter launched their own version of curation called Curated Pages.

And, adding his voice to the growing chorus of investors who value curation, Russian Mega Investor Yuri Milner of Digital Sky Technologies (DST) told the Abu Dhabi Media Summit: "I think the next big theme is basically curation." Said Milner in the WSJ. "The question is how do you select what's relevant for you, and my guess is that its probably going to be 50% driven by your network and 50% driven by algorithms."
"In the beginning people found interesting things on the web, created directories of those things. That was the origins of the original lists and directories, from Yahoo on outward." writes investor and blogger Paul Kedrosky. The hand indexed web moved to algorithms, and Google emerged the winner. "Any algorithm can be gamed; it's only a matter of time. The Google algorithm is now well and thoroughly gamed. Google's ranking algorithm, like any trading algorithm, has lost its alpha."

"In short, curation is the new search." Kedorosky says the rise of curation is actually the re-emergence of the webs human roots. It "is partly about crowd curation -- not one people, but lots of people, whether consciously (lists, etc.) or unconsciously (tweets, etc) -- and partly about hand curation (JetSetter, etc.). The result will be a subset of curated sites that will re-seed a new generation of algorithmic search sites, and the cycle will continue, over and over."

So is curation the next big thing, what blogger and trendspotter Robert Scoble calls the next "billion dollar opportunity on the web." Or is it a buzzword on the verge of being overhyped?

William Mougayar says it's "overhyped" and cites Gartner Group's "hype cycle" and says we're at the Peak of Inflated Expectations, about to tumble down the cliff into the Trough of Disillusionment. That seems to me to be overstating the case. But given the scope of the problem, and the early stage of all of the curation solutions that are emerging, it seems to me that we're years away from a human-filtered web where the things that matter most to us find us, and noise is able to be filtered away.

That is a day worth striving for.