If you were in on the Web back in the middle 1990s, you'll remember the simple power of the early Yahoo! that became everybody's (well, almost everybody's) start page. If you weren't, it doesn't matter, you can get something like that today, focused on a few key views of the blog world (oh please, do I have to say blogosphere?), at Guy Kawasaki's new alltop.com.
It's been something like 14 years since Yahoo! first guided me into the Internet, and it's a completely different world now, but what this site is doing is offering some of that same simple entry path into a few carefully selected top RSS feeds (i.e. blogs) in several key categories. Specifically, that's categories including politics, celebrities, fashion, ego, small business, green, moms, and, well, like that pivotal early Yahoo!, carefully selected categories.
One thing radically different, however, is that Alltop is putting up a selection of blogs. It isn't the whole Internet, it is a listing of top blogs.
Why Zen? I picked that up from the blog Valley Zen, the work of a Silicon Valley venture capital pioneer partnered with a sumi-e artist, which last week posted two inaugural interviews with Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki. Introducing the new Alltop, Valley Zen says:
The concept of the site is deceptively simple. Therein lies its Zen power. What does Alltop do? It is a one-stop aggregation of the most recent stories from 35 top websites in popular categories such as celebrities, sports, fashion, Mac, and the controversial category egos. More About Alltop here. The interface is influenced by "Apple Aesthetics:" light on graphics, no clutter, open white space. Presentation supports functionality. Simple & brilliant.
That same Valley Zen post notes the Yahoo! parallel as well:
Alltop reminds me of the very early Yahoo! when it was just a collection of links called "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web." The Old Yahoo's traffic actually grew very, very fast (unlike the much more complex Yahoo! of today). One can argue that the times were different, but I believe that part of the momentum of the early Yahoo! was because of its simplicity. True, anybody could copy it (and many did), but the first-mover advantage ensured its survival & sustained growth.
Meanwhile, the subplot is Guy himself. Successful author (his book The Art of the Start is my favorite of the genre), one of everybody's top 10 blogs in small business, venture capitalist and former Apple Evangelist, Guy Kawasaki is one of the more successful personal brands around. Last year, however, when he launched www.truemors.com and held it up as an example of a successful low-cost startup (something around $10,000 total cost), reviews were mixed. Some of the detractors didn't like Truemors, others pointed out that Guy himself, whose How to Change the World is listed at #46 on Technorati's top 100 by authority and #18 by number of fans, gave it a huge head start, just by being its founder and blogging about it, that made the comparison to any other $10,000 launch unrealistic.
So now Guy gives us another new site. The Alltop launch -- the small business section is brand new today -- has come out in pieces, without a lot of fanfare or expense, hoping that simple power and easy uncluttered view to make it work.