After much (some? no?) speculation, ace blogger Robert Scoble talked about his new venture with Rackspace, the hosting provider based in San Antonio. Project 43 is named after the Google building where the founders have their offices. You can listen to Scoble's description of the new company on The Gillmor Gang podcast, but I'd guess you might come away with the feeling that you don't really know much more about the company after listening, than before.
Here's my analysis: Building 43 is a place where social media will converge, be explained and redistributed. Think of it like a place where you went to learn about the web in the web's early days and maybe take a stab at making a web page, or a place where you tried to figure out what Google was up to at the beginning and where you tried to figure out how to build a company at being the smartest one to use search engines, keywords and search optimization.
While that may not sound like much of a business (I mean what do they sell?), it does sound like Robert Scoble. Last fall I travelled over to Germany for the consumer electronics IFA show where I took part in a couple of panels and had some dinners with Robert and his video editor Rocky. It was during that trip that I watched the duo (then still with Fast Company, not anymore) juggle video, twitter, blogs, facebook and friendfeed. I came away thinking that social media, the media outside the realm of the Google kingdom, was going to be the next big thing.
It was on social media where the discussions took place, where groups were formed, tracked and regathered. It was where product discussions took place, where the news hit first and rather than being overwhelmed all the time with the Google search stream you could carve out a little information rich world all of your own. By using social networks that adhered to open standards, you could assemble webs of information rather than webs of sites.
So what does the emergence of a company like Building 43 mean for business? Portagemedia wraps it up with the quote from the podcast, "if your company is not in social media, in five years your company won't be into much of anything." It means that rather than social nets that try to drive users back to web sites, the social nets become the information source themselves. What does it mean for Rackspace and Robert Scoble? Rackspace funds Scoble and Rocky (who, by the way is the key to preventing death by overly long, unedited Scoble video) and in return the company acquires buzz for being the place to learn, experiment and create social nets that generate business as well as buzz. Scoble won't be answering the question, "where is the money?" instead he'll be providing the marketing and sales tools to make money.