The Solution to the Discovery Problem

There are a number of startups today focused on helping people to find content. But none has really harnessed the usefulness of the web. TechCrunch today reports that TVLinks has come out of stealth to join the likes of Clicker, OVGuide.com, TV Guide’s Online Video Guide and many others but I’m not convinced that any of these will add much long term value.

The real solution for finding relevant content in a world of infinite channels lies in the social graph, and in algorithms. Netflix, Pandora and YouTube offer among the best content discovery engines anywhere today (sorry ROVI, the preeminence of the EPG and your days of lawsuit-powered authority are numbered), and once Facebook (or someone else) mashes these up to include social recommendation in a really powerful way, they will have a winning platform.

Facebook has an amazing head start here – and despite the privacy concerns they have been smart in keeping their devotion to the core competency of building the worlds best social network. Because of this content owners are unthreatened by them (the same can’t be said for Apple or Google) and have opened their sites up to their social graph platform – you will now see like buttons on CNN, IMDb and a growing number of media portals.

The ability to “like” content outside of Facebook’s walled garden is incredibly powerful. When I go to CNN.com these days, I’m not only getting content curated by their editors, but by my friends. Think about that.

Facebook’s focus on the network and willingness to be layered on top of other portals rather than a pure destination makes Facebook a threat to the Googles and Apple’s of the world which want to control the full environment, but a tipping point may already have been reached. Google Buzz isn’t going to replace Facebook. Nor is iTunes. Or Twitter, (though they still have a chance to make some headway if they can create levels of privacy controls and filters to create a more powerful social graph for their users).

Content destinations like YouTube, Netflix, Pandora and iTunes have a lot to gain by meshing the social graph with their content personalization algorithms, and long term this offers the ultimate solution for finding the content you want in an infinite media universe.