There is almost a bubbly trend now a days to call a "mee-too-social-foo" as a startup. I decided to break this down into : What consitutes a startup? what is simply a web application and what is neither and just a me-too? I keep thinking about this a lot, since I am involved with a project thats somewhere in between.
Like everything else, "Things start with an idea or a question". Let's take the typical example Paul Graham takes, "How about a Web Based Spreadsheet?" Now, a web based 'spreadsheet' isn't really a cool idea.. No not because "google" is doing it.. It's simply because there is enough technology available in the open-source for anyone to make that.... Dojo-Flex you name it and anyone with a bit of spare time and willingess can do it. I know the bitch is in the details, but its a well-known technology.
What is really a web-service, but not a "startup?"
Web service is a new kind of service that utilizes existing technologies and delivers it in a different flavor, a very good example of web-service is del.icio.us The web services themselves have a merit if you happen to make one that is not existing... And this really does not have to be a great technological breakthrough, but just nice ways of packaging stuff, usually they have nothing much as far as 'Revenue Models' go. Google Adsense is not revenue model (its old eyeballs business, don't worry not going to work!!) Thus, yes "new creative web services can potentially be 'acquisition targets'. But beyond a point they loose their value, so better take the deal when the banker offers them! (Remember Deal or No Deal?).
What is a me-too-social-foo?
Me-too-social-foo Is just a display of 'php' 'mysql' 'rails' etc. skills. So if you happen to make one count on getting a job somewhere that requires those skills. But nothing beyond that.
What is a startup then?
Startup -> Starup in my opinion has to have following constituents -
-> A sound enabling technology (which can be packaged in multiple applications)
-> A revenue model (May be not on Day 1, but certainly within 5 quarters of going live.)
-> They may suck a lot of money, before making any money themselves.
Example : "joost" is a very good example of this. (actually it is just an offshoot of an underlying technology developed a few years ago!)
Things like flickr fall somewhere between 'Web-service' and 'startup'!!!
So if you are working on something, you ask yourselves this question and thus position yourselves accordingly...
Ok, so people may ask what is 'paahijen' then?
I think the short answer is "web service", can it potentially be a "startup"? The answer is may be!! Is it yet another me-too-social-foo!! Certainly NOT!! (We don't have anything remotely social out there!!)
So far so good.. What has got a decent chance of success?
The short answer is "No one really knows!" Making something available on the web is like making movies - You have no ideas which will become hit and there is no real metric for judging it.. If people like it, it becomes hit if they don't it won't!!
So why should I try then?
Of course no one making a movie starts with an intention of making a super-flop. And also in my opinion (s)he does an honest job (barring few, won't take their names here!). So if you think of a "story to tell? Go ahead make a movie (aka web-app or startup or me-too-social-foo)" You never know!!