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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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I noticed something when I tried out two apps (Mingly and Cobook) this morning – they each immediately asked to connect me to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter during their onboarding process. And, by using my Gmail as the starting point / authentication, they connected me to G+.

Microsoft is conspicuously absent from this. I’ve noticed this many times in the past but when you onboard yourself in two contact-related apps in the same morning and there is no Microsoft anywhere, there’s something going on that’s important. I wonder if this will change with Office 365 – I hope Microsoft is building a trivial to use oauth to O365 so it’s easy to connect to, along with a good sync API.

I was trying to think of other authentication that would be helpful to me in the context of my contacts. Almost everything else I use is based on either my email address or auth with one of these four services. Hmmm.

So far Mingly feels basically the same as Gist but Cobook seems different than anything I’ve used. I have no idea if I’ll keep using either of these, but like many things in the themes we invest in, I love to play around with new apps for a while and see if it sticks.

  • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

    It is easy to add Live support as well, but developers on non-Microsoft stacks appear not to be compelled to do this.

    In the other direction, when using Microsoft stack – especially Windows Azure and its “Access Control Service” – it’s very easy to add Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Live (of course) authentication, as well as connect to corporate identity systems: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/home/tour/access-control/.

    It’s currently “easy” to connect Office 365 to outside systems using ADFS, but to do that, you either need to be using Microsoft stack or have a level of enterprise infrastructure set up to handle single sign-on (Shibbolesh, Ping, etc.) that most early-stage/consumer startups don’t have.

    Disclosure: I work for Microsoft.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Why do you think devs on non-Microsoft stacks don’t bother with Live support? I can’t remember seeing it anywhere recently.

      Re: easy to connect to O365 – I think you know that ADFS is “not easy” if you don’t have a Microsoft stack!

      • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

        That’s why I used quotes! Seriously, though, it’s not that’s it’s hard – it’s that it’s enterprisey … IT departments with an SSO server find it quite easy to integrate with Office 365, whether they are Microsoft stack or not. The products you were using this morning don’t appear to be the kind that include an IT department in the sales discussion. Gmail and Outlook/Exchange are such different platforms these days (with largely different target customers and different “partner sales” experiences) that any time I see a product for Gmail, I wonder if doing something similar for Outlook/Exchange is a startup opportunity – and vice versa.

        I’m not saying it’s good or bad to be enterprise-oriented or not – I’m just saying that gmail started consumer and moved toward bigger and bigger businesses. Office365 (as BPOS) started with the needs of bigger businesses and has moved to meet the needs of smaller and smaller ones. Those differences affect the whole partner ecosystem around each (and there are a bunch of successful partners integrating with Outlook, Exchange, and Office365 as well).

        As for why non-MS devs don’t bother with Live? I’m not sure … maybe it’s due to  lingering negative emotions toward Microsoft as a whole. Maybe it’s because any company who wants to make money on our email platform is much more likely to target Outlook/Exchange/Office365 than hotmail (there is more of a separation in our free vs. paid platform than there is with Google). Maybe it has something to do with our investment in Facebook. Or maybe they should but we’re just not doing enough to make it compelling for them – if it’s simply that, then we need to fix it.

      • Anonymous

        “Why do you think devs on non-Microsoft stacks don’t bother with Live support?”Same reason they don’t make their websites work on IE. It’s not cool/trendy. You will literally be laughed at by your peers for even suggesting that something made by Microsoft is not complete s__t. You will lose their respect and they will no longer trust your judgement. I could give many examples. Biz-dev and (non-CTO) execs at startups, however, rarely suffer from this blind spot.

  • Ben West

    What I find Ironic is, the unified auth scheme was one of a few microsoft ideas that was, in many ways, before its time: MSN Passport, which long-preceded open-standards, was just the sort of thing that should have propelled them into the social space.  What happened, and, perhaps, what should we take from their failure?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It’s totally perplexing to me. This – along with a bunch of other Microsoft stuff around 2000 was way ahead of its time but just sort of vanished into the ether somewhere.

      • Ryan Scott

        Its important in my experience to be 6 months ahead of the competition.  Anything more is too much, there’s not enough psychological support for it.  And to make matters worse, in the case of Microsoft, they have a brand image problem that’s going to be nearly impossible to recover from.  

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    Unrelated question.. but I see you have Disqus ranks on your blog? Have you shifted to Disqus pro or are they making it available to free users as well?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’m using Pro.

      • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

        Ah. And Top 1. 

        Neat label.. haha

        • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

          That made me laugh, too.

          • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

            Hehe. :D

  • Pingback: Enterprisey « Patrick Foley

  • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

    I got to interview Daniel Ha, founder of Disqus last year (thanks to your introduction, Brad): http://startupsuccesspodcast.com/2011/06/show-113-daniel-ha-cofounder-and-ceo-of-disqus/. The most interesting part of the conversation for me came toward the end (16:50 to be precise), when I asked Daniel what percentage of his users chose to create a new Disqus account compared to using twitter, facebook, etc. 

    He said that nearly 70% of users chose to create a Disqus account. That really surprised me … it also made me wonder if adding other authentication methods amounted to solving a problem that doesn’t really exist (at least for most startups).

    Personally, I love logging in with an existing account, but why do you think 70% of Disqus users (as of last year) don’t? Do you have numbers about this from other startups you work with to know if Disqus’s experience is typical? Do you think it’s still just leading edge technology, or do you think it will be this way for the foreseeable future?

    Personally, I wonder if non-technical people are intuitively hesitant about attaching something with private information of theirs (Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Live more than Twitter) to some random site they may not trust yet. At one point, I was thinking of creating a business around this idea – having an openid provider that was branded well enough to become known, trusted, and used but that explicitly existed to control the release of personal information. I played with a few permutations (course-grained geographical information seems valuable), but ultimately, I wasn’t confident I could monetize it, and it just seemed too hard (see Passport). In the end, Daniel’s experience made me suspect it was an attempt to solve a problem that didn’t really exist. I’ll be curious to see if somebody figures the problem out and just nails it.

    Great chin-stroking subject …

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I think this has changed a lot in the past year. You should ask Daniel again but I see a much higher rate for many of the companies we are investors in.

      • http://patrickfoley.com/ Patrick Foley

        I sent Daniel a note but haven’t heard back yet.

        Sorry to belabor the point, but I find this to be an interesting and important subject.

        I think I was comparing apples to oranges a bit … something like Mingly DEPENDS on gmail in order to work, just as Xobni depends on Gmail or Outlook, and Klout depends on twitter or facebook. All those apps NEED something from the underlying platform that they are authenticating against (although Xobni does it on the client side with Outlook). 

        Disqus, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on or even use anything from Google, facebook, twitter or any other openID provider – Disqus just added those authentication methods as a convenience for users who don’t want to create a new account.

        Both are interesting scenarios, but on reflection, I think they are quite different. The Disqus scenario is relevant to a startup building an MVP. I only have this one 9-month-old data point, but if I knew that most of my users would still prefer to create a new account, then I assume I should build that kind of authentication method first. But if those numbers are trending downward as you suggest, then I might favor implementing the standard litany of oath providers first. If my line of thinking is incomplete or faulty here, please set me straight.

        The other scenario is approximately “Google et al and the oauth ecosystem” vs. “Office365 and the AD ecosystem.”

        Google and Google-oriented startups certainly get some advantages from the fact that there is almost no line between their consumer and business products. It makes it easy to check out new products (as a customer or investor); you don’t even need to be a paying customer of the underlying platform.

        On the other hand, there is more of a line between our consumer products (hotmail, skydrive) and our business products (Outook, Exchange, Office 365, Dynamics, etc.). While you can certainly integrate with the free products (authenticating via oauth of course http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh243641.aspx), startups interested in making money are much more likely to base products on Dynamics CRM (here’s a bunch of applications in the CRM Online marketplace: http://dynamics.pinpoint.microsoft.com/en-US/applications/search/b1?q=) or Outlook365 (and here’s a bunch of apps in the Office 365 marketpalce: http://office365.pinpoint.microsoft.com/en-US/applications/search?q=).

        Most of those products are designed to work on-premise as well as hosted, just as Microsoft’s server products are. That’s an advantage that a lot of customers appreciate, but it adds a bit of complexity that you don’t experience as a gmail user, since you know any add-on is going to be Saas. 

        I think I see where you are coming from when you said “I hope Microsoft is building a trivial to use oauth to O365 so it’s easy to connect to,” and I personally like your vision. I don’t have visibility into that product team’s plans, so I don’t know what’s on the horizon there. At the moment, the ecosystem of Office365, Dynamics, AD, etc. seems to be pretty separate from the ecosystem of Gmail, salesforce, oauth, etc. It will be interesting to see if they remain separate.

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