Interesting discussion here on scale and size for internet upstarts. Om contends that focusing on scalability and reliability is important, and that not focusing on it is a sign of short-term bubble mentality. David, of 37signals, contends that "99.999% uptime is for Wal-Mart", and that a young company can afford 98% uptime if they focus on having a great product. Here's a copy of the comment I left on Om's blog:
Jason (Ed Note: David actually) is wrong about uptime/downtime. If Wal-Mart is down for half an hour I’ll come back later, because there’s really no competition at those prices. If Technorati is down I’ll immediately start looking elsewhere, maybe Google blogsearch, Yahoo blogsearch, Sphere, PubSub, Feedster, etc. There’s no shortage of alternatives to try out, with absolutely $0.00 switching costs. To make matters worse, I might even like one of those other search engines, and remain a loyal user forever.
Even if I went to a Wal-Mart competitor for a day, it’s unlikely I’d be a permanently lost competitor.
Read Om's entire entry.
Update: I think this makes this more interesting, about how much more rapidly the noise will grow as compared to a signal in any given network. If adding more members to a service really does have marginal costs, and places a burden on the whole operation, then this becomes a structural problem for many companies. Also, while Om thinks the lack of long-term planning, in Web 2.0, suggests bubble, I think the bubble-aspects lie elsewhere.