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What's Inside Scoble's Building 43?

Building 43s
Building 43

Building 43 is opening its virtual doors this evening. The Web site/small business resource, is the brainchild of well-known blogger Robert Scoble and backed by the cloud computing division of server company Rackspace called Rackspace Cloud.

Scoble first gained notoriety several years ago for the Channel 9 blog he ran at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) that included unfiltered customer comments and other content that didn't always tow the company line.

That's fine with Rackspace President Lew Moorman. "Like Robert pushed Microsoft, he will make us uncomfortable," Moorman said in a blog post earlier this year. "He will praise our competitors and point out our missteps. But, he will force us to get better. He will force us to embrace the future and the commitment required to getting there."

Rackspace says Building 43 is an "experiment" it hopes attracts new customers, particularly small businesses. Scoble said his motivation for Building 43 is to help small businesses, because too many of them have Web sites that looks like it was designed in 1994, if they even have a site at all.

"How you get customers today is changing thanks to sites like Facebook, Yelp and Twitter," Scoble told InternetNews.com. "The 2010 Web of real-time information and social networking, that's more about a community of customers and collaboration, is coming on strong. We're building a site to help small businesses understand what's going on and see the money they're leaving on the table by not having a modern Web site."

The site will not initially have advertising. "Eventually we probably will and I would say that would be open to almost anyone," said Rob La Gesse, director of customer development at The Rackspace Cloud.

Scoble said he's making a conscious effort not to try and compete with or copy what other tech Web sites are already doing. To that end, there won't be a focus on breaking news or creating another social network. "We looked at creating a social network, and then asked 'Why'?"

Instead, there will be links to social networks like Facebook and FriendFeed. The focus of Building 43 will be to demonstrate the business value of being online. For example, Scoble said the site will launch with a video of Mark Zuckerberg talking to his dad about his dental practice and the value of social networking.

In general, he said content will be the focus, not bleeding edge tech. The site will, for example, feature a standard WordPress blog and readily available widgets. But there will be some surprises.

"People are going to see FriendFeed in ways they've never seen it used before thanks to some custom code they did," said Scoble.

Also the content will be published under a Creative Commons license allowing anyone to repurpose or publish it on their own Web site or social network page.

Talking to sexy people

The technology industry has long coveted the small business market, which numbers in the tens of millions in the U.S. But the so-called "Mom and Pop" smaller organizations numbering from a handful to under a hundred employees are often a marketing challenge.

Not only do these companies, from the bicycle shop to the hair dresser to the restaurant, have very different needs, they don't necessarily have time to surf the Web looking for new technology solutions to their business needs.

Scoble said Building 43 will also have content of interest to hardcore geeks and others "fanatical about the Internet" who, the hope is, will recommend the site to companies looking for help.

"We'll still talk to sexy people in the industry," he said.