Betting on the Real-Time

No one knows how the microblogging site and similar online social networks will make money, but investors see a new Web revolutionJohn Borthwick speaks softly, but he can’t hide his excitement. Co-founder and chief executive of the New York Internet media incubator betaworks, Borthwick is an investor in the microblogging phenomenon Twitter, where people exchange short public messages called tweets. Betaworks is also building or investing in at least 21 other companies mining the “real-time Web.” That’s the term coined to describe the exploding number of live social activities online, from tweets to status updates on Facebook to the sharing of news, Web links, and videos on myriad other sites. “It’s a whole new layer of innovation that’s opening up on the Web,” he says.It’s also a whole new field of dreams for entrepreneurs and investors. Amid the downsized remains of Web 2.0, with online advertising and e-commerce in a drought, they’re viewing the real-time Web as the Internet’s Next Big Thing — maybe even the source of the next Google. The emerging sector is so new, and its boundaries so fuzzy, that it’s difficult to know how much money has been sunk into how many firms. But many dozens of startups are staking claims and drawing interest from investors.

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