A little over two years ago, even the most
sensitive entrepreneurial radar could not pick out two pairs of people
on opposite ends of the West Coast starting companies that would make
plenty out of nothing.

In Santa Monica, Calif., dot-com survivors Chris
DeWolfe and Tom Anderson were hatching the idea of taking on biggies
like AOL and Yahoo with a Web site consisting only of stuff that people
would bring to it. And up in Vancouver, B.C., married collaborators
Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake were just figuring out that the
online game they were developing might work better as a way for people
to share their digital photos with each other.

The image “http://www.umich.edu/~uac/threeweeks/Volume6.7/facebook.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Now
both fledgling companies are leading a charge of innovators making hay
out of the Internet’s ability to empower citizens and enrich those who
help with the empowerment. The southern California guys head MySpace,
the prime hangout for 65 million (mostly young) people, and thousands
of rock bands, movie stars and marketers begging for their attention.
Canadian-born Flickr, by building a 2.5 million-member community solely
around a passion for sharing photos, has become a poster child on how a
well-executed Net effort can make big changes in people’s habits.
Welcome to the new tech boom.

and unlike the old boom, where entrepreneurs couldn’t get to the IPO
broker’s office quick enough, these crafty duos have already taken the
money and stayed. Yahoo has snapped up Flickr to bolster the portfolio
of services it offers to its half-billion users. And the new owner of
MySpace is that wild and crazy (like, um, a fox) digital punkster,
Rupert Murdoch—hedging his bets on what might be the next Net-powered
media upheaval.

By Steven Levy and Brad Stone