1. Reed Hastings, Chief Executive Officer, Netflix
Reed Hastings could have stuck with his first breakthrough idea–Netflix recently mailed its 2-billionth DVD. Instead, he’s swiftly embraced streaming online and direct to TV via Netflix-ready devices made by LG, Samsung, Microsoft, and others. So far, it seems to be working: Netflix’s stock price has doubled since last November, reaching record highs.
2. Michele Ganeless, President, Comedy Central
First came South Park, then The Daily Show and its Colbert spin-off. Now Michele Ganeless is expanding into digital territory. Comedy Central has launched Web sites for all its shows as well as stand-alone sites such as Jokes.com, the largest Internet archive of stand-up videos, plus videos from Sarah Silverman, Carlos Mencia, and Dane Cook.
3. Dave Morin, Senior Platform Manager, Facebook
He’s Facebook’s strategic thinker on the next big thing in social media–identity protection on the Web. The issue is who is going to set the standards for open-identity protocols that would enable you to safely take your online profile and relationships with you everywhere on the Internet. Morin‘s team recently launched its own open-identity application, Facebook Connect, which lets users log in to some 8,000 sites and applications.
4. Stephen Chau, Product Manager, Google Maps and Google Earth
Incorporating photos into online maps wasn’t a new idea at Google, but no one had figured out how to pull it off until Stephen Chau tackled what became Street View, the company’s fastest-growing product of 2008. Vehicles equipped with a half-dozen cameras covered much of the United States and are now photographing nine other countries.
6. Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Partner architect, MSN and Microsoft Visual Earth
Techies have long sought to display huge files in high resolution without crashing a computer. Blaise Aguera y Arcas did it, with software called Seadragon. Microsoft bought Seadragon and integrated it into photosynth, the 3-D photo application popularized by CNN in its presidential-inauguration coverage. As Microsoft incorporates zooming into more applications, Aguera y Arcas will transform how we experience visual data.
7. Susan Wu, Chief executive officer, Ohai
How do you make money from things that don’t exist? Susan Wu intends to show you. The first venture capitalist to focus on virtual goods–products that don’t exist offline, such as Facebook gifts and everything your avatar needs in Second Life–Wu is the doyenne of this growing niche. Her startup focuses on massively multiplayer online games and will count on virtual goods for the bulk of its revenue.
8. Henrik Werdelin, Chief creative officer, Joost
Inspired by how people move in the real world, Werdelin has led the transformation of Joost into a “learning” site that tracks how you watch and what you share with friends, and customizes itself by, say, automatically moving up your fave features. The strategy is working: In the past five months, traffic has quadrupled and the Joost iPhone app has been downloaded 1.5 million times.
9. Scott Schuman, Blogger
Scott Schuman started his fashion blog, The Sartorialist, to “share photos of everyday people I thought looked great.” More than 2,000 posts later, the former Valentino marketer has a monthly column in GQ, a six-figure book deal with Penguin, and a booming photography business. Oh, and he says The Sartorialist lures roughly 120,000 visitors a day.
10. Chris Ferguson, Founder, Full Tilt Poker
He was the first poker player to win a tournament prize of more than $1 million. Now Chris Ferguson has claimed some $7.3 million in winnings. But his biggest bet was starting Full Tilt Poker with 12 pros who join in online games instead of the usual one or two. Full Tilt is one of the fastest-growing poker sites in the world.
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