Louis Armstrong once said “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.” I got to thinking about that while reading a post over at Raw. Danny talks about how tools going forward, and possibly one that’s starting out now, will enable people developing the folksonomy that, well, folks have touted for the last couple years. If it works out, Louis would be proud, don’cha think?
First, I do not believe Web 2.0 is purely hype, no matter how much hype exists (and, let’s be honest, there is a lot of hype right now). That said, if it’s more than just hype, what is it? We all seem to grasp at that particular straw, and very few folks seem to be able to put their finger on just what Web 2.0 really means. The folks in my blogroll (especially Governor, Anne Zelenka [though she’s probably starting to think I’m a stalker], and Richard McManus) do a better job than most.
It’s important to look at who does Web 2.0 well. In my “Best of 2005” list, I mentioned five companies (OK, eight) that I thought “got it.” One (MyBlogLog) is less of a Web 2.0 company, than one that enables the Web 2.0 environment. The rest, whether its del.icio.us, tech.memeorandum, Digg, or LinkedIn, give their users access to their information from anywhere.
Fundamentally, Web 2.0 has almost nothing to do with technology (though without the benefits specific technologies like Ajax or RSS enable, Web 2.0 wouldn’t exist). Instead, this collective, connective, collaborative environment represents, more than anything, a shift in consumers’ expectations of their role in the media authoring and product development process. Both Steve Rubel and Edelman talk about this in recent posts. Edelman goes a step further, trumping Web 2.0 by referring to this shift as the “Me2 Revolution.” James Governor even gives some great examples (such as Craigslist) that demonstrate the new world order pretty world.
Still, just because consumers have cracked into the formerly closed world of media authoring and product development doesn’t mean that Web 2.0 has produced its killer app yet. I love del.icio.us. I think it’s the coolest Web 2.0 app I’ve seen. Flickr and Technorati are pretty great, too. And of course, there’s this whole blogging thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it. But I haven’t seen the one thing that’s going to make everyone sit up, slap their foreheads, and say “Wow! So that’s what they’ve been talking about all along.” I could be wrong about this. I’d be curious to hear what you think.
Anyway, TechCrunch (“Tracking Web 2.0”) provides a critique of a new Ajax homepage. Richard McManus has a piece about Microsoft’s Live.com. James Governor has a particularly insightful piece about how Web 2.0-type services could lead to all new legal battles (“Litigation 2.0?”). Assuming the old joke about MS applies and that we don’t get it right until version 3.0, what’s Web 3.0 going to offer? Is it Ajax-like interfaces on your phone or truly desktop-like experiences on the Web? No offense meant to those folks who are making that happen more and more today. But let’s face it, what does Web 2.0 offer yet. Web 2.0 still lacks its killer app. There are some folks (del.icio.us, Flickr, Google, etc.) who have moved the needle. There are bunches more of us out here whispering into the din. Clearly, one advantage of Web 2.0 is it gives an increasing number of us “quiet voices” the opportunity to attract a handful of listeners via aggregation and distribution. We all know spreadsheets provided the killer app for computers themselves and email provided the killer app for the Internet. Will 2.0 ever get its killer app, or will the killer app be the start of Web 3.0?
So here’s something you don’t see every day: a company conceding its market space to the competition. My favorite comment: “To boost revenue from each search, Yahoo! plans to make ads more relevant to search terms, meaning people will be more likely to click on them. Advertisers pay Yahoo! a fee when Internet users click on the ads.” What? Umm… won’t their ads be, you know, irrelevant (at least from a marketer’s standpoint) once folks stop using Yahoo! to conduct search?
Two fairly smart folks, Anne Zelenka of Anne 2.0 and Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion, took opposite viewpoints on this one; Anne says it’s all good, while Steve basically loses his mind and says, “Screw ’em.” As compelling as Anne’s argument is, I have a tough time agreeing with her overall. I think she’s right, in that companies can thrive in a knowledge economy by staking out its territory along the fringe (which vaguely echoes the old Reis and Trout positioning mantra, too). Additionally, I think she’s taking a look at the broader picture and looking for alternative forms of success. Admirable, though I’m not fully convinced that that’s the right way to go on this one.
Steve’s probably gone around the bend on the other side, but I think he’s closer to the fact on this. Except for one thing. To his comment, “I have no interest in using a product that the company doesn’t aspire to make best of breed,” I ask one question: what kind of cell phone do you have? ‘Cause pretty much all of them in this country are pretty lousy. Anyway, I do think that Yahoo! is taking an odd approach on this one and is going to hurt themselves in the short term. It does make me wonder what they’re up to in the longer term. And, drawing on Anne’s advice one more time, it might be worth some deeper, more reflective thought.