I’ve go to say, it is absolutely fascinating to watch the Web 2.0 hype accelerate and build. I was personally involved in the initial Internet bubble of the late 90s and it’s great to see people getting excited about technology again.
With that in mind, I’d like to just share some of my thoughts and observations about “Web 2.0”:
- I hope we don’t quickly forget the failings of Web 1.0. While there is an optimistic sentiment to change the world with software, the world – especially one where economic realities exist – didn’t exactly embrace everything 1.0 put out. In fact, it threw 90% of it in the trash. The rest survived by being consolidated into a small handful of Web powerhouses (Amazon, Yahoo, etc.).
- The trends over the past couple of years have been gradually building. Recently, the decibel level has gone up with O’Reilly elegantly summarizing these trends and placing them under the “Web 2.0” banner. While some of these trends intersect, many don’t. I think we’re going to see naive investors telling startups to make sure “tagging” gets into their products. Big mistake. All of these trends are useless in a vacuum and subject to inevitable abuse and misuse. Effective software uses technology as a means to deliver useful tools through compelling experiences. I just went through the Zimbra product demonstration. They spend a good two minutes trumpeting their use of AJAX. Who cares?
- I’ve been reading a lot of chatter about how many of the conventional methods of building software – like specification drafting and quality assurance testing – are about to be steam rolled by this new, agile way of building software. This approach may very well work for small applications (and most of the 2.0 applications out there are small) that don’t have to integrate with much of anything. You cannot build Visio without documentation. If your team exceeds five people, you’d be “filling people in” all day long and your testers are left asking more questions than testing.
- del.icio,us. Writeboard. Rollyo. Blogger. Not to mention Google’s menu of services and lab experiments. None of them make money. I hear things like “the data is the application” and “the architecture of participation.” Great. Beyond the hippie charm, how does all this love translate into real money? The Web 2.0 conference is not Woodstock (at least I don’t think it is). I guess we can figure out how to make money later, or just hope to be bought out by a bigger player. Sound familiar?
- There are some undeniably exciting trends coming together in the past couple of years. The software development process is being challenged; software is getting smarter and easier to use; and we’re plugging into some really smart thinking (1.0 didn’t have the luxury of blogs). With all that said, there are still some features that didn’t make it into this release of the Web. The Enterprise has effectively been left out of this party. Issues like security, integration and deployment inside of an organization’s walls have not been addressed. Beyond the technical challenges, I’d like to see some of these trends and ideas applied to the business world. There are a lot of openings there.
Hopefully people won’t misread this post as contrarian. I think it’s important for us to learn the lessons of Web 1.0. There isn’t a sea of small, successful 1.0 companies doing wonderful work and making money today.
Instead, a sort of cleansing occurred at the tail end of the 90’s. Assets (either tangible or intellectual) either disintegrated or were sold as scraps to the big fish that survived. When the smoke cleared, all that remained were traditional businesses – the banks, the publishers, the media companies – standing there with a collective smirk.
For now, I think it’s important to take this stuff for what it’s worth: a neat set of tools that, if used intelligently, can result in some compelling product. No matter how giddy these toys make us tech heads, they’re of little value to the rest of the world until we create products and experiences that they can connect with.
In closing, I’ll share a conversation I recently had with a friend who is not in technology. I was attempting to explain this new “Web 2.0 trend” to him, only to be interrupted with: “There was a Web 1.0?”