I think it’s really important to occasionally step out of our own bubble and assess whether or not all this “stuff” is really breaking out of our world and into the rest of the world. Ironically, the most un-Web 2.0 platform of all, Myspace, defies all logic.
So how is Web 2.0 doing generally? If you use Alexa to chart out some of these startups, you often see prettty rocky mountains. Typically, there’s an initial spike around the buzz of a release of some sort (what I like to call the “Honeymoon” or “Techcrunch” phase), and then things settle down.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They could settle down to some solid, sustainable numbers. However, if we put aside the fact that just about all of these ventures charge no money, all we’ve got to hang our hat on is a growing user base (for the purpose of advertising and such). Unfortunately, except for a select few, nobody’s really on that path. Take a look at a few charts:
As you can see, it’s not that easy to get on a growth path and keep going. As for those spikes? Well, that’s just us (the technophiles) screwing around and playing with this stuff. Of course, there are some exceptions but they’re few and far between (Netvibes seems to be on a nice path).
In any respect, it’s all relative. How are all these ventures doing against the survivors of Web 1.0? Mind you, I don’t think it’s fair to compare Rojo to eBay for a handful of reasons. How about we compare stats from the sites that report and blog on all this stuff (Engadget, Boingboing, Techcrunch and Lifehacker) against an old school player: Cnet:
I know it’s kind of hard to read, but take my word for it, the aqua line in the graph is Cnet.
Of course, all this comparative analysis is anecdotal and isn’t meant to prove anything concrete. The real point of all this is to shed some light on how we can get caught up in our own noise. Your grandma doesn’t know what tagging is. Your uncle is not using Rollyo. People on the street are not using Gmail. They’re using Hotmail.
There’s one other point worth making about all the Web 2.0 zaniness. Prior to and since Google bought Writely, everyone’s been talking about how software as services are going to change the game. I think that’s a bit ambitious. I think it’s going to be increasingly difficult to prove out that people really want to their applications, and more importantly, their private data out on the Web. Furthermore, the entrenched players are not going to give up territory that easily. Take a look at this movie of the upcoming Office 2007 suite. It’s going to take a lot of Ajax to compete with that.
This post could easily be written off as one long bitch session. It isn’t meant to be one. I think for companies to succeed, it’s worth highlighting how hard the game really is and who else is playing. More importantly, it’s important to focus on how we get past our technical circles and penetrate the general population. It’s a very difficult nut to crack. Just ask the Old Guard, it took them years to get there..and they’re not about to give it up so easily.