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Web 2.0: Upgrade or Revolution?

  |  November 14, 2005   |  Comments

Do you really need another personal home page? With new disruptive standards and technologies and a strong focus on openness and sharing, we can do better than upgrades. Join the revolution!

Do I really need another personal home page? According to Microsoft's recent announcement of Windows Live and new offerings from a host of small startups, it seems I do -- all under the Web 2.0 banner.

True, Windows Live is about more than a configurable home page, although that's what you currently get (and a bad one at that) at live.com. And, it's cool to be able to drag and drop; collapse; expand; and read news, RSS (define) feeds, email, and the weather all from one place. But I've been doing that for the past several years on My Yahoo Other than the cool AJAX (define) hacks, what's new here? What am I missing?

There are two ways to approach things labeled "2.0." One is as feature upgrades. The other is as opportunities for a small revolution, to change, even to break, the rules of 1.0. Software vendors typically think of 2.0 as a big feature upgrade opportunity. That seems to be what we're witnessing with most of the Web 2.0 craze.

I have one word for that: boring!

Yes, the Web needs feature upgrades. The Internet has evolved into a complex ecosystem, and feature upgrades happen in an organic popularity-contest kind of way. RSS, and the ensuing explosion of Web syndication, was a great upgrade. Not for its technical merits, but for its lack of sophistication and the way it changes and decentralizes content distribution.

Its success and impact seem to have come from its very lack of technical sophistication and, by association, lack of complexity. RSS has gained momentum because it's spam-free and easy to implement. It was the right idea at the right time done right. Yet RSS is something most people probably don't want to know about, just as they don't want to know about HTML. I predict the less we hear about it, the greater its effect.

Syndication technologies are revolution enablers, but hardly revolutionary themselves. The same goes for cool AJAX hacks, streaming video over the Net, and ultra-configurable home pages. These things impress me as much as the next technology buff, but Web 2.0 could and should be so much more.

A small revolution isn't just necessary, it's inevitable. When we look at the big picture, we see new disruptive standards and technologies (define), a strong focus on openness and sharing, and one billion people accessing the Internet. We have fertile grounds for more than evolving upgrades.

In my revolutionary Web 2.0 category are:

  • The $100 laptop

  • The explosion of user-generated content

  • Creative Commons

  • Social sharing and exchanges that tap into collective knowledge and wisdom

  • Advertising models that enable free access to all information and services

  • Mash-ups (define) that continuously surface new, creative, sometimes destructive, and always unexpected and unplanned applications based on open and freely available services

Let's look beyond building new personal home pages and invent the kinds of things that will have a real outcome on the way we live, play, share, and communicate.

The same week it announced Windows Live, Microsoft announced something much more powerful, more Web 2.0 revolution-enabling than all the Live hoopla: it gave $5 million to the Open Content Alliance to support digitizing 150,000 books that will be placed on the Web, in the public domain. Now that's a 2.0 with revolutionary implications!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hans-Peter Brøndmo

Hans Peter BrØndmo has spent his career at the intersection of technological innovation and consumer empowerment. He is a successful serial entrepreneur and a recognized thought leader. His latest company, Plum, is a consumer service with big plans to make the Web easier to use. In 1996, he founded pioneering e-mail marketing company Post Communications. His recent book, "The Engaged Customer," is a national bestseller and widely recognized as the bible of e-mail relationship marketing. As a sought-after keynote speaker, he has addressed more than 50 conferences in the past three years, is often featured in national media, and has been invited to testify at two U.S. Senate hearings and an FCC hearing on Internet privacy and spam. Hans Peter is on the board of the online privacy certification and seal program of TRUSTe and several companies. He performed his undergraduate and graduate studies at MIT.

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