Web 2.0 Powers Up People


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Q: How do you hype interest in the Web, again? A: Put 2.0 on the end of it!

It reminds me of the hype that drove interest in CRM, which didn’t really ramp up until we all started to use the term “CRM.” Until about 1997 or so, there was a mishmash of terms floating around, like TERM (Technology Enabled Relationship Management) by Gartner and many others proposed by various vendors and consultants.

That’s the beauty of “Web 2.0,” which has emerged as a convenient label for the “next generation” Web. A brilliant move by Tim O’Reilly, founder/CEO of publisher O’Reilly Media, which co-produced the Web 2.0 conference with CMP Media. In part, that’s what brought me and 11,000 of my friends to San Francisco on April 15-18.

Thankfully, although the average age of attendees was about 30 years old, no body piercing was required to gain entry.

What is Web 2.0?

In his opening remarks, O’Reilly said Web 2.0 was about “harnessing the collective intelligence” of people. (Sounds too much like the Borg to me.) For a more thorough discussion about how “Web 2.0” came about, read what he wrote in September 2005.

Fundamentally, I see Web 2.0 as empowering people. I’ve been talking about the rise of customer power for years; it’s been a driver of CRM activity. Open markets and globalization have increased competition, and buyers have benefited. But it’s the Internet that has forever shifted the balance of power. Consider how Jeff Jarvis damaged the Dell brand by blogging about his “Dell Hell” customer experience.

To figure out what this Web 2.0 thing was about, I decided to annoy as many vendors on the Expo floor as possible. To my question: “What is Web 2.0” I got about a dozen different answers. Out of that emerged some core ideas that seem to glue the Web 2.0 concept together.

User-Created Content

Instead of publishers and editors controlling what you can publish, these days it’s easy to write your own blog using TypePad, collaborate with others in Wikipedia, post your videos on YouTube, share photos on Flickr, or rate news stories on Digg.

What’s fueling this growth in Do It Yourself publishing is our basic human instinct to control our own destiny. Most people don’t like to be under the control of a dictator, to buy from a monopoly, to hire a contractor to fix up our house, … or to rely only on traditional media to put our thoughts out for the world to see.

Blog search engine Technorati says it’s now tracking over 70 million blogs, with 120,000 new blogs created every day. Gartner predicts that sometime in the first half of 2007, the number of bloggers will peak at 100 million. Yikes!

Now businesses looking to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon can turn to companies like MindTouch and Socialtext for wikis. Intel is jumping into Web 2.0 game with SuiteTwo, a collection of software for blogs, wikis, RSS and social networking—all from different vendors. Calling it an “integrated suite” seems a bit of stretch, to me.

Salesforce.com recently announced Apex Content to “harness the power of Web 2.0 and community participation to enable the creation of a new generation of content-based applications.” And, I suspect, to increase the stickiness of its on-demand SFA application.

Social networking

A second key aspect of Web 2.0 is social networking, which enables people to exchange information and develop relationships. Everyone’s heard of MySpace (168 million mostly young users) or Facebook (19 million high school and college students). But networking is becoming more common with business users, too, as LinkedIn (9 million users) has gained popularity.

Now it appears that social networking is ready for prime time in the enterprise. For example, you can buy Lotus Connections from IBM to build and use networks of people in and around your company. VisiblePath (part of Intel’s SuiteTwo offering, is another option.

Web as Application Platform

Finally, Web 2.0 (according to many of the exhibitors I questioned, at least) usually includes some new technology under the hood. Instead of sending full pages of information back and forth from the browser to the server, logic and data is being moved into the browser to enable a faster and richer user experience. Google Maps is a good example.

I’m not a web developer, but it seems that AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is the most common approach, so far. Web 2.0 exhibitor Bungee Labs has launched a new hosted service to enable development of “rich Internet applications.”

But AJAX is not the only game in town. Curl pitched another approach which supposedly provides more industrial strength Web 2.0 applications needed by large enterprises. Microsoft will be launching PhizzPop on April 30 as a place to showcase Web 2.0 apps on the Microsoft platform. Denodo can help provide to create enterprise data mashups.

Finally, if you’re going to develop these advanced applications, you’d better figure out what kind of user experience you’re delivering. I spent some time with the folks at Coradiant and was impressed with the amount of insight you can get into what web users are doing, and the problems they’re experiencing. Saas vendors RightNow and Salesforce.com are customers, along with Blackboard and corporate intranet managers.

Whether you like the term “Web 2.0” or not, it’s probably here to stay. And, while there was plenty of hype and loads of startups showing their wares at the Web 2.0 Expo, it’s different than the last Internet bubble. This time, I noticed a number of seasoned technology companies there—like Adobe, AOL, IBM, Intel, Salesforce.com and WebEx—showing how they’re embracing Web 2.0 concepts.

And who is standing by to sell web servers? Sun, the company that coined the phrase “the network is the computer.” With Web 2.0, Scott McNealy’s vision is finally coming to pass.

What’s your take on Web 2.0? How will it impact the customer relationships you’re attempting to “manage” with CRM techniques? Post your comments below.


  1. Bob

    Sounds like you had a fun time in San Francisco.

    A recent Keller Fay report suggested that 97%, yes 97%, of conversations still happened off-line. If you think about it it makes sense.

    If only 3% of conversations are on-line, the big question seems to be how do we integrate our on-line conversation building efforts to both support and enable the off-line conversations.

    Having great products, keen pricing and superb after-sales service is the best way I know of.

    Seems like Web2.0 is a bit ahead of Customer1.0.

    Graham Hill


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