Web 2.0: Rumors of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Sometimes it is a good idea to step back and think after reading the breathless reporting on the Great Left Coast Technology Shows, TechCrunch 50 and Demo Fall . What is most interesting is some of the ensuing analysis.  For example, this piece basically says Web 2.0 is dead, because the offered Web 2.0 innovation was yet another photo site, friend network, etc…  Even Web 2.0’s death is old news.  During November 2006, Web 2.0 was considered as much as dead to be superseded by Web 3.0  (ugh!!! I haven’t got Web 2.0 straight yet).

What is going on?  How can I even remotely look intelligent as a technologist going for budget or capital to work with Web 2.0 technology?  Dead, not dead, no wait it is Web 3.0.  This would make anybody think the IT profession as a whole was psychotic for even suggesting a value proposition incorporating Web 2.0 technology within or without the company.

Perhaps a different view would help put all of the noise in perspective.  After recently reading “Engines that Move Markets: Technology Investing from Railroads to the Internet and Beyond” by Alasdair Nairn, one can apply the lessons learned from past cycles of technology adoption to that of Web 2.0.  While technologies such as railroads, electric lighting, and automobiles are dissimilar, they all tend to follow the same cyclic steps.  One of those early steps is the rise of copycats or “me-too-ism”.  Everybody wants to jump on that gravy train with biscuit wheels, and hopes to tap into the investment cash stream moving into the new technology innovation.  By gauging where you stand step-wise in the cycle you will know when and where to invest.  So in this case Web 2.0 is not dead, it is merely signaling a move to the next stage.

The next stage will be corporate and organizational adoption, not necessarily the next great consumer Web site.  The consumer space has been the lead innovation ground for the Internet, with corporate and organizational use trailing.  So the consumer space is moving to the later consolidation phase for Web 2.0, while the corporate and organization space is beginning innovation and adoption.  Just the announcements by IBM for a social collaboration lab and Oracle for their Beehive initiative show the value of using this cyclic model as a lens for evaluation.

Now is really the time for corporations and organizations to begin to consider adoption of Web 2.0 technology with implementation studies and pilot programs.  The potential productivity gains and first mover benefits will be huge for those who can begin the cultural changes necessary.  Because the technology drives more of a cultural and organizational change than a true technological change there is little benefit to waiting for the technology to be “perfected”.  Instead, the organization’s culture needs to adapt to best practice in collaboration and analytics driven evolution, and where people are concerned it takes time to adapt and assimilate.

Image courtesy of gapingvoid.com

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