Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Web goes 2.0

In Silicon Valley the most popular buzzword today is Web 2.0. Unless you're a techie, figuring out what it means isn't easy. Web 2.0 technologies bear names like wikis, blogs, RSS, AJAX, and mashups. Web 2.0 is projecting a real sea change on the Internet. If Web 2.0 folks weren't so geeky, we might call it the Live Web.

  1. photo-sharing Flickr
  2. reference source Wikipedia
  3. teen hangout MySpace
  4. active participation and
  5. social interaction

According to Business Week: "And though these Web 2.0 services have succeeded in luring millions of consumers to their shores, they haven't had much to offer the vast world of business; yet."

For all its appeal to the young and the wired, Web 2.0 may end up making its greatest impact in business. Just as the personal computer sneaked its way into companies through the back door, so it's going with Web 2.0 services.

  • We already have to live with globalization and outsourcing
  • Enterprise 2.0 can flatten the organizational boundaries between
    • managers and employees and
    • between the company and
    • its partners and customers

We use wikis, and / or other group-editable Web pages, to turbo-charge collaboration. Modern firms are using button-down, casual social-networking services such as LinkedIn (we too) and Visible Path (new to me) to:

  • dig up sales leads and
  • hiring prospects from the collective contacts of colleagues

We can now spend the time in front of our computers looking at market, social and demographic trends, and painting pictures of what might be the next big thing, instead of flying around the world and spending our time in hotel rooms. The Web 2.0's essential appeal is empowerment. Increasing computer power, nearly ubiquitous high-speed Internet connections, and ever-easier Web 2.0 services give users unprecedented power to do it themselves. It doesn't hurt that many of these services are free.

The Internet phone service Skype and the social collaboration site MySpace, for instance, become more useful with each new contact or piece of content added. The collective actions, contacts, and talent of people using services such as MySpace, eBay, and Skype essentially improve those services constantly.

Still, a lot of executives remain skeptical. For some, it's hard to imagine that MySpace could also be used as a new corporate collaboration service. There's a big cultural difference between the Web 2.0 people and the IT department.

  • Companies are struggling to overcome problems with current online communications,
  • How ot handle e-mail spam or
  • Managing the costs of maintaining company intranets that few employees use

So, soon we will see how they're starting to experiment with a growing array of collaborative services, such as wikis. Companies are starting to test the use of MySpace, Facebook, and other social-networking services.

The reason: As appealing as that social aspect is

  • for teens and
  • anyone else who wants to stay in closer touch with friends,
  • it's even more useful in business.

After all, businesses in one sense are social networks formed to make or sell something. Corporate-oriented social networks are gaining a toehold. LinkedIn, OpenBC and other online services for people to post career profiles and find prospective employees, clients or partners are the recruiting or prospecting tools of choice for a number of companies. In 2003, people thought of those services as a weird form of social networking, now they are accepted by large and smaller companies. How can you get started? Companies are starting to test the use of MySpace, Facebook, and other social-networking services.

  1. Create a MySpace page.
  2. Open a Flickr account and upload a few photos.
  3. Write a Wikipedia entry. Create a mashup at Ning.com.

The essence of Web 2.0 is experimentation, so you / we / companies / individuals / start-ups should try things out. Then there's blogging. It's worthwhile to spend considerable time

  1. reading some popular blogs,
  2. which you can find at Technorati.com,
  3. to get a feel for how online conversation works.
  4. Only then should executives try their hand at blogging
  5. and perhaps first inside their companies before going public.
  6. Thick skin is a requirement, since the "blogosphere" can be brutal on anything that sounds like spin
  7. And companies should to provide open forums for their customers to express themselves.

"In the end, the brand is owned not just by the people who create it, but by the people who use it." Says Forrester Research analyst Chris Charron.

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