Google Base and Fremont--signs of the Web 2.0 plateau

Google Base and Fremont--signs of the Web 2.0 plateau

Summary: The technology industry has been experiencing a round of inspired innovation. Venture capital money is pouring into startups, and the new as well as aging giants are burning the midnight oil  Innovation will slow as the big companies become slower.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

The technology industry has been experiencing a round of inspired innovation. Venture capital money is pouring into startups, and the new as well as aging giants are burning the midnight oil  Innovation will slow as the big companies become slower. to take advantage of this second major wave of the Internet. The Web is the platform and the great virtual land grab is in full flower. AJAX pixie dust, XML stores, mash-ups, on demand infrastructure, Web replacements for traditional client/server applications, PHP, open source, tags, RSS, deeper user interaction and so-called disruptive startups are creating new kinds of applications.

There are signs, however, that the rampant innovation is turning in part into rampant imitation. That's not necessarily bad or unexpected. Innovation continues to be fueled by competition and dreams of a richly endowed Web OS and wireless world. But at a macro level, the big companies--Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, etc.--are focusing on the big market opportunities, while the smaller companies and startups fill the in between spaces, looking for a bit of open field or hoping to get acquired by one of the biggies. Just as in the past generation of technology or any other industry, the big fish get bigger and the smaller fish find a niche in deeper water, get swallowed by the big fish or quietly disappear. This Web 2.0 phase has reached a plateau yet. Richard MacManus lists some Web 2.0 products that he wishes would surface. But the plateau is beginning to come into view.

The most obvious evidence of a kind of plateau is the biggies focusing their energy on competing in the super lucrative areas, such as classifieds. eBay and others pioneer online auctions, Craig's List (partially owned by eBay) turns classifieds upside down and now the new 800-pound Gorilla Google and the older Microsoft Gorilla have turned their attention to those kinds of services. According to JupiterResearch, U.S. online classifieds is forecast to grow from $2.6 billion in 2005 to over $4 billion in 2010. Yahoo already has auctions and classifieds. AOL and Yahoo already have classifieds. Google has released Google Base, which is expected to become more of a classifieds engine, and Microsoft is following up with Fremont, which MSN product manager Gary Wiseman describes as "a free listing service, with a bunch of twists to make it very unique, such as integration with social networks, in particular integration with MSN Messenger." The cost to generate a new service is minimal compared to the old days, and they already have millions of users willing and able to test out and offer feedback for the new services. If at first they don't succeed, they can try again or buy a competitor's service with their stock and billions in cash reserves.

Reaching a plateau--a more stable, less disruptive level--is inevitable, just as it is that the cycle of rampant innovation will start again, but it also means that innovation will slow as the big companies also inevitably become slower, more insular and more bloated stuffing their bellies in a quest for more growth and profits.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Does size always matter?

    I love the big guys for one major reason...they have the ability to pull people across the chasm. No matter what they release, they are able to pass or fail it quickly since they already have such gigantic user-bases to begin with. This will definitely be ultra-evident with Google Base and Fremont. It leaves me awe-inspired.

    There are however, some other really innovative sites coming out in this regard (auctions and classifieds) that should be checked out. They are doing some really aggressive stuff with very, very little. I was checking out last week when I found an article on a company called This site is fantastic. It takes an auction "experience" to a whole new level with its mind-blowing use of flash. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth going to just to play like crazy. I really hope that they begin to expand into other categories (they are currently niched in handmade items only).

    We also released a new auction and classified site (and beta @ to the public last Thursday called It was developed to be an all-inclusive site where individuals and businesses can connect with those who have what they want, and those who want what they have...whether that is for a product or service, employment positions, or news of what is happening in their own backyard. The first section, called rMarket, allows users to offer or request any product or service through either an auction or a classified. Rbloc then drives those offers or requests out to individuals and businesses within their geographic area that have expressed prior interest. The site then provides the most comprehensive bidding and response structure available on the internet to assist in closing these deals. The point was to bring together, and better, numerous technologies under one umbrella so that you don't have to go to Craigslist, Google Base or Fremont for classifieds and then eBay and Yahoo for auctions.

    Basically, we are trying to help both individuals and businesses hook up less painfully by decreasing the amount of time that it takes general consumers to look for stuff, while alleviating some of the pains that businesses have to go through to get their wares out there.

    Like the article says, "Innovation will slow as the big companies become slower". I love the fact that these big companies are willing to buy up smaller more agile technologies and then work them into their corporate mixes. Especially when you look at how gentle the big lads are becoming with the companies they buy (friendly giants like yahoo and eBay). It's really cool to watch the tiny, independents do stuff that is hugely innovative, and then see their hard work come to fruition when they are bought by a giant and then the giant pulls their users across the chasm to the little guys wizardry.