Is Web 2.0 all that innovative?

Is Web 2.0 all that innovative?

Summary: Peter Rip has heard the last call for what technology history buffs may refer to as the "Web 2.0 period.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0
4

Peter Rip has heard the last call for what technology history buffs may refer to as the "Web 2.0 period."

It came in the form of an adjacent conversation when Rip was having lunch. In a nutshell a young 30 something was explaining to a 50 something the generic Web 2.0 company template. It's the equivalent of the cab driver giving you stock tips. And besides if everyone and their mother knows the Web 2.0 company template chances are pretty good it's played out.

But that's not the biggest takeaway from Rip's missive. Rip refers to innovation and how he's just not seeing much from the Web 2.0 crowd. "The consumer web landscape seems to be populated with the same bodies with different skins," says Rip.

In many respects Rip is dead on. The broader question may be whether many of the things that characterize Web 2.0--notably mashups, communities and setting up neat little feeds--are truly innovative. Perhaps the first use of Web 2.0 tools are innovative, but after that the copycats arrive. Why? Because Web 2.0 allows you to plug and play functionality. That's an innovative approach to things, but doesn't necessarily result in anything innovative per se.

For me, part of the innovation equation is building something that you can defend as a business. A new product design, a new chip or a new method of doing something. In some respects, Web 2.0 lacks anything you can defend because it's easily mimicked. How many Digg clones do we have these days?

That's not to say that Web 2.0 won't leave its mark. But the real innovation may come from the corporate space as enterprises use Web 2.0 tools in their applications. That's something we call Enterprise 2.0. Salesforce.com's AppSpace is a start, but the bigger picture is going to be using the Web as a platform to do real business tasks.

Om Malik notes that perhaps we should just drop the Web 2.0 spiel and go with that old fashioned term innovation to describe the latest tech developments. I second that motion. And I bet if we used the definition of innovation to gauge Web 2.0 developments many of them wouldn't make the cut.

Topic: Enterprise 2.0

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

Talkback

4 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • imagine if you will...

    That back in the days when pterodactyls soared above the office buildings where folks first used their mouse buttons to open web browsers and conduct business on the web, that a young man explained the ins and outs of navigating what was then being called the "information superhighway" to an older business owner. Would the nascent Internet not have been innovative because people already had been communicating just fine, via other means, for centuries--for millennia, even? Is the only innovation worth considering the use it was put to, or was the structure itself worthy of merit?

    For those of you still scratching, it's a rhetorical question.
    alix.dobkowski
  • Web 2.0 is a myth!

    .
    Reverend MacFellow
  • Web 2.0? Enterprise 2.0? Huh 2.0!

    The interesting and instructive part of Peter Rip's commentary is that while there is a decline in commercial site traffic Wikipedia soldiers on.

    In one sense, according to graphic designers and ad folks, Wikipedia should have failed miserably. It's not pretty, it's busy and it's not commercial.

    Incidentally, Google should have failed too, according to these folks, because it's ugly. Mind you, it does searches so well that people don't search anymore as much as google.

    The problem with the commercial sites that Rip looks at is that they're pretty, they are well designed and devoid of the most important thing. Content. Also, under the glitz is poor design.

    There's a constant here with most commercial sites I've looked at is that while they are pretty, serve up ads well and have some content is that they also show all the weaknesses of a poorly designed web site making the same mistakes that go back to the bad old days of simple HTML. Oh, and they lack content, too.

    Like most other people that have been around the Web for the last 10 years or so I've been hearing about the impending commercialization of the Web and never, really, seeing it happen.

    Sure people buy things from the Web, sell things on the Web, rip other people off on the Web just like they do in real life. But while the Web itself seeks to open options the goal of most commercial sites seems to be to restrict them. And it almost universally fails.

    We've been through portals, dot com booms and busts, Web 2.0 now and seen this repeated with each one. The venture capitalist rushes in thinking I can make a killing here and it rarely happens. Meantime the Wikipedias of the world keep on going.

    Amazon is the exception that proves the rule, in a way. While they want you to buy from them they have embraced the web rather than tried to wall it off.

    A fatal flaw in thinking, apparent in Rip's article, is that the Web should, somehow, be a platform like an OS rather than a collection of sites. Applications like Joomla, technologies like PHP/Python/Rails that run on top of it are the building blocks of an application and it's up to the people that design the sites to put it all together. The hard work, if you like.

    The Web has proven itself, over and over again, not to be a place of easy answers. It was not designed at a computing platform much as some want to make it that rather it was a way to present documents on line and to make collaboration easier.

    Today it's indexed to death by Google, MSN and Yahoo among others, has applications that will do most of what Rip wants done but behind it all is a simple place to put documents on line and collaborate.

    Once commercial entities get it they will design better sites and perhaps generate enough paying traffic to make a bit of money. Otherwise we'll continue to see articles like Rip's bemoaning, yet again, that the Web and Internet as a whole are horrible places to make lots of money real fast.

    In the meantime non commercial sites will continue to do well, ugly sites that make graphic designers cringe like Google and Slashdot will continue to do well and those few companies like Amazon that actually get it will continue to do well.

    With all due respect Rip doesn't get it. Somehow after being through portals, dot com boom and bust and now this I'm not surprised.

    ttfn

    John
    TtfnJohn
  • What is Web 2.0 anyway?

    As one of the other comments pointed out, successful "web 2.0" companies are not about technology but rather about people. I believe that web2.0 is truly about providing value to people rather than hype to VCs. No wonder some VCs are disappointed. And no wonder many pundits and "web2.0 startups" still don't "get it" that their customers are not the VCs! After all, we're all used to following the money. And in our fast-paced web business environment, we want the money, *fast*

    There's an article written by Paul Graham a while back that covers this nicesly: http://www.paulgraham.com/web20.html I would add to what Paul has to say that the truly successful web2.0 companies are about *love*: they create relationships that are mutually supportive and cherishing between themselves and their users, and between their users. Users - customers - will come back again and again to a service that loves them.
    enovikoff