In this the third and final part of my series of posts about Yellowikis as a Web 2.0 case study, I look at some of the principles that can be applied by other Web 2.0 companies and those people wanting to start a business in this era of the Web.
To briefly summarize: in Part 1 I introduced Yellowikis, a Wikipedia-like site for open business listings, Yellowikis will get better the more people use it.and said it has the potential to shake up the Yellow Pages industry. In Part 2 I took a more critical look at Yellowikis and the business realities it faces. Firstly it has a shortage of content at this point in time, plus there are issues regarding how the content should be structured. Secondly there's no shortage of competition both from traditional Yellow Pages companies and Internet giants like Yahoo! and Google.
In this third post I want to take a step back and ponder what aspects of Yellowikis makes it 'Web 2.0' and what are some of the opportunities open to such services.
One of the things I've learnt from my discussions with Yellowikis founder Paul Youlten is that there are a variety of business models or opportunities to pursue. It's not all about taking on the Big Fish in the Yellow Pages industry. Indeed, Paul told me developing nations may hold "the real potential" for Yellowikis. He told me The Ethiopian Yellow Pages has less than 100 companies listed (in a country of 73 million people) and what's more they're listed graphically instead of textually, "so it can't be properly indexed by Google." He also noted that basic business information in places like India and China are difficult to access. "This is where Yellowikis will make an important difference", Paul concluded.
Web 2.0 Principles applied by Yellowikis
Let's examine some of the characteristics that make Yellowikis a Web 2.0 service:
- Web-based (of course) and uses wiki technology; the same MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia.
- Any user can both read and write content - adding business listings and editing them. To put it in 'Web 2.0 wanker' terms, it harnesses collective intelligence.
- Requires a significant amount of 'trust' in the users.
- Can be deployed via the Web in countries all over the world (see Emily Chang's interview with Paul Youlten for more details on this aspect).
- Developed and is maintained by a small team (just Paul and his 14-year old daughter - both working part-time).
- Has fast, lightweight and inexpensive development cycles.
- Uses Open Source LAMP technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) - meaning it is very cheap to run.
- The content has no copyright and is freely licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.
- Can and will hook into other Web systems, e.g. Google Maps. Indeed if it introduces its own APIs, then it will be able to be remixed by other developers.
- Relies on word-of-mouth and other 'viral' marketing.
- Requires network effects to kick in order to be successful (at least at the scale of disrupting the Yellow Pages industry).
- Yellowikis will get better the more people use it. The Wikipedia is an excellent example of this.
These principles apply to a lot of Web 2.0 businesses and services and I hope this 3-part series on Yellowikis has been an informative real-life example of Web 2.0 in action. I will write more case studies in upcoming posts.
Note on Talkback responses: There have been some interesting comments left by readers in the Talkback section. jmjames thinks there may be credibility issues with business data on a wiki and wonders whether Yellowikis is truly disruptive. In Part 2 Stephen comments that Yellowikis needs to " gather real comments from real customers". Yellowikis founder Paul Youlten responded, in the Talkback section, to those comments and some of the issues raised in the first two posts. In response to the lack of tagging and APIs mentioned in Part 1, Paul responded here; and regarding the issues raised in Part 2 around data and competitive threats, Paul responded here. I wouldn't do justice in summarizing Paul's comments, so I encourage you to read them for yourself. And more importantly, contribute your own opinion in our Talkback section.