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The Next Generation Web

By Abbie Drew
Sep 6, 2006

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The summer doldrums are behind us and it is time to look ahead to a busy fall season. As online marketers and entrepreneurs you need to know about the latest buzz on the Intenet.

The talk is all about Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 has been around for years. But do you really know what Web 2.0 means? And more importantly, do you understand its massive implications for doing business online? Our discussion today addresses these topics and prepares you for taking advantage of the Web 2.0 reality.

For our purposes a simple definition of Web 2.0 can be found on Wikipedia. Web 2.0 Sites: "let people collaborate and share information online in a new way."

If you have been doing business online as long as I have (1995), you've heard this before. Recall the emphasis on "community building"? As we'll see Web 2.0 is really an extension of principles that have long worked online. But what is new is the emphasis on these principles and the novel ways they are being applied. You should also note that many of the fastest growing business online embody Web 2.0.

Let's consider five Web 2.0 principles and see how they fit together. Web 2.0 companies emphasize certain core competencies. The first is they provide Web services, as opposed to packaged software. Examples abound and include eBay, Google, Myspace and FlickR.

1. Native Web Applications

All start as native web applications. They are not sold or packaged but instead delivered as a service. Customers pay directly or indirectly for the use of the service. There is continuous improvement instead of scheduled software releases. Usage, instead of licensing. Instead of requiring users to download software the services generally run on a group of commodity PCs running open source operating systems and home grown applications.

2. Database Management

But a second closely related competency needs to be emphasized - database management. Web 2.0 companies are more than a collection of software services. They control unique, difficult to recreate data sources that become more valuable the more people use them. The value of software is found in the data it serves.

Google is a great example. Google's value lies in its specialized database. Without the data the search tools Google provides, the site would be useless. eBay is another example. Its huge database of buyers and sellers is what makes the site worth visiting.

3. Focus On The "Long Tail"

A third Web 2.0 principle is "the long tail". The long tail is the collective power of small sites consisting of the majority of the web's content. This principle holds that Web 2.0 companies leverage customer self-service to reach out to the entire web - to the long tail and not simply the head.

DoubleClick did the opposite by targeting the busiest websites as measured by web ad scoring companies. Contrast DoubleClick with Yahoo! Search Marketing which servers hundreds of thousands of advertisers aka the long tail. Web 2.0 companies focus on the many, not the few.

4. Wisdom of Crowds

Web 2.0 companies also take advantage of the wisdom of crowds. That is to say the service benefits from the collective activity of its users. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a radical experiment in trust, allowing anyone to add an entry or edit the entry of another.

Even Microsoft has gotten into the Web 2.0 spirit. Just recently I downloaded their Windows Defender spyware removal program. All users are given the option to join a spyware network. The activity of its users helps Microsoft pinpoint spyware and create definitions for its removal. While not strictly a Web 2.0 application, the point is that Web 2.0 companies enable users to add value.

5. User as Co-Developer

Consistent with the Web 2.0 theme is the idea of users as co-developer. The idea of "release early and release often" is followed by the real time monitoring of user behavior to see what new features are used and how they are used. This speed of change has created a new core competency for Web 2.0 companies - seeing what is working, what is not and changing on the fly.

For additional examples of Web 2.0 companies take a look at the All Things Web 2.0 site .

If you take only one point away from our discussion it should be this - the web is about participation, not simply publishing.

Your competitive opportunity lies in embracing the potential of Web 2.0. You do not need to embrace each principle. In fact excellence in one area is more important than baby steps in all. To succeed online create sites that learn from your visitors and users. Allow everyone participation and you’ll find you have a competitive advantage because of the richness of shared data.

Right now, we are working to apply these Web 2.0 principles to our SendFree.com autoresponder and email list host site. We have hired dedicated programming staff and new system administrators to completely modernize and make the service ready for the future. I have the envious task of writing all the specifications. The good news is that writing the specs forces me to think through all the features that SendFree needs to have.

And in the spirit of Web 2.0 it would be great to hear from you! Drop me an email and tell me what you would like to see in an autoresponder and email list host company? What is missing from your current host? What would you like to see improved, changed or different?

All suggestions will be reviewed by me personally. Send your suggestions using this Contact Form.

Talk to you in a couple of weeks.

Your Web 2.0'd analyst!

Abbie Drew

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