Have you tried the new Web 2.0 “B.S. Generator” Web page? Click the button and popular catch-phrases fill up a Post-It note right before your eyes. Jargon like “aggregated semantic blogospheres,” “enabled Cluetrain Wikis,” “podcasting tagclouds,” and “rich-client folksonomies.” Funny, a “rich client” may be the only client to buy-in to any of these concepts.
Buzzwords aside, it’s easy to be cynical about Web 2.0, the term that has come to mean any Web service (or Web “self-service”) that relies on consumer-contributed content and social participation to create its social value proposition. The key word is “social.” Seattle’s social networking sites like 43things, Judy’s Book, BuddyTV or Jobster, social bookmarking sites like Blue Dot or Snapvine, social taggregators like TagJag, social voting/ranking sites like Newscloud, Musicmobs, Jookster or Vizrea, and contributed user content communities for blogs and podcasts like Pluggd, Melodeo, Newsvine, PiXPO or Weedshare, all mark this groupware resurgence.
What’s scary to some is the fact that these companies are eerily reminiscent of Web 1.0 business models which were based purely on gaining eyeballs. After all, if a business has trouble generating the required number of page views for sustainability, how will it succeed by requiring visitors to not simply stareand click but invest their time and intellectual property?
Across town, the P-I’s John Cook has been at Threat Level Orange over what he sees as several signs of a potential Web 2.0 meltdown. As JC points out, of the more than 60 Seattle start-ups that fit the Web 2.0 profile, just two (other than Zillow and Jobster) – namely Smilebox and Trailfire — got any money in the first half of the year. Dead 2.0, the ultimate Web 2.0 anti-blog, claims both Zillow and Jobster are seriously overcapitalized, and that bloat is an ominous warning of bust.
Not that more Web 2.0 companies aren’t deserving of venture capital. Trailfire enables users to stitch together a trail of Web sites in a guided tour, complete with annotated sticky notes. “Have your say on any Web page” is the site’s battle cry. Some of the more recent “Hot Trails,” include “10 Best Chappelle Sketches” and “5 Billboards You Won’t Mind Looking At.” Smilebox enables users to transform their photo collections into “creative messaging,” including customized digital scrapbooks and photobooks, e-greetings, slideshows, and postcards.
And speaking of numbers, a bit of mathematical trivia called the Dunbar Number warns that there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals (150) with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships. The calculus shows that for a group to sustain itself at the size of 150, significantly more effort must be spent on the core socialization to keep the group functioning.
Clearly, there are exceptions. Google’s $1 billion media buy on MySpace seems to justify the $580 million acquisition made by NewsCorp a year ago. And Facebook is rumored to be in talks to sell itself to Yahoo! or Microsoft possibly by the time you read this.
Since we think Web 2.0 is here to stay, let us offer our advice on hedging your bets and optimizing your Website for the new generation of social media. For starters, Increase your linkability: Think blogs, content, aggregation & linkbait. Next, make tagging and bookmarking easy. List blogs which link back to you via permalinks, trackbacks or recently linking blogs (like the Yahoo & Google blogs do). Reward helpful and valuable users. Give your contributors and readers the recognition they deserve. Participate by getting involved in the discussions going on and do it organically. Earn your rep on Digg.com, don’t try and force it. Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay fresh. Social Media is changing by the minute, so keep up on new tools, products and challenges in your social sphere. And let’s be careful out there! [24×7]