Why Web 2.0 bashers are clueless

I was inspired by Charlie’s rant – Top 10 reasons why Web 2.0 sucks. I think, Web 2.0 gets idolized to the point of ludicrity or gets blamed for everything under the sun, including depletion of the ozone layer..okay not that..but Charlie came real close. He raises some very interesting points and I disagree with all of them 🙂

The finger pointing culture of fear will always dominate a culture of openness. Media thrives on taking people down and creating a general fear of the worst possible outcome.  Whether it’s trying enact anti-MySpace laws or firing everyone who says a dirty word or two, until we hold our noses and fully embrace freedom of expression in this country, we’re going to hold back the real potential of the internet as a medium of conversation and open exchange.  Everyone will be too scared to publish anything thought provoking for fear of being stoned by glass house dwellers.

We will never "fully" embrace freedom of expression whether it’s online or offline, because that’s unrealistic. The problem with ‘full expression’ is that it can (and many times) it does infringe on someone else’s rights. For example, you like to walk around naked because you believe that clothes inhibit your ability to express yourself fully. The problem is that nobody else wants to see you naked, hence the need to lay down rules. In the online world, the same rules apply. Say, you use your blog to threaten people, if the people you threaten don’t like it, they will try to find a way to to stop you. Expressing yourself is a wonderful thing, but living in a ‘civilized’ (using that term very loosely) society  means that you should be mindful of other’s rights (even if they are big-bad-companies) and that’s healthy. We still haven’t figured out the rules for operating in a Web 2.0 world and that’s called growing pains.

2. The thinking, not just the building, has gotten small and lightweight…  Too many people building  features, not applications, or, gasp, companies.  People are confusing design with innovation. Just because you add AJAX and rounded boxes to something does mean you have innovated.

I agree, a tool doesn’t make a company, but innovation is in the eye of the beholder. Social networking has been around for a long time, but the tools that make it possible and easy have just recently been created. Remember the days of static html pages?! That wasn’t that long ago…

Web 2.0 hasn’t even come close to breaking open the carrier choked mobile world.  E-mail and WAP?  That’s what I’m paying unlimited data for?  Come on.  We can do better than this.

Amen, we can do better than that…but come on, let’s not blame Web 2.0 for everything…what’s next global warming?

Web 2.0 is a conversational vacuum. I’ll prove it.  Unless you live in the Valley, walk outside your door and try to find a Twitter user… You’ve got six hours.  Go.  Trust me, we’re talking to ourselves.  (Don’t get me wrong…  I really like Twitter…  We just need to remind ourselves about how close to the edge we all are out here.)

The reason, the Valley is in a bubble most (if not all) of the time is because it is home to the innovators and early adopters. This is the best place in the world to get your new idea tested and funded. That does NOT mean your idea is going to make it big outside that "door", but being funded does help your chances of making it past the chasm and towards mass-adoption. Mind you, not every company is looking to capture the Idaho or Wisconsin (no offense) market. Some markets will probably never be penetrated and there’s a very good reason why 🙂

Spelling and grammr (beta)  have gone to hell in a handbasket.  I’m in ur domainz, droppin’ ur vowelz.

I refuze tu commant.

M&A Wack-a-mole stopping innovation in its tracks…  Dodgeball, del.icio.us, MyBlogLog…   Some of the most innovative startups have been swallowed into the black holes of big companies, abruptly halting their innovation paths.  Unless we get some more robust business models, some more risk seeking entrepreneurs,  maybe a real IPO market, most of Web 2.0 is going to wind up becoming the corporate walking dead of long forgotten or poorly understood acquisitions.  Consumers suffer when entrepreneurs won’t make a go of it on their own and make a bigger impact on their online experience.  (Pleasant exceptions being the  Office-like apps at Google…)

VCs and big companies are not paying for the tools or features, they are paying big bucks for the huge traffic. Innovation has and always been fostered at smaller companies, go figure! Small entrepreneurial companies innovate, and then they either become really big, really fast, or they get eaten up by the big sharks…um…I mean big companies, that’s just how the world works…sad but true.

Content licensing is still a bottleneck.  Web 2.0 is all about people and sharing, two things that music and video content owners don’t seem to be big fans of.  For now, much of what we share is illegal or user generated.  Freely shareable stuff probably makes up about 2% of the millions of hours of content ever created professionally.  I’d like to blog a clip from the A-Team…  Not only can I not access it easily, I can’t clip it easily, and I sure as hell can’t publish it legally.   Yet, no one current monetizes it on the web, so it just sits and collects digital dust.

While the big media companies loathe the idea of some joe schmoe enjoying their content without paying for it, the Web 2.0-enabled sharing of legal and illegal content has forced them to adopt the…OMG..FREE content-sharing platforms. Case-in-point, being the NBC-Fox announcement. So in the end, it’s a win-win for the consumer.

The really juicy data will always remain locked up…    I’d very much like to be able to share my purchases, particularly restaurants, at my own discretion.  Of course, that data is at Mastercard, and I think I’ll start wearing "I love the RIAA" shirts before Mastercard starts creating personal RSS feeds or APIs for users to take their own financial data to various applications.  The same with my credit history.  I need to sign up for lots of junk mail to get a credit report… and don’t even get me started on my own medical history. 

I like the idea of having control of my own data and having personal RSS feeds would be cool. I wonder what the cost for implementing a personalized RSS feed would be for a company like MasterCard? I think the reason Web 2.0 gets bashed a lot is because it gets blamed for data-issues like privacy, portability etc. These are real challenges but it’s going to take much more than Web 2.0 to resolve these.

A lot of powerful people don’t participate.  How many VC’s out there fund widget companies without having a blog or a MySpace profile?  Any Sony bloggers out there?  What about brand managers that want to do Second Life campaigns without ever having been inside.  How about my elected representatives?  They get out there and kiss babies during election time, but how many blogging elected officials are there?  (And not watered down campaign blogs… actual blogs written by the actual people.)  We could do great things if we weren’t so segregated into a small group of people punch drunk on Kool Aid and a great deal of people who’ve never even heard of Kool Aid. 

This is the real bubble-talk. It’s saying that if you are going to fund…say Modern art…you should be an artist yourself. Blogging is a relatively new media and not everyone can be a savvy blogger. All the top-runners for the presidential race have a MySpace page. That’s a start but it remains to be seen, how much of an impact their online social networking is going to have on the votes. Sure, I can understand why one should have a good understanding of the business, but just because one is a great  blogger and/or has a cool MySpace profile, doesn’t make him/her an expert in understanding business models and valuations.

MySpace is the most popular social network. Seriously, is this the best we can do?  Spam, hacking, viruses, one song at a time, and no developer network or API?  Facebook is such a better product, but it’s really pretty limited as a self expression tool.  Plus, neither really comes close to being able to be my digital home on the web as much as my blog is.   

I am not sure who ‘we’ refers to. The people have spoken, millions and millions of them and they like MySpace. It’s naive to think that the best product always win, that’s geek-talk. In the end, the consumers decide who wins and who loses. I think MySpace sucks, the UI is horrible and I can’t wait for a new platform that combines the best features of the current popular socializing sites. With any new technology, one has to put up with the clunky first-editions. I have no doubt, as the technology (and developers) mature, we’ll see more sophisticated derivatives of Web 2.0 sites and also more judicious use of Web 2.0 features on traditional sites.

Bottomline, Web 2.0 tools aren’t magical and they are not going to solve all our problems. Web 2.0 is still in its infancy and yet to realize its full potential. There are going to be many hiccups until this ‘phenomenon’ gets to the stage, where all the kinks have been worked out, sound business models vetted, and it has been milked for it’s worth. And once we reach that stage, it will probably be time to move on to the next big thing…


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