Web 2.0: Think Strategically…not Tactically

There seems to be quite a bit of discussion amongst the technology thought leaders in the blogosphere about where we’re headed next with Web 2.0. I’ve been thinking this same way for some months now and it’s pretty clear to me that we’re transitioning from the easy and tactical….to the hard and strategic.

VC Peter Rip hits the nail-on-the-head with this interesting post entitled, Web 2.0 – Over and Out that had this operative statement I thought about summed up the current situation, “Now the hard part is moving from Web-as-Digital-Printing-Press to true Web-as-Platform.  To make the Web a platform there has to a level of of content and services interoperability that really doesn’t exist today.” No kidding.

Mid-to-enterprise level companies have always been known to carefully plot strategy and investments before choosing a vendor of information technology products or services. Having been in the small-to-midsize business (SMB) space (or sold into it) in several parts of my career, the characterization of SMB — or even consumers for that matter — being ones that knee jerk and choose solutions tactically I think is absolutely flat wrong. This thinking on the part of consumers, SMB’s and the enterprise clearly extends into Web 2.0. It may not be as overt as you might think, but the decision-making process on choosing is still the same as the big, strategic enterprise plans.

Case in point: I’ve led ideations and strategic level discussions with clients in SMB and enterprises about start pages or portal (e.g., Netvibes, Pageflakes, yourminis, Google, Yahoo, etc.) as well as been interacting with the CEO of one of these companies on some of the things I’m either not clear about or would like to see with his offering.

The question I get over-n-over again when talking with friends and family; my small clients and even my big ones run along these lines:  “Are these widgets a standard? Am I locked into the health of <fill in the blank company here> and be assured that what I build and deliver still works over time?” Once somebody picks one of these portals/startpages and spends A LOT of time customizing it, what are their personal switching costs? They’re significant, that’s what, and my clients and others fret about what to do and look to me for strategic-level guidance.

Couple that portal/startpage uncertainty with all the excitement and enthusiasm about next generation rich, internet application (RIA) moves by Adobe with Apollo, WPF/E, and all the widget approaches by the previously named portal companies (also see Widgetbox). Like the portal/startpage vendors, much of the key content accessed or residing within these new containers will be pulled from the Internet. Will all the interoperation be one-off access to API’s?

If one-off’s are the case, then we’re in for a VERY long road indeed. Web 2.0, web services, software-as-a-service, Internet-as-a-platform (or however you choose to pigenhole or characterize what’s happening now) is a milieu and chaotic space that is ripe for the entry of a major player that will attempt to wrest control of frameworks, targets and create standards. Perhaps this is a naive hope, but nonetheless I’d hope for emergent standards that would be adopted by the major vendors…not the other way around.

As a glass-is-51%-full guy, I’ll still stand by all my previous writings about how hard it is to configure, publish and create a web asset with open source packages and also my prediction that Apple will own mass market web applications as descriptors of what I think could be as we launch into the hard-n-strategic phase of the Internet-as-a-platform.

It’s a long road from where we are now — a tactical, point solution, quick-n-dirty Web application world — to an interoperable, assembly model that will truly explode the market at both the infrastructure and applications layer of the Internet platform. Not a long road you say? Well….then how come it’s taking so long for rapid adoption of something as useful and simple as microformats?

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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