Problems in Web 2.0 Land

There’s a problem in Web 2.0 land. It’s fabulous that hundreds of startups are coming online trying to disrupt status quo companies, make the inefficient, efficient, and giving us all great services, but too many of them classify themselves as “beta” meaning that they get to work out all their bugs publicly and on our backs.

I’m the only guy I know who has looked at *every* Web 2.0 company once per quarter for the last six quarters. I usually spend only a few minutes at each site, but I’ll take a category and look at each offering to see if something is new, are they articulating their value proposition well, and is this an offering that makes sense for me, my clients, or anyone else for that matter.

There are dozens of Web 2.0 offerings that I love, use, and can see the long term potential of going forward. But deciding on what to try, what to use, how much effort and energy to infuse in one of them is, unfortunately, a crapshoot and THAT is the problem in Web 2.0 land. Most of these are ones I wouldn’t bet my business on nor recommend others do either.

I’ve chosen several offerings over the last couple of years that, for one reason or another, have disappointed my friends, my clients, or myself as they’ve been acquired, had bugs that meant they don’t work all that well, or have gone out of business altogether.

I’ll give you three examples:

1) Grand Central: I’ve been with Vonage for a long time but am concerned they’re going to go out of business, they’re $25 per month and I find myself exclusively using Skype for nearly every call I make and most I receive — and I pay them about US$100 per year — and am keeping Vonage around only because that phone number is all over the place and many people have it. It simulrings my cell phone and Skype which is useful, but that’s the promise of Grand Central.

Grand Central is positioned as the ONE phone number and service you’ll ever need. Unfortunately I’ve tried FOR HOURS to get it to answer in less than 8 rings and not also leave simultaneous dead air voicemails on Vonage, Skype and my iPhone. As a geek I can figure this stuff out usually, but 99% of my friends, family and clients won’t put up with it.

GC was recently acquired by Google, famous for being completely radio silent on any communications from any human (though I’m certain there are exceptions). All emails to the GC team have been sucked into a black hole and I’ve not even received an autoresponder from anyone which is ironic for a “communications” company.

2) When I first used JotSpot, I was pumped about it. So much so that I built a fabulous collaboration site for a client and would’ve done so for several others (and my own firm) but after being acquired by Google one year ago, they’ve not taken new signups. I’m certain there is an overall strategic reason for this, but it’s yet another reason that even a compelling, enticing and delightful offering should be suspect.

3) Widgets get lumped into one category since there are SO many of them and my level of uncertainty in using all of these (often beta) offerings isn’t very high — though I must admit I love widgets and what they can deliver, it’s just that they make for a bad user experience for anyone viewing my blog.

Most of them are slow to parse in a web browser, many hosters deliver data with unknown latency, and their brands are slapped all over these snippets of code (Get your widget here!). Check out Widgetbox, NetVibes, YourMinis and snag several of them. Put them on your blog/web page, clear the cache and then time how long it takes to load a page and you’ll see what I mean.

Since I’m a “glass is more than 50% full” kind of guy, I must also point out that there is one beta that I use daily: Gmail.

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  1. Reboot on October 30, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    “GC was recently acquired by Google… sucked into a black hole… Jotspot… acquired by Google one year ago, they’ve not taken new signups”

    Recently Microsoft made an announcement about acquiring 20 new businesses a year for the next 5 years – ranging from $50 to $1 billion per acquisition.

    No doubt… the continuing number of Web 2.0 startups might simply be looking to cash in on this and other possible future acquisitions by other large name companies.

    If you can come up with a great idea, program it and bring it to the masses quickly enough (albeit in Beta Stage)… there could be enough interest by large companies running out of ideas in order to cash in.

    The downside, as one can infer from these moves – is that great ideas could be buried long enough to keep the major tech companies (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, NewsCorp, etc) from looking over their shoulders at some new ‘gun slinger’.

    There are, however, continued success stories of startups that grow quickly enough to be able to call their own shots. Facebook is a good example of this. is another…

  2. Chuck Monroe on October 30, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    I enjoy your analytical take on the cutting edge since I discovered you through a Digg post; keep the posts coming!

    I’ll check out JotSpot…

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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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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.