Reflecting on 2005

2005 was a big year for the Web. It consisted of a slew of conferences, a seemingly unending amount of product and service launches, significant acquisitions by major players, and an incredible adoption of many new technologies. Before looking towards 2006, I’d like to make several high-level observations about what has occurred in 2005. These are not meant to represent everything that happened in 2005, just some thematic ideas sticking out to me:

Three camps of web users are beginning to materialize

According to Google, MySpace was the top gaining search term for 2005. Podcasting was also New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. But compare MySpacers and podcast consumers to average Internet users – the latter group is still using the web just for e-mail or reading news online.

The digital divide is segmenting itself a bit more. The technical side of the equation is being refined. Putting the average users mentioned above aside, here’s how I’d generalize the other two groups out there:

  1. Power Users – Incredibly tech savvy. Early adopters. Like gadgets. Primarily interested in technology that helps them be more efficient or that provides them alternative ways to consume and create information. Probably blog or read blogs often. Understand concepts and terms like RSS feeds, podcasting, and Web 2.0.

  2. Social Users – Enjoy the connectedness of the web. Constantly on IM. Part of social networking of community sites like MySpace, Flickr, and others. May have heard of blogs or read their friends blogs. Not familiar with terms like RSS or podcasting. More concerned with what technology can do for them than how it is doing it.

Businesses can “win” by catering to Power Users or Social Users

Both MySpace and Bloglines were acquired in 2005. Generally speaking, they appealed to two completely different groups. Still, both attracted buyers because they achieved a relative critical mass of the users they went after. Bloglines is one of the largest web-based feed aggregators and as alluded to above, MySpace is nearly solidified as the web’s hottest social networking site.

Adoption is tied to intuitiveness and knowledge

At the outset of 2005, the reach of MySpace and Bloglines were comparable. Both experienced good growth but take a look at the December 2005 reach for each in the graph below. Even considering MySpace’s network externality effects, the difference is astounding –

If technology is only in the background, as in the case with MySpace, people will get it. In order to compel someone to use Bloglines, it takes a precursory discussion about RSS feeds and what they are all about. In order to further the adoption of Bloglines, education is necessary. On the other hand, telling someone what MySpace is about is pretty simple – it’s a place for friends.  

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