The Great Web and Web 2.0

If we learned anything from “Web 1.0” (no, this term wasn’t ‘Web 1.0’ until recently, sort of like how World War I was originally just ‘The Great War’), it was the demolition of the Field of Dreams mentality – if you build it, they won’t necessarily come.

While I spent the better part of last week fanning the flames of “Web 2.0”, I have legitimate concerns about its future. The underlying crux of my concerns are best summarized by two questions:

  1. Do Web 2.0 products or services have a compelling value proposition?
  2. Do Web 2.0 products or services have a compelling business model?

Paul Kedrosky, in a humorous post titled Blog Renamed: Infectious Greed 2.0 asked, “Can you make money on this stuff?” Rick Segal also hits a couple of business fundamentals in his Web 2.0!=check, “Solving a problem with a solution customers love and will pay for. Don’t look for the buzz words to get you into the game or get you a check.”

My concern is that most companies today did not learn from The Great Web, I mean, Web 1.0. They are once again focusing on the technology and the Field of Dreams mentality. For example, while there may not be a clear winner for social bookmarking technology (somewhat debatable), does that necessitate del.icio.us, Furl, BlinkList, RawSugar, Simpy, Shadows or any other number of alternatives. Is what each one of these companies doing really that different than the other? Is there a more compelling value proposition (other than network externalities) from a technical and business perspective that would make me use one over the other?

The business models for the social bookmarking companies are not unlike the business models for most of today’s Web 2.0 products and services – bet big on exit strategy. Not everyone will get to be like Bloglines, Flickr, or Skype.

I’m not trying to put a damper on innovation because I believe Web 2.0 offers technical advancement through competition. There is a smart approach though and it involves answering simple questions like Paul’s, Rick’s, and mine. I encourage innovation but not at the cost of another tech slump. Let’s prevent future pets.com. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come!