Friday, October 06, 2006

Why the Web 2.0?

I've been involved with the Internet since 1994. Those were the early days when the ANC was one of the pioneer Internet users in South Africa and I used DOS prompt FTP to get their latest economic thinking on the RDP.

In 1995 I started ecommerce development and in 1996 built an eCommerce server. I went on to be an eBusiness consultant and head up an eBusiness consulting unit.

I lived through the Dot Com crash and due to my aversity to hype, missed joining many Dot Com startups but then also missed the millions some of my friends made.

In my job I often had to speak to Blue Chip CEOs and their executives about the Internet. A few bought into the hype (that I didn't sell them) and wanted to explode their legacy and go from blicks to clicks. Some were desperate not to be taken apart by an agile competitor operating from a garage - even some of the Big 4 SA banks.

We know what happened. Those of us who truly live the Internet also know what was true, what wasn't hype. We are the future consumer. We see our kids growing up as reflections of us and living differently - be it through teaching us things on the Net or being addicted to MXit.

We get Web 2.0. While others fight over definitions, we see a site and know, "That's Web 2.0."

But some of us - OK maybe it's just me, wish someone hadn't coined the term.

I'll tell you now, if I walk into an executive's office and try and sell him on Web 2.0, he's going to be thinking, "Yeah like it was with the Dot Com boom, huh?"

Just the fact that new web tendencies have been named is the problem.

The preferable route? Just build it into what the Web should be. Talk about what Amazon are doing, what the BBC are doing, what the New York Times is doing. What Google, Wikipedia and Flickr are doing.

I'll tell you what. In the late nineties, when we were looking for a way of conveying the goal, we'd often talk about the "" experience. If the executive had ever used the Internet, they knew what we meant. If their eyes didn't flicker with recognition, I'd schedule an hour to take them through's website.

I wouldn't do much different today. Maybe I'd say that there are some new tools and best practices that are worth noting, but I'd avoid saying, "You need to be Web 2.0"

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