Let me start off by saying this: I HATE THE TERM “WEB 2.0!” It’s as if there is some clear demarcation, a definite point in time, a specific set of guidelines that separates the old-timers from the new breed. People proudly claim “Look my site is Web 2.0! What a great programmer I am!” Suddenly I see people claiming that their sites are Web 2.0 or criticizing others because it isn’t Web 2.0.
There isn’t any proper definition of Web 2.0 anyway. It’s not like there is some nightly build, or some version that is compiled and upgraded from 1.2 to 1.3 to 1.5 to 1.9 to 1.99 to 1.99 beta 1 to 1.99 beta 1 gold edition and so forth. There is no certifying body or a list of questions that you check and cross and grade yourself.
Having said that, I won’t deny that the web experience now is much different that when it started. But I feel that the web experience now is what it was meant to be. This inevitable evolution was only sidelined by the dot-com crash. And if you look at the internet stalwarts—eBay and Amazon, for example—how different are they from the current crop of websites? They do have collaboration–Ebay had its feedback mechanism (merchants are doomed if they are given a negative rating), and Amazon allows its customers to post reviews.
So what spawned this evolution? Some say its because of the technology, arguing that a Web 2.0 site “requires” a certain technology. Some even dare say that its AJAX that makes a Web 2.0 site, and hence if you use AJAX you are automatically christened a Web 2.0 site. I disagree. This is where geek thinking fails—it is not a black-or-white criteria. Technology is just the “enabler.” The key here is the concept, the design, and the revenue model. Technology simply delivers this three items. The geek in us looks at a particular technology (like AJAX or Apache) and asks, “How can I make money out of this?” It’s the “build-it-and-it’ll-come” model. I think it’s the wrong thought-process. And this is why Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 is taking so long to launch—the bloatware is probably so full of features that we will never even use in our lifetime.
The good entrepreneurs can see the wholistic view of the industry and smell an opportunity. It’s what seperates the mediocre from the genius. All great business models have to start with a great concept. Digg, for example, wanted community-powered news where the community, not the newspaper editors, determine news-worthiness. Flickr wanted community-powered photo albums, where people can share pictures freely, either to their friends or colleagues or to the general public through tagging. You Tube took Flickr’s concept and carried it over to the video domain. Of course, there could also be disasterous concepts—and a simple google of “worst internet ideas” would give you the picture.
So you have the concept and you have to technology to deliver the concept. The obvious question is how to monetize this. Thanks to Google’s Adsense, the prevailing revenue model is advertisements. This revenue model is probably what also sparked the next phase of Web evolution. Now, even simple web masters can make a few bucks. But I have a concern on whether or not this revenue model can sustain some web sites (as I wrote here). Can Digg survive with just ad income? What about Flickr? Or You Tube? I honestly don’t know.
But people will only see the ads (and click on them) if they visit the site. And to entice people to visit the site requires the site to be well-designed, as in it should be functional, intuitive for a novice, and pleasing to the eye. In short, there must be a positive user-experience. And if there ever was an expert in design, it would be Apple. I guess it was Apple that spawned the whole white, crisp, rounded-corner, minimalistic design with its iMac and iPod. Again, consider it the driver that moved the internet into the next level. A good list of web design tutorials can be found here. People might argue that content is important. I won’t disagree. Good content/bad design will trump bad content/good design, but nothing beats good content/good design.
I wrote this article because there are a lot of Pinoy web sites that rely on Web 2.0 bragging rights, thinking that as long as it is “Web 2.0” (whatever that means) it’ll catch on. There are a lot of such sites that do have promise but lack traction. But again, there are some that have a mediocre concept yet hopes to earn big and put Pinoys on the map. And there are some that have no concept at all and hope that the technology and the design will save the day. My advice: focus on the concept, design, and revenue model; and forget about making it “Web 2.0.” A lot of Pinoy sites are mere copycats of an existing concept—that is not the way to go. If you want to be the next great internet entrepreneur, you shouldn’t go around cloning the same idea, otherwise there is no reason for customers to flock to your site. You have to offer something more, add value, and make a convincing argument for the customer to switch loyalties. It’s a battlefield out there and the first out of the gate may not necessarily finish first, but if you mimic his style and strategy, then you will never get ahead of him.