What does Web 2.0 really mean?

You would have been asleep at the wheel over the past few years if you haven’t heard how Web 2.0 ideas have engaged individuals and consumers with cool new possibilities. But the Web 2.0 moniker is still undefined to many corporate clients. What does it mean to their business?

The web has moved forward from Hypertext to a more rich ability to share information. Michael Wesch, a professor at Kansas State, made this great video that demonstrates the transition from text to Web 2.0. It is worth the 5 minutes of history if you haven’t already seen it.

Social networking, blogs, wiki’s, RSS, widgets and mashups have been all the rage on sites created by individuals. Facebook, MySpace, Googlemaps and even personal pages from Apple have generated tremendous media coverage as personal publishing took center stage in the ‘always on’ internet space.

The next generation of tools from Google includes customized home pages with groups and blogs, mail and chat, spreadsheets and video, calendars and checkout widgets to name a few. More focused solutions come from the likes of Zillow where a consumer-driven real estate market is blossoming using these Web 2.0 ideas combining tax values, satellite images, maps and personal info that may dis-intermediate realtors in the near future. Check out the ‘Make me Move’ feature which allows you to advertise your asking price – even if you don’t have your house on the market.

A couple of recent reports from McKinsey and Forrester show that Web 2.0 tools are not just the hype of next-generation marketers, but are also being adopted in mid and large companies at a far faster rate than previously reported. CIOs are taking note and adding Web 2.0 tools to corporate offerings in the hopes of demonstrating improved efficiency both in and outside the organization.


Web 2.0 companies who sincerely ‘get it’ understand that they need to have a core competency in data management or collective intelligence. And to really become a Web 2.0 company, they need to allow end users to ‘create’ and not just ‘consume’ their information. Many corporations struggle with the need to allow users to publish and the result is enterprises have embraced the Web 2.0 tools they can have more control over – but are not finding as many uses for the peer-to-peer and social networking elements. Dion Hinchcliffe’s recent ZDNET blog has this understandable diagram segmenting the Central production vs Peer production views.

Business tools are being leveraged in intranets and development areas, but the true collaborative knowledge sharing has yet to reach outside for many corporations. Exceptions include the types of all-in-one web services tools like NetSuite which allows a mid-sized company to throw away a whole smorgasbord of software titles for one rentable online tool set that includes financial, purchasing, payroll, CRM, web site, e-commerce, sales force automation and marketing campaigns among others. These types of Web 2.0 tools allow far-flung employees to collaborate and see real-time information in ways that took thousands of man-hours and custom development just a few years ago.

Interestingly, one of the discussion points from the recent articles claims that CIO’s really want one vendor to deliver all these Web 2.0 tools. Or a mashup with one service center maybe. One decent example is found in ConnectBeam

Another is En.terpri.se which is a BEA product making it one of the first enterprise packaged solutions delivering Web 2.0 answers for corporations.

Smaller – more specific project management tools like Copper and Basecamp have grown organically because they do one thing well. Smaller businesses have jumped at the ability to quickly shift their operational needs to a rentable solution like this. As these Web 2.0 concepts share their code they will extend the software. One example: Blinksale (an online invoicing tool) allows users to leverage their client data directly from Basecamp. In fact many more products now integrate with Basecamp because of the shared API.

This web site is a collection of Web 2.0 ideas allowing us to leverage tools like Radiant for overall web site Content Management while plugging into WordPress for the blog engine. Open Source tools like these can be grouped almost at will with a little technical imagination.

Ultimately all Web 2.0 businesses will need to open up parts of their information that they have historically kept closed. Successful companies will engage customers in dialog – and allow them to create and publish dialog along the path to corporate success. These customers will share in the success or failure of the ventures in a much more compelling fashion than even the recent past.

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