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September 19, 2007

Time for Web 2.0 to step down

You could say there were some creative efforts, but nothing in the realm of remarkable. Web 2.0, time to move on.

Social media was supposed to highlight Web 2.0's emphasis on conversation. But the success of sites such as MySpace and Facebook, as well as YouTube was all about the numbers. These were supposed to have the eyeballs aggregated in one place where a marketer could swoop in and sell millions of who knows what.

Folksonomies? The problem of signal to noise ratio has never been resolved. Who is Sick? collects data from folks in a very unreliable manner and then produces maps of completely useless and misguiding information, avoiding any connection to the science of epidemiology. Yet, this site was favorably reviewed by the A-list blogs on the Net. It seems anything with the label of folksonomy and Web 2.0 is given a major pass when it comes to critical analysis.

Handheld gadgets received a boost from the iPhone and the iPod Touch. OK, now you can listen to mp3s, movies and search the Web in high style. I'm sorry to say that this is really not all that remarkable. Again, the numbers are quoted and we are to believe that this is really progress--that the individual buyer should take great satisfaction in being a fellow consumer of some recognizable brand.

Look on the online campaign efforts of the latest crop of presidential candidates. They have the appearance of the Webroots campaign of Howard Dean, but you know that's not were the money is coming from. Besides, a full-page ad in the NY Times still carries more weight than any Web page.

And the business model for Web 2.0? It's like that film Big Night, where the restaurateurs plan one final feast in an attempt to impress the celeb, in this case Louis Prima, and save the restaurant from extinction. They feast and celebrate all night long, but the payoff never shows.

Finally, I have to talk about health information on the Web. First it was the authoritative voice of the surgeon general, Dr. Koop, giving advice. Now, it's focused on the social networking model where patients help each other struggle to navigate the healthcare system. It's assumed that if you have the same diagnosis, you can help the next guy out. Trouble is, information, no matter how good it is, doesn't replace good health care. And anyway, again, the big idea is big numbers of eyeballs so that eventually we can market some palliative to them.

What's in store for Web 3.0? Smaller communities working towards a predescribed goal. People with the knowledge and expertise solving the hard problems that need to be solved without having to attract millions of eyeballs in the process. It won't be about trying to connect everyone by trolling through your e-mail address book. It certainly needn't depend upon the wisdom of the mainstream media for acceptance, evaluation or even publicity. Imagine an initiative that doesn't depend on PR. They'll be no press releases for Web 3.0, people won't be camping out for days on the sidewalk for a gizmo nobody's touch yet, and the number of online opinions will diminish dramatically. It doesn't really matter what You, in the sense of Time mag's Person of the Year--meaning anybody and everybody on the Web, think.


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