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Is Web 2.0 trying to hide from reality

ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez believes that "today, if you're not staying current with Web 2.0 technologies' impact on business, then you're just not staying current."

In her post entitled "Businesses Can't Hide From 2.0: A Look At 2.0's Impact Across Industries," she states:

"No matter which department you're in, Web 2.0 technologies have had an impact. If you've been ignoring their prevalence and adoption, you're at risk of falling behind in your career and your business is at risk of losing ground to its competitors who are tuned into this trend."

Going on to highlight a number of Web 2.0 services that have some application to businesses, Perez lists quite a few that even I have never heard of - from GroupSwim to EditGrid.

While I don't pride myself on staying on top of every single new Web 2.0 service that launches, I feel it's fair to say that I am more familiar with Web 2.0 than the average mainstream consumer or business person.

Thus, I found Perez's list of world-changing services a bit amusing.

Nonetheless, according to Perez:

"Enterprise 2.0 is Happening: If you're a business who has been ignoring the Web 2.0 trend and the spread of social media: look out, the tide is shifting and you're about to be left behind."

How does she know? Because a Forrester Research report says that "enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies is going to increase dramatically over the next five years" to the tune of $4.6bn. Yes, that Forrester Research.

Up to this point, Perez's post is yet another in a long line of kool aid-laced posts touting the notion that every business - from mom and pop startups to billion-dollar multinational conglomerates - has to jump on the Web 2.0 hype train to succeed in the 21st century.

But then it gets interesting (and funny) - she provides examples of how Web 2.0 is changing different industries. Let's go through them.


* Google is now offering real-time price quotes for NASDAQ stocks. How this is Web 2.0-related is beyond me. Real-time quotes have been available through broker platforms and websites for more than 10 years.

* Strands, a company that "develops technologies to better understand people's taste and help them discover things they like and didn't know about already," recently partnered with BBVA, a Spanish retail bank, to develop a "personal finance tool that allows online users to manage their personal finances better."

This includes a recommendation engine that makes recommendations about such things as products and services that may be of use to them based on "customer spending patterns" and "community behavior."

There's nothing novel or innovative about this and upselling financial customers on new products and services based on their account sizes, banking habits, etc. isn't new. And, of course, personal investment advisors have been helping their clients lose money for years.

* A "survey" from a company called WorkLight found that 48% of bank customers want widgets. However Perez apparently never realized that WorkLight is "a server-based software product that brings a secure and highly- personalized 'Web 2.0' computing experience to the enterprise" (conflict anyone?). And she apparently never realized that this "survey" included only 1,000 users on Facebook and appears to have been conducted through Facebook's polling product.

Does that make this dubious "survey," which I already discussed, worth using as an example of how Web 2.0 is changing the world of finance or does it mean that Perez is reaching for straws? I'll let you be the judge.


Perez doesn't give an example of a Web 2.0 accounting service but does link to an August 2008 post that notes "Accounting software for small business and personal use is increasingly moving from the desktop to online."

Really? That was quite an insight given that QuickBooks online, which currently counts more than 130,000 small business subscribers, launched in 2000

That's well before Web 2.0. Note to Web 2.0 kool aid sippers - you did not invent software as a service.

Project Management

Perez lists a number of online project management products that I've never heard of but admittedly, this is not an area I'm that familiar with.

I couldn't help but note that one of the services listed - eProject - whose users "run the gamut from Fortune 500 companies to medium-sized fast growing organizations," is offered by a company called Daptiv which was launched in 1997.

Once again, Perez seems to equate Web 2.0 with software as a service. It's not.


Calling the business of healthcare a "nascent but potentially huge market for web 2.0," Perez gives two curious examples of how the world of healthcare is being impacted by Web 2.0.

* The Health 2.0 conference. How the fact that someone is running a Health 2.0 conference provides evidence that Web 2.0 is shaking up the world of healthcare is beyond me. Based on ReadWriteWeb's review of the conference, it appears that much of what was discussed was very Web 1.0.

* Google Health. I discussed Google Health when it launched and since that time, it appears that it will be another member of Google's portfolio of less-than-successful products and services.

Here's an idea - before we let Web 2.0's best and brightest bring their innovations to healthcare, let's actually work on making healthcare around the world more effective and affordable.


Perez believes the traditional resume is "boring." She also says that a "paper resume...doesn't really let an employer get to know you." Last time I checked, that's what interviews were for. But what do I know? I've actually applied for real jobs in my lifetime.

Perez links to a ReadWriteWeb post that details all of the wonderful services that help job seekers create "non-traditional resumes." This post, ironically, concludes by noting that "whether companies will accept them and whether they really help you get noticed remains to be seen."

She goes on to give two examples of how HR is being reinvented by Web 2.0:

* The iPhone. Where Perez gets the idea that the iPhone is a Web 2.0 invention is beyond me.

* LinkedIn. While LinkedIn can be a useful business tool, it has hardly replaced the Rolodex. In fact, I've pointed out that sometimes the most linked in are the most linked out.


"Viral marketing, user-generated content, online buzz" - Web 2.0's contribution to the world of marketing. But Madison Avenue's tepid response to spending on these things hints at the reality of Web 2.0 marketing - returns are often MIA.

Nonetheless, Perez cites the following as examples of how Web 2.0 is changing the face of marketing:

* Kiva's Facebook video campaign. This video ad even "even features a button that appears at the end of the video encouraging you to 'lend' money." Groundbreaking stuff.

* TextBound, a mobile marketing startup I had never heard of, "has big plans to make text messages the new mass media for advertisers." Given that the past decade has seen no shortage of startups hoping to capitalize on the potential of mobile as a marketing medium, TextBound's "big plans" don't impress me. And they don't seem to have anything to do with Web 2.0.

* HiveLive, which offers a platform of social tools, recently partnered with Responsys, a marketing company which offers on-demand campaign management software. No word yet on whether this partnership has borne fruit and how many Responsys customers are taking advantage of HiveLive's platform.

* Widget provider Clearspring's ad network. It has already served ads for the NHL, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Films, Blockbuster, and Virgin Mobile.

Of course, what Perez fails to mention is that lots of ad networks serve ads for big brands. The more important question - how much are they spending on widget advertising? With widget ads being sold at penny CPMs and with widget providers already reinventing themselves in the hope that ditching the "widget" label will help them gain more credibility with Madison Avenue, it's pretty clear that widgets won't be competing with, say, network television ads anytime soon.


The examples Perez gives don't provide compelling evidence that "you're at risk of falling behind in your career and your business is at risk of losing ground to its competitors" if you're not staying on top of Web 2.0's latest and greatest.

Most of her relevant examples of Web 2.0's earth-shattering impact are unknown (and of little consequence) to everyone outside the small group of Web 2.0 kool aid guzzlers.

But beyond this, it appears that Web 2.0 proponents are changing tactics now that skepticism over Web 2.0's real potential is widespread.

They are now taking credit for products and services that aren't Web 2.0 related, including software as a service, a concept that is more than 10 years old and thus predates the start of Web 2.0 by at least half a decade.

Ask yourself - when did real-time stock quotes become a Web 2.0 innovation? When did online software applications (software as a service) become a Web 2.0 creation? When did the iPhone become a Web 2.0 invention? When did online video ads become Web 2.0's contribution to the world of marketing?

While the definition of Web 2.0 has been debated ad nauseum and is quite nebulous, it seems that people like Sarah Perez have a new definition - Web 2.0 encompasses everything that is considered new and innovative on the internet.

And by that measure, if you don't keep up with Web 2.0, you're not keeping up with technology. Brilliant.

Four words - disingenuity at its best. I'm not buying it and neither should you.

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