Saturday, April 15, 2006

Web 2.0 Companies

In the middle of trying to compose a long post on some other subject but saw this on Ventureblog today and had to comment. It's a long (but incomplete) list of Web 2.0 players that are out there today (check here). It's fairly telling how low a barrier of entry there is in building a Web 2.0 focused business (especially when it comes to tagging). Obviously each of these companies can't have the 'growth' story behind them. Case example is 43Things. I actually really like the concept, let people tag an experience/want/need and build a community around these common interests. But looking at their growth on Alexa, pageviews peaked this January and have stalled since.

Tagging in general is a great thing and has driven interactivity to the online experience (consider Digg or Wink). But I'm not convinced that the mass market is ready for actually tagging themselves (although they will leverage the data driven from it). A lot of early adopters in the user community have driven usage of tagging sites and their growth. But with increasing competition in the space (as evidenced in the list above), there's only so many early adopters around to drive the growth of these sites. The mass market isn't going to accept the concept of tagging for themselves (I can't imagine my mom, sister, father or many of my friends doing it no matter how much I evangelize its utility). There's a big free-rider problem here folks. Shouldn't be a surprise that the vast majority of these companies will ultimately cede to a few winners in each of the spaces. And those winners will be defined by how they convince the mass market to adopt their services (which will require a whole lot more than facilitating tagging alone)...

Then there are the folks who are gaming the system. Consider GoogleBase. A folksonomy based on user tagging at first sounds ideal. Let users manage their own attribution of their products, look at the most popular tags, and wala you have a product structure. But when I type "ipod nano" into GoogleBase, trying to actually find a real ipod is a bear. Define your search by 'Product', the list of "products" includes a lot of... well honestly... crap. Pick "MP3 player" and you get page after page of ipod nano accessories. Try the same for "Treo 650". Same difference. Again, I'm biased. But truth be told, I don't see folksonomy driving mass market appeal... yet.

The Web 2.0 movement will have tremendous impact on how the Internet is used. Of that there is no doubt. Will many of the companies that exist in this space today be part of that? (with an unwavering focus on user-generated content/tagging as the primary driver for viral growth) That seems more dubious...


Anonymous Jeffrey McManus said...

Somebody you and I both know said the exact same thing about tagging to me last year (interestingly enough, this happened to be when he was sitting behind me at the Web 2.0 conference). I reminded him that there was also a time I couldn't imagine my mom using a dial-up modem, or send email, or buy things online.

We're so accustomed to running consumer mega-sites and having feature functionality attract 100,000 users on day 1 that we sometimes forget that some functionality takes years to take root.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Ro said...

I don't disagree with your last statement. A cleaner or more intuitive form of tagging can be developed to drive mass market appeal. Ultimately though, much like sellers vs buyers on eBay, there's many more consumers than providers out there (i.e. consumers of tags others have provided).

That's why the whole PersonalWeb/ Claria development is interesting (if not unappetizing because its Claria). Essentially auto-tagging a user based on usage of the site itself... tagging for the lazy :)

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Jeffrey McManus said...

It is a good way to go about it. We provide a user experience like that in our My Web product (when you go to bookmark a page, we do a content analysis on that page and come up with 3-4 suggested tags for you). Our content analysis engine has an open API, too, so you can bake that into your app.

11:52 PM  

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