Sunday, October 12, 2008

When Does it Get Old?

Recently I traveled to New York to a Web 2.0 conference. This event trumpeted the best and brightest of the Web 2.0 industry and showcased a lot of individuals and organizations that have either pioneered or are continuing to innovate this iteration of the web.

I am just a guy from little old Indiana, how can I think critically about something that is traditionally thought of as progressive? I used traditionally and progressive in the same sentence - did you catch that? Nice. After all, we mid-westerners continuously play catch up, right? Anyway, it was pretty surprising to me to see a fairly stagnant show. By that I mean I did not see that unique model, that one idea or that one innovation that made me stop and say, "Wow that is going to be HUGE. That is a amazing! Or that will shake up the online world." Not a single damn thing.

I have read a lot of blogs, regurly consume industry publications, read editorials in this industry and generally spend waaaayyy too much time getting after new information regarding communication trends and innovations - which typically revolve around the web - or how the web is advancing traditional communication channels.

It seems to have become pretty stagnant as of late. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of new models, plenty of new ideas, plenty of new web sites,plenty of new ways of applying existing technologies in slightly different ways or for new business or even non-profit models. When you scrape away all of the fluff, you basically have a few solid principals left, a few standard web technologies left and a few companies left waiting to buy it all up.

In my mind that is stagnation. I have not seen a real game changer in quite some time. How many different ways can you twist "connecting people" into a new platform - which BTW runs on the same technology backbone as the previous 100 "platforms."

How many black holes for investment dollars can you create before someone decides that it is indeed a black hole and decides to shift venture money into something that actually has a path to a viable, profitable business model? How many audience over revenue web sites can you sell to larger media companies before they all realize they each bought different sites, but the same audience? There are only 24 hours in a day, and the average member of that audience will only spend about an hour a day on any one media channel (on average). That same audience member, if they are web savvy enough to consume larger quantities of online media, has their favorites today, but will most likely find a new favorite tomorrow - and that favorite will be purchased by a larger media company, and that media company would have spent millions to acquire the same set of eyes for the second, third or even fourth time. Think of it this way - if Rupert Murdoch purchased Facebook - do you think that would grow viewership somehow to MySpace? Seeing as many in the Facebook crowd migrated from MySpace it wouldn't it be a largely redundant audience?

Ultimately I think this is okay though. It will be figured out by some research report, sold online through a distributor like eMarketer, Forrester, or some other analyst and that will spurn some young up and comer to think about these things differently. To think in a way that makes sense from the perspective of the coveted audience, the entrepreneur, the bank, the investor and ultimately Google. Why Google? Oh, I forgot to tell you - that is who will buy this new, unique and profitable model.

The moral of the story here is that very few innovate and deliver on that innovation in a way that makes sense, makes money and ultimately does some good. Many come after that innovator mimic, churn, burn and fade away. All of that churning and burning drives the world. It is done to be second, third or even fourth. To be 1,000th however is a stretch. That being said it is necessary in the cycle of an industry - it creates boredom, milk toast experience and ultimately frustration - which eventually spawns progress.

Someone, somewhere has the idea and eventual access to capital that will incubate and launch web 4.0 into this process. It is just a matter of time. What happened to web 3.0 you ask? We are already knee deep in it. You didn't hear?? You better rub the web 2.0 out of your eyes, catch up and start mimicking some more - and while you are at it publicize the heck out of it - it will motivate that genius lurking in the shadows so we can move on to web 4.0.

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