Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If Big Business Ran Web 3.0

The mantra of Gen-Y, is that social media and web 2.0 are synonymous with efficiency. Anytime an article comes out blaming Gen-Y of wasting time at work on Twitter or Facebook, another article pops up from a Millennial praising the efficiencies of using social media to communicate.

I whole heartedly agree that web 2.0 has provided numerous ways for us streamline our lives – to an extent. Don’t hate me. It wasn’t until recently, as more and more people recommended that I join more and more social media sites, and I began working more and more hours at work, that I realized I straight up don’t have time to balance all of it. Where’s all that damned efficiency that everyone’s been raving about? With a handful of social media websites, I can be efficient. With hoards of them, each offering me unique ways to simplify my life, I find myself bogged down. I’m being bludgeoned with promises of efficiency.

This reminds me of a Robin Williams quote from his infamous Live On Broadway performance where he talks about a similar problems with pharmaceutical drugs. There a drug for this and that, but why can’t there just be one wonder drug?

Robin Williams: I want a drug that encompasses it all. We'll call it "Fukitol." (pronounced "f***-it-all"). I don't feel anything. I don't care for anything. Fukitol. The closest thing you'll ever be to being in a coma: Fukitol. I'm sitting here in my own dung. Fukitol.

Hilarious – yes, but it also got me to wondering what would happen if big business drove the future of web 3.0 instead of basement startups. If efficiency was the tune of web 2.0, then big business would beat it to death with all of their corporate logic.

I’d be able to blog, micro blog, and microscopic blog (not here yet, but I’m thinking 10 character limits are what we’ll unfortunately progress to seeing as how our time is stretched so many ways.). I could skype, connect with coworkers, and upload all my pictures at once, but I’d be bombarded with even more ads in the side bar since they still wouldn’t have found a creative way to monetize the millions of users they have suckling at the teat of social media. While we could speculate at what all would be encompassed, I think, in the name of efficiency and in true corporate fashion, I could outsource my social media obligations to someone overseas. For a fee, I could give someone a rundown of my recent happenings, and have them post on my friends walls, tweet for me, take pictures for me and post them to Flickr, and manage my social network for me. Aahhhhh, sweet sweet delegation, it’d make networking so much less work!

What are your thoughts/concerns with the ever growing number of social media sites that you’re being encouraged to join? Are you finding yourself strapped for time as well? Would you want someone in a third world country to delegate your social networking obligations to? Haha just kidding, but seriously…

--Now let me clear my throat—
Josh Groth


Barb said...

I totally agree. It takes a lot of time and constant work. And the heck with big business, let's just turn over Web 3.0 to the federal government. Talk about Fukitol....

robsalk said...

One of my main barriers to participating in social networks was the amount of overhead to manage multiple identities on multiple networks (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, plus various blogs and other online environments). Having a single, easy platform to manage all those different social personas would be very useful.

BTW, congrats on making the list of top GenY blogs on Ryan Stephens' site.

TylerWalts said...

Why outsource to people when we could use robots?

There are services such as that will enable a person to have a single form to update the status messages on all social networks at once. At this point I've only seen status message updates, but I assume profile and image synchronization will come soon.

The evolution of the social networking sites reminds me of the dial-up services of the 90s: at first you had a limited number of players (AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe) you had to use a custom UI to access network-specific content, and could only chat with people on the same network. The attractiveness of each network (other than price and promos), was found in the user base and amount of content available. As technology evolved it became easier for smaller ISPs to enter the game and soon there was content coming from servers everywhere, there were tools to find it easily, and users could access most of it anonymously.

Thus the early content networks became mostly irrelevant (when was the last time you heard "AOL Keyword: Fukitol"), the big ISP's lost their competitive advantage and dial-up service became a low-priced commodity. Today a webmaster could create a social networking site based on open source software (Joomla, Drupal, Elgg) in a matter of hours. As an effort by ISPs to stay in the game, content restrictions were removed, browser standards were adopted and system API's were opened up. This is the future for social networking.

Social networking sites are trending toward standardization and interoperability. Standards such as those defined in the OpenSocial project aim to make mass-updates a reality. When these standards are adopted, then information will be able to be pulled/pushed to/from anywhere. Soon we will see online services, desktop clients, phone applications, open source software and browser plugins that manage the social accounts in whatever way the user demands. The same has happened and can be seen now with Instant Messaging networks and clients.

The challenge to businesses who have invested in building social networks is to harvest the ROI and monetize the network without damaging the vivacity and evangelism of the users. The perceived monetary value of building a critical mass of users has been inflated in the recent past. Critical mass can be achieved, but finicky users will exodus en mass if a site were to impose a subscription fee, go overboard on advertising, or prevent the content from being accessed via the users favorite tool or client. I'd expect to see a market adjustment soon in relevant stocks.

Resistance is futile. The robots will win.

Michael O said...

Interesting thoughts, Tyler. The evolution of the so-called social web (which, to me, is really the best definition of the term "web 2.0,") is in seeing developers tap into the so-called "Open Stack" (using protocols such as OAuth, Open Social, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams, etc) to develop APIs that enhance the ability of web consumers to connect and share with others across the web.

So, if you make a brilliant comment about the future of the social web on some random site or on this blog, you can seamlessly post that activity back to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (or your social network of preference), or share that information with your Yahoo, Google, AOL, LinkedIn, or Windows Live contacts.

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