What to call it? The social Web? Web 2.0? Whatever you call the Internetz these days, the current style of development and adoption is still kickin’ it.
A recent report from Wedbush Securities, a Silicon Valley firm that analyzes the valuations of private companies, updates what we already know about the social Web, and shows how powerful it has become. Almost across the board, it is the de facto Web now.
Calling the social Web a Hobbit-like “Second Internet,” the Wedbush analysts land smack dab in the footprint of what is more commonly known as Web 2.0. While their new turn of phrase adds little conceptually, they contribute many interesting facts about the power and prevalence of Web 2.0, the social Web, the Second Internet — take your pick.
The Wedbush analysts offer a list of commonalities for the Second Internet, including:
- Platforms that open their API to developers
- Continuous and rapid pace of innovation
- Companies and brands must listen to the dialogue and participate with customers
- Customer contribution is a large percent of the value/experience
- Every customer has a personalized experience
- Social graph connections drive discovery rather than search
Search, which was the main driver of discoverability in Web 1.0, is being eroded as users move into a more social mode:
. . . while the first Internet is primarily powered by Search, the Second Internet has opened another key path for accessing content — Social Discovery. Unlike Search, with Social Discovery, ideas and topics are pushed to the user, thereby planting the seeds for new interests in the user’s mind.
However, Google’s drive to make the Web searchable merely means that Google itself will become more social. This has already happened with indexing of tweets. But Wedbush’s analysts see another major trend supporting the social Web that will force change at the Googleplex:
. . . the pace of data creation will only increase as we move towards ambient socialization — where instead of having to manually update statuses and whereabouts, these behaviors will be broadcast automatically.
Part of what’s accelerating adoption is the proliferation of computing devices, making the Web inherently more social by putting it in the palms of our hands as we navigate normal social situations — in other words, ambient socialization. Geolocation, proximity and affinity mixes, and so forth all add data and interest to the social Web, creating a feedback loop amplifying usage and relevance.
But will we continue to spend on these tablets, laptops, phones, and desktops? Apparently, the answer is in the affirmative. In a recent analysis, two economists from the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta traced computer use back to the introduction of the Apple II in 1977 to calculate how much value, or “utility”, American consumers derive from a given amount of computing power. They compared this to how much we actually paid for that computing power, in the form of desktop PCs, laptops, notebooks , software and so on. The difference, known as the “welfare gain”, was calculated to be US$500 billion in the US alone. This trend seems likely to continue as we spend more time in and derive more benefit from the social Web.
Winners have changed from Web 1.0 to 2.0, as we all know — the Huffington Post is winning the news game in Web 2.0, while CNN.com won it in 1.0. But more important than who is the projected winner seems to be the stakes — growth is more explosive in Web 2.0, so the stakes are higher, and the rewards come sooner. Take Cityville, which grew to 100 million users just seven weeks after it launched. Farmville, by comparison, had just 20 million users after seven weeks. Both are Web 2.0 properties, but the blistering pace of adoption for Farmville has already been dwarfed by uptake for Cityville. No wonder Zynga is the projected winner of Web 2.0’s gaming crown . . . for now.
But where is NBC in the news area? Where’s Electronic Arts or Miniclip for gaming? In coverage of the report on Gigaom, Mathew Ingram notes that these trends:
. . . reinforce how difficult it is for even early Internet leaders to adapt to and take advantage of these changes, as Google is trying to do by bolting social features onto its services through moves like its recent +1 launch. Leading in one wave is no guarantee that one can lead in another — and in some cases may make that even less likely to happen.
Winners in the pre-Internet age didn’t bridge well into the Internet age. Winners in the First Internet (Web 1.0) are not bridging well into the Second Internet (Web 2.0). And with devices becoming ubiquitous, along with broadband, it won’t be long before the pond flips again as new players make sense of the next threshold events. Scale, pace, and utility will continue to push change.
I used the loaded word “disruption” in the headline, and I’d like to discuss why I did that. As careful readers of this blog know, I disagree that scholarly publishing has not been disrupted by the Internet. By strict definition, disruption is about new entrants finding new ways to create equivalent things, not about blowing up the end product. Open access publishing has been disruptive in this sense, and fits Clayton Christensen‘s criteria to a “t”.
The social Web is similarly disruptive, as it is recreating trust networks in new ways. It will take time, but I think there are already people who find studies via Twitter, Facebook, and other trust networks. And if news and search are becoming dependent on the social Web, awareness will be driven more and more by social discovery. PubMed, Google, and other search engines may become adjuncts to robust social discovery tools. As David Crotty pointed out yesterday, there are already people aware of this trend and thinking of ways to game the system as they envision it.
Web 2.0 has moved beyond hype and become the Web of today — social, mobile, ambient, volatile, and disruptive. The rate of change, information creation, and trend development puts extra pressures on innovation, but also on editorial sense-making functions.
Synthesis becomes all the more important in a socially fragmented and fast-moving information sphere.