What ever happened to the Ayn Randian idea that individualism was the basis of everything productive as opposed to the mediocrity of the collective? Well, after the dot-com bust, everyone and their business executives and product marketers discovered the benefits and advantages of getting everyone involved and connected as a community of participants, whether it’s business partners and stakeholders sharing BI and making collaborative decisions, or fans and end users tweeting cheers and jeers and pressing “LIKE” on FaceBook. Today, the collaborative tools and benefits of Web 2.0 are changing how the world does business and uses technology, mostly for the better.
Of the characteristics of Web 2.0, collaboration, Interoperability, and sharing, what’s not to like? The Web 2.0 collaboration characteristic facilitates business and IT alignment, and results in better informed decisions. The interoperability characteristic of Web 2.0 means fewer hoops to jump through, so more gets done. The Web 2.0 characteristic of sharing information or resources means greater efficiency, and fewer versions of the truth.
The benefits of Web 2.0 include rapid communication and sharing of information. Web 2.0 email, IM, web-based business collaboration tools allow partners and vendors to discuss and fix supply chain issues in real time for better customer service, or follow the progress of important projects. In-house Web 2.0 business collaboration tools also allow business and IT colleagues to work together, to make decisions about what new technologies the organization needs to invest in. Web 3.0 may enhance the benefits by extending the web so that all information available on information may be updated in real time. Currently, the “smarts” of software, trying to outthink what a user want as he/she searches for it, or the “intelligence” incorporated into applications tends to be more of an irritation then a help.
A More exciting benefit is that Web 2.0 has democratized and facilitated innovation, and improved investment decision making. Web 2.0 tools such as social websites, blogs, tweeting, and IM provide intimate, immediate, almost uninhibited interactions with existing customers about products and the tantalizing possibility of harvesting customer ideas for new innovations. Examining information from Web 2.0 tools lets corporations learn how their customers use or misuse products (e.g., pharmaceuticals), or discover new customers using product for something never originally envisioned. With Web 2.0, technologists can get feedback from end users, about useless features that should be dropped from projects. What advantages could Web 3.0 offer over the current benefits of Web 2.0 and advantages of Web 2.0 collaboration tools? Presumably Web 3.0, the so called “Semantic” web, might offer the advantages of a giant database where, for example, patient information is updated immediately in real time as prescriptives or treatments are applied and logged. How this would work on a global scale to perhaps democratize society is more questionable, given the notorious tendency of some governments to censor citizen activity.
The community building and collaboration tools made possible by Web 2.0 are powerful ways of changing the status quo: We’ve all seen Web 2.0 tools used to organize protestors and demonstrations against governments. Beyond the benefits and advantages, there are drawbacks to Web 2.0 … When collecting information, the source of information on Web 2.0 tools such as blogs or communal postings, may need to be carefully considered, since there may be marketers and PR fold with an agenda to pursue. Some Web 2.0 tools, like IM, can become a distraction. And, obviously, disagreements can unleash the worse in us all. These look like minor tradeoffs when compared with Web 2.0’s empowerment of community. Only time will tell if the disruption of Web 2.0, and Web 2.0 benefits and advantageshave permanently altered global business and IT for the better.
The Next Stage – Web 3.0?
As yet there seems to be no clear definition of Web 3.0, often referred to as the “Semantic web.” It is suggested that the web will be “brainier” and endowed with the ability to associate meaning, in more or less human terms, with data. But other contenders for this unofficial versioning include a 3D virtual world, and perhaps web enhanced appliances. Critics have questioned the basic feasibility of a complete or even partial evolution of Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. According to a Wikipedia article, Corry Doctorow’s more caustic observations (see “Metacrap“) are that Web 3.0 is impossible because “schemas are not neutral,” “there’s more than one way to describe something,” and “data may become irrelevant…” or might miss being updated. Other Web 3.0 concerns are centered around censorship and privacy issues. Certainly some of the criticisms, such that text analysis could be interfered with by use of metaphors or images have validity, although the future Web 3.0 may bring surprising new disruptive innovations not conceptualized as yet.