Friday, July 4, 2008

John Newton - How Web 2.0 will change the face of business

In the article "How Web 2.0 will change the face of business", John Newton does a really good job at describing what Web 2.0 is essentially about and what impact the driving forces behind Web 2.0 have to businesses and software vendors (such as Alfresco themselves):

Web 2.0 is explained more by example than by defining the technologies that make it up. A collection of brands provide the metaphors for what exactly is different in the way we use new web technologies, such as Google for search, YouTube for video, Flickr for photos, MySpace and Facebook for social networking and Wikipedia for wikis...//...These brands as metaphors become the nouns and verbs of describing Web 2.0 as a new way of socializing, communicating and sharing with each other in huge, consumer-scale markets.

Web 2.0 is not really so much a revolution in technology, but in how people use technology and how people interact with each other as a result of that technology.

As a result of the introduction of the internet, rapid infrastructure build-out and
the new generation of Web 2.0 sites, we have seen one of the most dramatic
democratizations of technology since at least the PC, if not the telephone
. Through universal access, users discovered that computers could be used for far more than information; that they could be used as a medium of expression, sharing and revelation.

Software vendors are now jumping on the bandwagon with social software and collaborative features smelling a bit opportunity. Many are repackaged capabilities from another era of enterprise software. Some are looking at their portfolios and asking whether this is what they were doing all along. This misses the point. Web 2.0 has so far outstripped enterprise software as we know it in usability, accessibility and empowerment, that it causes mass rolling of eyeballs at its mere sight of not just the new generation, but most others as well. Those who are familiar with the ease of use and empowerment of Web 2.0 sites like YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook are aware of what is possible and have much higher expectations. It will take a few years, but eventually they will figure out that Web 2.0 is not just a few new collaboration features and highly interactive web technologies, but empowerment of their users and the ability to draw in a critical mass of users from outside the trusted circle.

I could not agree more. I persistently argue that easy access and easy of use is a key part of Web 2.0 (as it is a key to empowering users). In the post "MOSS 2007 is missing the point with web 2.0" I take Microsoft as an example of a software vendor that seem to think that Web 2.0 is just a bunch of features, but I also conclude that it is a misconception that most of the old software giants have:

Web 2.0 is more than a bunch of new technologies – it represents a new paradigm in how people think and behave in how they use information technology. Much that was said about the web in the dotcom days (“the Internet revolution”) are actually happening today. Technology-wise, not much is new since the dotcom years. What is new is that the masses have adopted modern information technology and the Internet and practically made it to their own. Today, people are often faster at adopting new technologies than companies. They bring consumer technologies to work, they want to choose their own productivity tools (and do so) and see IT as a business thing rather than an IT department thing. To most people, IT is no longer an obscure thing.

In the hands of the old enterprise software giants, web 2.0 easily becomes a complex thing. Their ambition to extend and modernize their feature-packed software suits with web 2.0 applications and technologies might cause them to miss the whole point of web 2.0; the ease of use.

I have previously described some of my experiences from using SharePoint for collaboration, but I won't go into another argument whether or not SharePoint / MOSS 2007 is a good platform for collaboration or not - because it both is and it isn't. But it is not Web 2.0.


  1. I think Web 2.0 still has a ways to go in the “testing” phase before it can be fully integrated, but I am interested to see how it will develop. Obviously the biggest impact for both personal and business use has been the many different social networking sites and what I see to be a trend to personalize a lot of the way we interact even on professional levels. I think as someone that works in IT and with those delivering professional services (specifically small business computer consultants), I’m seeing how important personalized relationships are becoming to providing the best, most sophisticated service and creating strong connections. I would like to see how Web 2.0 fosters these connections as its presence grows.

  2. Look. All this Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 hype is fine. The main problem is that two things are very different in business than in private social networks: First - not all information is for everyone, so wild searches across documents are out of the question! Second - business is about comencing certain activities when the right trigger happens and following through until the service is performed. This requires data interfacing, process interaction and in the end full auditability. I do not see a mix of YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia do any of that. Does anyone out there even know what enterprises er really doing with their software???

  3. First of all, the act of sharing and making all information that could be valuable to others available to them is one of the key principles of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Information should not be protected by default, only if it is really sensitive.

    Secondly, Web 2.0 is about provinding easy-to-use and easy-to-access tools which are designed after the work-styles of individuals instead of top-down designed and highly structured processes overloaded with business rules. They are meant to support knowledge work and innovation.

    Web 2.0 tools also leverage the social dimension of any human activity. We are not individuals acting in isolation. Humans are social beings and Web 2.0 principles and tools build upon this insight.

    Finally, if you cannot look beyond YouTube, Facebook, Google and Wikipedia and see a sharing website, a social network, a search engine and a wiki, then you will problable have a hard time understanding their potential value for businesses and dismiss them all as a hype. To succeed in applying Web 2.0 principles and tools in an enterprise context, you first of all need to understand the difference between the current ways of working and the new ways of workiing and the difference between a tool and using it (think of the many different things you can do with a hammer).

    Good luck!