Thursday, February 08, 2007

Brave New Web (BNW) #1: Web 1.0 vs 2.0?

At yesterday's sold out/smash hit Brave New Web conference, HBS Professor Joseph B. Lassiter III kicked off the plenary panel by asking his group to comment on Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0, or to quibble about that use of terminology, if they desired. The session then debated the merits and shortcomings of Boston/New England as a Web 2.0 incubator (see next post).

Lassiter joked that with Web 2.0 startups, you've got a 46-year-old CEO. With Web 1.0 companies, you had two 23-year-old CEOs. That provoked a laugh. Jeff Taylor, founder of Eons, said, "Hey I am 46. I can't even get into my site" (which is targeted to the 50-something-plus demographic).

Fox Interactive's Adam Bain is a big sports fan. He reminded us that in 2003, the MLB used the slogan "This Time it Counts," when it was decided that the outcome of the All-Star Game would determine the home field advantage for the World Series. He feels this would be a good tagline for Web 2.0. While Web 1.0 gave us lots of great companies that changed the way we do business (Amazon, eBay, Google), Web 2.0 is going to change the way we interact and is producing whole new genres of media and business (rather than Web businesses that were modeled after traditional businesses). (This was a nice tie back to Jeremy Allaire's contention that online video has produced the "voyeurism" genre - a minor but significant example of Bain's point.)

Masthead's Richard Levandov said he's never really bought into these terms. He sees an evolution, a continuum, in the technology.

Michael Skok (North Bridge Venture Partners) noted that Web 2.0 involves shifts in technology, social behavior and business models, and he sees companies taking advantage of all three of these. You've got a technology infrastructure that's ubiquitous and free or cheap (open source and SaaS-based applications). You've got folks swapping four million files on line and interacting as never before. And you are seeing companies with revolutionary business models.

Eon's Jeff Taylor noted that in this new world, it's still all about brand. "If you get your brand right, everything else will come. Our site is about spirit and inspiration - which sure beats drying up like a raisin." Taylor also noted that he loves the fact that he can follow the customer every minute of the day, using new Web tools.

The ever-charming David Weinberger (Cluetrain author, now with the Harvard Berkman Center) noted three important trends:
  • Sites are beginning to share their services in a way that lets us build completely new applications
  • People have always been what drove the Web forward
  • Growth of metadata that allows the loosening of boundaries; it turns out that it's far better to let information go, so that people can collaborate. We're seeing a lessening of corporate control and a resulting reformulation of business.

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