I recently read a insightful piece from Ben Hunt about the future of the web2.0 social experience. It was particularly relevant as I am heading to the Web2.0 Expo here in San Francisco today and will have a chance to see many new technologies later this evening at the "Booth Crawl" event at the opening of the Expo. Thinking about the future of the social web can be overwhelming – particularly if you look at the quantity of new sites and technologies that are being launched each day. While we may not suffer from the same overfunded hype of the early 2000s, hype is certainly alive and well and I will likely see quite a bit of it tonight at the Expo.
Yet for most, Web2.0 is about the next evolution of the Internet and how it is becoming more useful for everyone. Yes, there are lots of cool technologies, and the search for the "killer app" that Hunt brilliantly deconstructs in his paper is important. The underlying theme, however, is how new services are helping each of us to solve some of our most basic needs from the Internet. In my opinion, these include:
- Search – There is no doubt search engines are the dominant tool for finding information online. More recently, the search for meaning is about more than using powerful algorithms to offer hundreds of thousands of search results. The social search revolution is about how people are helping other people find information. The most innovative Web2.0 tools for search are the ones that combine sophisticated algorithms with the ability and dedication of individuals to help highlight, describe and categorize information.
- Discover – If search is about actively seeking information on a specific topic, discovery is about uncovering information that is likely to be relevant for you presented to you based on your browsing history, habits, related content, or relationships and declared interests. The popularity of StumbleUpon as well as the millions of people using social bookmarking tools such as Digg and del.icio.us point to the rising use of sites, tags and recommendations to discover new websites or web content.
- Connect – Managing relationships through contact managers such as LinkedIn is not a new activity online, but there are new tools that are helping each of us to get smarter about how these contacts are managed and make them more useful. A core concept that Hunt talks about which is now starting to appear is the idea that not all relationships should be treated equal and there needs to be a way to rate the strength of a particular relationship. When contacts are measured in terms of degrees, connecting to others through your network becomes a much more valid exercise, and one more likely to mimic offline behaviours that take the strength of particular relationships into account.
- Protect – As technology enables more innovation, it can also have a dark side with hackers, phishers, and spammers. Web2.0 has not just been about finding better tools for communication or information, it is also about new thinking for protecting each of us from the dangerous, or just plain annoying. As more of our digital lives, transactions and communications move online – this area will continue to be vitally important for keeping the Internet a trusted and credible channel to conduct these activities.
- Publish – Central to the rise of social media is the ability for individuals to easily publish just about any type of content from blogs to podcasts to online video. This includes publishing in the sense of contributing to dialogue online through reviews or comments. New services are likely to help make it easier to publish as well as better tools to customize your efforts. Also, there will continue to be more new sites and social networks on which to publish your content on just about any topic.
- Organize – Whether it relates to organizing your personal life through "lifehacker" style tools such as personal calendars or to-do lists, or organizing your bookmarks and saved content, Web2.0 innovation continues to produce many tools for doing so. On sites that offer access to content published by others or through sites that could be considered "aggregators" (for RSS feeds or other content), organization is a core principle that is seen as another key human benefit.
- Share – This is a broad concept that includes each of our desire to share our thoughts and expertise, as well as the cause related side of this which includes sharing wealth or supporting causes one believes in. New tools for giving, and new sites for sharing expertise fit into this category.
There may likely be other core needs that could be included on this list, but thinking about Web2.0 in terms of these categories will help me to evaluate new sites from the show as well as new thinking and opportunities for marketing. Check back tomorrow for a recap of some highlights from the Web2.0 Expo as well as a list of examples of sites and services that fit each of these categories …