Drive Business Change with Web 2.0

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 3 minutes.

Web 2.0 will alter the way that businesses develop and apply innovative ideas.

During the 1990s business leaders and venture capitalists grappled with how they would make money from the web. This was tipified by the two VCs, Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital, investing $25 million in Google in the late 1990s; they new the search engine created by Sergey Brin and Larry Page was a winning formula, even though the pair had not yet monetised search. Bricks and mortar compaines were deemed “old hat” as the dotcom bubble was expanding. Companies such as eBay, Amazon and Yahoo! were at the forefront of every investors’ chequebook. Every company needed a 21st Century “Blue Sky” web strategy; every company needed to do e-commerce. However, the bubble burst and everyone was brought down with a bang. Boo.com is a classic example of the fallout from the over speculation.

Today, the reality has shifted from solely bricks and mortar or dotcom, to a balance between the real world and cyberspace, of traditional business operations complemented by the unversality provided by web-based technologies. The web has given businesses a greater understanding of their customers. With Web 2.0 a new type of web is emerging, further enhancing the understanding of a user or customer through the creation of online communities, where information is shared and new ideas evolve.

There are numerous examples of web communities from the early FriendsReunited to MySpace and the more specific Islandoo for the Channel4 TV progamme Shipwrecked. Web 2.0 is all about collaborative networks tipified by Flickr, del.icio.us, Wikipedia and YouTube. However, Web 2.0 has primarily been used in the consumer arena, as identified by the examples, but the use of such technologies has far reaching implications based on understanding how people interact with the technologies and behave online. Linking people across countries, time-zones and company boundaries will enable people to work together without hierarchical boundaries, bringing people together as one team to collate the best input. This is emphasised with the concept of a wiki whereby any end-user can make changes to the shared resource without the need for specialist software and expensive training. This makes sharing knowledge extremely easy.

Other areas of Web 2.0 is the technology identified by the term “folksonomy”. Simply, a folksonomy is defined on Wikipedia as:

… an Internet-based information retrieval methodology consisting of collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize content such as Web pages, online photographs, and Web links. A folksonomy is most notably contrasted from a taxonomy in that the authors of the labeling system are often the main users (and sometimes originators) of the content to which the labels are applied. The labels are commonly known as tags and the labeling process is called tagging.

While it takes time for an expert to create a taxonomy specific to a particular organisation in order to categorise or define data, folksonomies do not require fixed taxonomies. Instead, users define their own descriptions of the data to be described by applying tags to the data, whether it is a bookmark in terms of del.icio.us, an image on Flickr, a video on YouTube or a document in a company repository. Over time, these tags can be amended by other users resulting in a definition that is more specific. This enables users to find information with relative ease, without having to type the exact keyword.

Web 2.0 will bring a whole host of issues into the business arena. While there are clear benefits from establishing communities and social networks, people with different views, be it political or religious, can drive the agenda. Further complications arise through the necessity to audit changes to the data and ensuring the data is indeed accurate (Wikipedia has had cases where people have maliciously altered data to either enhance their own profile or devalue the significance of historical events).

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The development of the internet and the web, and of search engines, has led to users doing their own searching. In the Web 2.0 environment users are now also doing their own content creation and information management. Because folksonomies develop in Internet-mediated social environments, users can discover who created a given folksonomy tag, and see the other tags that this person created. In this way, folksonomy users often discover the tag sets of another user who tends to interpret and tag content in a way that makes sense to them. The result is often an immediate and rewarding gain in the user’s capacity to find related content.

Social Bookmarking a Zeitgeist

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