I’ve talked to a lot of Web 2.0 companies in the past month, some big and some small. A few themes have developed in how to make a successful Web 2.0 company – here’s a few ideas.
1. Build a real team. There are so many Web 2.0 companies that are either run in a virtual environment or with just a few people in a basement somewhere. It’s not a good strategy because any ideas that could germinate with a larger team – and I mean about 5-8 people or so — will be stagnated with just one or two employees. If you can’t afford a real team that includes a developers and designers, folks in marketing and accounting, and a sales agent or two, you might just have an idea, not a company. It reminds me of my experience this week with a rental car company staffed by just a couple of people. (Yes, I was trying to save a buck.) One of the employees was out sick, so that left one person to transport people to and from the airport, do the paperwork, and deal with frustrations. In the same way, one person can write a blog, but it takes a company to make a real Web 2.0 product that actually does something.
A friend of mine asked me to write about Fark.com, the famously shocking news aggregator that has even more loyal followers now that they don’t include porn links. I usually avoid the site, not because of the shock value, but because I don’t want to burn up an hour learning about the so-called Obama race war, violent crime rates in Detroit, and the abysmal US economy. And those are the more serious links. Usually, headlines are more like “Ike survivors may have to wait weeks for baths. France shrugs” which is just cheeky enough to get you to click on it, even though the actual report has nothing to do with France (a pet topic for the site owner). It’s what I call a force-pull headline, one that you just can’t help clicking on.
The lurching, heaving behemoth of the Web will become a self-feeding entity someday, symmetrical and aligned with itself, ubiquitous and pervasive, not constrained by the browser or even a PC. That’s the vision for the world wide Web after Web 2.0 – a concept where apps are islands, users interact only through portals that let them interact, programming languages don’t understand each other, and we’re limited by what the OS, the network, the browser, and the computer will permit.
Last week, Tim O’Reilly posted about self-linking as a journalistic practice, where one article on the Web refers to another story at the same site instead of an external link. For example, at BusinessWeek.com, a new feature article may link phrases and terms to other articles at Business Week for more explanation.
A few readers mentioned how most definitions for Web 2.0 are overly technical and hard to grasp. I happen to agree. As with any complex topic, it’s easier to use complex descriptions: list out everything that it is, rather than actually define it.
Recently, in my normal job as a journalist, I’ve been finding that every new story pitch, interview request, product inquiry or – well, pretty much every e-mail I’ve sent has led to the response that: the cloud can solve that problem. Need better security on your laptop? Use the cloud. Need better scalability in your data center? Use the cloud. Have an itch that just won’t subsist? Use the cloud.