Web 2.0 – Hype v. Innovation

There’s an interesting conversation that’s been taking place over the last twelve hours regarding recent innovations in the Web 2.0 space, or the lack thereof.

It started with John Heileman of New York Magazine taking a few swipes at the hype, which was quickly picked up after Fred Wilson made it clear some of the article got his goat. Steve Rubel followed up, and despite the fact that I’ve had a tough time following Mr. Rubel’s ramblings about Google Reader/Gmail as groundbreaking “research tools” yada yada, I have to give a general thumbs up to his prognosis – there is a lot of Kool-Aid hitting the gullet, and a dearth of “wow.” The few bright lights in the bunch are hardly world changing either – Twitter, for example, may be nifty, but as Richard McManus put it:

“Twitter, which Steve mentioned, is one – albeit it is still extremely niche and no mainstream people I know use it.”

My personal opinion: Twitter is a great platform, but Richard is spot on. I was skeptical at first, and then got an explanation. I embraced it, installing plugins for this blog, applets for my Blackberry, and Twitterific for the desktop. But Twitter is a social app, meaning you need your friends on it for it to be either fun or even remotely effective as a communications platform. Unfortunately, all my friends are those same mainstream kind of folks, and despite prodding some to join none saw any long-term value. Throw in the fact that I’m no groupie (meaning I quickly dumped my follow list as I personally knew none of the people I was following), and the rest is history.

Outrageous

This is classic hype: a article in VentureBeat this morning that exclaims in the most recent blown-out headline that Facebook may now be worth $100 billion (go look for it…I just couldnt bear to link). It was worth just $15 billion a few days ago, and only a billion a year ago. And nothing has changed for this enterprise other than the fact that they have many more users who either a) are too poor to turn advertising dollars spent into consumer purchases made or b) spend so much time on the internet that they are completely oblivious to any and all web advertising. That, or they’re like me…they have money to spend, but clean out their cookies with ever increasing frequency. The really sad part about this – nobody but the digeratti will ever even read it, and even if a major publication does pick up on it (like so many do nowadays), the general populous doesn’t care one iota. All it’s going to do is make them aware that they need to clean out their cookies more often!

I know why it was written – the author wanted some traffic – that traffic begets ad dollars. A ridiculous headline is a sure fire way to get there – write some complete bull about a system wholly dependent on advertising so you can get some advertising revenue yourself. Doesn’t seem like there is much value add to me.

I guess it’s fun for some, but…

I was bored with Facebook in about a day – to me it was AOL on steroids. I tired of Twitter in a few months – it’s useful but extremely distracting. MySpace…a bid childish. Meebo – neat, but isn’t “everywhere” IM access what phone-based apps are for? Tumblr – clean and simple, but so is a WordPress install. I could go on and on, but I don’t have much in the way of ads on this site.

How about showing me something that actually helps me get work done, makes me money, for goodness sakes…catches me more fish. Take some of these information technologies and point out how they apply to an industry sector I’m interested in – securities arbitrage, corporate-owned life insurance, distressed and/or hard-to-price assets, composites and extrusion, far-east import/export, or the promise of nuclear fusion reactors the size of air conditioning compressors. That would be innovation.

Gotta go…I’ve got a phone call (remember those?).