Things That Could Obliterate Web 2.0
I may have gotten a bit out of hand with my Web 2.0 bubble talk. While I’d be excited to see a new crazy phase, in the larger scheme of things, it might be better that there is no Web 2.0 bubble. I’m all for steady growth – it’s just not as sexy and most people won’t get rich fast.
Anyhow, I’m home sick (with a cold) – feeling a bit under the weather and somber – so in the interest of balance, here’s a short list of things that scare me, any of which could easily crater any burgeoning “New Internet Boom” – in 2007.
1. People haven’t totally gotten over the Web 1.0 crash. “People” is a blanket statement, from VCs to companies to bloggers to mainstream users. Even myself – as a potential tech employee – am psychologically scarred from the last nuclear winter of layoffs and unemployment. While it’s said what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, it also influences you to be wary of that which nearly bought you the farm.
The bad taste of Web 1.0 might cause people to be overly cautious, or bail out at the first whiff of trouble. The people caught with their pants down previously aren’t going to play that game again, the result either nipping a new Web 2.0 bubble in the bud or prematurely bursting it.
2. Not enough users to sustain the number of companies. One aspect of Web 2.0 is the “social” part, which relies on a user’s willingness to participate and put personal information online about themselves. A huge swath of the population wants no part of that. I think there are more Luddites (to whom the internet is still just a fancy television) than we’d like to think.
I realize this every time I run across someone who is still scared to shop online (because of identity theft), who doesn’t get blogging (because they don’t want weirdos knowing about their lives), or wonder about the shiny iPod, but when you explain “ripping a CD” their eyes glaze over at the chore of digitizing their music collection. It’s just too hard. These folks have a long way to go to become a flickr user – the answer I get is “Why would you want to put your photos online? Strangers could… look at them!”
3. Another terrorist attack on American soil. 9/11 happened at a truly crappy time as far as the economy was concerned. Things were already tanking big time in technology. Suddenly, all the talk about eyeballs and stock options seemed shallow and irrelevant.
4. United States goes bats and attacks Iran or North Korea. Imagine the reactivation of a draft (rounding up the exact age of MySpace users). What would the whole-scale conscription of a user base mean for a site like digg?
5. The housing slowdown puts a noose around the economy. Pessimists have been predicting this for a while now, and it looks like it’s finally happening. I know little or nothing about housing but it seems that the “wealth effect” of annual double digit appreciation is over. So anybody who’s been spending beyond their means (taking out home equity loans) and hoping their house would pay for their retirement is screwed. The part I’m not sure about, is what percentage of the population is in this situation and would their decreased spending impact the economy?
6. The dollar crashes. Right now the dollar is at a 15 year low. All I can say is it costs me $10 to see a first-run movie, and I’m loathe to spend ever more worthless American money on Linden dollars.
7. Google stock eats it. According to Dave Winer, a lot of Web 2.0 companies make their money from Google AdSense, so if Google eats it, so might they. A Google bust could also affect acquisition as an exit strategy. And what might bring on a Google stock bust? Some ideas are the aforementioned economic disasters, or advertisers pushing back on the “click fraud” issue. Either way, a bad Google day would be a bad Web 2.0 day.
8. Steve Jobs dies. Apple is firing on all cylinders and certainly has insanely great products in the pipeline throughout 2007. The only thing that could break their current winning streak would be something disastrous like the death of the iCEO. Even if the infrastructure is in place to continue without El-Steve-o, the #1 marketer and public face would be gone. Let’s hope Apple is working on some secret iClone technology.
9. The Web 2.0 faithful lose faith. I’m seeing more and more articles like these appearing, skeptical and weary about the promises about various Web 2.0 tenets. Some are ridiculously moving on to Web 3.0, while others poke fun at it. There will always be naysayers, but what’s a bit troubling is a lot of this nay-saying is coming from the technophile user base that is supposed to be using and evangelizing Web 2.0.
10. Content-creator burnout. I mentioned that I’m sick and under the weather, so perhaps the effects of over the counter prescription medication is affecting my brain. But blogging is freaking hard work, and I’m not even into writing this one measly post today.
So what does it mean for a Web 2.0 site that relies on user-created content if content creators burnout en masse? Will there always be new creators ready to take up the baton?
The answers to all these questions and more, coming in 2007.