When we lived through the early years of the Internet, the
huge revelation was realizing that we would be able to change everything. We
could only dream of the application, and it was all because the network would connect
I remember the “aha” moments of the day in about 1994. Some
of the realization was quite liberating – this industry is changing from a
hobbyist 80 million PC market into complete mainstream. We were going to
experience a seismic shift that would change the way people would communicate, the
way people would access information, the way people would do business and would
interact. Our imagination soared with the possibilities. (And some of it was a
little daunting, especially if you were tied up in the precursor to email known
as fax, but that’s a story for another day).
Email would be used by everyone. The web would be the window
to every company via the browser. All information would be immediately
available and accessible because everything was now online. Media would all be
changing – one to one marketing, personalized access would change newspapers,
tv, movies. Internet packets would replace phone lines, ecommerce would replace
shopping malls, advertising would change, business would shift to marketplaces
and one-to-one would replace many-to-one.
Within a couple of years, it did become mainstream, but then
unfortunately it got a little ahead of itself. A lot of people were trying to
get the dream to speed up. The stock market was rewarding those who could speed
up the dream. And those that got ahead of reality started getting the biggest
rewards. And, to those of us who were trying to “tame the beast”, it felt like
the hucksters and the bankers were taking charge. Of course it came tumbling
down. Hard. The market crashed, the hucksters and the bankers ran away as fast
as they could to other markets and businesses. And the industry was left trying
We all allowed it to get ahead of itself. We all became
allured by the size of it and the opportunity. Someone compared it well to the
cartoon character that runs off the edge of the cliff and keeps running. It was
only when we looked down that we realized there was nothing beneath us and we
Those of who did not run away had to start putting the
pieces together. We had to try and deal with an investor market that wanted
nothing more to do with this dream anymore. Entrepreneurs moved on. Consumers
moved on, business moved on.
But we knew that, like in every technology market, the
disappointment wave is part of the cycle. And we knew that after the
disappointment wave, the market delivers what it should have been in the first
place. This is not unique to the Web, this is often true for technology – the
cell phone, the database market, the mp3 player, digital cameras, Bluetooth –
to mention a few examples that immediately come to mind.
Since 2001, the web has been growing organically. In fact it
has been growing really fast and pretty well. Broadband is finally a reality, computers
are everywhere, and the platform is much more mature.
And the dream is coming true. Email is everywhere, every
company has a web site, we all use the internet for research at every level –
travel, purchases, even romance. E-commerce is huge, marketplaces are real,
communities are being used. Advertising is creating massive revenue and the Web
is taking over from newspapers and TV. And it really is everywhere.
And now that it works, new companies are delivering on the
dreams. The market is delivering on the dream.
But why call it Web 2.0? This is not something new. This is not anything more than the same dream that we have had since the early 90s. This is the way technology change works. We knew it in 2001. That’s why we hung in. that’s why we didn’t go to banking or real estate (or the beach) and why we’ve stuck with software and the Internet. This time it would take longer to deliver, but the bubble and the crash were bigger that ever before.
It’s all part of the cycle. If Web 2.0 is the “second
version” where you deliver the product that you originally promised, then Yes
it is Web 2.0. But this is not something that we didn’t expect after the crash.
We knew this was coming - and now the
best news is that it has just begun.
New communities are being created, citizen reporting is
real, camera phones real. We are about to see mobile expand rapidly as that
promise gets delivered. Standard devices with massive bandwidth, readable
screens and decent input methods will open up another dream delivery. VoIP
really works now and we’re about to see the promise of reliable, very cheap
voice communication to be delivered. And then, standards will drive the home
consumer market to delivery, automobile technology will flourish, new
generations of PCs and laptops will flourish.
And the traditional investors? The smart players won’t miss
out because they have figured out that this time it is real.
This is not a new phenomenon. It is the delivery of the dream.