Tim O'Reilly's paper on "What is Web 2.0?" brought to mind the issues of individual scale that many companies don't quite get.
Tim's description of why Google's AdSense works because it allows individuals to easily slap an ad onto their sites rather than the more complicated process of DoubleClick that requires formal contracts and agreements, gives one example of the power of mass of individuals.
The blogosphere's population of many individuals talking about different topics, rather than large PR teams in organizations, are starting to make a greater difference; ie. another example
The ability to remix applications, content and data in Web 2.0 for your own personal use gives yet another example.
The common ideas across all of these that I can see are:
- individuals (as opposed to whole companies/organizations) matter in Web 2.0
- the ability to work on things on a small or even personal scale (as opposed building applications for whole organizations) also matter
- the organizations that are built to focus on large customers rather than individuals may be missing out on Web 2.0.
My point is that to take a stance on Web 2.0 you have to think about empowering the individual not just big business partners, and large customers.
This is the ever ellusive "SMB" market (small-medium business) that more big companies are starting to take notice of. But this SMB goes even smaller down the scale to individual customers. I'd even call it the "SSB" (super-small business).
Now the question of whether this is something that works only for the mass/retail customer rather than organizations as a whole is still something everyone is trying to understand.
Scenario: a developer in an organization is looking for a particular item (content, data, or service), and finds it on the net somewhere to help complete their job task. Is that worth it to a supplier when the cost of offering that item
may not be very high? That is, what would make companies consider selling millions tiny widgets at $0.10 rather than one big widget to one customer for $10M?
The classic argument why some companies don't focus on mass sales at an almost retail level is the cost of offering that product is usually quite high, leaving low margins.
That would be perfectly true for a physical item that requires proper warehousing, distribution, retailing, sales tracking, mass advertising, etc.
Now consider pure-online products that can be delivered over the network. Are all those costs still true? Is there still this barrier of high cost overheads to produce something of the sort?
Companies geared to sell expensive goods to large customers may be so locked into their sales model that offering small scale services to many individuals just doesn't seem very appetizing.
That's a substantial mental hurdle for some organizations to overcome in Web 2.0.
PS: If you're thinking that going down to the SSB scale just sounds crazy, think again about the successes of Google, eBay and Amazon, and not just for retail customers but for their business partners, and their whole community of users.
Web 2.0 focuses on the power of enabling individuals and that's where its customers lie waiting