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Web 2.0 Needs a "Confusion Solution"

"Web 2.0 has the capacity to astonish and engage. It also has the capacity to confuse."

Web 2.0 has the capacity to astonish and engage. It also has the capacity to confuse. So those of us who feel they have a duty of care toward Web 2.0 had better move fast. We need a "Confusion Solution."

The latest person to highlight the precariousness of public understanding of Web 2.0 is one of the absolute pioneers of a richer web, Nexaweb's founder and CTO, Coach Wei. Wei's concern centers on the common misapprehension that Web 2.0 is solely a consumer phenomenon - MySpace, Flickr, Flock, YouTube, etc - instead of realizing that, as Wei puts it, "Web 2.0 can fundamentally impact core enterprise IT operations in a way that can only be matched by the shift from mainframe computing to client/server computing" [my emphasis].

Andrew McAfee, a Harvard Business school professor, in fact takes it a whole stage further. So adamant is he that there is something very significant going on here that he coined the now-widespread term "Enterprise 2.0," which he defined as "the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers."

McAfee contradistinguishes Enterprise 2.0 applications and sites from Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc., which are for individuals on the Web, not companies, and he excludes most corporate Intranets today on the basis that they're not emergent. He then adduces examples of what he *does* consider to be Enterprise Web 2.0:

  • DrKW's internal blogs and wikis
  • Rite Solutions' prediction markets
  • Enterprise tagging
  • R&D departments' use of Innocentive to find solutions to problems that have been stumping them.
  • MK Taxi's ability to connect mobile phone users in Tokyo directly to the driver of the cab closest to them, bypassing the dispatch center altogether.
  • Employee blogs like this one [http://blog.hbs.edu/faculty/amcafee/index.php/faculty_amcafee_v3/]
  • The existence of well-defined sub-areas however doesn't necessarily make it any easier for people to understand the uber-category of Web 2.0 itself. Accordingly Coach Wei says he will try illuminate the topic--and when one of the brightest minds anywhere in the blogosphere commits to luminosity, be sure to bookmark his blog. Wei started his Next-Generation Web company (named Nexaweb for exactly that reason) as long ago as six years ago, providing software for building enterprise web 2.0 solutions because he was convinced that Web 1.0 had a lot of limitations and that the world would need the next-generation version.

    "Despite that Nexaweb has been quietly deployed at over 5,000 enterprises," Wei notes, "I did not hear a single customer inquiry about 'Web 2.0'  between 2000 and 2004."

    Which is hardly, if you think about it, surprising. Only when a word or phrase has, so to speak "nailed down" an idea can a customer inquire about it. "Web 2.0" turns out to be that phrase.

    Col. Tom Parker - he of Elvis fame - declared "Don't explain it -- just sell it" but the enterprise IT world works differently. If we can't explain it, how can we possbly justify being so enthusiastic about it and energized by it?

    Einstein, as usual, said it best: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

    More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

    Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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