What if this whole Web 2.0 thing deflates?
François Roque, better known as @imposture, already made a huge splash on this blog with his post “What if Web 2.0 went bankrupt?” that was elected the “Idea of the Week.” He’s back this month, reminding us that all revolutionary media (like all revolutionary innovations) will eventually become normalized.
What if the Web 2.0 ended up shrinking and getting “put in its place”? What is this crazy hypothesis?
The other night I got to thinking that Web 2.0 was starting to coast a little, lose its energy. It seems to me that this is a natural law in the evolution of systems of communication: a new technology arrives, a few pioneers clear the way, and open doors; little by little these doors close again and only a few are left. The remaining open doors then calcify and turn into a regulated system. This was the case in publishing, in the press, with the telephone, cinema, radio and television. Why would Web 2.0 be spared? I have thought up 4 factors of the “contraction” and “normalization” of Web 2.0:
1/ Lack of Time
You know the expression “too much information”? This is a problem for Web 2.0: too many RSS feeds, too many status updates, too many tweets, too many re-tweets. Have you ever left your computer (for say, a meeting) and when you return, find yourself overwhelmed by the flood of information on Facebook, Twitter and in your RSS feeds? Do you read all this new information? Most likely, you skim it, and if a video goes over 3 minutes, well, forget it. This type of behavior will only become more common, as accounts and new sites with new tools will accumulate. Our free time, however, will not grow. This new online information will become pollution.
2/ The Technology
Not so much the technology of Web 2.0, but the hardware. As with the debut of the iPod and the iPhone, the iPad has been receiving its fair share of criticism. And yet today Apple is the worldwide leader of online music distribution, controls ½ of Disney and is number 1 in smartphones.
The iPad? A single port where you cannot multi-task but that allows you to have high-quality images, sound and videos seems almost old-fashioned. These tablets are neither computers, nor telephones: they’re nomadic terminals where one can consume “professionally” produced media products. Just like the iPhone, websites, protocols and applications will become formatted for the iPad—these formats will most likely be for auxiliary (read: for sale) merchandise of classic media, and less for amateur blogs, mediocre videos and messages composed in 140 characters or less…
Out of the 300 million Facebook accounts, how many are actually interesting? Out of 50 million tweeters, how many are posting original tweets? Now that Google will be adding tweets and Facebook statuses in its listings, how will we know what information will be reliable, interesting or in any way instructive? The risk (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) would be that, instead of going to the 2.0 sources of information, Internet users would go naturally towards reliable sources of information. The information flows will grow, but the bad information will be diluted.
The last factor is the result of the 3 previous factors, and it’s fatal. The consequence is bankruptcy. I’ve already discussed this problem in a previous post. To summarize: an economic model that is based on the unreal notion of having enormous marketing, technological and human resources financed by advertising, is not, in my opinion sustainable. I firmly feel that this will end in the shutting down of: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Myspace…Game over!
And of course, people could also just lose interest, and the crowds could migrate to other sources, find other toys to play with. This was the case in publishing, in the press, with the telephone, cinema, radio and television. Why would Web 2.0 be spared?