Is Web 2.0 Innovation Over?

Peter Rip has an interesting, if not controversial, theory: there’s little new, exciting or innovative happening these days within the Web 2.0 landscape. Instead, he contends the same concepts are being rolled out by different people – kind of like going to the same play but seeing different actors. In many ways, Rip is right in that it’s difficult to believe the world really needs another photo/video-sharing service given there are already dozens battling for your attention. Rip argues the hard work has just begun:

“The next wave of innovation isn’t going to be as easy. The hard problems in the WWW are no longer usability or ease of everyday content creation. These problems are solved. Digital cameras, SixApart, WordPress, and digital video cameras showed us how ease it could be. Now the hard part is moving from Web-as-Digital-Printing-Press to true Web-as-Platform. To make the Web a platform there has to a level of of content and services interoperability that really doesn’t exist today.”

While Rip’s argument is credible, I think it under-estimates the Web 2.0 landscape. What we’ve so seen so far is simple “building blocks” – one-dimensional services developed, marketing and distributed with relatively little investment. The next stage of innovation will the mashing these building blocks together to create more useful, valuable tools for consumers and businesses users (Aside: Are we ready to seriously start talking about what Enterprise 2.0 actually means?)

Look at how successful Microsoft Office has been. It’s not because Word or Excel or Powerpoint are best word processing, spreadsheet or presentation applications; it’s because they work seamlessly together. The same kind of tight integration will happen within the Web 2.0 world as end-users start to get over the “wow, isn’t this cool to use a Web-based service” phenomena, and start to demand different – but related – services that work well together. If Google, for example, ever wants to be taken seriously as a Microsoft rival, it needs to get the different products within its portfolio to work together.

Bottom line: there’s lot of innovation left within Web 2.0. The low-hanging fruit has been picked so now it’s time to work harder and get more creative.

For more, check out Paul Kedrosky, who contends the use of “Web 2.0″ has become embarassing and GigaOm, who succinctly suggests it’s time to “put a fork in it and stop calling everything Web 2.0″. You know when the “in” crowd starts to get tired of something, it’s really moved into the mainstream.

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  • http://http:/ Magnus

    Once the media has coined something and you can’t go a night on the news without a story to keep the station “hip” then it starts jumping the shark. Well until something even more hip comes alongs.

    I can’t wait to see what new innovations we are in for.

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  • Shaun Rotman

    I have to agree. There has been little innovation in the Web 2.0 field. We need some new and creative ideas, not little spins on more well-known ones (can someone say “Twitter”?).

    What we haven’t explored yet, besides web platforms, is the mobile platform. There is so much potential seeing as everyone has a mobile. Why not target this audience?

    It’s been spoken about for years, but until someone gives these mobile carriers a good kick in the behind to jump start the market, we might as well sit back and wait for the next wave of music/video/photo/IM/etc. sites to come along.

  • Paul Butler

    Part of what made web 2.0 possible was improvements in browsers – better cross-browser support, CSS, WYSIWIG editors (In IE and Gecko), XMLHttpRequest, etc. As far as that end goes, everything that can be done has. I mean if you look at some of the web applications like Google Apps, they are essentially taking a platform that was designed for static text and building a desktop application out of it. I don’t see how much farther you can push it from that end of things. Browsers have been pushed to their limits as it is.

    I think the next group of innovations we will see is web-based desktop software that goes beyond what the browser will support. I’m talking about XUL, XAML, Adobe Apollo, etc.

    Also, I think there is still some innovation to be done for mobile, but I’m not sure how much a mobile application would catch on.