The oft-heralded Web 2.0 revolution claimed that internet content would go from websites presenting information, such as traditional news, informational sites or blogs, to sites where visitors would generate content through collaboration and online sharing.
MySpace is the most often cited example of the phenomenon, where the site owners provide templates and associated functionality, and maintain the sites backend, but the vast majority of the content is user generated.
Conceived as an effort at viral marketing, initial product placements on social networking sites seemed fresh and innovative for a matter of moments, yet in mere months everyone from spammers to a dental companys toothbrush now have a MySpace page.
Rather than garnering instant appeal with customers, having a MySpace page used for marketing purposes has quickly become hackneyed. Other efforts at integrating Web 2.0 into a corporate internet strategy have faced similar hurdles.
News sites that rely on or prominently feature user input dilute their brand. Would you really want your favorite news agency to feature witty commentary from CoolDude1234, whos only qualification is an ability to log into a website?
Are customers really the best spokespeople for your latest product, and is there quantifiable value to hiring the small army required to sanitize and maintain a social networking component on your website? Do you really think customers are clamoring to add a toothbrush to their list of friends?
Back to the Basics: Web 0.0
Much of the talk around Web 2.0 presents it as a solution to a problem most companies never had. A social networking site is an excellent way to keep in touch with colleagues or friends, but perhaps not the best way to sell a cheeseburger.
Internally, tools such as Wikis and Web portals can be very effective if applied to a targeted group or with a distinct purpose. Like so many of the next-big-things in technology, Web 2.0 is a tool, rather than a solution in and of itself.
A carpenter looking to improve his skills will not do so automatically by buying a new drill, especially if what he really needs to do is drive nails. Similarly, a company struggling to improve the effectiveness of its customer-facing website will not find a panacea by putting up some flashy forums and interactive features, when the content provided is not relevant or helpful to the customer.