Next Up for Web2.0: Moving from the Margins to the Masses

In one sense, MySpace and The Facebook represent the "mainstreaming" of "Web2.0." They have millions of users and have given new life to the sector that once routinely prompted the question: "But what's the business model?" But these are not yet networks for the masses despite their apparently massive usage. Most of the so-called Web2.0 sites are still for early adopters and geeks and not for grandma or even mom and dad.

As I sit here and think about some of the recent postings I've done about OurStory, Amiglia, MayasMom, FamilyRoutes and many other social sites, what I see is a phenomenon about to break out into the "mainstream." The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently issued a report that argued the Internet is fostering and supporting real-world social connections rather than destroying or fraying them.

In the pantheon of "killer apps," first there was email, then there was search and now there's … maybe social media — admittedly not yet crystallized enough to quite warrant the coveted "killer app" designation. But I think we'll look back in a year or two and see some version of social media/networking as the next in line. (Eventually mobile will get in there too.) The problem with social media is that it's messy and still somewhat ill-defined. But it's a major trend that is clearly here to stay.

The tools and applications need to become less about geek chic and more about daily mundane utility — and they will. Then mom and dad and maybe event grandma will start to use them. So argues a comment to my post about OurStory:

I will admit for the record, I thought [OurStory] was important but would never work for he masses. But the first time I saw a response from my father with a picture about his first kiss, I knew [OurStory founder Andy Halliday] was going to touch a natural vibe with the masses.

There is incredible momentum around community, collaboration and online sharing in all manner of applications, from the social media startups to Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google. And there are two huge, related trends I see online (some might be prompted to say "duh" after hearing these):

  1. Exponential growth in the proliferation of information and the corresponding choices it enables (think of what a mixed blessing online travel is as one example)
  2. The ability to use the Internet to reach and connect with distributed communities and like-minded users. Many sites, like Kaboodle and certainly Yahoo! in many of its social initiatives, are trying to use the power of community and collective knowledge to help users deal with the challenges of information overload and too much choice

Networks are the glue and the key to the future of much of what will happen online. Putting aside technology and online advertising for the moment, for my purposes right now I would say there are two sorts of networks: macro and micro. The Internet is the former and the latter is comprised of our own networks (personal and professional). More and more these will come together in interesting ways that will move social media and "social networking" out of the margins of Internet innovation and into the mainstream of daily living.


3 Responses to “Next Up for Web2.0: Moving from the Margins to the Masses”

  1. Taylor Walsh Says:

    Hi Greg, a couple of observations. The social media sites like MySpace are never NOT going to be messy, since their owners handle their elements exactly like they do the other stuff in their daily lives: clothing tossed here and there, goofy collages of friend pics, posters, “borrowed” sweatshirts, beer pong equipment and MPGs. The lives of the FaceBook generation is a rolling mashup anyway…MySpace and FaceBook are perfect extensions. (Maybe MyNewFace for the elder set…?)

    God help me, but many of us lost our voices years ago shouting out your two huge related trends, and this was when everything moved at 1200 baud. Like a group of baked adventurers stumbling for 20 years toward that cool blue vision shimmering ahead, we’ve burst out of that mirage on the margins to find out there actually IS a landscape of communal pools to splash in. Some of them might even prove to be suitable for those of us who still fold our clothing! : )

  2. Rachel Says:

    Great post, I talked about this over at Web 2.0 Blankie (trying to write a simple guide)…

    Minti, (of which I am a co-founder of) BTW is a site for mom’s, dad’s, grandparents, carers and it’s now getting quite active (still in beta) and they are learning how to tag, contribute advice, comment…

    I will also link from my blogs to you, as I have found a blog talking about similar things.. which is awesome the more chatter the better for getting the message out there…

    I agree with sound business models, making offerings more customer orientated and help them learn how to get involved in the social web…

    Rachel Cook
    Co-founder Minti

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks Rachel, will check out the site. I will need to do a longer post on all the networks emerging for families. It’s really amazing.

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