Web 2.0 Utopia Reality Check

As you are all well-aware, different companies and projects falling under the banner Web 2.0 have been popping up like crazy. Everyone is in beta. Releases happen daily. It’s all about getting users–fast. Although I am a proponent of agile software development, I also understand that this strategy is not effective for every company. In fact, I am a bit shocked at some of the posts that seem to imply that if you cannot release your product in atomistic chunks that you are violating one of the 10 commandments of Web 2.0 and clearly doomed to failure.

Although this approach may work for some companies and initiatives, it is not the path for everyone. Like the waves before this, we have to be careful not to get caught in the hype. Advocates of the whole build now, worry about the architecture later approach, seem to have forgotten some lessons from their freshman year programming courses. Hacking may get you through an assignment, but it definitely gets you in trouble on those big projects. You may get stuck in some local minima with respect to your platform because you did not consider the grander picture. Getting stuck at a local minima point requires you to throw away and start again. Unfortunately, the market may not be as forgiving as your professor.

From what I have gathered from blogs, it seems to me that the VCs have been favoring this rapid release, incremental model of late. Although I am glad to see the fun is back on the web, it has me a bit worried. Some folks are forgetting that sometimes it takes a bit more to get something significant going. Umair Haique seems to allude to this point in his most recently post stating, “What made the Valley cool was it’s refusal to think small, and do truly disruptive things. But getting a small change acquisition to essentially extend a Yahoo/Google/etc product line sets incentives for incremental, not disruptive, innovations and models.” Richard McManus backs him up and believes that “…the observation is a good one, because of all the current crop of start-ups I can’t think of many that have the potential to become the next Google or Yahoo!”

The flood gates are open and Web 2.0 is out. A revolution is brewing and the web is truly becoming the de facto platform for computing. As we build our platform, however, let’s not forget that, “Just as you can’t build a house on sand, you can’t build “a global operating system” based on a presentation layer and a few scripting kludges.” To do things right sometimes just requires a bit more thought, capital, planning, and–that’s right–risk.

Crazy idea, but something to think about. That is all.

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