Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blogging Is Just the Tip of the "Co-Technology" Iceberg


Gartner says that the total number of bloggers will peak during the first half of this year at around 100 million, causing John R. Patrick to ask rhetorically whether Spring 2007 truly is The Peak of Blogging?

It isn’t, he says in answer to his own question. "Blogging," he writes, "is just beginning!"

The significance of blogging is not the word 'blog' whether used as a verb or a noun, but its role as a harbinger of the game-changing Web-as-platform revolution. In particular, the migration of blogging from the individual toward the enterprise represents a massive validation of those like Professor Andy McAfee who argue that Enterprise Web 2.0 is already a reality.

Put crudely: by embracing blogging, corporate America gave a big wet kiss to Web 2.0 (if you prefer Dale Dougherty's handy term). To the "New Web" (if you prefer a somewhat simpler term, and one that no one owns).

One part of the Gartner report that made me think of my earlier “Are We Blogging Each Other To Death?” post and that was the bit about how less than 2% of all Internet users are frequent contributors to content on the web. This is the kind of statistic that always exercises anyone involved with building Web-based applications, because it's a classic full-glass/empty-glass situation: do we rejoice at the fact that 98% of the marketplace may yet come round, or bemoan that only 2% have seen the light?

Wikipedia provides us with a good working example. According to the John Musser/Tim O'Reilly report "Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices" it's known what percentage of the registered Wikipedia users are contributors: around 7%.

If like me you view Wikipedia as an application rather than as a destination site, then that means that 70,000 people or more are actively using the Wikipedia application. That's a lot of users for a fairly sophisticated app.

Kudos to EMC's Cornelia Davis for nailing one very simple way of realizing how significant a number:

"that is more than twice the number of people working for my employer (EMC has around 31,000 employees)"

So the challenge for today’s software developers is to achieve for their apps the same kind of buy-in that already exists out there on the New Web. Because unless a company has the same kind of percentage of its intranet users actively contributing content, my contention is that it will swiftly be overtaken by those companies that do.

Small wonder then that Sam Palmisamo (who famously has his own avatar) is rumored to have enjoined his fellow IBM execs to participate in Second Life. He is probably interested in seeing whether the 7% figure operates there, too: if it did, there would be over 25,000 Big Blue avatars by the end of this year!

As for the wider New Web itself, a 7% participation rate in any one application on a global scale would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be the foundation of the next Microsoft. Total Internet users are estimated at 1.1 billion, so the 100 million people who blog (if we go by Gartner's figures) takes us far above the 7% mark (77 million). But no one company owns blogging, any more than any one company owns Web mail, or Instant Messaging, or photo sharing.

What kind of app is missing, from the New Web landscape? What kind of app would attract 77 million users?

One that adheres to all the tried and true principles of first-rate co-technology (my turn to coin a term now), plus adds functionalities and leverages emergent methodologies like automatic semantic video tagging, audio search, and social bookmarking. Above all, one that solves a problem not already being solved; or solves one already being solved, but ten times better.

("100% Spam Free E-mail" would be one obvious example of the latter; "Google for Memories" would be a less obvious example of the former.)

For those many Webpreneurs and innovators who believe they're on to exactly that, I say only this. Stay with it: the i-Technology world can do way, way better than mere blogging. I just know it.

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