Good Ideas

This is a blog post I have been thinking about for quite a while now (probably years, but more recently than previously).

Much has been said about the term “Web 2.0”. I get it sort of. But I also honestly think that many people mis-interpret it.
Here is my interpretation:
“Web 2.0 refers to sites and services which match new technology with the advancement of society itself in such a way that it improves experiences between users and web sites.”
Obviously that’s pretty vague, but I wanted to keep it short and simple.

However, there is another component I have been noticing about web 2.0 (though from here on, I will call it Web 1.79b). Its something that really came around back in 99/2000 and is making another appearance and that is the dependence on the operation of the web itself for people’s livelihoods. There are MANY professions out there right now where if we did not have the web (or the browser/server technologies that we have today either) they would be out of a job. I have no problem with this, in fact I applaud it. Who knows maybe some day I myself will be in the same position (not for a while though, and you will see why). However, there is a side effect that this causes on the web. A side effect which I think is slowing innovation intentionally in fact.
That is the fact that currently there are a fixed amount of ways to make money online (not far off from brick and mortar either, but the logic holds). Either you provide goods or service, or you provide space for advertising. There is one more scenario where some companies get VC funding or are literally just trying to be bought out, but I am going to exclude those from the argument for a moment because AFTER either of those events, the goals still converge to one of the same two. That’s it. There are a LOT of GREAT sites out there that do more than this of course, but the key thing to note is that the way they make money (IF they make anything at all….some just lose money ;)) is that they charge you a fee (sometimes its via you buying something, sometimes it’s a membership fee) or they show you an ad and someone is paying them to show you that ad.
Now this current structure has allowed for MANY people, even people who don’t necessarily have the means to start a large enterprise to be entrepreneurs. It’s a great thing honestly. It really embodies the American lifestyle and makes for better people as well.

HOWEVER, think about this. What happens when a good idea comes a long which interferes with either of those two money making opportunities from happening? Here again there are more possibilities. Usually what happens is that one person (or more) who really is passionate enough about it starts to study it, maybe prototype it, release a “beta”. Then that same person (or again others) looks for usage patterns that emerge to see if they can combine their good idea with one of the models of making money.
But really, what happens when good ideas exist which literally go against the status quo of how people make money online?

Let’s look at the Auto Insurance example. has this applet on their page that when you apply for car insurance they tell you what the rates of their competitors are so you know who is the cheapest is. GREAT idea. But still conforms to the existing model, because they are already charging people a fee (they realize that much of the time they are the lowest….which they can actually calculate since they have all the data. My guess is even that as the data from competitors changes they adjust their own rates as to target specific audiences (based on location or car model etc). Since they know the specific cases where they win and where they don’t they can specifically know in what cases they are not the cheapest and manage them (probably the customers they don’t make as much money on).
What if progressive made money solely off ads on their site (I know this makes no sense, but just think about it a second)? NOW if they had the same tool, why would they EVER want to direct users AWAY from their site? That’s no longer a controlled loss but an unknown, possibly hemorrhaging loss. Suddenly what was (is even) a good idea becomes most likely nixed since the owners of the company (be it public or private) probably would not stand for just wasting money, or even giving money to competitors.
Skip ahead to the “Web 1.79b” world we live in today. EVERYTHING online just about is based on ad revenue. There are several big players, I wont link to them, you know who they are. Much of the web money is just getting funneled around as people pay for maximum exposure to web users (either to get a membership fee from them or fee for goods/services). What this means though is that ANY good idea which possibly involved directing traffic away from your site is immediately considered a bad idea since it represents a loss in money.
I really think this issue is going to stop us (in my mind at least) from really getting to Web 2.0. Sure there are sites which are close or claim to have it, but honestly they had to create their own microcosm (where their innovations don’t yet translate outside their site) in order to claim that.

In some ways, this is analogous to the scientific world. Sure, there are some companies which work on scientific advancements solely to eventually make money off the result, but there are also entities out there which work on science and education solely for the advancement of science (seems like hardly many anymore, but I know some personally so I know they exist). What were to happen if one of these scientists discovered some new technology which has the possibility of changing the world for the better, but the only thing stopping them were that at least half (or all) of the sites out there would lose some to all of their adcenter/adsense (notice which I put first :P) revenue? They would probably have a hard time finding anyone to take their discovery and implement it.
The whole saying about how some problems are “purely academic” seems very related as well. This is not a new problem. This has existed for some time I am sure. The way that advancements actually succeed, is that someone comes along and figures out how to take existing academic good ideas and integrate them with some kind of business plan.
Well, this is what we are all (the world) waiting for I feel before we really get to web 2.0. We need people to come along (more than one…more than 10) and figure out how to turn ajax, asp, php, ruby, perl, sql, rss, xml, and all the other essential web 1.79b technologies that are out their into good ideas that fit with today’s (or maybe define tomorrow’s) business model.

And after all that I would like to say that I am REALLY upset having to create new profiles on social site 3,234 and also be pressured to upload the same (or new) pictures to social site 3,234 as well. Are all the sites the same? No. If they were then they would never have taken off. But is there REALLY a reason why each site has to store all the data separately (btw, something else, for every site that has some bits of information about me, it mathematically increases the chances that this information is taken or stolen at some point) and require different ways to input it, access it, protect it, share it, etc?

I think I have a few “good ideas” on how to really get some sites collectively to “web 2.0” but I really don’t want to bother investing in them if I just think in general the effort is wasted.


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