Friday, 29 February 2008

Is Web 2.0 becoming Bubble 2.0; Social Networking becoming Social Notworking?

After doing battle with scaremongering for the last couple of posts, here's me wimping out and spinning my own doomsday special for you. Unusually I have had more than enough sleep so this is not sleep deprivation either. The media is awash with the Union Budget news and I don't seem to agree with anything that is being sold by various economists, interest groups, lobbyists and politicians. As is won't, this promises to be an election budget with populist measures that will whittle away tax payers money (yes this usually represents a third of your income on the pay slip!) in rubbish schemes but nothing can make me unhappy today. I am surprisingly happy considering the fact that there is really no good news!

So to the topic of my post: Is Web 2.0 becoming Bubble 2.0 and Social Networking becoming Social Notworking (sic)? If you've been around as long as I have, you've probably seen the internet bubble of 2000 and its crazy outlandish pony tail visage. Funny part is, nothing was too freak or outlandish to pitch for a business plan if it included a website in it. The market was awash with venture capital dollars and run rate or burn rate were common place terms in those circles. Not much survived that era and the remnants of this internet bubble largesse did not last.

When Google bought a loss making YouTube for USD 1.65 Billion, followed by the crazy valuations at facebook.com and myspace.com, and a seemingly crazier bid of USD 47 Billion by Microsoft for Yahoo, I knew that Free is Back! Recently AOL decided to offer free e-mail, with many free goodies including XM Radio, Anti Virus, 5 Gig online storage, etc, etc. Incidentally the poor cousin Indian version of AOL does not offer these!

There is more bad news on the horizon as Google stock fell 38 per cent on a report by comscore that AD clicks on Google had been flat in the month of January as compared to last year. This was widely reported across the world and created tremors that were felt far away from its epicentre.

Facebook has recently retreated on its aggressive advertising venture known as the Beacon after howls of protest from its subscribers, numbers which incidentally for the first time started to plateau. Google similarly is showing signs of a slow down. All this coupled with the strong privacy issues that have plagued all large players in the social networking are really a cause for worry where the future of the web 2.0 is concerned.

The benefits that it has bought to the enterprise business in terms of collaboration tools like blogs, widgets, twitters and IM as a result of user generated content can not be ignored but at the same time the impact of social networking has been minimal besides online advertising. This is even more pronounced in India due our insulation from the west both in terms of cultural differences and internet infrastructure bottlenecks across 3G spectrum as well as simple broadband. What it can do is hopelessly mix up your personal and professional life and inadvertently give access to people about your personal information, which you'd much rather keep to yourself and your social ilk.

The other is the time spent wasting company resources while on the job doing what is popularly being referred to as social NOTworking! This is a real concern as, while many managements have draconian solutions but it is important for all CIOs and CTOs to consider how much of the technology and infrastructure that they provide is actual used by employees, and how much is in the nature of freeware which certainly brings a lot of productivity to the enterprise including web based e-mail, instant messaging services as well as social networking tools.

Back into the PR paddock in India, I would love to hear from PR Firms who actually have a social media list they actively use, and dedicated resources who are real practitioners, with real customers without getting my bullshit meter in the red.

If you are bleeding from the budget take hope and have a great weekend!

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