The Web 2.0 Revolution: keynote speech


I recently did the keynote for an event on Web 2.0 marketing run by Hothouse, a very interesting web house with major clients including News Corporation, Toyota, and Yahoo!7. My 25 minute keynote (and the rest of the event) can be viewed on an online videostream.

If you don’t have the patience to watch the keynote, here’s a brief snapshot of what I covered:

The background to Web 2.0. The World Wide Web, including HTML, HTTP, and URLs, were created in 1990. The first ascii web browser was created in 1992, the first graphic web browser was invented in 1993, and in 1994 the big debate was whether commercial use of the Internet should be allowed. Thus began what is now dubbed Web 1.0, from 1994 until the web crash in 2001. Since 2001 a new approach to tapping the potential of the internet, dubbed Web 2.0, has grown and developed, based on a new mindset, and offering a universe of extraordinary possibilities.

There are six key characteristics of Web 2.0:

Participation. The seed of Web 2.0 is participation. The turning point was when simple, free blogging platforms emerged around 2000, enabling people to ignore domains registrations, HTML, and website design, and in minutes post their words and pictures on the Internet for all to see. Through human history the vast majority have been cast in the role of consumers. Now, finally, everyone has been enabled as creators, with not only more than half of US teens, but fully 18% of over 65 year olds having created content on the web. The new Web 2.0 tools, such as Jumpcut , not only allow people to upload their content to the web, but also to edit and remix it without expensive equipment or software. As technology unleashes everyone’s creative potential, lowering the cost of creating quality content to almost nothing, a key implication is the creation of a world of infinite content.

Social media. As broad creativity is unleashed, the famed “long tail” has become prominent, with the many new creators of media collectively establishing a presence that equals that of the established media and entertainment enterprises. Mainstream media and social media are not distinct, but feed on each other in a marvellous symbiosis. Online social networks such as MySpace have soared in popularity over the last years, as their functionality has moved beyond chat forums and has struck a chord with young and old. Now media is increasingly about building a presence in the interstices of people’s personal relationships, rather than trying to bombard them with information and messages.

Emergence. The crux of the Web 2.0 phenomenon is how the activities of many participants lead to emergent behaviors and outcomes, that cannot be predicted or created individually. and its many imitators tap the opinions of thousands of users to uncover the most popular content on the web. Last.FM and other collaborative filtering tools enable people to discover music, films, and information that they love, collectively sifting through a veritable universe of possibilities. User filtering helps make sense of the enormity of user generated content. When people individually add tags to images, documents, or other content, the combined results is a way of categorizing the Internet’s vastness. There is no librarian for the Internet, but through tagging we can collectively make it useful and manageable.

Visibility. The vast participatory world of Web 2.0 is visible to all. For marketers, the first implication is that you can see what customers are saying about your company, your products, your competitors, and your industry. This extraordinary ability, made possible through blog search engines and other tools, is remarkably often unused. However, the emergent nature of the Internet also makes visible the things you don’t want to be seen. Witness for example the Sony BMG rootkit debacle, where one blogger’s discontent blossomed into massive problems for the company. RSS, which allows people to subscribe to the information they wish to see, is a great marketing tool, with Continental Airlines, Purina, and others providing live information on special deals and information to their convert customers.

Shifting. One of the most critical shifts with Web 2.0 is power to the consumer. One of the most pointed examples of this is the ability to shift media and other content onto other platforms and devices. This means that online content is transcending the fixed internet, particularly to mobile devices, as well as merging consumers’ experience of TV, radio, news, Internet, and more. Time-shifting, space-shifting, and format-shifting are embodied in the new consumer tools. You can listen to a podcast whenever and wherever you want. Now video glasses allow consumption of video content in a large screen format while you’re on the move.

Conversation. For marketers, all of these trends converge in the central theme of conversation. Consumers are rejecting faceless corporations who communicate in PR-speak, and are drawn to those who engage in human interaction and conversation. When Rick Klau’s Lenovo Thinkpad crashed after 13 months, the second Thinkpad this had happened to, he sighed and blogged about it. Not good PR for Lenovo, one would think. Two hours later, Lenovo’s head of web marketing called Rick and offered his assistance. Rick again blogged it, enthused with a level of customer service that meant he didn’t even need to call the company. Engaging in conversation is a step further. It is in fact more dangerous for companies not to blog than it is to blog. The new tools enable conversation, engagement, and evangelist customers. Without them, you are subject to mob justice.

In conclusion, there are four initial steps marketers need to take, just to begin to tap the potential of Web 2.0:

1. Listen to and learn from conversations

2. Speak… honestly and transparently

3. Provide compelling content in accessible formats

4. Go where lead consumers are going