Gartner touts Web 2.0, scoffs at sequel

Web 3.0 just a marketing ploy, but collaborative tools are here to stay

Web 3.0 isn’t here yet, but it’s time for IT executives to encourage adoption of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, wikis and social networking, experts say at Gartner Web Innovation Summit.

LAS VEGAS -- IT executives just getting comfortable with having Web 2.0  technologies within their networks are being faced with a moving target: Web 3.0

But this time, the buzzword is really just a marketing ploy used to hype incremental improvements over the groundbreaking technologies that were labeled Web 2.0, analysts said during this week’s Gartner Web Innovation Summit in Las Vegas. 

“There are a lot of constituencies trying to hijack the term Web 3.0,” Gartner fellow David Mitchell Smith said Thursday.virtual worlds,  the semantic Web  and the mobile Web, Smith said.

These are mostly vendors pushing

Web 2.0 staples such as AJAX, mashups, blogs and wikis  gained mass adoption after a few years in which there was not a lot of innovation in Web technology, said Gene Phifer, a Gartner distinguished analyst.

Gartner analysts are avoiding the temptation to give a new label to the latest technologies such as virtual worlds and the semantic Web, saying they’re not providing the same kind of fundamental change as blogs, wikis and social networking tools.

“It’s not going to be another era like Web 2.0,” Phifer said. “However, there will be some very interesting innovative things coming out. If you’re in love with numbering schemes, maybe it’s Web 2.1.”

Web 2.0 in the enterprise:
Six keys to successSix mistakes to avoid
1. Start small and cultivate success.1. Don't ignore accountability and responsibility.
2. Make it open and easy to use and reuse.2. Don't think of Web 2.0 as a passing fad.

3. Expose connections and let users

create structure, share bookmarks, use tags and so forth.
3. Don't try to solve all with Web 2.0.
4. Links to e-mail, syndication.4. Build it with a business purpose in mind.
5. Identify the right context.

5. Don't overengineer — build for

6. Plan for growth.6. Don't set too many restrictions.

What’s important to recognize is that Web 2.0 technologies are here to stay and, if IT helps nudge them along, can help improve collaboration and make businesses stronger, analysts said over the course of several sessions at the conference.

“The bad story (about Web 2.0) is client X comes up to me and says ‘we’ve implemented a blog, no one’s using it, we implemented a wiki, everyone’s using it, and nothing’s working right,’” said Tom Austin, a Gartner fellow. “The biggest problem with Enterprise 2.0 is thinking about it as ‘what product do I buy and how many people are using it.’ This isn’t an issue of provisioning telephone service.”

Web 2.0 is coming into your business whether you want it to or not, because the line between work and personal lives is blurring and digital natives – young people – are moving into the corporate world. Kids use blogs, wikis and social networking  tools to interact with each other, and expect the same in the workplace.

“Your users will do it behind your back, bring this stuff in and make it part of their processes, and eventually you’ll have to deal with it anyway,” Phifer said.

Just as customers and sellers rate each other on eBay, young people use Web sites to rate the physical attributes of peers, pop culture, teachers and products.

“In the enterprise, they’re going to rate you, they’ll rate their bosses, they’ll rate peers. They’re going to rate customers,” Austin said.

Gartner projects a 42% compound annual growth rate in the Web 2.0 market through 2011. The analyst firm classifies the market as “early emerging.” By way of comparison, e-mail and ERP are classified as somewhere between maturity and decline, while Web conferencing is high growth.

Analysts urged IT executives to nurture this growth, perhaps with MySpace-like  Web pages where employees can describe themselves. Building on the collaborative aspects of Web 2.0 can increase innovation.

Take Procter & Gamble.  P&G’s research and development used to take place entirely within the Cincinnati company. Using collaborative Web sites such as InnoCentive,  the company over the past few years has tapped the brain power of moonlighters, students, engineers and housewives to develop ideas for new products, Austin said. Today, 40% of P&G’s new products are based on external research and development, he said.

A business called Threadless, which makes T-shirts, lets people submit design ideas and vote on them. Threadless picks the winners each week and gives them $2,000 and starts printing the shirts. The Chicago company has thus externalized product design, market testing and has a built-in market of people who like the shirts, Austin said.

In both cases, IT acted as an enabler.

You can use Web 2.0 to speed up problem resolution, raise employee skill levels, make e-mail more effective, and improve the sharing and reuse of information and knowledge, he said.

Virtual worlds such as Second Life  aren’t really mature yet, being hard to navigate, Austin said. But there are plenty of options today in addition to blogs and wikis, such as rich profiles for employees, shared bookmarks and tagging, which lets both the creators and consumers of information assign labels to that information.

One conundrum businesses face is deciding where Web 2.0 is appropriate. If you’re trying to ascertain facts or perform deep analysis, a strict authority structure is probably best, said Anthony Bradley, a Gartner research director. If you’re looking to promote innovation, diversity of ideas, or to ascertain people’s perceptions, a more collaborative structure is called for.

“If there’s no strong community aspect to it, it’s not a good fit for Web 2.0,” he said.

Anonymity should typically not be allowed because it will be abused, analysts said. But placing too many restrictions will stifle innovation, so be prepared to “repair some vandalism,” as one analyst put it.

Budgeting for these new technologies may be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, Phifer said.

Mashup technology might cost a few hundred thousand dollars, while blogging and wiki tools could cost a few thousand. But that’s not as expensive as acquiring and managing a traditional software infrastructure. “You’re not looking at humongous investments,” Phifer said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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