Yesterday I spoke on a panel about web 2.0 in the enterprise (although in retrospect there was little enterprise about the discussion). At some point I made a comment that there were two assumptions that entrepreneurs were making about web 2.0 that are inaccurate, the first being that everything has to be free and the second being that a web 2.0 app has to run in a browser.
The first assumption is easy to discredit, look at how many paid subscribers Flickr, Feedburner and Newsgator have been able to garner. It took me a week of using Flickr to give them my credit card number for the $50 premium membership. As the ability to efficiently process smaller payments becomes more pervasive, it is easy to see a path to consumption and/or feature-based pricing models. People will pay for these services when the utility is sufficient.
The second assumption about everything running in a web browser is more interesting. I’ve been using an application called Mugshot to manage my Flickr account. I love this application because it’s lightning fast, makes it easy to download photos, and has a “send to iPhoto” function (even though most of my photos start out in iPhoto, I still upload from other sources so this is pretty useful). Mugshot doesn’t run in a browser, it’s a standalone Mac OSX application.
Just today I ran across another application that sits on top of a web 2.0 service, in this case Gmail. It’s called Webmail and it’s brilliant (link via TUAW). Simply put, it’s a stripped down web browser that is hardwired for Gmail. I started out saying that everything doesn’t have to run in a browser, but the example I use is technically a browser… but is it a browser if you can only go to one site and it doesn’t have features like refresh (in fact, there is no menu bar at all)? The thing that is so elegant about Webmail is that rather than creating an entirely new application to interface with Gmail, McCracken took an existing application (Webkit) and stripped out everything that wasn’t essential. BTW, be sure to check out the source code for this, it’s literally 10 lines of code.
UPDATE: Thanks for Geoffrey K. for sending me this link to Bubbles, which appears to do for Windows users what Webmail does for Mac users, with the added benefit of not being limited to Gmail.