Web 2.0 Assumptions Cast Aside

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.

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2 thoughts on Web 2.0 Assumptions Cast Aside

  1. Here’s another thougth on browser vs. client app: I am a big fan of moving to “Web Office” (or “Office 2.0”?). Yet with travel and occasional outages we all find ourselves without broadband access from time to time – wouldn’t it be nice to have your data files still available, and not just the data files, but the app to handle them? Now, would that be a browser or an app?

    For people on the go accessing your stuff from any computer over the Net is an improvement – but not the perfect solution. The perfect solution is when I access my data through simple browser-like interfaces and can seemlessly work whether I am connected or not .

  2. ‘Free’ is a good way to test product. That part I like. Like you Jeff, I pay for a set of services and if I’m hionest I am probably paying more now than in the past. But…I am getting value for me. That’s why I pay. I can see the value which is much harder in the enterprise space where value is assumed.

    Browser – I like that as well. Why? I am assuming the folk running data centres will do a better job than me trying to organise my hard disk. And my HD or some other part of my local setup will go wrong – which is why much of internal IT is about maintenance. I’d much rather hand the job oover to experts whose only job is to keep things going on my behalf.

    Outtages will always arise somewhere. But to date, and with one exception, they’ve not been criticial to what I do. But I’m only a ‘single user.’ In the enterprise space, I think there’s a lot to learn from the likes of GE which runs mega hubs 24x7x365 for some of the most transaction intensive companies on the planet. That’s the bit the industry has yet to address.

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