Breakout of Web 2.0 in 2006?

In his post “First 300,000 is Easy,” Om Malik questions “if the whole Web 2.0 thing is still in a very-early adopter stage… I get a feeling that it will be a long time before the concepts filter into mainstream usage.”

I share his concern that many of the emerging web services are actually only being used by a small subset of the total overall internet population – the extreme techie set. Of course, by definition, early adopters come first. But I wonder if many of the recently launched services emerging are consciously (or more likely, subconsciously) “digerati -facing” services, as opposed to true “consumer-facing” services.

While a nice mention in a high-profile tech blog will jump-start a start-up site, that exposure doesn’t necessarily translate into widespread usage. To me, this situation seems a symptom of both product design and marketing positioning. Design & market a service for the digerati; it will attract the digerati. Design & market a service for the masses; it will attract the masses. Is attracting the first 300K users easy? Hardly. But perhaps in some cases growing from 30K to 300K users is less difficult than growing from 300K to 3MM. It will be very interesting to see which of the online services who’ve gained initial techie-focused traction will be able to convert that momentum to a wider audience.

Sure, not all recent startups are just for the techie crowd (Clipmarks and Meebo come to mind as counter examples, along with many others). I’d speculate that in 2006, a couple of the “breakout” services will leapfrog the digerati set altogether, gaining early acceptance of general consumers via techniques like search engine optimization and peer-to-peer marketing. There are many paths to mass adoption, and I think that it can be accomplished either with or without extreme techie acceptance first, depending on the strategy deployed.

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