Lately I have been spending lots of time thinking about what folks here in the valley have been referring to as Web 2.0 and what impact these trends might have on the enterprise. As a concept, Web 2.0 is based on some high level themes, which include: the web serving as one big application platform, “lightweight” applications, and open and distributed development. For a great overview of the concept, click here. It feels like everyone is evolving this concept in one fashion or another these days. Some of these efforts are decidedly more consumer in orientation, where developers, empowered by simple APIs into Google, Microsoft, Amazon or Yahoo, can build consumer focused applications or gadgets that can then be hosted on the web, and used by anyone. Examples include: Windows Live, Google IG, a host of “AJAX desktop” startups, as well as more ambitious efforts by companies like Ning. Another really interesting effort is a company called YubNub, which one of my fellow bloggers has described as the OS for the web. OK, that might be a stretch.
But I think that for all of the hype that the Web 2.0 meme has created, there are some very interesting trends going on here. I think it is safe to say that the web has reached a point of maturity where someone, really anyone, can now develop or string together an application whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Fundamentally, the idea that a third party developer – Joe Developer in his garage, for example – can now build an application without much more than a PC, an internet connection and some basic coding experience, is powerful. Equally powerful is the idea that development has now become much more open and distributed. Five years ago, if I were to tell you that I could build an application in Google or Yahoo for the world to use, you’d tell me I was nuts. Five years ago, development of a consumer application by Yahoo was dependent on the product and R&D groups employed by Yahoo, but now that’s no longer the case. Finally, perhaps most interesting about this whole Web 2.0 trend is that applications can now be purpose built, cheaply and efficiently, to suit someone’s very specific needs.
The same way that this “web as platform” concept is taking root among consumer facing companies, I think that these trends are beginning to have a meaningful impact on the enterprise. You’re already beginning to see different flavors of this theme permeate the strategies of enterprise focused technology companies, from what Salesforce.com is doing with AppExchange, to what some interesting startups like Basecamp, Jotspot and Socialtext are up to. Imagine what life would be like if your end-users could easily and simply create their own applications, cheaply and on the fly, for their own specific use. These lightweight applications probably won’t serve as a core transaction platform or system of record, at least not in the near term. But imagine the possibilities if everyone in your enterprise, even those outside of your development organization, could roll their own apps, using a basic web infrastructure combined with widely available, everyday applications like Excel and email. Now that’s interesting.
Let me know what you think. Talk to you soon.