Every so often I come across a product or service that seems to have had a Web 2.0 epiphany. Presumably someone at the company stuck their head out, had a look around, saw the buzzwords and stuck their head back in before they’d fully researched what was going on. Therefore, the Web 2.0 epiphany is directly followed by a half-baked Web 2.0 business plan, along the lines of:
ZOMG WEB 2.0! TAGGING BLOG RSS MASHUP AJAX! LOLSTERS!
(Or to translate from the Myspace for those of you unfamiliar with the vernacular: “these things are popular and of the moment; if we stick them in, people will think we’re popular and of the moment too”.) This is a plan that’s bound to fail. Its usual form is when a product adds “blogs” as part of a high version number release, which turn out to be a series of dated notes with no real method to share, discover or integrate with the other features. I’m sure you can think of a product or two which has done this.
Amazon did a ZOMG Web 2.0, back in 2005, when it added tags to their product pages. LibraryThing’s Tim Spalding has gone back and analysed uptake: a mere 1.3 million tags, compared to LibraryThing’s 13 million, despite the latter having a tiny fraction of the former’s user base. There are a whole bunch of reasons why, but I think Tim’s right when he says:
Amazon is a store, not a personal library or even a club. Organizing its data is as fun as straightening items at the supermarket. It’s not your stuff and it’s not your job.
You go to Amazon to buy products. I normally use them when I’ve read about something on a blog or in a magazine – for example, I just picked up Founders at Work after reading rave reviews in a bunch of blogs, but I’d be unlikely to browse Amazon itself looking for books I might find interesting, beyond a 20 second glance at their “recommended for you” page. (The book is great, by the way.) The same principle goes for other types of services: if the goal isn’t to share and discuss, then shoehorning Web 2.0 features into the mix isn’t going to add anything. It’ll probably give you a bit of publicity, but your users are never going to see the value.