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Riding the second wave


The beginning of the end - or - the end of the beginning

It was in the early months of 2000 that it all seemed to end, The dot-com boom was over, billions of £££ were lost.

You might be tempted to think that the Internet was now a deserted wasteland and the human race had moved on to the next big thing. A quick look at Google's web site reveals that it currently indexes some 8 billion web pages ! That's quite a leap from the 4 billion pages it was indexing a couple of years ago. The Internet is far from a deserted wasteland, its thriving and getting bigger by the day.

What happened

If at first you don't succeed - blame someone else

Every one has their own take on why things went wrong so here's mine. It became apparent to many of us that most big companies just didn't "get" the Internet, seeing it as just another way to force-feed everyone with adverts as they had done with TV. Others made their sites so slow and tedious that it was easier to go shopping the old fashioned way. Some even believed that the Internet was a revolution that would sweep aside the old businesses and that the normal rules of finance did not apply any more.

Either way, the Internet population mostly ignored those sites and went somewhere else. To quote The Cluetrain Manifesto "The Internet routes around boredom". In other words, you do not have a captive audience on the Internet.

Over a period of time many of these businesses either burned-out or lost interest. The ones that made their web sites add value to the business (and not the other way round) stood a good chance of survival. The ones that made their web sites interactive and interesting stood an even better chance. Many are still around today and are in rude health.

Evolution with a twist

The only problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard

The Internet is undergoing an evolutionary process but with a very weird, and possibly frightening twist. In normal evolution, its the evolving creatures that have to adapt to the environment, not the other way round. The Internet's evolutionary process started in much the same way but, thirty five years later is capable of altering its environment to such an extent, its now part of of your environment and is now forcing you to evolve. If you doubt my words, read on.

Its a recognised fact that any business without an effective web presence today is at a serious disadvantage to the ones that have. And any business without an effective web presence by 2010 is likely to be either dead, dying or irrelevant - unless you happen to be a high street shop.

How this boom will be different

The early bird might get the worm, but its the second mouse that gets the cheese

A lot has changed in five years. The technology has gotten faster and cheaper, more people have fast broadband connections and investors are regaining their interest in the Internet after having their fingers burnt the last time.

Something else has happened too. The cost of an effective web presence has plummeted to such a point where it can be developed and hosted for a fraction of the original cost. Many of the tools used for this are "Open Source" and therefore available at a very low cost.

A problem that became apparent was "visibility", the ability of people to find your site via search engines like Google or Yahoo. With static, non interactive pages this was relatively easy if you had competent coders, but interactive sites presented very little content for the search engines to index denying the owners lots of free traffic and forcing them to spend vast sums on marketing campaigns.

Those problems are solvable today with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques and new scripting languages. With careful use of these you can have a totally interactive web site that will have a high visibility at little cost.

An amazing strategy has evolved around some of the more successful interactive sites. Its a well known fact that to get a high visibility on the Internet, you need lots of content and what's the easiest way to get lots of content ? easy - let your customers write it for you ! And ( here's the really good bit ) you can even charge them for the privilege !,,, RareList and do this very well and now those sites command a large, effective presence on the Internet.

This revolves around the concept of "Communities of Interest" (COI). People love to interact with each other and if you can give them the means they will supply you with all the content you could possibly want.

The second wave

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

With that said, the scene is set for the next dot-com boom. The lessons have been learned, burnt fingers have been healed and the technology is in place. To help everyone get the Internet this time round, here some simple rules :-

  1. You do NOT have a captive audience.
  2. Bore us at your peril.
  3. Your competitors web site is only a mouse click away.
  4. We are in a hurry so don't make us jump through hoops.
  5. When we write about you, the entire planet can read it - good or bad.
  6. If you feel threatened by the Internet, it just means you are missing an opportunity or you have something to hide.
  7. Answer your emails !!!
  8. You do not need to spend vast sums to get an effective web presence.
A quick glance at some newspapers would give the impression that the second wave is already here. Will it be like the first one ? I doubt it very much, too many got their fingers burnt and will be a lot more careful this time round, many will be gone for good. What I do believe is that it will be a lot more sensible and (hopefully), a lot more fun this time - especially if we can help you.

Peter Blue Director M2MN Consultants

References and inspirations

The Cluetrain Manifesto The End of Business as Usual. This is a long read but worth the effort.

World of Ends What the Internet is and how to stop mistaking it for something else.

The other road ahead This article explains why much of the next generation of software may be server-based, what that will mean for programmers, and why this new kind of software is a great opportunity for start-ups.

(C) 2005 M2MN

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