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Microsoft and Web 2.0 Hype

Mary Jo Foley has a killer article for Redmond Magazine asking “Is Microsoft Buying into the Web 2.0 Hype?” She wonders if the sleeping tech giant has woken up and given into all the hype, starting with its Mix ’06 conference, which might as well be called Microsoft’s Wild Web 2.0 Adventure.

But with the advent of this month’s Microsoft Mix ’06 event in Las Vegas, I’m starting to wonder. While Microsoft doesn’t mention “Web 2.0″ explicitly in its conference materials, the company is undeniably jockeying to cash in on the hot Web 2.0 themes: AJAX development, RSS Monetization; “Conversations” as opposed to “Conferences,” and so on.

There’s even some nice stuff from yours truly:

That sinking feeling in my stomach got a bit stronger when I read some recent remarks by Gary Flake, the head of Microsoft’s newly unveiled Live Labs. And according to Nathan Weinberg who runs the “Inside Microsoft” blog, Flake is prone to use terms like “macro-ization” of computing; “Internet singularity”; and (the dead giveaway of too much 2.0-ism) The Long Tail.

But this is my favorite part:

O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly attempted a concise definition that goes like this: “Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation,’ and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Web 2.0 is the new bubble. The only question is whether we are smart enough this time around to see the writing on the wall and try to not make the same stupid mistakes. There is so much more innovation, and so many more smart companies than there were in the late nineties, but thanks to our blogs and our much-vaunted conversation, the hype is standing head and shoulders above the substance.

I would just like to beg the people who truly lead this conversation, the bloggers who make or break venture capital funding, to understand that when you continually pump things as cool, you need to try to keep your perspective. This is an industry, and there is a lot of money to be made, and a lot of people are showing you stuff not because they like you, but because the investors they are trying to reach like you. Don’t be their tools; don’t push vaporware.

Try a new rule, a simple one: Don’t point to anything unless its already shipped. If a company hasn’t shipped, they have no product, and more likely than not, they’re using you. Don’t be used. Be smarter than that.

Anyway, I’ve gone off topic, but this is what’s been eating at me lately, so I’m taking my soapbox. Getting off of it, Microsoft is certainly jumping in the Web 2.0 game, jumping in with several billion feet first. Microsoft is jumping in, not because they’ve given into the hype, but because other companies, like Google, have finally made a business out of it.

Microsoft may play the hype game, but they’re throwing untold amounts of programming talent at Web 2.0, not marketers. Sure, there’s the occasional Scoble pushing their offerings, but the typical Microsoft Web 2.0 person is still a coder, and usually a damn good one. Microsoft is doing a much better job, because unlike the open market, they’re emphasizing shipping and shipping fast.

If you spend 18 months developing your “stealth startup”, you’re going to get killed by Microsoft or some other company that actually ships product while you’re gathering hype. The hype may get all the attention, but every second you spend on hype is a second your competitors are improving their products. Don’t waste time that could be spent of features on hype, since not everybody plays that game. It’s a losers game.

March 1st, 2006 Posted by | General, Live, Windows | one comment

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1 Comment »

  1. I no like Web 2.0…

    I don’t like the name. I’m not /that/ fond of AJAX. JavaScript *CAN* be good… But too much of it is horrible. Gmail is okay, but only because it offers an awesome alternative to their web interface: POP3 mail access. They wouldn’t have been able to display ads to me if they wouldn’t have done that (but they could have limited storage space to 25MB and I would still have switched).

    But now there seems to be a whole new dimension of Web 2.0 (did I mention I absolutely detest that name?) – Windows Live.

    Windows Live Messenger = bloat. Doesn’t use the theme YOU have selected to use! Uses too much memory, and is forcing the magic smoke out of your CPU. Windows Live ID-thingies will be horrible just because you won’t be able in Vista to use any application other than Notepad if you’ll refuse to create one. MSN Search, which is probably going to be rebranded Windows Live Search, is already bloated. Again, they have no sympathy for my Windows theme settings. I don’t want fancy gradients across my Search button.

    That’s just what Web 2.0 is (by the way, I don’t like that name – any alternatives?). It’s pure and simple bloat.

    * Disclaimer: I have no insider information whatsoever.

    Comment by Tim | March 2, 2006

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