Corporate 2.0? Drifting Too Far From the Shore

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The gap between the digerati and the corporate world continues to grow, and both sides are to blame. Both sides will eventually suffer as a result, although it is the web2.0 digerati that will suffer more than the capital backed corporate world.

According to a March 22 McKinsey Global Survey, “How Businesses are Using Web 2.0,” the number of high level corporate adopters that see the value in platforms such as blogs, wikis and RSS are hovering around one-third.  Steve Rubel offers some insight here from his unique perspective of working for Edelman and being considered a web2.0 expert and advocate.

BusinessWeek reports that:

During January, 2007, 2,847 executives from global companies, 44% of whom were C-level or above, were asked to provide insight into which of nine Web 2.0 technologies they were currently investing in—and how their use of these technologies has evolved over the past five years.

Web services, including software that enables systems to communicate with each other, attracted the largest investments, with 80% of executives reporting that they use or plan to use them. Collective intelligence, which attempts to tap the wisdom of crowds to make decisions, was the second-largest draw, with 48% of executives reporting investments. Peer-to-peer networking, a technique for efficiently sharing music, video, or text files, also attracted attention, with 47% of executives reporting investments.

That doesn’t sound pessimistic, but we must realize that such platforms and technologies are very “1.0” in their scalability and usage in corporate environments. Although the web2.0 trend has been to open these platforms up to new users by easibility, they are not indicative or representative of the type of “exciting” new technologies that we normally point towards when describing web2.0.

BusinessWeek continues their coverage of the story with…

Meanwhile, companies have been reluctant to invest in some of the more mainstream Web 2.0 technologies. Just 37% of executives were using or planned to use social networking, best known for commercial applications like MySpace and Facebook. RSS and podcasts each had just 35% of executives reporting investments. And wikis, the publishing systems that allow many authors to contribute, captured the investments of just 33% of executives. Just 32% of executives reported sinking dollars into blogs, while mash-ups, the aggregation of online content to create new services, brought up the rear, with just 21% of executives reporting investments.

I was shocked to see that wikis outrated blogs. However, it makes sense. Blogs are inherently subversive technologies because they are so easy to create, design, personalize and publish. In a structured corporate environment, such qualities are not welcomed or encouraged on a normal basis.

The fact that RSS, wikis blogs and podcasts still are deemed worthy of investment by only 30-35% of top level corporate execs says that these platforms have hit the glass ceiling. They are not going to gain too many more percentage points of adoption in such an enviroment.

As a result, development and advancement of these platforms will continue, but there will be an ever growing gap between their adoption and usage between the digerati and the corporate world. This will have an obvious affect on the “average” user of the web who will continue to be much more influenced by the corporate world than the web2.0’ers.

The web2.0 advocates and evangelists have blood in their hands and are primarily responsible for this growing divide. I consider myself one of these, so I’ll make use of the personal pronoun “we” when I assert that we have been too smug, too impractical and too sure of our steady progress of Manifest Destiny. We haven’t adequately engaged the “average” (gross generalization) web user when promoting or developing or discussing new programs and platforms and services that are still popping up everyday in the web2.0 world.

Instead, we have become a tribal amphictony which circles around our own campfire of places such as Techmeme or TechCrunch to discuss, grade, and make pronouncements about the usefulness of a web2.0 site, program or platform. In our rush to define what blogging, RSS, wikis and podcasting can do for the web and the world, we have failed to proactively act to go out and demonstrate these promises.

Perhaps web3.0 will cure this and bring some practicality and interaction from outside corporate and average web users into the conversation. However, I think we’ve reached the point of no return in our web2.0 exuberance and we’ve wandered too far away from shore to sail this ship back home.

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