Erick Schonfeld has a funny article today on TechCrunch in which he predicts/hopes that web 3.0 is about removing the noise. We all recognize the problem he describes. He is in so many different networks with so many followers that he can’t keep up with the messages that pass by. It made Robert Scoble stop automatically follow other people on Twitter (he has 20.000 followers and 1 tweet per second by now).
The cry out of Erick made me laugh a bit. Let’s face it. It’s a Tech Elite’s problem. Yes, I consider myself part of that, and probably most of the readers of this blog post too ;-). If anything the current web 2.0 trend is fragmentation. There are thousands of social networking sites out there, each fighting a battle to get users. There are a whole lot of services that let you interact, publish, follow or be followed. There are aggregating sites that aggregate it all for you. There are aggregators that aggregate all the content from the sites that already aggregate content for you. And if that wasn’t enough we now need to take it away from the browser and move each of these services into tiny little desktop applications. I can already predict the next wave in desktop application development. Someone is bound to get the idea to integrate Twhirl and all those other desktop applications into one big aggregator on the desktop. A Netvibes or iGoogle, but right there on the desktop instead of on a portal. And after that, who knows ;-)
Tech people, including myself, seem to be running away with all these different capabilities. Every time TechCrunch “breaks the news” for yet another web 2.0 service or desktop application people jump on it. Within minutes I see Twitter conversations that talk about the new application. People run around providing the developers with suggestions on how to improve the service. It’s called user feedback I believe. The problem with it is that the “user” in this case is a tech person. Which is fine if that is the target audience. But if you want to become big, if you want to be the next Google or Facebook, then you will have to remember that any non-tech consumer out there will not have the same desires as us techies do. How many people do you know outside your tech community that want to have 25 desktop applications live, running Firefox alongside with 10 tabs open, twittering 100 times a day, reading and commenting articles on Friendfeed, writing a blog post about it, starting riots to get traffic going, AND still have a normal day job and a life after that? I don’t know anyone that fancies that kind of life. It is the life of the tech hero. We need to be out there, be there first. We are all affraid of not being there when it happens.
The cure for it? Not web 3.0, I certainly hope not. The receipe is quite simple (isn’t it always), but the execution much harder. Let go. Let me repeat that. Just let it go. I see Twitter, Friendfeed, and all these other sites as rivers of information, anekdotes, posts, friends. I tap in whenever I feel like it, join the conversation. But I leave when I need to get back to real life. I know the river won’t dry out. There will always be a next scoop, another funy remark, a great blog post. Life doens’t stop simply because I choose not to be drwoning myself into this cyber river of information. I don’t need 20.000 followers, nor do I want to follow 20.000.
If anything, web 3.0 should be about the user, about user value, about letting the Internet evolve around you, instead of around some destination site or walled garden. Web 3.0 should set us free, letting the important things come to us, instead of us having to go to the important things. It’s about freedom of data. And yes, noise reduction or filtering will be nice. But that isn’t really what web 3.0 should be about. Until it is here I’ll be dreaming of a user centric web.