Web 2.0 is a ripoff. There. I said it. Seriously, this is déjà vu for those of us who survived Web 1.0. As for Blogger and MySpace? They were called GeoCities and Tripod back in the late 1990s. Second Life is the broadband equivalent of The Palace. And iTunes = MP3.com, just as Flickr = Ofoto. Before we designate viral video a new phenomenon, please allow me to dig out my copies of the Exploding Whale and Dancing Baby videos from the mid-'90s.
Don't get me wrong. I am extremely happy (as are my wife, three kids, mortgage, and college funds) that the Internet is hopping again and clients are spending serious money online. But I am concerned that our industry will make some of the same mistakes as last time - mistakes that put the growth of online marketing on hiatus for five years.
In an effort to thwart Dot-com Crash 2.0, I have assembled a list of trends to watch. They are warning signs that the hype is overshadowing the real opportunities. Memorize these and don't be afraid to yell "Fire!" if you smell dot-com smoke.
>Trend 1:The Rise of the Confusing Vendor Presentation. Whether you're a media sales-person, technology vendor, or the group creative director's cousin, you soon will be sitting in PPT presentations from start-ups pitching their business plans. If they start the presentation with, "It's a lot like Facebook..." then it's probably better left to the established Facebooks of the world.
You can myth-bust these presentations with the very simple question, "Why would someone want to use this?" Credible companies will have a good answer. The fakers will respond with techy phrases and industry trends. Don't trust the answer if you don't understand it.
>Trend 2:The Rebirth of the "Portal." In hindsight, Web 1.0 was doomed as soon as the word portal became a common noun. It described an aggregation of content collected in one place online. It was originally reserved for über-collections such as Yahoo and aol, but soon everyone was using it. Too many sites offering the exact same services and content? Buy them up and make a portal. Need to smash together your company's Web site, intranet, extranet, billing system, and lunch menu? Get it to develop a portal strategy.
This year, you'll encounter the following new portals:
>A social networking portal for kids with pages on MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster (I'm predicting a comeback) who find it exhausting to maintain all of them separately.
>A viral video portal for content that is already duplicated on College Humor, eBaum's World, and under a couch somewhere on YouTube.
>The Web 2.0 portal, as a dumping ground for things that might be 2.0, don't have a real reason to exist, but haven't yet been bought or venture capital-funded into greatness.
>Trend 3: The Year of the Widget. The widget is coming! The widget is coming! The next big hype? Bite-size interactive pieces that users add to their personal pages. In the old days we called them Active X controls, but I digress.
They're already on MySpace. It won't be long before branded widgets become the next advertising tool. If consumers are too lazy to visit your microsite, bring it (or at least the one cool thing on it) to them. Just don't create too many or they will become overwhelmed and ignore them. Then we'll need a widget portal to keep track.
>Trends 2.5. The exciting part about online trends is that they change every three months. These should get you through March. I have a couple more, but I'm figuring out how to sell them to Google before I share them.
Stephen Strong is senior vice president, head of digital accounts, DraftFCB Chicago. (firstname.lastname@example.org)