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5 Trends for Web 2.0
Sucharita Mulpuru
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Web 2.0 has made life really for one and all. Never had the web been so useful for mankind like it is today. If earlier it was the commercial nature of web, it is the social nature that is making it popular and there’s no looking back.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) will be the next iteration of commercial email.
Mainly employed by news sites and blogs to feed content updates to consumers who opt into receiving them, RSS, an XML format enabling Web syndication, is pull marketing at its best. For anyone with a message to communicate—from retailers to real estate brokers, it provides an instantaneous, automated, inexpensive way to message to consumers by providing the benefits of email— notice of sales, price changes, new arrivals, trends, and scarce inventory—without its drawbacks—irrelevant messages, inappropriate segmentation, spam, government regulation and consumer fatigue with unsolicited messages.

While RSS is a nascent technology, there is tremendous potential for its adoption because of its ease of use and flexibility. Several companies are enabling the growth of the technology — email service providers like Silverpop have already integrated RSS tools into its arsenal, and startups like RubiconSoft have enabled features for online retailers like Tower Records’ Tower Alerts, which notifies customers of new arrivals in music categories like jazz and classical.

Rich Internet applications will enable a great leap forward in usability
RIAs, primarily AJAX and Macromedia’s Flash and Flex, are already creating waves with many popular websites. AJAX is a Web development technique most popularized through Google maps—the ability to navigate around a map without refreshing the page. As the most effective usability experiences for any website involve the fewest clicks possible and minimal page refreshes, AJAX can simplify features like zoom, enlargements, graphics, tables and of course maps. While it may evoke groans from developers, it creates a more intuitive browsing experience for customers.

Social networks will benefit marketers and media distributors as much as consumers
The popularity of sites like MySpace and Flickr, the inflation in online advertising costs and the growth of the internet as an eCommerce channel all lead to one thing—the need for every company from P&G to PayPal to stake out some ground in the world of social networks, which are essentially extensions of word-of-mouth marketing. Blogs are perhaps the biggest vehicle in this channel. While it is still unclear how blogs are any different than the sea of personal Web sites that have existed for years, a big bonus for companies is that they are growing in popularity can help a site’s search engine optimization.

Another social networking tool that is likely to have countless applications in everything from search to shopping is tagging, particularly the subcategory known as folksonomy, which is collaborative organization and labeling of web content.

Every activity on the web will be “made-to-go”
The adoption of SMS—the short message service prevalent on mobile phones — is finally growing in the U.S. As telecom companies bundle text messages into U.S consumer packages, they open the door for U.S marketers to catch up to their European counterparts with SMS marketing. SMS has the potential to open an entirely new marketing channel to consumers — nearly one-quarter of online consumers say they would be receptive to advertising that helps to defray the cost of their monthly phone usage fees. Another technology to consider: podcasts. While the 20-plus million U.S consumers who own portable digital music devices generally utilize their gadgets for music, that is likely to shift as content evolves and devices like the video-playing iPod are capable of more robust applications, like video and audio, known as podcasts. Podcasts also comprise the broader application of audio and video streams through the Internet. While consumers have demonstrated an appetite for paying for content, don’t discount advertising models just yet: Creative content is costly, and entertainment companies would be remiss to not explore all potential streams of revenue.

Security tools, software and firms will continue to proliferate
As more consumers spend more time on the Internet and share personal information with a broader set of websites like their bank, broker, university or hospital, the need to protect this information will be more pressing than ever. Spyware, spam monitors, virus protection software, even companies that enable alternative, non-credit-card payments, have robust futures in this environment. Companies will work more closely than ever with their legal teams, and some will even be required to establish roles like chief security officer to ensure compliance with laws as well as alignment with the interests of consumers and privacy advocates. Without trust, adoption of all of any Web 2.0 technologies will languish and keep Internet usage in a state of stasis.

Sucharita Mulpuru is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research.
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