Stop the Web, I Want To Get Off! Drop Me at the Global Village

All the talk of Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0 is making me crazy — well, crazier (too many people who read this know me). It’s time we take a bigger view. With all the innovations that are available to the online world, it’s about time we dropped thoughts of categorization and departmentalization.

The Internet is Marshall McLuhan’s global village. We need to drop all the terminology that scares the novice Web user and use these technologies to allow the Web to erupt into the world it could be.

We have battles between search engines, browser wars (congratulations to Firefox for setting the record yesterday), and feuds between open source and proprietary programmers. While competition generally helps to drive innovation, it’s at the stage now where many inexperienced users are having trouble navigating the potholed landscape.

Instead of CRM (Customer Relationship Management), we should be developing HRM (Human Relationship Management), and I’m not talking about some type of advanced dating site.

With all the technology we have — personalizable search engines, inner groups of social media, niched forums and groups of every kind — it’s high time to look at the Web as more than the sum of its parts. It is its own society; one with a “Wild West” set of rules, if you can find them.

We need to consolidate. Forget Yahoo vs. Microsoft, IE vs. Firefox, or Google vs. everyone — we need to come together to make the Web live up to the sci-fi hype. We already live in a world of science fantasy. It’s just that most of us don’t want to step outside the safety of the known and get involved with building the full potential of our future.

Presidential elections are around the corner for the United States, and memories of the hanging chad still dance in my head as two new contenders take the stage. Why not use the technology we have to make the process cleaner? We have fingerprint scanners on many of the existing laptops, and the technology is relatively inexpensive to make available to all voters. Why present ID when you can scan a print to confirm who we are. Why can’t we use technology to allow us to vote? It will be here soon enough … I just think it should be sooner.

My earlier mention of HRM isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. Larger corporations are already using it on the Web. We are cookied and categorized by sites to give them insight into our behaviors. The outcry against behavioral marketing may be hiding a much more deep-seated fear: we love the anonymity the Web provides.

But the Web wasn’t created to be anonymous. It was started as a method to share information, free of boundaries. Today, governments are trying hard to demark their area of the Web when it realistically can’t be done.

Gian Fulgoni, comScore’s chairman, recently noted that “Google and the other engines fail to capture as much as 84 percent of search’s value.” Unfortunately he was referring to the lost branding opportunities.

Sadly, yet realistically, most of us can’t see the forest for the trees. We work with the media, but see it through the very narrow eyes of what motivates us.

Noah Elkin, of Steak Media recently wrote “unlocking value that currently goes unrealized is a laudable goal, but the key to reaching this proposed but still-nebulous future is maintaining relevance. That’s a goal in which everyone from marketers to the engines to the consumers who use search is invested. Search has become a universal activity. In the future, it will likely be a ubiquitous activity as well, one that transcends every possible device, but regardless of where, when and how the activity occurs, no one wants relevance to be sacrificed.”

His comments were more about marketing, but could be applied to the broader argument. We need to look beyond our own perspectives and use the Web for what it’s best suited. Instead of using terms like Web 2.0 and 3.0, how about simply HW: HomeWork. That’s a term everyone knows. The Web is an integral part of our homes and work, isn’t it time we embraced it? And that means all of it, not just the parts we profit from.

Chris Boggs Fires Back

Frank, excellent collection of thoughts, spanning a nice variety of important societal topics. I’ll focus on branding and search.

During a recent presentation to a group of managers, our CEO showed a slide on the shift from traditional advertising to online. The gap is still pretty huge — partly due to the amazing cost of TV ads. It’s also due to the relative immaturity and thus ” unproven” online space (yes, I know we measure better than anyone, but bear with me). I’m glad Fulgoni is advocating more brand spend, but what that takes to get that kind of money is years of trust — even if it could be considered somewhat blind.

Perhaps online marketing — especially search and targeted display — is on a much faster trajectory than TV and radio when it comes to increasing in cost/value over the course of existence. Of course, the top reason is due to measurability. Can execs make the leap that has been made and maintained for years with TV spend? Can they believe in search being able to deliver the same, if not increased, brand value? EBay certainly increased its brand by bidding on every term, and many people in our industry have done an excellent job of defending/advocating the brand value of search.

Sadly, not enough of the people who control the billion-dollar ad budgets read SEW. The Internet and online marketing in general are certainly rising like a rocket, but it’ll be a few more years before the majority of big brands spend the kind of money it takes to be omnipresent for relative searches. I like your ideas, Frank. If enough people join your rallying cry, perhaps a more cohesive Web could allow for even faster maturation. I kind of like it like it is, though — especially the Wild West. I guess I don’t want my three-year-old son to grow up too soon, either.

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