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Loosely Coupled weblog

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Rips in the Web 2.0 fabric

"In a tornado, the correct marketing strategy ... is to ignore the customer!" writes Geoffrey Moore in his business classic, Inside The Tornado (the follow-up to Crossing The Chasm).

So when's Jeff Barr tells Loosely Coupled that the online reseller doesn't need to offer any guarantees of service quality for its web services program, it's a sure sign that the company is already well into the tornado phase of its evolution as a next-generation on-demand services platform. "During the tornado," writes Moore, "... [customers] want the commodity [his emphasis]. So your focus must be on getting them that item as quickly, easily, and cheaply as possible. This means becoming intensely internally [my emphasis] focused on your delivery capabilities and not letting yourself get distracted by 'secondary' factors such as an individual customer's particular needs."

Our article, Web services without warranties, looks at Amazon, eBay, Google and the like from an enterprise computing perspective. It finds all kinds of holes in the on-demand service offerings from these rising stars of what some have called Web 2.0 — the application-rich, service-oriented next-generation of the Web being celebrated this week at the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Their shortcomings seem damning: there are no SLAs, no helpdesks, no best practices. But do users care? No way. They just want to get on board as fast as they can.

When Jeff Barr effectively says that Amazon can't be bothered with SLAs and helpdesks because the service is good enough anyway, and no one's complaining, he's just reflecting the commercial reality of Amazon's market position. It's offering a hot infrastructure product, and the only thing that matters is keeping that product moving out the door. When the tornado hits, it doesn't matter whether we're talking shrinkwrap software like Oracle databases or on-demand services like the Amazon Web Services program. As Moore says, "Just ship" — and keep shipping, no matter what (which is why no one's really worrying about the SLA — Amazon has far more to lose if its service fails than any of its customers do).

These supposed failings of the on-demand service platforms may look like rips in the fabric of Web 2.0, but really they're just eddies from the rip-tide that's already surging ahead before anyone's even noticed. Most observers and players are still planning for the early stages of an emerging market, not even aware that Amazon and eBay are already across Moore's metaphorical chasm and sweeping through the "bowling alley" phase that he identified as the prelude to the tornado of mainstream adoption.

Sure, there are going to be a lot of headaches when everyone has standardized on Web 2.0 services in a decade's time. Gartner will come out with a damning report on the unrecognized TCO of on-demand services, and Jeff Bezos will suddenly launch a "Trustworthy Services" initiative in response to corporate concerns over alleged performance glitches. But by then it will be far too late for anyone to back out and revert to the way things were before. Web 2.0 will already have arrived on Main St.

posted by Phil Wainewright 11:23 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Assembling on-demand services to automate business, commerce, and the sharing of knowledge

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