What is so attractive about web applications? First, they are like the car companies in 1930s; disruptive, changed the way people live and opened many horizons for future innovations. You may argue that PC industry in 1980s did the same thing, and you are right – in one sense. But I am not talking about just the hardware. It is true that the car factories developed cars, many of them. But what makes the car industry as well as the PC industry so fascinating is not the hardware itself; it is what you can do with it – that was the revolution. That you can travel far, that you can meet anyone you want, that you get smarter and smarter by exchanging the know-how with others.
Now, we have another problem. Social networks, along with the (almost) free information flow and the decrease in digital divide expedited the process that the cars and the PCs started some time ago. We share more, learn more, and see more. It is so fast indeed that in evolution, none of the species ever experienced such fast paced change in social behavior in history. In about 20 years, the data we share has exponentially grown and it will continue growing faster than ever. The problem is the channel capacity of humans. We are not wired to process too many things at the same time. Actually even we can hardly remember 7 digits of a telephone number (and not a digit more).
So how can we cope with so much information, so many messages, so many friends with the limited attention span and limited time we have? It is no wonder why the direct mail business is on its brink, and the mass marketing doesn’t work anymore as it used to. Simply we don’t have the patience, the capacity and the will to do so many things. I resemble this new era to the first farmers in human history. With the farming, for the first time, the food supply was in abundance not scarce.
Our problem is not the scarcity anymore but on the contrary, the abundance as Chris Andersen points out on his brilliant book. Same thing is happening to the information now and we really don’t know how to make the best use of it… yet.
It is exactly why the web applications fascinate me, the power to make meaning out of tons of data. The killer app is not the how the website looks (packaging), it is not how the page is promoted or not even how much it costs; the game is changing for ever. I think it is time to put less value on 4Ps as in conventional marketing. It is more about the data; how to filter the data that is relevant, personal and at the same time useful to you, and to present it clean with the help of mass collaboration. Only, then you would have a killer app. An app that will make your life easier, more meaningful, and help you understand (with all others’ experiences, behaviors, even statistics) what to do and how to do it. Mint is such a successful web app, not only because the design is brilliant, because it helps you understand what your spending patterns are. You can compare your gas mileage, your tuition spending, your Publix spending to your city, to the nation in general. Think about it for a minute. You don’t need to research anymore for tens of different sources, keep all your receipts in multiple applications, like MS Excel or on notebooks to do your budgeting or to understand how you can save more by comparing yours to others. Everything about your finances is included in one application. That is revolution, and it is just a start. Why not do the same things for everything you can think of? Track your entire healthcare history, track all your driving history, track all your sports activities and compare, and improve.The number one rule of Wall Street is that the markets are inefficient so the people who has access to more information can make profit out of it. Nothing is wrong with that, but we all know how it turned out to be. So why not change the table around and enable the information to everybody in a meaningful way. People are talking about semantic web for a while, trying to figure out how and with what kind of technology they can achieve it. Look no further, it is already happening, in small steps but with confidence.
Regardless of our differences, we are all wired for one thing for sure: increase the quality of our and our loved ones’ life. Now we have another great leap forward moment (revolution) with the software as a service. It is not the code, it is not the CSS, but it is the data that gets me excited. Of course along the way, there are cars and different kind of cars to help you get where you want. It is time to make a remarkable software that works, profitable and that is fun to use, interactive and collaborative that will change our lives forever. Seth recently posted about the business of software;
The issues of permission, of networks, of scarcity and of the desire to pay are inherent in the business part of the business of software. I think we’re at the very beginning of the arc of software as business, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Seth Godin