The Oaks Ignore Their Pleas

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and ?

Posted in Web 2.0 by Jeff Graves on September 7, 2006

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across a number of blog postings asking whether we are experiencing another tech bubble, reminiscient of the late 90’s bubble.  Robert Scoble says it is a bubble, but not exactly like the “first” bubble, and provides some convincing arguments.  Renee Blodgett and USA Today’s Kevin Maney (inspired by a post from Om Malik) write about the proliferation of crazy product names that add to the confusion of a seeming flood of new product and company announcements as a sign that things are pushing up the curve at a bubble-like pace.  And Ziff-Davis’ Ed Cone echoes some of Scoble’s arguments, and argues that the “irrational exuberance” in the shape of tons of money being thrown at dubious business ideas simply isn’t in evidence this time around, at least not yet. 

From my perspective, from within a very traditional, conservative business, I definitely don’t see the same fervor or craziness around tech as we did in 1999 or 2000.  Last time around, people were jumping ship left and right from the allegedly “stable” financial services industry, to go work for companies with “.com” names and questionable business models.  And, they were getting big money to make the leap.  A few industrious souls even made the jump to become “day traders” – every stock geek’s dream – being able to stay home in your PJ’s, watch CNBC and trade tech stocks on eTrade. 

Today, while a lot of my techie colleagues follow what’s going on in the world of “Web 2.0”, not many of them are expressing the burning desire to test the waters.  And even some of the hottest Web 2.0 technologies, like AJAX or RSS, are truly understood or leveraged by many of these folks, who consider themselves technologists.  During a recent conference I attended, I unscientfically asked a number of senior technology managers in the financial services industry if their Web development plans included AJAX.  The response was a bit surprising to me – they all pointed to tools like IBM’s Websphere and Macromedia Flash as the likely building blocks for their interactive, next generation Web products, citing the “stability” of “big name” commercial tools.  I recently saw a statistic, (that I’m still searching for, will post when I find the link) that said that less than 5 percent of those online actively use RSS.  A lot of this technology is apparently understood and used by only a very small percentage, those “early adopters” who really dig new tools and gizmos.  As Scoble said, the companies that are going to be really successful are the ones who figure out how to reach the “other 95%” with the tools and promise of Web 2.0.

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