The Web 2.0 Blinders Phenomenon
2 min read

The Web 2.0 Blinders Phenomenon

The discussion about MySpace on tech.mememorandum this morning is dripping with irony. On the one hand, you have the MySpace apologists, arguing that what teenagers do on MySpace is no different from what teenagers of past generations have done to rebel and be different, and that parents should just teach their children well and not worry. On the other hand, you have a cautionary article about the perils of posting about yourself online, because that information becomes forever Googleable by employers and other interested parties.

I think the Web 2.0 (and MySpace) fan club is wearing a heavy set of blinders. We are only just beginning to understand the implications of this new technology. To say there’s nothing new or unknown about people’s use of it is DEEPLY NAIVE.

Have all the parents like Fred Wilson and Kathy Sierra, who think they are hip enough to “understand” what their kids do on MySpace, thought through the implications of the BW article? They may remember showing poor judgment as teenagers — that’s why we don’t let them drink or vote — but none of their coming-of-age mistakes has a permanent digital record.

This is the blindness of orthodoxy that the bandwagon causes, which is why no one saw the crash coming for Internet 1.0. (Some did see it coming, of course, but they were told they didn’t “get it” either.)

The supremacy of contextually relevant advertising is another example. Here’s the initial results from an eye tracking study by behavioral targeting ad agency TACODA:

In tests late last year, TACODA’s researchers recruited 30 human guinea pigs at malls in New Jersey and Southern California. They hooked them to an eye-scanning camera and recorded every darting movement as the subjects were shown 50 identical Web pages. The result: The ads placed on pages unrelated to the advertisements’ message actually attracted 17% more looks.

Or how about the related belief that search advertising will continue to grow forever (the following is from the same BW article):

But advertising executives predict that the display banners and videos that appear on Web pages will outpace search this year. “Most of the big money [advertisers] — cars, movies, packaged goods — are putting more of their budgets into display,” says Jeff Lanctot, general manager at agency Avenue A/Razorfish (AQNT ), the world’s largest buyer of Internet ads. “We think growth in search will fall back in ’06.”

I remain committed to the position that it is better to be skeptical and question than to rationalize away — or worse — remain completely blind to the risks and the unknowns.