Why Seth Godin's Web 2.0 Watch List Misses the Point

Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Watch List, built with alexaholic, is a fabulous idea. I wish I’d thought of it. Rankings are fun and thought-provoking, and as Seth figured, they also get lots of attention!

But Seth completely misses the point of Web 2.0 when he says “For our purposes, my definition is that most of these companies are, as the wikipedia says, sites that ‘let people collaborate and share information online in a new way.’ So, Google doesn’t make the cut, because most of their traffic comes to their search engine. eBay is an “old” company, but the many-to-many nature of the site means that they do.”

What a short-sighted definition! It seems to focus much more on the Web 1.0 aspect of explicit “community” than the web 2.0 concept of harnessing collective intelligence. If Google doesn’t do this, I don’t know who does! PageRank was a breakthrough in search because Google figured out that what people do (make links) is as important as what the documents contain. And Adsense is profoundly participatory. Amazon too is a master at harnessing participation but doesn’t make Seth’s list. Meanwhile, we see companies like pandora, which are purely algorithmic in their personalization, and zillow, which is database driven without any community features. These sites are incredibly useful applications, but Seth’s list sure seems to draw the Web 2.0 boundary in some very odd ways.

In addition, even participation (both explicit and implicit) is only part of web 2.0. Can someone really say that Google Maps or Amazon’s Simple Storage Service is not Web 2.0? And why are open source projects like Django and Drupal included but not Apache or Perl’s CPAN, or sourceforge and slashdot? And if we’re including invididual blogs, why zefrank.com and not techcrunch?

In short, this is a brilliant idea that needs some serious tweaking.