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Web 2.0 and PR 2.0

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/30/2005

So, I’ve been talking a bit about Web 2.0 lately, and the Web 2.0 Conference is coming up in October. Is it just more hype? Another piece of noise in the technology buzzword static? And why does a PR firm in NYC care? In short, Web 2.0 is the second coming of Sun’s mantra, “The Network is the Computer”. In a way, it’s a very anti-Microsoft message in how it places the importance on the communication over the processing. But Sun’s claim wasn’t totally true, because the Cisco routers don’t actually do the processing part. Web 2.0 puts a more accurate spin on it, at a time the world is ready to embrace it. Yes, even PR agencies. Hype?

The answer is that Web 2.0 is not hype, because XML has already proven itself. Interoperability of data between disparate systems, both geographically and operating system-wise, has already happened. On Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve, we’re up to the late-adopter phase.

XML caught on so quickly and is so universally embraced, because it doesn’t matter your religion, be it Linux/Open Source, Java/J2EE or Microsoft/.NET. It doesn’t matter your hardware. And it doesn’t matter where on the planet you happen to be. You can write program code that can interact with everyone else’s easily. XML has dealt with the IT-tower of babel. I can write a program here in NYC, which can easily tie together with programs written in China or Russia. I can have the same program interact with Amazon, Google, the company ERP or accounting system and programs written and hosted by consultants. And I’m not even a professional programmer, which gets to the revolution part of it. Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and separation of concerns revolutionized the professional programming and hardcore hacking circles, but it didn’t really impact the world like the Web itself. It’s like the Internet before the World Wide Web. It was there, but it wasn’t socially sweeping. It took the Web. And the Web was just basically hyperlinked text sitting on the Internet with browsers that let you view the text and follow the links. It’s anti-climatic compared to the OOP. Yet, it’s what made all the difference, because it made the benefit of the Internet accessible to a much wider audience.

And that’s the way it is with Web 2.0. Any person with a Web browser can surf the net and pull up pages. If they’re eCommerce catalog pages with pricing, you can visually see the prices. But what about writing apps that go to all the eCommerce catalog pages that exist on the Internet for that product and pull down all the prices? A human could to it today with a little research and a lot of clicking. But machines can do the job much more efficiently. And they could do it over and over. So, a major part of Web 2.0 is automating what humans are already doing today on the Web. It’s about providing the facilities and techniques for automation.

Again, so why PR? Why is an industry that’s so concerned with human relationships into Web programming? Because just as the first days of the Web were about humans and their clicks (very PR-like), but is now going to automation, so goes the PR industry. Clicking and joining online discussion will always be a part of PR. But the automation will also be a part. What will really differentiate PR firms that will successfully be making the transition are those who can carry out the automation projects of PR 2.0.