Remember when one of the arguments against Open Source software was that there were simply too many choices for software (wait was that ever an argument)? If you wanted a text editor you had a 1,001 chances to find one and I know in my case many times when another came out I just asked myself why? Why would you even bother becoming text editor 1,002? I guess people feel that they can always create something better or maybe they just are creating it for themselves and releasing it to the public. Scratching an itch I suppose.
I get that same feeling with all of these “web 2.0” websites, but even worse because they don’t improve upon anything. Rarely are there more features than the competition and if you are lucky the design might be a tad bit better, but nothing really stands out that makes you want to switch over from web 2.0 product A. What makes things even worse is that you get the feeling that the creators of these products aren’t doing it for themselves to use, but doing so because they believe they can make money from it.
Look at the eHub list provided by Emily Chang and you can see how many sites all fit into the same category and offer the exact same thing. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t bother developing web applications that benefit just them, but if they wish to do so and make a business out of it at least focus on both the design and featureset. In this case the featureset might actually be less features and pushing the product to be more streamlined (*this sentence has been endorsed by the fine folks at 37signals).
Another Copycat Company U See Everyday.
How many products this year actually remained successful past their initial buzz? I mean which products continued to get mentioned after their launch and how many do you think faltered after their initial push? I made a comment to Colin the other day that if the main programming language of the web was still C then you wouldn’t have this issue of copycat companies. I think you would see more people putting more thought into what they are producing because they wouldn’t be able to do it so easily.
However, today all you need is some AJAX and Ruby/PHP/Python/ASP.net and you have a “web 2.0 application”. Why create another bookmarking service when there are already some qualities ones out there? Well because it only takes you a couple of hours to pop one out and you might be able to make some money off of it so why not go with it. Fair enough I suppose, but I wish there was a bit more thought put into the business part of the equation like how will the product become big? What separates it from the competition? What does it do better and what does it do worse? It looks like the hardest decision people make is what domain name to buy.
I hope that 2006 produces that next evolutionary leap in web applications. What’s going to be that next web app that makes everybody’s eyes bulge out?