There are two lists that recently have given me brainfreeze: Seth Godin's Web 2.0 ranking and Chris Mayaud's All Things Web 2.0 site. Each provides a look into the world of new application-driven sites that in many cases do just one thing, albiet they usually do that one thing well. Seth's list has 937 sites. Chris' site has 2,211 listings (many are also on Seth's list).
One of the great qualities of the net is that it makes things easier.
Communication is easier. Translation is easier. Geolocation is easier. Finding lost friends is easier. Creating and distributing porn is easier. Creating an application, attracting users, and building a revenue-positive business is easier (don't confuse easier with easy).
Before, back when things were hard, it took dozens of developers, software architects, QA teams, user and interface designers to create an application that would be beta-tested to death--only to be tossed back and forth between sales guys saying SHIP IT and QA guys saying DON'T. Then, once that arguement is settled, the final product is documented, packaged and sent through the channel (distribution and retail) only to sit on shelves until some amount of marketing is done (the "pull") to make it move off shelves into our hands.
It is much easier now. Two guys in a dorm room can create a compelling web-based application using rapid developent tools like Ruby on Rails (among others), talk up that application on various blogs (like the ones I listed above), and start selling it.
Usually the Web 2.0 business model includes some mix of a free version and then a few levels of paid ones allowing the user to get value first, then pay later. This is of course in direct opposite to the models of old where you pay first and get value later (thanks to Guy Hoffman for reminding me of this simple but important shift).
Basecamp is a good example. It is a nice and simple project management tool that has a free version that lets you manage one project for free or unlimited projects for $149.00 a month. The application is very nice and was created by a small team at smart guys at 37 Signals (my understanding is that under ten people built and deployed the initial apps).
Which brings me to my point: if it is this easy to build and roll-out all these web-based apps, it stands to reason that we will quickly have a surplus of them.
So, what do we do about it? I don't know. Maybe you can suggest some ideas.
We can't go back. Maybe more is needed in the areas of webapp integration and implementation--helping companies use the apps they have more effecitvely. Maybe there are opportunities to help larger companies unravel closed internal systems and replace them with cheap and flexible open web ones.
Let me know what you think.