Can Web 2.0 Change Behavior?

April 15, 2008

The mark of a truly great technology is that it changes the way mainstream consumers live their lives. I am a big believer in social media, but I wonder how long it will be before its utility reaches beyond the young and early adopters.

I can think of a lot of consumer devices that have done that. PCs, cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, and digital cameras are all devices that have crept into our lives over the last 15-20 years and now they are ubiquitous. Today, just about every teenager I see has a cell phone in hand and if they are walking alone, chances are they are texting a friend.

Certain web-based applications have had that kind of an impact, too. Email and eCommerce are the two that jump to mind. I have a college friend who is resolutely resisting email, and I can honestly say that he is the only adult I know that is not accessible via email. And eCommerce. When was the last time you called an airline to make a reservation?

Web 2.0 is still young and there are more people on the outside looking in than there are people who are living their lives differently as a result. Yes, many are blogging, though according to Forrester fewer than 5% of adults blog. And many of us are using RSS readers to personalize our information feeds, yet despite the power and simplicity that Google, Yahoo! and others have provided, it’s still a fringe phenomenon. LinkedIn is certainly making a mark, and more and more adults are experimenting with platforms like Facebook and Digg, but when will they change the way mainstream consumers live their lives?

I have a point of view, but would love to hear what you think.