U-lik ? I-lik ! web2 is here to stay !

With all the talk of web2 bubble and social networking fatigue, it’s easy to forget that the change has only just begun.  As with all great technology waves, one tends to overestimate changes in the short term and underestimate change in the long-term.  So ignore web2 at your peril, for it will impact every corner of technology and media in deep and long lasting ways.

If you’re into web2, I am teaching you to suck eggs here.  But I hear too much "bubble speak" that misses the bigger picture. 

Today I had a chance to meet with leafar (real name Raphael Labbe) who is a regular visitor here, a great blogger and the founder of U-lik.

It was a great meeting and in fact so enjoyable that I decided for once to write about a company that I am seriously considering investing in, which I usually don’t do of course ("only write after it’s been funded or you passed", right).

What got me really enthused, besides the qualilty of the intellectual and cultural engagement, was the fact that it reminded me of all that’s great about web2.0, about why it’s not a fad and here to change how you interact with technology forever.  I like blogging, you get to make grand statements and no one can disagree live :-)

First a word on u-lik.  Behind the slightly Tech-Borat name (you like ?) is a personal expression engine / social catalog that allows you to express and share your likes and dislikes in a broad and compelling way.  Where Last.FM is a (great) social discovery experience of music, u-lik paints a broader picture of your personality and tastes.  U-Like Tim Burton early period and Johnny Depp from the same era, a bit of Gus Van Sant and artwork from Banksy to the sound of Pavement, you’re likely to fall in the same cultural neighbourhood as leafar or I.  U-Like Johnny Deep version Pirates of the Caribbean and some Justin Timberlake, we won’t overlap that much.  A multi-faceted view of your personality help u-lik link you to people, artists and products you might like, and enjoy them.

The beauty with this company is how it’s managed to gracefully marry taxonomy and folksonomy (to use two slightly inappropriate terms, but you get the message), the algorithms driving a compelling gameplay-like browsing experience.  The interface is still busy and rough, but watch this space.

u-lik builds on many of the very deep trends that are core to web2, and I believe these are fundamentally transformational to every industry.   To pick a few:

  • the engagement of users with content (selection, creation, modification, collaborative filtering) can fundamentally change how you discover product, information, breaking news etc.  Today it’s still siloed in ground-breaking sites like Digg, but it will be a feature of every "information extraction" infrastructure in the future for sure, and will transform seach and discovery in all segments and generally how you get educated, entertained and informed.
  • the creation of content by users admittedly generates a lot of dross, but it also creates massive amounts of genuinely unique, unedited, high quality content.  In five years when we have found a way to harness, collate, edit and essentially "reprogram" that content based on personal preferences, your content experience will be incredibly enriched from the current model where your eyeballs are getting hijacked for ad money.  UGC and produced content boundaries will fade and stop to be relevant, and we will be all the better for it.
  • continuous experimentation changes design principles.  Test a feature, a layout, a module, and see how users interact with it.  Software designed by the user, coming to your Excel spreadsheet soon.  Maybe.
  • extreme transparency is essentially unavoidable.  It will force every business to change the way it thinks about everything from client satisfaction to shareholder and employee relationships, and help reshape corporation into living brands whose every facet, in its interaction with society, is exposed.  The management of reputation will become a key issue, as it will increasingly be used as a competitive offense and defense weapon in the race to build brand equity (personal, corporate, product-related etc).  Credible platforms to help create and sustain reputations will need to emerge (I don’t see any of these around today, not even LinkedIn).

These are just some of the examples that spring to mind.  This is not about Facebook, it’s about total transparency, instant innovation and iteration, about the wisdom of the crowd made real.  Web2.0 might be a tired moniker, but the changes it brings will be deep and meaningful to technology and social interaction.

Enjoy this Supermarket 2.0, watch out for quakr and buttr, v. funny, from the folks at Wishood

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