I, like others, am a little concerned with the Google-fan ideology that anything Google touches must be better, but not enough to push me to summarily choose Yahoo instead. About a week back, Fred Wilson blogged about the how Yahoo seems to try harder. I agree with him in this and in the view that Google seems to be winning market share because of a superior brand not necessarily superior services. But I’m not sure if Yahoo is providing the best servies (yet?) either. Sure Yahoo may be buying up interesting guys like Flickr and del.ici.ous but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing a better job of ushering in the Web2.0 or providing Web2.0 sevices.
In my opinion, the big problem with Web2.0 is not of usefulness or innovation, it is of adoption. I recently attempted to set up a Flickr group for a charity walk that I participated in – of the 80 people that were part of the group (an already existing group for that matter) only 3 decided to opt in to the flickr group. Aside from the fact that Flickr makes it extremely cumbersome to actually sign up to their service, I’m sure that many users simply didn’t see the benefit of moving away from Ofoto or dotPhoto (the two primary links that I receive from friends) while others are simply not that computer savvy enough to care to figure out how to actually sign up. Sure Flickr is easier to integrate with, and allows you to download originals (which flickr does not make obvious), but not everyone is building a web page or blog, and it is easy enough to get originals directly from your friend.
The difficulty that Web2.0 companies have compared to when Web1.0 companies were starting out, is that Web1.0 companies already exist! When Ofoto and dotPhoto started up, the field was fresh. Few companies were providing competitor offerings, and even fewer had any actual users. Today though, Flickr has to try and capture new users coming into the digital world but perhaps harder will be to migrate users away from existing services.
Coming back to Yahoo, the general argument goes that since Yahoo now owns Flickr, they can drive their existing users over. Perhaps, but they have a lot of work to do. Using the group I mentioned above, I also tried to set up a Yahoo group for them – only 26 of them signed up – a heck of a lot better than the Flickr group, but still not enough to move us away from ‘Reply All’ responses over email. The problem here is that, two separate mechanisms exist to join the groups. Users that signed up to Yahoo Groups can not be automatically added to the Flickr group. Considering that Web2.0 is very much about collaboration and communities, it only makes sense that Flickr needs to be integrated closer with Yahoo Groups – but Yahoo Groups is in itself falling short – I can not even get it to be summarized on my ‘My Yahoo!’ page. In the meantime, while Yahoo is integrating, rest assured Google and MSN are busy building competitor offerings as well. Google has already purchased Riya, and no doubt Ofoto and dotPhoto are being courted by biz dev deals.
The bottom line right now though – is that existing services are falling short, regardless of who you go to.