In Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide, author Amy Shuen demonstrates subject mastery from the first sentence. Steeped in her topic (she’s taught it at Wharton, Haas School of Business, CEIBS and École Polytechnique), the reader gets detailed information on the meaning of Web 2.0. This isn’t a book filled with hype–it provides theory, thoughtful detail and is practical. Chapters end with strategic and tactical questions. The illustrations and screen captures provide depth and clarity. Companies like Flickr, LinkedIn, and Facebook are used as case studies.
In the first chapter, Users Create Value, she tags Flickr as the poster child for freemium-based businesses. Shuen points out that this model was first developed in 2006–and that low marketing, investment and distribution costs allow revenue streams to cover costs quickly. She’s ahead of another book on the topic that’s expected at the end of the year–Free by Wired’s Chris Anderson.
LinkedIn and Facebook: The flexibility of web apps
Shuen looks at LinkedIn as the next iteration of the trusty Rolodex, and uses the application to demonstrate how many more possibilities are offered users through electronic contact management. She has a keen eye for what makes things work (growth, sharing, trust, ease of use, monetizing professional use and maintaining a tight core mission).
Facebook serves as an example of what was once a simple application in Chapter Three, People Build Connections. She uses a series of screen shots to demonstrate the increased sophistication now built into the application and shows how it helped fuel growth from 5 million users in October of 2005 to more than 7.5 million in April of 2006. Its success is a result of an open API, and Shuen quotes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at length as she tells the now-familiar story about a company that helped define the term “viral growth.” She also describes the major error Facebook made with its Beacon service, the dust-up that resulted and Zuckerberg’s public mea culpa to quell the firestorm.
There’s a great discussion on mash-ups in Chapter Four, Companies Capitalize Competencies. The final chapter of the book, Businesses Incorporate Strategies, contains Shuen’s Five Steps to Web 2.0–thought-provoking reading for anyone in business. You’ll have to read the book to fully understand her rationale, but here are the steps as she sees them:
- Build on collective user value
- Activate network effects
- Work through social networks
- Dynamically syndicate competence
- Build a Web 2.0 business plan
More than the sum of its parts
Her final point in the chapter is the essence of Silicon Valley–look around while moving forward. The book’s end notes provide a plethora of knowledge and references, while the 22-page bibliography provides a reading list that will keep anyone interested in the topic busy for the next year. If there’s a shortcoming, the index feels a bit underweight. But so much is right about this compact book that it feels unfair to pick on a minor failing.
The publisher, O’Reilly, distributes Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide under their Safari imprint. This means that there is an online version of the book for quick access that allows a reader to put the material to work almost immediately. Other publishers should follow O’Reilly’s lead–their organization clearly embraces multiple ways to provide value to readers.
I recommend this book for tech neophytes who know that they need to learn more about Web 2.0, and for seasoned experts who want to gain exposure to a rich set of cases–along with questions that will compel them to dig deeper on the topic.