Though we originally took the Web to be a simply a means of presenting information, Berners-Lee actually invented the Web as a means of communication and collaboration. 12 years after its rise in popularity, we are finally figuring that part out.
Nearly 20 years passed from the time Bell invented the telephone until it was mainstream. The Web is no different. You see, the Web, like the telephone, was not something we knew we needed. That means we need to figure out what to do with it now that we’ve got it. It’s a process.
I participated in this “process” just last night, as I tried to explain to my mom why static Web sites are a dead end. She asked me why, since she visits them to glean important information, not to “interact with the brand.”
I wish I could say my answers were solid, but they weren’t. The Web is a malleable tool. For some, it’s a library (a place for research and quiet reflection). For others, it’s the town square (a place for meeting and greeting and the hawking of wares).
From a business perspective, it’s clear that the learning has barely commenced. For every Zappos, there are countless others who haven’t a clue. In fact, I’d venture to say that 99% of the brand sites in existence are nothing more than online brochures, even today on the eve of 2009. It seems to me there’s a mountain of opportunity there, not just to turn these static sites social, but to do things and create things we haven’t even thought of yet.