A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Death of the Web

Friday, August 27th, 2010

The cover of the September issue of Wired magazine proclaims “The Web is Dead.” Hyperbole to be sure, and I haven’t even read the article, yet, but is it just hyperbole? Or is there something to it?

We recently came across a an organization, Pipeline Women, that doesn’t even have a website. They have a domain name – www.pipelinewomen.org – but it redirects you to their Facebook page.

Not quite a year ago, driving up the West Side Highway in New York, I noticed a Gap billboard. Tucked into the lower right corner of the ad wasn’t their website address, but their Facebook adddress: www.facebook.com/gap.

And companies are beginning to use their Facebook pages to offer the kinds of services they would normally offer – and still do offer – on their Websites. Booking reservations or contacting customer service, for example.

This makes a lot of sense. If you can tap in to the strong social network that already exists on Facebook, your marketing efforts are going to be more effective. Even if you don’t “go viral” and become an enormous Facebook (or YouTube or Twitter …) sensation, you are helping your most ardent fans – and biggest advocates – tell their friends how passionate they are about your product or service.

But that doesn’t mean the Web is dead, and I think the marketers who are moving more completely into Facebook are either shortsighted, or (and this is more likely) falling under the sway of one of the 47 gazillion “social media ninjas” out there. They’ve also forgotten their history.

It wasn’t that long ago that AOL was the place to be, unless you were a hard-core techie. (Well, it wasn’t that long ago in real time. In Internet years, it was a few lifetimes ago.) Everyone had an AOL account, or a CompuServe account, and everyone wanted to build a channel in AOL. But then something changed. The next big thing came along. The Web happened. The tools for using the Web got better. You didn’t have to be quite so much of a geek to be comfortable using them. And people moved off of AOL and CompuServe and other walled gardens to explore the vast wide world of the Web on their own. Guides sprang up. (Think Yahoo, then Google.) But people were comfortable out on their own. AOL wasn’t cool any more.

Facebook will reach that point, too. Just as AOL and MySpace did. Or it will become much more specialized, narrower in focus. (LinkedIn is a good example here: all business, all the time.) And the next, next big thing will pop up and people will flock there, marketers nipping at their heels.

All of which brings me back to my main point – social media, blogging, social networking sites should be a part of just about everyone’s online strategy. But a strong company website should be the hub around which you arrange those other spokes. As each of those spokes increases or decreases in importance, you still have a rock solid presence on which you can rely for attracting new business, strengthening existing relationships, and cost-effectively meeting your customers’ needs.

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