Posted by: Blue Heavens | 16 October, 2007

Thoughts about Web 2.0

The definition of Web 2.0 is widely debated throughout cyberspace and the offline world. According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 refers to “a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users.” In its sense, Web 2.0 is not a program, not a system, nor a platform, but a simple definitive term to narrate the change in Internet trends that highlights the evolution of applications, systems and platforms.

Coined by O’Reilly Radar, the characteristics of Web 2.0 can be generally categorized under:

  • The Web as a platform
  • User generated content
  • Rich and Interactive Internet Applications
  • Collaboration based system and program architectures
  • Applications leveraging on “The Long Tail”
  • Open source and open platforms
  • Data as the driving force

Web 2.0 in Singapore

Examples of Web 2.0 tools widely used in Singapore are blogs, video-sharing sites (eg Youtube) and social networking sites (eg Facebook and Friendster).

As a whole, the adoption of the term Web 2.0 in Singapore started about a couple of years back. However, it seems that prior to that, part of the population have started running online diaries and journals on personal websites. Blogging tools such as Blogger, which was established in 1999, then came about to address the needs of creating and managing online diaries for Internet users with minimal or close to no knowledge of web languages.

With the fast increasing popularity of these Web 2.0 tools in Singapore, it is no wonder that the government has pushed towards the adoption of Web 2.0 (under Interactive Digital Media), lagging behind the craze in the Valley by a good few years. Recently, we have seen the founding of a couple of organizations like The Digital Movement and E27 encouraging and promoting the cause of Web 2.0 in Singapore.

Promoting Web 2.0 to the masses is as difficult as defining and conveying the semantics of Web 2.0 to the common bystander in Singapore. Currently, I would believe Singapore is still hovering in the early adopter stage.

Economic Benefits of Web 2.0 in Singapore

Historically, the direction of Singapore’s fore founders has been towards the area of economic growth and pragmatism. Worried about the apparent size of the local market and the country’s inability to survive after independence, the policies and measures the government has taken have seen miraculous jumps in the economy. With the rise in competition from our neighbouring countries and their entry into the shipping industry, it seems that Singapore has to find an alternative industry to sustain its competitive advantage. Moving on a primary resource-free route, it is then logical to see the government focusing on new age technologies such as life sciences, biotechnology and of course, IT and Web 2.0.

Quoting from Mingyeow of The Digital Movement on the economic feasibility of Web 2.0 in Singapore, he mentioned that “Web 2.0 is feasible because of the lack of physical infrastructure, and the fact that the most important commodity here is a source of wise perspectives. We will be delusional if we are looking to build a gold mine where the key resource is gold mines. We are looking to build an industry, where the key resource is new perspectives. Put Eric’s (Quaffs) technical team or Herryanto (BookJetty) with someone with truly innovative thoughts and they can turn out something as great as anyone. Hence, thoughts are the main resource. Thoughts can be nurtured, can be increased exponentially, and can be expanded from nothing. Thoughts are fueled via conversations, via networking.”

According to Su Yuen: “Singapore is moving towards having the image of being the technology hub in the region, thus increasing the prospect of attracting very highly-skilled global talents into the country. Whether Singapore successfully creates another Google or YouTube is not a main concern but having the platform for current and future tech companies from abroad set up a base in Singapore for Asian expansion is important for economic benefit.”

Singapore has seen its share of IT successes and milestones, ranging from Creative to Trek (first seller of the thumbdrive) to more recently, Match.com (founded by Ong Peng Tsin). At a focus group discussion last year, the group discussed about why Singapore has not seen a major success since Creative. Problems brought up included:

  • The need to successfully market local companies and products globally
  • The lack of “smart” money invested in local startups; Investment are commonly measured in terms of short period ROI.
  • The lack of support for local products.
  • We are still searching for the next success story after Creative to promote Singapore as a technology hub.

The Movement

As mentioned at the start of this essay, the current state of Web 2.0 adoption in Singapore is still in its infancy stage. Being a member of The Digital Movement myself, I believe that the future is bright for the Singapore IT scene, particularly in the Web 2.0 area. We are currently reaching out to an increasing bunch of Web 2.0 enthusiasts, or people who are passionate and crazy about the endless possibilities about the Web. These people include students, entrepreneurs, working executives and professionals in both the private and public sectors.

Having a current mission to build up a global community of young leaders in Web 2.0 and social media, we have organized a number of events, including our flagship conference, Nexus 2007, which attracted about 500 participants from all walks of life, including a number of foreign attendees. We have just concluded PopOut: Emerging Web Startups, a startup showcase where we connected the technopreneurs, venture capitalist, geeks, students, startups and basically anyone interested in the Web 2.0 and beyond.

In my opinion, PopOut was THE start towards celebrating and promoting local entrepreneurs and their venture into Web 2.0. From the first ever GeekOut in March, we have witnessed a few milestones in the startups that we have showcased. Startups like Velvet Puffin and SharedCopy have been covered by the press and a few popular technology blogs like TechCrunch. PopOut was a success not just in terms of the flawless execution of the event, but also that we are capturing the attention of more people outside the usual circle of suspects that we normally see at Web 2.0 events.

Success of Web 2.0 in Businesses

The main evidence of the success in implementing Web 2.0 tools is through the use of blogs. In this era, the consumer value transparency and candor more than artificially created ads and CRM channels that mask the true personality of the company. Other local ventures into the Web 2.0 and New Media arena include the National Heritage Board (Walter Lim) and its brainchild, Yesterday.sg, SPH with Stomp and Starhub with Pfingo.

Quoting Vanessa Tan, “The more we integrate social media into our marketing and publicity campaigns, the more ‘normalized’ it becomes. This will encourage more Government agencies to step forward and embrace it too. However the agency must realize that with social media, they are no longer fully in control of what happens, and they must be prepared to have a meaningful conversation with the public. This in itself can be a major stumbling block and IMHO only the more progressive agencies have pressed forward so far.”

The local foray into Web 2.0 has only just started. The success of Web 2.0 in Singapore is not just based on how many successful startups in the industry there are, but also the successful usage of the Web as a medium, by consumers and also by businesses. As we travel down the road in the 21st century, we see Web 2.0 taking over our lives. Be it social networking sites that we frequent for leisure and for business, or the numerous blog posts, the Wikipedia contributions or the Youtube video submissions, we can see it being an important part of our present lives and also in the future.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for quoting me 🙂 Cheers.


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