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Web 2.0 Looks Like Open Source To Me

Small businesses are flocking to services like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn and Skype and are testing Web 2.0 sites like Near-Time. Why? They just want to get their jobs done quickly -- and without investing in a ton of physical infrastructure to do it.

In the past two weeks, my telephone service and my cable modem have punked out on me at home. It took more than a week to get the phone back, but I feel more anxious about regaining my broadband Internet. I am way more disadvantaged because of this ongoing service lapse, not only because I have to do things like submit this column in a New York hotel lobby using wireless, but because I have several collaborative projects going on for which I am suddenly out of the loop.

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HEATHER CLANCY
Can be reached via e-mail at hclancy@cmp.com.

There are certainly many small businesses that exist mainly via pen and paper, but I'd wager to say there are many more created each day for which a service interruption would be way more troublesome. That's because more and more of them are establishing their very identities on the Internet. While tweens and teens are defining the way the Net will be used five years from now, small businesses, which don't have a lot of technology baggage to lug around, are more than happy to take their lead.

They are flocking to services like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn and Skype. They are testing Web 2.0 sites like Near-Time, a hosted Wiki facility, to help share information. They just want to get their jobs done quickly, and they don't want to invest in a ton of physical infrastructure to do it other than, perhaps, a notebook computer.

This tendency to be fed up with the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for server and software applications has created an unprecedented willingness among small businesses to ignore barrage-style IT messaging and listen to trusted advisers that think like them.

I really hate the term Web 2.0 because someday soon we will have Web 3.0 and we'll have to recalibrate our vocabulary. But there are two underlying reasons small businesses are gravitating toward these services.

First, they are priced appropriately and flexibly. Many IT solution providers have told me one core reason customers are willing to talk about Software-as-a-Service is that they are sick of 10-page license agreements.

The second, perhaps more profound, reason is these new-style Web services encourage participation and dialogue—essentially, they subscribe to the philosophies of the open-source community. I am always astonished by how much solution providers, as an example of the entrepreneurial mind-set, are willing to share. Small businesses are, in essence, the largest open-source community of them all.

I will be completely honest and say I have no idea what this all means for the traditional technology solution provider, other than the fact that tradition might not matter in the future. Your role will be so much less about this product or that one and more about how you assemble the right tools for clients to get their jobs done. More and more, those tools will exist somewhere out there on the Web, where they will be both completely within your control and completely out of your control. How you respond will define you.

What Web 2.0 tools are you using? CRN Editor Heather Clancy welcomes letters at hclancy@cmp.com.

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