It has almost become a default position that we will be signing up for a new web application or interesting looking web service nearly every week . While, it may have been more often during the Web 2.0 heyday of 2008, it has settled into a steady stream of new project management tools, screencasting software, and promising projects that we are sent by email, twitter and facebook. What I would like to explore is what the assumptions are, every time we decide to give in to the pressure to “sign up now.”
The first assumption I make is that I will have to give up some piece of personal information. I will either have to divulge my e-mail address, my Google username (for open ID), or my real name. While I could obscure all of these things so that they have very little to do with me, there really isn’t much reason to do so, especially if I am trying to create a web presence of any kind. I assume that this information will not be used against me (shared with third parties, sold, spammed, etc.) I assume that this information will get me closer to the intended benefit that the service is claiming to provide.
I happen to believe in having a single identity across all web services, but at this moment, it really isn’t an assumption that I will be able to take my information from one place to another. It would be great if that were the case, but I really don’t think that data portability is high on the priority list for many companies.
Another assumption I do make is that any new web service will have some kind of “share” button. What I mean is that any new service that I sign up for must have the ability to share what is going on in there with my social networks. While this isn’t really a type of data portability, it is a head nod in that direction. I assume this much because of the following statement: “If you want your product in the main stream, you had better let me put your product into MY stream.” These kinds of things matter because we do not need another Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Services may have niches, but any serious contender should have a way of working with those big three.
My last assumption for anything that I sign up for is that media or mobile will be involved. I honestly cannot think of a single service that I have signed up for in the last year that hasn’t been a part of sharing media or talking to mobile devices in one way or another. If one of those two requirements are not satisfied, I I can pretty much guarantee that my e-mail address will never make it to the Sign Up page. Visual and mobile representation are so important to the ways in which that I function, that they have become assumptions for what I am willing to put effort into.
So, why do these assumptions matter? Well, if I am assuming these things, I am setting myself up for a stagnation. Because no one has surprised me with an original take on these three assumptions as to challenge them at their core, I am free to keep blogging and tweeting away, oblivious. The fact that these assumptions exist for me is both good and bad. It means that we are starting to depend upon the online services to be mostly uniform, but it also means that I may miss something revolutionary because it doesn’t fit these assumptions.
At the end of the day, perhaps the old truism about assumptions still holds for the Web 2.0 world.