ARTICLE - Asking the Crowd to Spread the News

By David Pogue
Published May 10, 2007

"Web 2.0," as I understand it, refers to Web sites whose contents are supplied by us, the people. What would Flickr be without its photos, YouTube without the videos, Craigslist without the ads, eBay without the auctions, TripAdvisor without people's travel reviews? These mega-sites would be only empty white pages if the audience didn't supply their materials.

It seems to me, though, that we haven't even scratched the surface. We've picked the low-hanging fruit, but there are dozens or hundreds of huge Web 2.0 ideas that have yet to materialize. . . .

. . . Finally, every time I see a cavernous S.U.V. go by, capable of seating eight but containing only the driver, I can't help think: "What a waste." If only people's driving habits could be coordinated, we'd all save billions - of gallons, of dollars, of hours, of pollution. It's all about sharing the information - a perfect task for a Web 2.0 site.

There is, in fact, some progress on this front. I wrote recently about GoLoco.com, an upcoming carpool initiative in which passengers will actually pay the driver a little something for his trouble. And I was just reading about a new service in England called Texi: you send a text message to a special address; computers field the requests and compare locations; and a taxi comes by to pick you up and other people who share your itinerary. All the passengers save money, and the cab company makes money.

This system works especially well when there are lots of people waiting in the same place: a pub or club on Saturday night, a football game that's just ended, and so on. But I can't help thinking that it's just the tiniest start; think how many billions of rides that are unnecessarily duplicated, only because people don't have information about other people's intentions.

Now, there may already be Web sites like these, but few people know about them, so they're not doing the job. A Web 2.0 site doesn't really take off until the public anoints a de facto "main" one in a category, at which it becomes self-fulfilling. For example, there are other auction sites, but most people still go to eBay; there are other video sites, but YouTube is the big kahuna. And how that anointing happens is a mysterious thing, having to do with buzz, timing and software design.

But the bottom line is that Web 2.0 is still in its infancy. There are so many other ways that we could save time, money, hassle - if only we had the right information from other people like us.

Get started, entrepreneurs. You're living in an exciting time.

Here are some other carpool sites that Chris found:
CarSharing net

No comments: