It is still way to early to be calling any of my 2009 predictions a dismal failure, but reading this good article from Business Week titled Learning, and profiting, from online friendships got me back into thinking about how I had given a 20% probability to one airline striking gold with what I then referred to as a Web 2.0 killer app; so far I’m seeing or hearing precious little to indicate this prediction might come true. Bluenity got some praise from me earlier in the year, but I’m sad to say was back on the site recently and I couldn’t see anything new or improved from four months ago. Four months is a lifetime for a new social networking site trying to get some traction. 

Regarding the article above, I actually linked to another source of the same Business Week article. Their own website was so annoying with video and audio starting automatically and the story was spread over multiple pages. Does the web really have to be that annoying?

But getting back on topic, when I first started thinking about writing this post, I heard social networking guru Jeremiah Owyang say:

“there hasn’t been a serious e-commerce company deployed on top of a social network yet; we’re still at the very early days”

He was referring to his recently released Forrester research paper on the five eras of the future of the social web, and I think everyone would agree with him that we are still in the very early days of all of this. I liked his quote so much I also used it in a recent presentation.

The killer Web 2.0 app, AKA (in my opinion) a travel social network owned by an airline is one of my pet themes on this blog. Don’t mistake this as conflicting with my other 2009 prediction of defriending – social media and social networks will continue to grow, but the way to make money out of it is not as simple as who has the most friends – to think that is to find yourself stuck with a 2005 mentality; the world has moved on. Don’t get so caught up in user generated content that you overlook why an airline is the natural owner of this space – data, and airline’s have tons of data. Apart from the Business Week article, the other reason I was thinking about all of this recently was because of a meeting with an airline executive where this topic was discussed. His view was very different to mine, as he felt that in order to be successful it had to be much bigger than just travel, whereas my opinion is that a decent sized airline has most of the tools neccessary to win this game virtually single handedly.  The quote below looks like WAYN might be thinking in a similar fashion to the airline executive mentioned above, but I’ll stick to my guns on this one:

“It realised that its members were not travelling as often as they went to the pub, so its latest incarnation is a travel and lifestyle social networking community.”

The one thing I did respect very much about his airline was that they were putting serious effort into understanding this space, and I was told it had buy-in at CEO level. This part is absolutely crucial, as there is no way the e-commerce guys on their own, no matter how smart they are, have even half a chance of cracking this without support from various other parts of the business. A prize this big has big risks attached, and takes an equally big committment.

For low risk plays, let the Bow Tie be your Bible, but if you appetite extends to owning “inspiration” and the end to end control that this implies, then you are probably the most fascinating airline in the world to me at the moment.