The next generation World Wide Web will look wildly different from the current incarnation and today's leaders will not necessarily rule the market in the future, according to analysts speaking at IDC's Internet conference this week.
Companies obsessed with perfecting early versions of their Web sites by making them more secure or easier to navigate are missing the point and may miss the opportunities presented by version 2.0 of the Internet economy, warned Frank Gens, IDC senior vice president.
"Having first movers advantage in version 1.0 may not yield leadership in 2.0," he warned the audience attending IDC's Internet Executive Forum in San Franscisco this week.
IDC defines version 2.0 as companies offering ecommerce capabilities on their sites rather than just publishing catalogues. It believes the next generation Internet will be accessed by a new group of users that are older, less affluent and may not be as highly educated as today's user community, and so sites will need to become easier to use and have content that can be downloaded onto a variety of devices.
According to IDC projections the global Internet population will balloon to 500 million by 2003 and reach one billion by 2006. European users will represent almost half (44 per cent) of the 2003 figure, from 11 per cent in 1998. But the seemingly large numbers need to be put into perspective because only 14 countries will have full access to the Web by 2003.
Despite this, ecommerce is set to scale to greater heights as $1.3 trillion worth of goods and services will be traded on the Web by 2003, compared to just $8.7 million in 2002. This means companies will have to pump greater levels of investment into their ecommerce strategies rather than just add a .com after their names, continued Gens.
"The top executives [of ecommerce operations] must be business managers - this is about business not technology," said Gens, adding that companies must be willing to pay hefty remuneration packages to attract etalent.
IDC calculates that it is 22 per cent more expensive to retain skilled ecommerce staff than in any other area of business and that maintaining ecommerce sites can cost between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of the initial startup investment.
Although IDC is heralding the start of version 2.0 of the Internet economy it seems many companies still view their sites as test beds. In a poll of IDC's top client companies, a third did not know whether their ecommerce operations were profitable, but two thirds of them believed their sites would make money by 2001.
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