Consolidation Is Coming

The trends are everywhere. Facebook just bought FriendFeed. Google Voice is currently in beta, and Google is launching Wave later this year. What do all these tools help to do? They consolidate multiple streams of information into one thread. With FriendFeed, you can now see all of your friends’ status updates from Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr on one web page. Google Voice combines all your phone numbers into one, and puts your texts and voicemail in one place. Google Wave renders all online conversation as one organic stream of consciousness. Blogs, IMs, and email all appear in real time in the same conversation. In fact, I’m sure Google would love to have their suite of online tools be the one-stop-shop for all web users everywhere.

Until recently, the very successful Web2.0 apps seemed to do just the opposite. They restricted their features to one task and did it exceptionally well. Basecamp tackled project management. Tick focused on timekeeping and budgets. Mint handles personal finance, although you could make the case that it packages all your financial data into one location. Google Maps is strictly a map. Their exposed APIs allowed them all to be extended and have their functionality broadened, but at their core, these are simple single-task tools. Web applications that attempted to do it all collapsed because of their bloated and unfocused nature.

Now that the web-as-application has matured from its infancy, users are looking to spend less time on multiple sites and get more done in one place. I expect this is just the beginning of the consolidation years, and developers looking for the next area of growth should start thinking about how to streamline multiple online tasks/data/communication into simpler, organized, easy-to-use, and consolidated applications.