Still, having a "pt 1" implies "pt 2" is coming, so I felt obligated to finish what I started - and I won't make it through this post either without wading waist deep into buzzword land :)
When last we spoke, I left a question on the table: Why did Search beat Directories? Its not a hard question, and more than a few commenters answered it more succintly (and better) than I probably would have. The short version is "Search is better", with assorted rationalizations. But the answer as to SPECIFICALLY why its better is better captured and explained, I feel, by a concept called "The Long Tail".
I won't dive into too much of the definition and details (feel free to read up) of it, but the core thought is this: The Internet (as always, IMHO) is fundamentally about altering the dynamics (economic and otherwise) of the 80-20 rule - what business folks call the rule of the "vital few and trivial many" (AKA the Pareto principle). Search won precisely because it doesn't pay off Pareto's principle.
Let's me explain that further.
The root of 20th century industrial economies of scale (particularly around distribution principles) is really captured in the idea that if, for example, you stock in your store the top 1,000 CDs, or top 5,000 books (or whatever the right numbers are here), you'll be poised to capture most, if not all, of the possible revenue/value. Adding more inventory starts to have diminishing return beyond that 20% of possible music or books, because that's what 80% of the people are looking for when they're out and about.
To put it more practically, 20% of your effort yields 80% of your results (and vice versa).
Sounds intuitive and head-noddy enough ([nodding] "why, yes, I knew that..."), but from the beginning, the promise of the Web has always been about shattering the Pareto principle.
Amazon, e-Bay, and yes, Google, have realized this promise for their core services. You can buy books you can't find anywhere else conveniently; you can purchase cheap (slightly used) merchandise you couldn't obtain anywhere else; And, you can locate websites and specific pages by Searching that you'd never figure out how to navigate to in a Directory, if it was even classified - heck, Searching is usually better than using a sitemap/directory on the website itself, even when you KNOW the right website.
And these companies derive SUBSTANTIAL benefit in doing so: you keep coming back as a customer.
If all they did was make available what you could get locally (physically or otherwise), it wouldn't really work - though they have to do that, too: an important point we'll touch on later. This "nichification" that the Web allows is real: turns out that you have to get to about 50% of the search terms to capture 80% of the volume - this is what they call "the Long Tail of Search".
So, when you hear terms like "Web as Platform" and "Participatory Web", the value to consumers is the same one that we see realized in the Long Tail of Search. Web 2.0 is about creating consumptable data services and applications that enable the Long Tail for Applications and Tools, in the same way that Amazon, E-Bay, and Google did for books, goods, and website navigation.
Said differently, Web 2.0 "MashUps" are about enabling "nichification" for applications: 5,000 micro-apps that serve 10,000 people, rather than one that serves a million.
Of course, if its really going to work, there's got to be more to it than just "[INSERT APP TYPE] + Google maps" and a fancy AJAX demo - we'll pick up this thread in my next post on Web 2.0 and connect it to more concrete business and consumer opportunities.
As I closed with in the final part of of my GPL 3 discussion, there are some dollars and sense issues (pun intended) that we should not overlook.
[Concluded in Part 3...]