I was thinking today about how so much of the Web 2.0 hype centers around baking customer communities right into the product. Given that, why did all the virtual community services and consulting firms implode as the bubble burst on the dot com boom? Those companies were some of the first to go.
My guess is that most of those services were positioned as add-ons to existing endeavors. Sell widgets? You need a widget discussion board on your web site! Peripheral stuff was the first to be cut as budgets tightened and these slapped on communities were easy targets for cutting.
What seems different now is that it is about building customer/member participation right in from the start and making the communities that form an integral part of the whole system. With that approach, I think online community should be a more enduring feature even if the web takes another hit.
(Be sure to check out Ben Martin’s comments about forming vs. finding communities. I think he is right on the mark.)