Web 2.0 allows Sun to shine with culture of openness

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Don't think of Web 2.0 as a technology or an application, at least not at Sun Microsystems. For Sun executives and staff, Web 2.0 is a way of life.

"There are fundamental technologies that have opened Web 2.0's capabilities. But to me it's more of a lifestyle. That's a major shift here in terms of openness and transparency and the way people communicate. That doesn't happen just because of technology. That happens because people are shifting their traditional ways of thinking and disseminating information," said Curtis Sasaki, VP-Sun Web Properties.

Web 2.0 is reflected in several initiatives at Sun, including Sasaki's work to add unfiltered customer satisfaction ratings and comments directly to the product pages that describe Sun's server hardware and software offerings. But the initiative that gains some of the greatest market exposure for Sun is driven by Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, not just because he writes a blog—Jonathan's Blog—about once a week. Schwartz, as Sasaki notes, advocates the Web 2.0 lifestyle.

"He's very much supportive of being totally transparent, being very open and engaging more people. He himself lives that lifestyle already. He's out there reading other people's blogs all the time, he comments on blogs, he reads every single comment on his blog. So he already understands the importance of it," Sasaki said. "So the good news for the rest of the company is that we don't have to sell our high-level executives on doing these kinds of things."

Sasaki oversees and several other Sun sites, and reports that traffic exceeds 1 million unique visitors per day—20% of them new visitors. "That, to me, is a pretty good sign that we are beginning to address nontraditional Sun customers," he said.

Too early to know benefits

In general, it is too early to know what business benefits Web 2.0 is bringing to the company, Sasaki said. However, he is pleased with how managers within the organization have accepted the product feedback initiative.

A little more than a year ago, Sun added a product rating capability to its product pages, and followed that move with the addition of blogging capabilities. The ratings and blog posts aren't screened to weed out criticism—only obscenities or other objectionable content. Recently, Sun struck a partnership with aggregator to import blog posts from other non-Sun sources into the same product pages.

"The challenge we had was how to get the rest of the company to buy into this, because if you are a product manager the last thing you want to see is something negative about your product. We had to do a lot of convincing and had to get some trials going. The trials went pretty well, so we were able to use the success of those to expand them pretty widely," Sasaki said.

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