Then my bubble burst somewhat. As it turns out, the photo album service provider in question is owned by the same company who provide the blogging service. A beautiful emerging theory ruined by an ugly little fact.
The ownership relationship makes seamless integration less magical. Is this example just an unfortunate special case for my shattered thesis? Surely similar integrations are popping up across companies that are not part of the same commercial entity? It is difficult to say if it is a special case because alliances between pure e-businesses is still a very new phenomenon.
The challenges to seamless integration across commercial boundaries are very significant indeed. Perhaps the most significant of all is the exchange of identity information of customers from one alliance member to another alliance member.
If the integration problems are cracked, especially the identity-related problems, perhaps we will see an explosion in the amount of electronic alliances being formed. Perhaps we will see wonderful win-win situations emerging left, right and center. That would indeed be happy days.
However, my brain hurts thinking through all the integration problems. The challenges are very real. Perhaps so real that it will be easier for businesses to drum up new business by simply buying the complimentary businesses. When you own all the end-points, many gnarly integration problems - especially concerning identity management - can go away.
If this proves to be the pragmatic route then I think it follows that e-business on the Web will, over time, coalesce into a small number of very large, diversified e-conglomerates. A business elite who create happy customers by leveraging deep and seamless integration of systems of which they have end-to-end ownership. An era of Big E may result that could make Big Oil and Big Pharma look like hotdog stands.