Intranet and internal communication in the 'web 2.0' world

Discussing some potential new business this morning, it was noted that I’m lacking in direct experience of ‘intranet’ (as opposed to ‘internet’) management. But I really don’t think it’s a valid or fair distinction to draw these days – and the case for its separation grows ever weaker.
People use intranet sites in exactly the same conditions as they use the public web. Sat in the same seat, looking at the same screen, running the same browser. They are probably forced to look at the intranet homepage when they boot up; but I suspect they’re looking at Google or the BBC within a matter of seconds.
Their expectations of intranet transactions are shaped by their experience of Amazon, eBay, etc. Like it or not, intranet managers, you are on the same playing field.
But, I’d suggest, the playing field isn’t actually level – it slopes in the intranet’s favour. Intranet has an audience which is compelled to read the content, and use the facilities. In a ‘web 2.0’ world where projects succeed or fail on their ability to build communities, intranet managers have so much community they don’t know what to do with it.
Large corporations stand to be the great beneficiaries of the ‘participative web’. All that knowledge sloshing around, and finally something to do with it. Imagine the potential of a company image library that looked and worked like Flickr; or a social bookmarking library that mimics And even better, an intranet homepage like the many ‘start page’ rivals – Netvibes, Protopage,, and all that. All the knowledge you need, being fed to you automatically via RSS feeds.
The tools are there; the community is there. All it needs is an intranet manager with enough imagination.
In the meantime, the (outside) web teams plough their own furrow 2.0… with blogs, podcasts and all that, aimed at better engaging with clients, partners and suppliers. Such channels are intended to extend the insider’s view to the outside world. All too often, they prove to be the best information source for others inside the organisation too. (Example: I learned more from Robert Scoble’s blog than I ever did from MSWeb, the intranet at Microsoft.)
The outside comes in, and the inside is heading out. The dividing line between internal and external just isn’t there any more; and if you insist on maintaining it, I think you’re mistaken.