For those of us who lived through the Dot Com boom and crash of 1997-2001 it's amusing to watch history repeating itself (minus the crash, so far).
Dot Com Two, a sudden explosion of venture and or seed capital-funded websites and concepts happening in our major cities, owes itself to mobile and Facebook, two factors that didn't exist fifteen years ago. These developments offer the promise of funneling consumers to advertisers in a way the old, diffuse, "democratic" web, with less certain means of tabulating "eyeballs," could never do. Thus investors have renewed confidence to give it a go.
Otherwise the Dot Com Two sites, with their apps that "harness the power of mobile and the social graph" for planning of group foosball sessions or identifying all the car washes within your driving range (and allowing you to pay in advance for the scrub) inspire deja vu with their incomprehensible design, triviality, and/or lack of a clear stated purpose.
A common thread of these sites is hunting for an "about" page telling you what the site is for and who's behind it. You are plunged into colorful fields of Flash or CSS with a profusion of flow diagrams, talking head testimonials, and vague business-speak terminology.
Something like Craigslist or eBay takes off because it fills a need. Many of the new apps seem more about creating niches and hoping a need materializes around them.
Dot Com One was generally a happier time, except for worries of Y2K and watching the media go after Clinton. Dot Com Two is happening at the same moment as austerity and widespread social misery post-financial-crash. To paper or pixel over the disparity between VC-funded haves and non-VC-funded have nots, you have Silicon Valley types claiming that "apps" will take the place of basic governmental functions to ameliorate social conditions. Naivete the first time around is now just cynicism.
Update: Was avoiding specifics for a few reasons but here is a startups guide, a NYC startups guide (if they get the page working I'll read it in Firefox eventually), and a post about NYC startup fun.
The New Museum is catching the fever with some kind of incubator cube farm for artistes in the last "rambling, rough-hewn" space remaining on Bowery.
Udpate 2: And the line about apps taking the place of governmental functions is from a craptastic New Yorker story about Bay Area whizkids (via saranrapjs)