The Web 2.0 meme has reared its head again, this time spurred by Peter Rip's post in which he described the second generation Web as a wave that is "now rather long in the tooth, as cycles go." He cites declines in Alexa reach number metrics for GigaOm, TechCrunch and Technorati as evidence that Web 2.0 is dissipating. The reach numbers don't reflect a cooling off of interest in everything Web 2.0, as much as it has become more mainstream and overused as a descriptor. Another reflection of the relative maturity of what is inherent immature will be the growing size of the Web 2.0 deadpool this year.
Larry Dignan chimes in with the observation that Web 2.0 is overrun with copycat apps and services.
For me, part of the innovation equation is building something that you can defend as a business. A new product design, a new chip or a new method of doing something. In some respects, Web 2.0 lacks anything you can defend because it's easily mimicked. How many Digg clones do we have these days?
Monday night I attended an event on the Sun campus in Menlo Park where Mike Arrington and Tim Bray discussed Web 2.0. Tim, who is one of the authors of the XML spec and director of Web technologies at Sun, referred to Web 2.0 as a contributor's culture (he doesn't like the term "user generated content"). "I live in the developer world, and I have to say the term [Web 2.0] is fairly severely devalued," Tim said.
Mike, the founder and editor of TechCrunch, did a bit of a role reversal with the Tim, speaking in more technical terms about Web 2.0. "It's about breaking down the walls of a Web site and thinking of it as an operating system.," Mike said. He cited Google maps mashups as an example of the operating system idea. "People creating best in class services and people building on them is what excites me the most," he continued, but noted that plugging a Web service into a Web site is not easy for the non-programmer. In effect, Web 2.0 is still more of a .0x phenomenon.
Tim said he wasn't overly impressed by the notion of mashups, Google Maps + X or the latest craze, Twittermap. "You gaze at it dumbfounded for a while, but you won't go back," Tim said. "There is no stable business infrastructure." Regarding the Web OS, Tim said, "Something totally new is in the air when a developer can get a completed Web 2.0 app in weeks at a low cost; something has changed, but we are not near having a Web OS." He added that he wouldn't even know how to define what is a Web OS or predict the future. " I can't see out more than 60 days at time. It's a soft, malleable place--that's what makes it so wonderful."
Bottom line, the use of the term "Web 2.0" to describe the present-day Web is a subject of debate, but it's not worthy of such attention. It's value is nearing zero just like the cost of software for consumers, so move on to the next big thing, making the network far more intelligent. Just get on with the work of building of what has come before and inventing the future.
See also: Steve Gillmor's astute impressions of the Arrington/Bray mashup