What's in a (tech) name?

How important are word symbols in tech?

Last week's Web 2.0 trademark tussle is covered, today, by the New York Times. Nicholas Carr also weighs in once more, pondering the significance of word symbols this time, however, rather than on the legal issues of the Web 2.0 trademark controversy:

There are various ways to look at the affair, I guess, but what particularly intrigued me today wasn't its legal or ethical intricacies but just the way it revealed how we can invest a thing, particularly a purely symbolic thing, with very different meanings depending on the circumstances. The term "Web 2.0," if you remember, only started being bandied about in earnest about a year ago, during the runup to the second edition of the annual Web 2.0 Conference. At the time, the blogosphere treated the phrase with general disdain. It was, people said, laughably vague, seeming to mean at once everything and nothing, and its implication that a new stage in the Web's history had suddenly begun wasn't even accurate. "Web 2.0" was routinely dismissed as being "just a marketing slogan for a conference." Some bloggers forswore the term altogether.

But at the end of last week, when it was confirmed that "Web 2.0" was indeed a marketing slogan for a conference, and a trademarked one at that, everything changed. "Web 2.0" was suddenly a deeply meaningful, deeply valuable term. Bloggers rose up en masse to proclaim "Web 2.0" a cherished piece of public property, like a little, semantic Statue of Liberty. It had become a kind of totem. What had once been empty of meaning was now filled with meaning.

This week also marked the arrival of a new Web 2.0 word symbol, "crowdsourcing,", or the "birth of a meme", as Wired editor Jeff Howe described the publication of his piece in Wired, "The Rise of Crowdsourcing."

How important are word symbols in tech? Join the conversation: "Talk Back" below to share your thoughts.

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