Is Web 2.0 all that innovative?

Peter Rip has heard the last call for what technology history buffs may refer to as the "Web 2.0 period.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Peter Rip has heard the last call for what technology history buffs may refer to as the "Web 2.0 period."

It came in the form of an adjacent conversation when Rip was having lunch. In a nutshell a young 30 something was explaining to a 50 something the generic Web 2.0 company template. It's the equivalent of the cab driver giving you stock tips. And besides if everyone and their mother knows the Web 2.0 company template chances are pretty good it's played out.

But that's not the biggest takeaway from Rip's missive. Rip refers to innovation and how he's just not seeing much from the Web 2.0 crowd. "The consumer web landscape seems to be populated with the same bodies with different skins," says Rip.

In many respects Rip is dead on. The broader question may be whether many of the things that characterize Web 2.0--notably mashups, communities and setting up neat little feeds--are truly innovative. Perhaps the first use of Web 2.0 tools are innovative, but after that the copycats arrive. Why? Because Web 2.0 allows you to plug and play functionality. That's an innovative approach to things, but doesn't necessarily result in anything innovative per se.

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?

That's not to say that Web 2.0 won't leave its mark. But the real innovation may come from the corporate space as enterprises use Web 2.0 tools in their applications. That's something we call Enterprise 2.0. Salesforce.com's AppSpace is a start, but the bigger picture is going to be using the Web as a platform to do real business tasks.

Om Malik notes that perhaps we should just drop the Web 2.0 spiel and go with that old fashioned term innovation to describe the latest tech developments. I second that motion. And I bet if we used the definition of innovation to gauge Web 2.0 developments many of them wouldn't make the cut.

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