Web 2.0? It doesn't exist

No, I am not turning into a "flat-earther." The world is pear-shaped, Pluto is not a planet, and global warming exists.
Written by Russell Shaw, Contributor

No, I am not turning into a "flat-earther." The world is pear-shaped, Pluto is not a planet, and global warming exists.

But Web 2.0 does not exist.

The advances being touted under the general umbrella of Web 2.0- advances written about with considerable skill on our own Web 2.0 Explorer Blog by our own Richard MacManus - well, of course those advances exist. RSS, Social Media, content aggregation, podcasting, you have it.

My problem is not with the characterization of the components of Web 2.0. It is the implication inherent in the very livery, "Web 2.0," that I just don't get.

How did we get here? First of all, Web 2.0 is a marketing slogan. For perspective on this, let us go to what some would call a creature of Web 2.0 itself- Wikipedia. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about this Web 2.0:

The term "Web 2.0" refers to what some people see as a second phase of development of the World Wide Web, including its architecture and its applications. It was coined by Dale Dougherty during a meeting between O'Reilly and Associates (a computer book publisher) and MediaLive International (an event organizer) as a marketable term for a series of conferences. 

There you have it. A slogan. Most marketers have them.

The problem I have with this "Web 2.0" slogan is that it is a contrivance, meant to imply a unified movement or wave toward a better Web. Just the very numbering of the thing brings out my moo-goo detector: 1.0 sounds like a beginning. 2.0 (as opposed to a tenth-decimal, such as 1.7 or a 2.4 implies - by its very roundness, a coordinated, standards-based, like-minded rebirth, reconstruction, renaissance, resurrection, whatever you want to call it. 2.0 is the ideal number for such an impression: it implies a concerted, noble effort at refreshing an inspired, but now aging, creation. even "3.0" implies, well, we didn't get it right the first time, 2.0 was transitory and is getting long in the tooth, so here we are transitioning to 3.0. But 2.0 sounds good.

Well, Web 2.0 is bunk. Not that the elements of this rebirth aren't there. I write about some of them, and Richard has them nailed. It's just that they cannot be classified under a common umbrella. They are forward lurches of various standards and technologies, some compatible, some not. Some revolutionary, some evolutionary, some impractical. Some are collaborative, others are highly competitive with each other. 

Now, I'll point out what the Wikipedia article describes Web 2.0 consists of. The article attributes the elements of Web 2.0 as "one or more of the following:"

A transition of websites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming a computing platform serving web applications to end users;
A social phenomenon referring to an approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and "the market as a conversation";
A more organized and categorized content, with a more developed deeplinking web architecture.;

A shift in economic value of the web, potentially equalling that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s.

Wow, that's one broad umbrella. My problem with all this is not that the changes described in each of these points aren't real, it is just that many of these changes are incremental, and only related to each other in the broadest, most general sense.

That is, until some clever marketers wanting to charge a fortune for you to attend their conferences dreamed this one up. Dreamed Web 2.0 up as a nice-off-the-tongue, easily memorable descriptor for come to our conferences, learn about what's hot.

Or, as Wikipedia puts it: 

Skeptics argue that the term is essentially meaningless, or that it means whatever its proponents decide that they want it to mean in order to convince the media and investors that they are creating something fundamentally new, rather than continuing to develop and use well-established technologies.

Well-put, Wikipedia! Your thoughts? 




Editorial standards