Pointer to article: http://edgeperspectives.typepad.com/edge_perspectives/2005/09/what_is_web_20.html
John Hagel provides the right balance of openness and skepticism in his commentary on this topic. One quibble I have is with his use of the term “meme.” I can’t stand this neologism and its faux-analogy with genetics. Whatever happened to “trend,” “pattern,” “theme,” or “motif”? Hmmm…if we can agree to define “meme” as a portmanteau of “motif” and “theme,” then I’ll graciously come down from my high horse and agree to accept it into my personal lexicon. Or at least make my peace with it.
But more substantively, Hagel provides the right balance between induction and deduction in his approach to “Web 2.0” as a trendy (meme-y?) topic.
On the inductive side of the fulcrum, he calls attention to the O’Reilly Media folks who coined the term and primarily discuss it in the form of a tired/wired hip list of then vs. now Web hot topics: “There’s no denying that the meme has taken hold, having been developed only about 18 months ago by Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media. Unfortunately, as the Wikipedia entry on Web 2.0 reports, Dale never really defined the term, using examples rather than a definition to communicate its meaning: "DoubleClick was Web 1.0; Google AdSense is Web 2.0. Ofoto is Web 1.0; Flickr is Web 2.0."
On the deductive side, Hagel attempts to divine the underlying trends that distinguish “then” (the Internet/Web in the 90s) from now. He defines “Web 2.0” as “an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.” He deconstructs his definition into its constituent concepts and defines each in context of emerging patterns/trends/etc. All of it a good high-level discussion.
My problem with all of this is that “Web 2.0” is so wrongheaded a term that it undermines his and others’ discussions of what’s really going on.
First off, the “Web” is just one of many Internet environments that’s evolving, and it’s distracting to lump blogs/RSS/syndication, SIP/VoIP/IMS, mobility/WiFi, SOA/XML/SOAP/Web services, messaging/collaboration, identity federation, and other important trends under this umbrella. Tim Berners-Lee was an important figure in the evolution of all this, but it doesn’t all spring from or bear the DNA of this particular Dr. Zeus.
Secondly, the “2.0” faux-version-number is ridiculous. The distributed Internet business/tech/cultural environment is evolving continuously on so many levels that it’s absurd to conceptualize it in terms of versions, or to even hint that versions are relevant anymore in this versionless new world.
Rather than fixate on the dumb “Web 2.0” term, let’s revisit Hagel’s definition of the underlying phenomenon: “an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.” This is a good and valid statement of the dominant trend, though not quite as tight as it could be.
I suggest “a continuously self-reinventing environment.” That gets to the heart of Hagel’s definition, syncs with the genesis of the Internet as a research network continuously reinventing itself, and encompasses what others are trying to suggest with their diverse then-vs-now “Web 2.0” hiplists. In fact, the hiplists themselves are the fundamental reality: when we’re all reinventing everything in our environment all the time, the most effective way of getting your head around it all is to do period “round-ups” of then-vs-now tired/wired lists. These lists mark off important milestones in the everchanging environmental landscape.
Just as critics will soon be publishing their year-end 2005 tired/wired lists for movies, TV, lifestyles, etc.
Just as cultural commentators have long used decades as a convenient grouping mechanism (50s vs 60s vs 70s vs 80s etc) to chart long-running trends.
And just as Western society has long grouped historical developments into “modern” vs. “ancient” or “traditional.” Modern this and that. It’s all just a way of declaring what you consider hip with the contemporary world and want to see serve as a basis for future development. Recognizing of course that the world is fundamentally versionless.
Walk down any street in any city and see the mix of old and new architectural styles. The modern world doesn’t bulldoze the past out of the development equation.
There are no virgin or versioned worlds. There’s no World 2.0--just World 2005, followed by World 2006 and so on and so forth.