All of a sudden, the term Web 2.0 is getting thrown under the bus like a certain governor from Alaska who is being blamed for the entire GOP meltdown. Michael Arrington’s post, An Ignoble But Much Needed End To Web 2.0, started the pigpile a couple of weeks ago. Since then, many Web 2.0 start-ups have had layoffs and this has fueled the fury over Web 2.0′s imminent death.
Here’s the problem, Web 2.0 as defined by Tim O’Reilly, the man who coined the phrase, is not going any place and will be around for a long, long time. Let’s look at the defining attributes that O’Reilly identifies in his September 2, 2005 post, What Is Web 2.0:
- The Web as a platform
- User-generated content
- Technologies empowering users, enabling participation & aggregating wisdom
- Services, not packaged software
- Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data that gets richer the more people use it
- Trusting users as co-developers
- Harnessing collective intelligence
- Software above the level of a single device
- Lightweight user interfaces, development & business models
To say Web 2.0 is going away is to say that all the above bullets are going away. Homey don’t think so! I highly doubt we are going back to a world of installing software on a PC and having that PC be the only device where we can run anything. That would be one bad acid trip. The Web 2.0 genie as defined by O’Reilly is out of the bottle and there is no putting her back in.
The problem is Web 2.0 is suffering an identity crisis. The term Web 2.0 morphed away from O’Reilly’s original definition and is now solely and iconically defined and associated with the start-up companies that play in the Web 2.0 space. As such, people who see these companies as going away are making the incorrect assumption that “Web 2.0″ is going away. Nothing could be further from the truth. Last I checked, Facebook and its 100+ million membership isn’t going anywhere except up. And oh by the way, TechCrunch is a Web 2.0 company. I don’t think they are going away either.
So where does it go from here? I think what is going to happen is a new term will be created to better label the bullets/attributes cited above and probably include a few new attributes. This will allow for ”Today’s Web” to dissociate itself from the struggling Web 2.0 startups. It’s a classic branding problem. What will that term be? Who the eff knows. I am very interested to see if O’Reilly renames his conferences from Web 2.0 Expo and Web 2.0 Summit to something else. That will be very telling.
How do you define Web 2.0?