The Web 2.o Naming Backlash

Lots of chatter around the term “Web 2.0″ lately. Richard has a good summary here: Tone Down the Cheerleading. I wrote a quick bit last week: Web 2.0 as the Era of Interfaces. There are many others: The Politics of Web 2.0, Not 2.0? are just two. Thankfully, the issue is not that there is […]

Lots of chatter around the term “Web 2.0″ lately. Richard has a good summary here: Tone Down the Cheerleading. I wrote a quick bit last week: Web 2.0 as the Era of Interfaces. There are many others: The Politics of Web 2.0, Not 2.0? are just two.

Thankfully, the issue is not that there is disagreement about the radical change we’re seeing, to the Web as Platform, made up of many kinds of microcontent that we mix and match as we need. Indeed, this shouldn’t be controversial because it’s plainly happening. The question is, is it a big enough change to warrant a new term?

So what’s the big deal with a name? Well, let’s look at the recent past, to another recently-named item: Ajax. Ajax, as you may know, is a pseudo-acronym for “Asynchronous Javascript and xml”. Ajax is not new technology, but Ajax is a new term that everyone is now using to describe it. And it works.

Why is a cat called a cat? Is it because the letter “c” is right for the beginning of it? Is the hard sound of the “c” and “t” correct? Perhaps, but I think it’s more of an etymological issue than a “feels right” issue. Cat is cat because that’s how its evolved over time. The best words, of course, sound like what they mean: boom, crack, slam, whisper, silence. Hard syllables for loud words, soft syllables for quiet words.

Web 2.0 isn’t going to please everyone. I use it because I have some notion of what it refers to. I also like that the 2.0 seems like something radically new, completely different than what we had before. So, I do think that the change is big enough to warrant a new term.

But, obviously, the technology itself is not new, so what is new? Openness, I think, is what is going to be the big difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. In Web 1.0, each site was a silo of information, information that users could not reach themselves. Every access of information had to be done through the site itself.

Web 2.0 is about open information, in the form of programming interfaces. That is, developers can hook into information formerly siloed and do stuff with it. They can include Flickr images on their site, suck down their del.icio.us bookmarks for all to see. These are simple ways of doing it, and are just the beginning.

As usual, we have really smart people thinking ahead on this. In the latest Gillmor Gang, the discussion was about “identity”, as in the idea that we have left a bit of ourselves on all the sites out there. I’ve got an account on Amazon, I’ve got a Gmail account, an eBay account.

These accounts, taken together, make up my online identity. Web 2.0 is about taking that identity back, and making it my own. And sites will do that for me in time, because if they don’t someone else will, by providing open programming APIs with which I can harvest my own information. I own it and you own it, after all.

But, even as I’ve just shown, Web 2.0 is about multiple things. This is more confusing than the Ajax example, because Ajax covers a much smaller territory. Web 2.0 covers, well, the whole Web.

So, going forward, we’ll have to just see what sticks. Maybe it’ll be something different (I humorously suggested the Era of Interfaces), or people will accept Web 2.0 because it seems to get everyone on nearly the same page. It really doesn’t matter what we call it, let’s just call it.

Published: August 9th, 2005

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