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November 10, 2006

Web 2.0 officially jumps shark

You know, this is going to sound awfully bitchy, and I really should keep my head pulled in, but I do feel I have some vested interest in all this. How come in 2 short years, "web 2.0" went from "The Web As Platform", "Harnessing Collective Intelligence", "Data is the Next Intel Inside" and other high minded ideals to a bunch of venture capitalists, investment bankers, old media execs along with a bunch of entrepreneurs pimping their two week old companies with bugger all revenues to show for them (but loads of Alexa action) to aforesaid execs, VCs and bankers with wallets full o' cash. Who said we learned a heap from bubble 1.0? Geez, I am almost nostalgic for hundred million dollar sock puppets, and online sandwich stores that could deliver a pastrami on rye anywhere in the world inside 15 mins for 10 bucks. Least back then no one pretended it wasn't all about the money, or that customers weren't really just a mechanism for cashing out and buying a sports car. And is it freudian that the url for the location for the epicenter of this world right now, the Web 2.0 conference is http://web2con.com?

Think I am exaggerating? Well, what do you make of the CEO of AOL introducing Lou Reed to the Web 2.0 conference crowd, who apparently don't even have the good grace to shut up or leave the room while one of the late 20th Centuries more interesting iconic figures plays a private set for you.

As Reed himself observed "Who would have thought it would come to this. I’d be playing at a cyberspace conference, brought here by AOL". Come now Lou, no one forced you! (well, as Krusty once observed "they drove a dump truck full of money up to my house, a man's not made of stone"). Clearly, craggy faced appearances to the contrary, nor is Lou Reed (and I don't know if he played "heroin, but he did play Sweet Jane".)

Look, I am not averse to people making money, or to business, or even caring less for Lou Reed. Afterall I've had a pretty reasonably successful web based software and publishing company for a decade (sure we do really boring old fashioned business like sell software to people for, you know, folding stuff, which they use to make themselves more productive and creative), and haven't ever owned a Lou Reed album. But that's not the point.

The excitement and enthusiasm among the web design and development community (you know, the people who got their hands dirty, and implemented technology, and ideas and stuff) a couple of years back about "web 2.0", was the sense that the term captured something new, exciting, interesting, promising going on, that went beyond simply the business, to a way of thinking about, and developing for people using the web. It was about tapping into the genius of the web as a network, as a medium, as a distribution mechanism.

That it's reduced to pimping online postit notes, or yet another blog search engine while analysts from investment banks tell us about the future of the web, well, as little Leyton (Leyton Hewitt to non Australians, that's what we call him down here) "COME ON".

OK, I've got that off my chest. You know the irony - early December I am speaking at two conferences in three days, on "what is Web 2.0", first at a Travel conference then a film/television conference (somehow I got to be the down under "what is web 2.0 guy"). And you know, there is still so much to be excited about. But it's hard when it feels like 1999 all over again (at least they could have got Prince eh?)

November 10, 2006 | Permalink


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John, I completely agree. Well almost completely, the app that uses the sticky note metaphor (Stikkit) is actually really good and fills a huge need for me. It is wiki-ish, but it is an intelligent app that pulls date info and other pertinent data. It is semantically well structured under the hood and working its way toward microformats. It allows me to track sites that are time sensitive (getting proposals in on time or registering for events before the prices go up). The ability to tag these sites and put this information in my own context is rather impressive.

Posted by: vanderwal | Nov 12, 2006 2:49:33 AM

It's an irony, Thomas, that I went for the cheap rhetorical trick, when it fact it did look like the most interesting thing there, and certainly caught a few people's attention. But I never let facts get in the way of a good rant!


Posted by: John Allsopp | Nov 13, 2006 9:32:17 AM

I remember thinking last year after WE05 that the term "web 2.0" was probably in its last few months of being useful. It was always too buzzword compliant - honey to the marketing/vc bees (well ok, more like dung to flies, but I thought I'd lead with the nice version on a Monday morning ;)).

Ultimately there are those who get what it was meant to be all about, then there are those who want nothing more than a catchy name to make money with.

Then there are those who morph it into Web2.0MFG and get a tshirt made....! :)

ps. I thought people called Lleyton "that idiot", but then I'm not a tennis fan. Funny thing is I think that animated talk show on channel ten said it best: "We love it when Lleyton wins because he's an Aussie; and we love it when he loses because he's a knob!"

Posted by: Ben Buchanan | Nov 13, 2006 9:49:01 AM

You know, all I want to see is a real enterprise deployment of Webservices and Portlets actually delivering some useful data integrations and business value. Is that too much to ask? Instead, all we get is the latest AJAX component that tracks my cat all over east LA.

Posted by: fred> | Nov 16, 2006 6:52:44 AM