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December 01, 2006

Web 2.0 = the web

Tim O'Reilly (I've been a bit harsh on O'Reilly the organization these last few weeks, but I'm not so egotistical as to think anyone there gives a crap :-) has a post today about the issue of the term web 2.0, and the ideas of naming, meaning, and language more generally.

It's prompted by a discussion he had with Steven White, who doesn't like the term "web 2.0" one bit. Actually, it would be fair to say he hates it with a passion. I don't hate it, I just happento think it's lame - as I did way back here. To me it's just a tired play on the "Business 2.0" idea, and that publication predates the term Web 2.0 by close to a decade. O'Reilly quotes White

So look past the name, which is the ugly schnozzle on the face of a beautiful set of ideas. The name will change as the technology moves on...

The thing is, it already has a name. It's call the World Wide Web, or Web for short. What the web means has changed profoundly over the last decade, and indeed means different things to different people. Idf you asked my mum to define the web, it might be "what I use to read the newspaper and email my kids via my computer". If I were looking for a technical definition, I'd say something like "the vase, almost unimaginably large seas of resources I can access via http".

O'Reilly is very right and astute in his observations about a significant change over the last half a decade in how people use the core technologies of the web (and let's face it those core techologies have not changed all that much in almost the entire history of the web - and yes, I mean CSS in some ways wasn't a big change in the web, even less so flash - the introduction of Javascript was one such change, as was the introduction of inline gif images).

But the web of 91-95 was profoundly different from the post netscape IPO web, probably much more so than the web of today is different from the web of 1999. We all felt pretty comfoprtable using the term Web or "World Wide Web" for those quite profoudly different uses of the same underlying technologies.

Tim Berners-Lee gave us HTTP, HTML, the first web server and browser, and he gave us the name "world wide web" (and I mean quite literally gave). It's served us wqell for 15 years. I think it sill works well. Let's keep using it a little while longer yet eh?

December 1, 2006 | Permalink


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I am currently involved in some multi-country market research for the motor-vehicle industry. If we had to put up with this versioning nonsense, we would be talking about car150.0 for some markets while other markets were still transitioning through car53.0, and there's been a recent resurgence of interest on stylings from car94.0 generation...

Posted by: Ben Miller | Dec 1, 2006 4:10:16 PM

Very good point Ben!


Posted by: John Allsopp | Dec 1, 2006 5:12:10 PM

I couldn't agree more. The use of the term "web 2.0" seems to be all about $ - get enough people wowed by new technologies and convince them they need to be "web 2.0" - brilliant marketing, terrible for the everyday user.

Quick editor-esque note: There are a couple typos and errors on the post. You might want to spell check before posting.

Posted by: Joshua Brewer | Dec 2, 2006 3:57:53 AM

My objection to The Dreaded Term is that it doesn't have a definition. It's something to say when you're not really saying anything. Great for vague, speculative, broad-brush generalisations and musings. Rubbish for actually talking about anything. Smells strongly of snake oil.

Posted by: pauldwaite | Dec 2, 2006 7:36:17 AM

Couldn't agree more.

Posted by: Bernie Zimmermann | Dec 2, 2006 6:06:18 PM

Oh thank God! Finally some sanity. I am so sick of "web 2.0". Than name implies some specific significant change. What we have is a natural gradual development of the technology. If we can agree on the specific date and time that the web changed than there is no "2.0" about it!

Posted by: Dane | Dec 3, 2006 3:00:02 AM