Usage of the Term ‘Web 2.0’

Note: In the previous article I suggested that some writers should avoid using the term ‘web 2.0’, and thus probably wrongly implied that they don’t know what web is. The following is an explanation of what I actually meant.

If definition means “the act of defining or making definite, distinct, or clear” then the definition of ‘web 2.0’ provided by Tim O’Reilly is neither distinct nor clear. He tries to put way too many things under a single umbrella, under one next version—the 2.0—while many of these things are in a continuous development with varying speed and can not be defined by ‘versions’.

On the first page of the article he formulates the “sense of web 2.0” by giving a few examples of how web 2.0 is different from Web 1.0, like, “publishing –> participation”, “content management systems –> wikis” and “Britannica Online –> Wikipedia”.

If these are the chosen examples to illustrate the principles of web 2.0, then the arrow used between them means something different in each of the examples, which however contradicts to the use of an equal type linguistic/symbolic link among all examples. As none of the known symbols of logic are used (like or ), then lets try figure out what the author meant.

Does “publishing –> participation” mean that participation has become more important than publishing, or that there is an increase of participation over publishing? In any case, the value of blogs and wikis is their content; the value of a photo sharing site is the photos published and the tags added not the bare fact of people participating in this act.

The second statement “content management systems –> wikis” seems to be an equally bad one. What are people using for publishing their blogs — a wiki or a content management system? What are they using for collecting and organizing information? WordPress and MediaWiki are examples of a software for both — one powers enormous amounts of blogs while the other powers the Wikipedia. At the same time both Wikipedia and blogs are used as the primary examples to illustrate the idea of web 2.0. So what did O’Reilly exactly meant by using this “CMS –> wikis” example?

At the same time I do understand how people actually can understand or find their own formulation/sense of what the web 2.0 is. However, I would also argue that many of them who claim to have understood the web 2.0 don’t quite know how the web works, and what is unique about the increasing amounts of people contributing to it.

Many people would call facebook a typical web 2.0 application, while in fact it is a typical PHP software — no different than WordPress or MediaWiki. Now a lot of you will argue that those are its users (and that what they do) who make it a web 2.0 application, or that an API they provide for programmers, make it web 2.0.

So what exactly do you want to say about the facebook — do you want to describe how it enables user interaction or how it allows other programmers to use its data?

The lack of clarity and proper terminology is my single and only problem with bloggers/journalists using the term web 2.0, because they don’t get to the point of their message by simply labelling something web 2.0, and hence imply that they are talking about everything that Tim O’Reilly mentions in his article.

Bloggers and journalists (in press, TV and radio) should avoid using the term web 2.0 and concentrate on the particular subject of the web that they want to describe or analyse. There is a wealth of appropriate terminology that can be used to describe the web much better and more precisely than the buzzwords.

Suggested Reading

  • The Good, the Bad, And the ‘Web 2.0’” by Andrew Keen and David Weinberger in The Wall Street Journal — an excellent debate which illustrates that there is much more to the web than blogs, rss, podcasts and networking under the same web 2.0 cover.
  • Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense” by John Markoff in The New York Times already suggesting web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0
  • Waiting for the Web 2.0 bubble to pop” by Jack Schofield in Guardian Blogs — isn’t such a title implying that either facebook, flickr or Wikipedia are to pop? Although it talks about the companies making business out of web 2.0, it doesn’t explain who is actually going to be hurt in case of such an event and how it matters to an average user of a web 2.0 website.

What do you think?

What is your view on the web 2.0 term? Do you use it, and if so, what is your definition of it?

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  1. Alec East says:

    web2.0 is like love. Nobody can tell you you’re web2.0, you just know.

  2. Kaspars says:

    Alec, you are right. From such perspective it is indeed acceptable, this heavenly thing called web2.0.

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