Web 2.0: What's in a Number?

Rob Hof

Tim Bray, Sun Microsystems' director of Web technologies, hates the term Web 2.0, saying it's vacuous marketing hype. It's true that the term is pretty amorphous, and it has become a catch-all for just about every recent Web technology. But Tim O'Reilly, whose publishing company runs the Web 2.0 conference, makes an impassioned defense that goes beyond mere self-interest. He notes that the term has helped define a new generation of technologies whose social nature differs qualitatively from the broadcast-oriented first generation of Web technologies.

Me, I'd call it the , as BW's recent cover story put it. Even though I think it's more descriptive, I realize that doesn't have quite the geeky elegance of Web 2.0, so I suspect mine will remain the minor leagues of memedom.

In any case, Web developer Danny Ayers, in the comments on Tim's post, points to what seems to me the best thoughts about what Web 2.0 really means, from entrepreneur and developer Ian Davis:

Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services. By open I mean technically open with appropriate APIs but also, more importantly, socially open, with rights granted to use the content in new and exciting contexts. Of course the web has always been about participation, and would be nothing without it. It’s single greatest achievement, the networked hyperlink, encouraged participation from the start. Somehow, through the late nineties, the web lost contact with its roots and selfish interests took hold. This is why I think the Web 2.0 label is cunning: semantically it links us back to that original web and the ideals it championed, but at the same time it implies regeneration with a new version. Technology has moved on and it’s important that the social face of the web keeps pace.

Well said.

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