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Web 2.0, Two Years and a Day Later

The term "Web 2.0" became popular in tech circles following the first O'Reilly Media's Web 2.0 conference in 2004. On September 30, 2005, Tim O'Reilly wrote a piece summarizing the subject "for the rest of us," What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Download oreilly_web20.pdf  Today, we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the popularization of "Web 2.0" (albeit one day late).

Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices by John Musser with Tim O'Reilly and the O'Reilly Radar Team ($395 | November 2006 | 101 pages | ISBN 0-596-52769-1) laid out the terrain. From the book description:

Web 2.0 is here today—and yet its vast, disruptive impact is just beginning. More than just the latest technology buzzword, it's a transformative force that's propelling companies across all industries towards a new way of doing business characterized by user participation, openness, and network effects.

Unfortunately, at $395 a copy, many of us couldn't afford to buy this report. Dion Hinchcliffe, however, did provide an excellent summary of the report at the time.

With the jaundiced eye of a one-time stock trader, I viewed O'Reilly's early Web 2.0 promotions as a prelude to Internet Bubble II. Luckily, Big Money stayed on the sidelines; Web 2.0 looked too much like Web 1.0. I pretty much ignored the buzz then despite the fact that I had already co-founded with Cincinnati Law Prof Paul Caron the Law Professor Blogs Network in the Summer of 2004 and launched Law Librarian Blog on January 1, 2005.

What is Web 2.0? I'll leave that up to you to decide. See generally Wikipedia's Web 2.0 entry and Whatis?com's Web 2.0. O'Reilly's "Web 2.0" has it's share of critics. In a July 28, 2006 podcast interview for IBM [transcript] Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee expressed doubts that Web 2.0 was any different from Web 1.0. Nate Anderson, Tim Berners-Lee on Web 2.0: "nobody even knows what it means," ars technica (September 01, 2006).

In November 2005, Paul Grahman wrote

Does "Web 2.0" mean anything? Till recently I thought it didn't, but the truth turns out to be more complicated. Originally, yes, it was meaningless. Now it seems to have acquired a meaning. And yet those who dislike the term are probably right, because if it means what I think it does, we don't need it.

See also Jeffrey Zeldman's Web 3.0 (January 16, 2006) and Wil Arndt's Web 2.0 is Bull, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Web 2.0 (June 5, 2006).

Despite the critics, Web 2.0 must exist. Why? Just listen to the buzz. "Web 2.0" has drowned out it's critics. First, there's O'Reilly's annual Web 2.0 Summit. Attended by the Internet elite, the latest summit is coming up Oct. 17-19, 2007 in San Francisco.

Second, we rank Web 2.0 apps, see Web 2.0 categories in Webware's Top 100 Web Apps, and forecast the future based their development, Richard MacManus, 10 Future Web Trends.

Third, Google's CEO is already defining Web 3.0 while, as recently as December 10, 2006, Tim O'Reilly was still trying to define Web 2.0 in Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again. See also Alex Iskold, Web 3.0: When Web Sites Become Web Services.

Finally, librarians have been writing about it; Web 2.0 has morphed into Librarian 2.0 and Library 2.0. See, for example, Library 2.0 Guides. Meredith Farkas, author of my favorite book on the subject, Social Software in Libraries, has some interesting things to say on the subject at Do we need a translator here? on her great blog, Information Wants To Be Free, including the following:

I think most people who are into this stuff, me included, fall into the “Pragmatists” category. We are big technology fans, but we understand that these tools should only be used in libraries to fill needs. We realize that not all of our patrons are tech-savvy and that many of them have needs that can’t be filled by 2.0 technologies. We know that any time we focus on a 2.0 technology, we take time and resources away from something else, so we must carefully prioritize our technology use at work. Pragmatists manage to be both excited and skeptical.

Today. So where does this long and winding post lead us? To the best report I have read on the subject: Paul Anderson's What is Web 2.0? Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education (Feb. 2007) (pdf). From the introduction:

The report establishes that Web 2.0 is more than a set of 'cool’ and new technologies and services, important though some of these are. It has, at its heart, a set of at least six powerful ideas that are changing the way some people interact. Secondly, it is also important to acknowledge that these ideas are not necessarily the preserve of ‘Web 2.0’, but are, in fact, direct or indirect reflections of the power of the network: the strange effects and topologies at the micro and macro level that a billion Internet users produce. This might well be why Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, maintains that Web 2.0 is really just an extension of the original ideals of the Web that does not warrant a special moniker. However, business concerns are increasingly shaping the way in which we are being led to think and potentially act on the Web and this has implications for the control of public and private data. Indeed, Tim O’Reilly’s original attempt to articulate the key ideas behind Web 2.0 was focused on a desire to be able to benchmark and therefore identify a set of new, innovative companies that were potentially ripe for investment. The UK HE sector should debate whether this is a long-term issue and maybe delineating Web from Web 2.0 will help us to do that.

As with other aspects of university life the library has not escaped considerable discussion about the potential change afforded by the introduction of Web 2.0 and social media. One of the key objectives of the report is to examine some of the work in this area and to tease out some of the key elements of ongoing discussions. For example, the report argues that there needs to be a distinction between concerns around quality of service and ‘user-centred change’ and the services and applications that are being driven by Web 2.0 ideas. This is particularly important for library collection and preservation activities and some of the key questions for libraries are: is the content produced by Web 2.0 services sufficiently or fundamentally different to that of previous Web content and, in particular, do its characteristics make it harder to collect and preserve? Are there areas where further work is needed by researchers and library specialists? The report examines these questions in the light of the six big ideas as well as the key Web services and applications, in order to review the potential impact of Web 2.0 on library services and preservation activities.

Tomorrow. We relaunch this blog tomorrow as Law X.0 to cover news, resources and information about developments in web communications, knowledge management, information technology, and education technology as they apply (or can potentially apply) to the legal academy. Law blogs will continue to be an important focus of this blog but in the broader context of Web X.0. Individuals interested in contributing to this blog are invited to contact me at joe.hodnicki@gmail.com. [JH]

October 1, 2007 in Web 2.0 | Permalink


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