What is Web 2.0?

It’s probably the emptiest catch phrase since the Information Highway. Everybody refers to the Web 2.0 but nobody really knows what that means anymore. The folks at PEW Internet tried to sort that out in the Future of the Internet II report I blogged about earlier. More and more, it seems that the Web 2.0 is used to refer to everything that is wrong with the Web 1.0: it’s not interactive enough, it’s not useful enough, it’s not democratic enough, it’s not engaging enough.

I think the problem is that by it’s very nature, the Web defies definition. It’s the largest organic being on the planet. It’s all encompassing and is enmeshed into society, business, government and every other aspect of our every day lives. So to try to define a new generation of the web through some technical criteria becomes impossible. There is no versioning on the web, because versioning implies some centralization of control. The beautify of the web is that it is organic and grows from the ground up. There is no one controlling body that defines what’s in scope and what’s out of scope. We all define our own scope.

Web 2.0 could refer to the explosion of consumer generated content (and if consumers are doing the generating, doesn’t that preclude them from being consumers?). It could refer to the new social hubs of the net like MySpace and YouTube. It could refer to the proliferation of web delivered applications. In fact, it refers to all this, but the beast has outgrown the name tag that we’re trying to pin on it. Web 2.0 doesn’t really mean anything, because something as vast and amorphous as the Web defies pigeon holing.

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