How Web 2.0 Works

The Web 2.0 Debate

The term Web 2.0 has inspired a lot of discussion. Some disagree on exactly what the term means, and others argue that it doesn't mean anything at all. Here are some summaries of the main arguments:

  • Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, dismissed the Web 2.0 concept. He called Web 2.0 "a piece of jargon" and said "nobody even knows what it means" in an IBM developerWorks interview. Berners-Lee said the World Wide Web was always a way for people to connect with one another and that there was nothing new or revolutionary about the Web 2.0 philosophy [source: developerWorks].
  • Russell Shaw, a telecommunications author, posted a blog entry in 2005 in which he said that the term was nothing more than a marketing slogan. He wrote that while the individual elements of Web 2.0 actually do exist, they can't be grouped together under a single term or concept. Shaw claimed that the concepts in Web 2.0 were too broad, and that many of its goals conflicted with each other.
  • Jay Fienberg, an information architecture specialist, called Web 2.0 a "retrospective concept." He said that only a year after O'Reilly introduced the term, it had become a marketing gimmick. Fienberg pointed out that many popular technology businesses adopted the term to make their companies sound innovative. This in turn watered down any meaning the original name may have had [source: the iCite net].
  • Internet essayist Paul Graham originally dismissed Web 2.0 as a buzz word but later recanted after O'Reilly published his take on what Web 2.0 means. Even then, Graham said the term originally had no meaning but became more defined as people looked deeper into the current state of the Web. His perspective is that Web 2.0 refers to the best way to use the World Wide Web -- through real connections between users and higher levels of interactivity.
  • Andrew Keen, an Internet critic, has a distinctively negative point of view about Web 2.0. He calls the phenomenon of self-publishing and blogging "digital narcissism" [source: Wall Street Journal]. Keen's argument isn't about whether or not Web 2.0 exists; it's about whether or not Web 2.0 is even a good idea. He points out that while people are writing and uploading lots of information on the Web, no one is taking the time to read it all. As a result, institutions that are dedicated to creating quality content are suffering because everyone is too busy posting his or her opinions to search out good information.

There are hundreds of other blog entries that focus on Web 2.0, what it means and whether it's really a step forward in the evolution of the Internet. It's too early to say if the term will have staying power or if it will fade away as just another marketing slogan. For the time being, we'll likely see its concepts put to use throughout the Internet.

To learn more about Web 2.0 and related topics, follow the links below.

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  • Fienberg, Jay. "The era of web 2.Over." the iCite net. October 1, 2005.
  • Graham, Paul. "Web 2.0." November, 2005.
  • Keen, Andrew and David Weinberger. "Reply All." The Wall Street Journal Online. July 18, 2007.
  • Kelly, Kevin. "We Are the Web." Wired. August, 2005.
  • Laningham, Scott. "developerWorks Interviews: Tim Berners-Lee." IBM. August, 22, 2006.
  • O'Reilly, Tim. "O'Reilly Radar."
  • O'Reilly, Tim. "What is Web 2.0." O'Reilly Media. September 30, 2005.
  • Shaw, Russell. "Web 2.0? It doesn't exist." ZDNet. December 15, 2005.
  • Vander Wal, Thomas. "Web 2.0 Dead?" December 19, 2005.