Web 2.0 Skeptic – me

I am a web 2.0 sceptic. As anyone who listened to my massive podcast can testify. [Sorry about the size. Need to work out how to reduce the bitrate…]

But why am I a sceptic about web 2.0? It is not the technology or social changes that it represents, but the label itself.
I find it to be meaningless. Just marketing flim-flam.

Let us look at what web 2.0 is.

Web as platform

This was the slogan of Netscape in ’95, Sun in ’98 and now the Web 2.0 marketeers in 2006.
The Web has always been a platform for delivering content to a user in a form most usable to that user.
You could see the beginning of the web as a platform with the emergence of the form tag in HTML 2.0 which allowed the web to become interactive.
It was no longer just static files, contrary to the proponets of web 2.0, but with CGI and a little jiggery-pokery you could build a dynamic website, that would serve content absed upon user input.
The idea that meta-data is new to web 2.0 is balderdash as well!
In HTML 1.0 there was a keywords meta tag that allowed the same kind of meta data binding as the wonderful world of semantic tags as envisioned by the likes of technorati.
What has changed is the ability to USE these semantic mechanisms thanks to extremely powerful search applications like Google.
Previously a search was pretty dumb and not very relavant. Now it is powerful.
AJAX has helped create rich clients, but this is just a piecemeel advance on the previous DHTML. The only real difference now is the universal acceptance of XMLHttpRequest object, introduced in IE 5.5, by all web browsers. [You can say that AJAX is nothing more than DHTML with XMLHttpRequest, and DHTML is nothing more than JavaScript and DOM]
The most major advance in web as platform though has been syndication.
And this is not really that new either. Back when blogs were comming into their own in 2000 we had syndication.
It is just that the adoption in the last two years has become universal.

Point of Presence

This is a vague term with an extremely vague description;

“Point of Presence on the Web for exposing of invoking Web Services and/or Syndicating or Subscribing to XML based content” (Kingsley Idehen)

Basically, nothing more exciting that adding syndicated feeds to a personalised web-portal.
This, even before syndication, was being offered by Yahoo, AOL and MSN. In fact all the major players allowed you to build a customizable homepage containing dynamic content. [think horoscopes and weather news].
The only advance today is that they allow you to add third party content by adding a syndication feed. Some change.


This is just syndication again! At this point you might start to think that web 2.0 is nothing more than a synonym for syndication. And you would have the majority of what the labels proponents are going on about.

The idea that you can have a page (portal) that contains content that is harvested from somewhere else is syndication yet again.


This is back to the first point in web as a platform of having meta-data associated with a piece of content.
Something that has been around since the dawn of the web.
The ideas put forward by the semantic web fantatics about creating universal semantically tagged and syndicated data is synomonous with this.
The folksonomy that this represents is a term for the non-authorative semantic tagging of data. [Done by the users themselves rather than a central authority]

But there is a social change of how people use the web, isn’t there?

Yes there is. The web is moving from a impersonal and asocial way of interacting with data and people to a more social and personal way of interacting with data and people.
But, and this is the important point, this has been a long evolution in the social framework of the web to a more immersive experiance.
The user expectations for the experience the web delivers are forever increasing and will continue to do so. And as such the technology must also improve and the interactions between data and people and technology will become more and more seemless and immersive.
There will come a point in social advance where we become a true information society. Where we can no longer imagine a world without huge global social networks and instant data access. Such an unimaginable world existed only 2 decades ago.

Is there a need for a new term to describe the changes in the web?

It is nothing more than the semantic web with a flashier interface.
It has already been defined. Why give it more definitions. [Other than it allows companies to charge more for conferences and the like. As I said earlier, marketing flim-flam.]

It doesn’t really matter what it is called anyway, as the new users of the internet are not the jargon savvy 20 and 30 somethings, but retiring baby-boomer’s.
They don’t even call it the web.
They call it the internet.

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