Michael calls Dave Winer, Richard McManus and Russell Shaw traitors for coming out against the concept of Web 2.0, although he moderates that with a smiley:

[from CrunchNotes � Traitors in our Midst]Web 2.0 is not a marketing slogan. It is the slogan of a people’s army. Our army. They are words that help us explain the explosion of conversations on the web, and justify our enthusiasm for innovation. Web 2.0 is why I came back from my exodus at the fringes of technology, to explore the frontier of the new consumer web.

What did these “traitors” say?

Russell Shaw [not a member of the workgroup] seems to have been the initial source of this Web 2.0 backlash. He argues that Web 2.0 doesn’t exist:

[from � Web 2.0? It doesn’t exist | IP Telephony, VoIP, Broadband | ZDNet.comThe problem I have with this “Web 2.0” slogan is that it is a contrivance, meant to imply a unified movement or wave toward a better Web. Just the very numbering of the thing brings out my moo-goo detector: 1.0 sounds like a beginning. 2.0 (as opposed to a tenth-decimal, such as 1.7 or a 2.4 implies – by its very roundness, a coordinated, standards-based, like-minded rebirth, reconstruction, renaissance, resurrection, whatever you want to call it. 2.0 is the ideal number for such an impression: it implies a concerted, noble effort at refreshing an inspired, but now aging, creation. even “3.0” implies, well, we didn’t get it right the first time, 2.0 was transitory and is getting long in the tooth, so here we are transitioning to 3.0. But 2.0 sounds good.

Well, Web 2.0 is bunk. Not that the elements of this rebirth aren’t there. I write about some of them, and Richard has them nailed. It’s just that they cannot be classified under a common umbrella. They are forward lurches of various standards and technologies, some compatible, some not. Some revolutionary, some evolutionary, some impractical. Some are collaborative, others are highly competitive with each other.

Baloney. Web 2.0 has become widely used as an indicator that something different is going on with recent innovations on the web. It is being adopted by a wide range of people, including marketing weasels and earnest technologists, each of whom have their own reasons for adopting the term.

Russell looks to a Wikipedia definition for the term as justification for the notion that it was created by marketing propagandists to advance their evil goals: specifically, to create a series of profitable conferences, by which I guess he means John Battelle and Medialive, the folks behind the Web 2.0 conference. Wikipedia as a proof of something? Come on.

Appending a “2.0” to a term does not imply — at least to me — that some sort of consensus has been reached about the meaning of the term, or even less that its based on some colleciton of standards. It originally meant a new rev of a product, which implies a redesign and the rollout of new features. And “2.0” has become a useful suffix (like “gate” in the political sphere) to indicate a revolution, where the mistakes and bad design choices of an initial release are fixed, or at least countered. Media products — such as Business 2.0 and Release 2.0 — have fixed that notion into the zeitgeist. And Web 2.0 is so widely used that ascribing it to Battelle & Co. is really silly.

But their is a movement, of sorts, toward a different model of web-based applications, and Russell’s dissmissive comments are simply wrong.

The treason begins with Dave Winer, who lauds Russell’s antihype:

[He’s exactly right, and what he says is kind of obvious.Web 2.0 is a way for certain marketing people to claim they invented stuff that they didn’t invent, without actually claiming they invented it. It’s the kind of double-talk marketing guys love.

In a sense people are right when they say it’s another bubble. It’s dishonest like the bubble was. Yet the technologies they’re hyping are honest.

Yeah, we’re getting fleeced again. It sucks.

And Richard McManus jumps in with both feet, saying that Russell is 100% correct, and more or less promising to never say the W word again:

I’ve had enough of the hype. I’ve had enough of cynicism. I’ve had enough of hate blogs. The nail in the coffin was this post on ZDNet, by Russell Shaw. The thing is, I agree with Russell. The term ‘Web 2.0’ is distracting from the real value going on in the Web right now.Read/WriteWeb will be focusing on more media-related web technology in 2006. Enough Web 2.0.

Yikes. My experience — particularly talking with innovators in the past few months for the upcoming New Visionaries video series (see The New Visionaries: Rebooting The Web) — has led to the exact opposite insight: there is a new sensibility about web applications — how they are conceived, designed, built, marketed and sold — that in aggregate is truly different that what preceded it. Note that Dave at least concedes that the technologies being “hyped” are honest, which means that maybe the technologists are too? Maybe it’s just those evil marketing guys again.

This antihype is directed, implicitly, against the advocacy for Web 2.0 by people like, well, me, as well as more well-known figure like John Battelle (I wrote about his recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Building A Better Boom), and Tim O’Reilly (see Web 2.0: Compact Definition).

I am not prepared to pen a magisterial debunking of the Web 2.0 antihype that is growing, but I am committed to chip away at it, day by day. Here’s a few observations as to why Web 2.0 is real:

    • Web 1.0, and its bubble, have come and gone. Many of the innovators in Web 2.0 are young folks who either observed the Bubble from afar or as newly minted hirelings in Web 1.0 companies. Their aspirations and thinking have been strongly influenced by the debacle. As I recently wrote, about the frugality of Web 2.0 companies, a real shift from Bubble excesses:

      I was just on a tour, talking with a handful of Web 2.0 tech start-up founders, and the tendency is to stay small, almost humorously small. At Mary Hodder’s Bloqx, for example, three developers were crammed into a room no larger than a large closet. Jason Fried of 37 Signals advocates keeping teams small, not just from a desire to reduce the burn, but to increase the likelihood of less features creeping into products. This week, I saw the same reflected in the jampacked three-room office of Podcast.com, where Scott Beatty, the CEO, described the company’s plans to the ‘rolling beta’ model of developing more and more rich services, which rely on small, agile development coupled with an obsession with end-user experience.It’s an austere and highly philosophical era — which John only tangentially touches on — but one that is likely to lead to very different outcomes that Web 1.0. I believe that it’s also a generational thing. These are either young veterans of the Web 1.0 mess, or those that witnessed the fall out of “irrational exuberance” from afar. And they are at least going to make new mistakes, if mistakes are to be made.


  • While by no means universal, and by no means a standard, there are general principles that reappear over and over again in discussions with Web 2.0 application developers. I recently referred to these as “central tendencies”:
      • Users First — The user experience is a proxy for the user, and all of the folks I touched base with so far agree that user experience is the pivot point of everything. That means that the norms of human expectations, social interaction, and interface goals become the central motif of these apps. For example, sharing with others becomes a basic principle, not something tacked on later.
      • Build from personal need — In every case, these visionaries have decided to build something because they wanted to exist for their own personal use.
      • Build small, fast, and iteratively — The nature of Web 2.0 app frameworks, and why they have evolved, is to support a extremely agile development mantra. But across the board, I have seen very small teams building the core functionality of some potentially larger product, and rolling it out to real users to see how it works. And then respond to feedback, and roll out the next version. This is not just a technique for the initial development stage of these products: its here forever.
    • Build small, focused apps, that could serve as building blocks in larger assemblages — All these folks are resisting the tempation to bloat apps with more and more features, opting instead to build small, highly focused apps that could be integrated (though APIs) into larger assemblages (mash-ups).

As the world speeds up, the gap between any action and it’s inevitable reaction seems to have closed, almost to nothingness. Ideas that have promise, technologies with the power to change the world, products that offer productivity boost, almost anything new — and therefore threatening — attracts nay-sayers just as quickly as adherents. The antihype almost arrives before the promise of the innovation can even be experienced by the early adopters. The Spanish have a saying, “May no new thing arise,” that suggests the comfort that comes from resisting innovation, or the promise of change. Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions observed that those in established roles in a scientific community will resist new paradigms that emerge — even if they better explain dispartities in observed reality — because it threatens the cultural and social foundations of the community, and the established scientists’ roles within it.

I don’t think Russell, Dave, and Richard are evil, just because they aren’t swayed by the observations of Battelle, O’Reilly, or me. But I think they are missing the opportunity to learn what the new visionaries out there think, those that do believe they are onto something different, building something different, onto a different era. And the A-Listers of the preceding era may find their influence waning in this new era, especially if they don’t perceive the things that make it new.

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