Web 2.0 Is Not Doomed—It Doesn’t Exist! – Columns by PC Magazine

Lance Ulanoff

Enough already about Web 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0. It’s just the Web, darn it!

by Lance Ulanoff

Buzz up!on Yahoo!

I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to pronouncements of disaster, demise, and disintegration for technologies, companies, and products. I can point to wrong-headed columns about Twitter and Facebook, and then more prescient ones about the Zune and the Nintendo Wii. My targets, however, tend to be actual products, not vague groupings that represent someone’s idea of a collection of unrelated entities. So pardon me if I got a little angry when I heard this quote from Elevation Partners cofounder Roger McNamee, who, speaking on CNBC, said, “Web 2.0, which seemed to hold a lot of promise, did not develop…. The vast majority of [Web 2.0 businesses] are going to cease to be viable businesses.” Almost immediately, this led others to say, “Web 2.0 is doomed.”

Give me a break.

Web 2.0 is more or less the second generation of Web sites and services that emerged after the dust had settled from the first dot-come bubble and bust. Many of these Web sites integrate social interaction. They also do more than their predecessors (Web sites of the 1990s and early 2000s). A conference even sprang up to help collect, represent, and promote the second interactive growth spurt. Within a few years, however, people started talking about “Web 3.0.” This annoyed me because it assumed that Web 2.0 had some real meaning. It doesn’t. It’s just a label for a bunch of disparate companies and products. I know some people think that Web 2.0 actually means social networking. It doesn’t. Even if you’re convinced that it does, what would Web 3.0 be? Social networking that makes tons of money?

I digress.

Very likely, McNamee was talking less about the viability of so-called Web 2.0 enterprises than about the fact that Web start-ups are struggling for profitability and new infusions of cash. Venture capital firms, which typically love Web start-ups, are laying people off and making fewer and fewer bets. Web 2.0 businesses that have managed to skate along for years on word of mouth and lots of eyeballs but virtually no business model and precious little revenue are clearly at risk. Sites have shut down. Certainly, more will.

Let’s be clear: Web 2.0 is not doomed. Web 2.0 does not exist.

People who say things like “Web 2.0 is doomed” do not, in fact, understand the Internet at all. They see it as some sort of exotic bird (say, a peacock) that unexpectedly showed up on the streets of New York, or a bloom on one of those plants that flower once every dozen years or so. It’s an exciting moment, and everyone takes notice, but eventually the moment passes. Thing is, the Internet is no peacock. It’s an intrinsic part of our lives. Look at the recently passed economic stimulus package. Millions and millions of dollars are being allotted for broadband expansion. What do people think—that it’s for telephone calls? We do everything online: Shop, bank, make and receive calls, watch movies, send photos, view photos, chat, cry, shout, work, make deals, plan, govern, and more. It all happens online—some of it on proprietary networks and much of it on run-of-the-mill Web sites. Many of these sites would be considered Web 2.0 poster children.

Yet people insist on saying ridiculous things like Web 2.0 is doomed. It’s more than an annoyance, since there are still people who are not entirely comfortable with the online world. And these folks may even take solace in such ridiculous claims, thinking that the Web could simply evaporate and their lives would be simpler once more.

We have to stop this nonsense.

Think of the Internet as being like any other revolution over past decades and even centuries. We’ve gone through different ages—iron, industrial, information—all of which represented major shifts in societal progress. But when you look at the major innovations over time, there are no version numbers attached to them. Television, for example, arrived in the late 1930s, and over the course of the next few decades it was called, well, television. When color came along, it was called color television or—big surprise—television. It wasn’t television 2.0.

This fascination with version numbers can actually be blamed on the Technology Revolution. Software, in particular, is all about version numbers. Each version is typically quite different from another, so you need those numerical identifiers to differentiate. Recently, people started calling the integration of television and the Internet TV 2.0. We here at PCMag are guilty of it, too. But I hate this. It’s just TV or interactive TV.

Microsoft actually tried to sidestep this when it followed up Windows 98 with XP and then Vista. Interestingly, the company went back to using numbers for what will likely be its most successful OS in a while: Windows 7.

The Web, or Internet, is not a piece of software. Web 2.0 is an old, tired label that should be retired—but not in favor of Web 2.5, Web 3.0, or even Next-Gen Web. Just call it what it is—the Web or Internet.


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