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Web 2.0 - the ironic half-truth

Date/Time Permalink: 09/22/06 03:58:22 pm
Category: General

Buzzwords aren't nearly as much fun as they used to be. They used to be easy pickings. You could slouch at the end of the board-room table and shoot them down as they came out of the pointy-haired-boss's mouth: "AJAX" : "It's just Javascript and XML!", "extreme programming" : "How about we quit dorking around and get this project extremely out the door?", "the rich web" : "designed by the poor programmers!" Oh, you could pop every speech balloon with one eye on the clock.

But "Web 2.0", the buzziest of buzzwords, is the term everybody loves to hate. It's not as much fun. Because it's not as easy to shoot down. Because - oh, the bone-wrenching agony! - there's some truth to it. When a term like Web 2.0 comes along, we bring out the big sheriff to gun it down. Tim Berners-Lee:

"I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along."

Nevertheless, Big Powwow could huff and puff but not blow this house down. Web 2.0. It's real, Tim. It's here, we're living it, it is upon us. It's a Buzzword, Tim, but not as we know it. Here, watch, I'll prove it to you: Having a Web 2.0 implies the existence of a Web 1.0. If I can show you Web 1.0 and then show you that we use something different, that would have to mean that what we use now, however we define it, must mean something different, right?

Click here to see Web 1.0.

OK, welcome back. Sorry about the incense - the smoke will fade. Now, at the expense of your sanity and a couple of layers of membrane off of your eyeballs, I have nailed Web 1.0 to the wall, as dead as it deserves to be. This, then, is Web 2.0.

What's that, Tim? Blogs and Wikis were what you had in mind all along? Yeah, they were what *I* had in mind in 1995, too, but I couldn't find the damn things anywhere. The closest I ever got to even-handed give and take was playing checkers in the Yahoo game room.

I'll tell yah why: because HTML SUUUUCKS! No matter how much joy-joy we wanted to make over whoopie rich web apps, back in 1995 all we could do is sit in the car and honk the horn and *pretend* it could drive somewhere. We had to wait for them to put a motor in it. We had to wait for XHTML, CSS, Javascript, Flash, RSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, DHTML, AJAX, and 200 design tutorials to learn how to make all this junk work together. What, were we supposed to build these blogs and wikis out of six sizes of header and a scrolling marquee tag? Now that I have all the tools at my disposal, if somebody would only be nice enough to set Internet Explorer on fire, I just might be able to use all these tools with confidence that as long as I follow the standards, the good works shall flow forth. We just call it Web 2.0 because we're those cynical, irreverent Internet hippies who half-mock everything including ourselves. We call it Web 2.0 the way we call ourselves hackers just to get a rise out of the salesdrones. We have to fight for our right to par-tay.

But, hey, let's compromise. I'll go back to calling Web 2.0 just the plain old web, if we can all concede that whatever that hideous thing was back last century which we were looking at in our browsers wasn't any kind of web at all. Or we can call that which went before Web 0.0 and this is....nahhhh, not quite, but Web 0.9. We've almost arrived at the destination we started out towards 15 years ago. Too bad our standards ended up at another terminal, but I'm happy to wait right here while they fetch them back. After all, waiting for the web has become what we're all really good at.

Update: If you liked this, you'll love "Geek and Poke", Web 2.0's own comic. Yes, we will surround Web 2.0 with a culture if we have to buy one!

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