Shel Israel asks:
Good question. I know I’m already a little weary of the term. I encourage you to leave your ideas on Shel’s original post. But without consensus on its meaning and definition, it’s hard to rename the beast (assuming that is even possible).
It may just be the political economy geek in me but I think “the Network Economy” is a closer, although less buzzworthy, description of what Web 2.0 actually is. Or rather, Web 2.0 is a technological, social and cultural phenomenon that is acting as the disintermediation engine of a nascent Network Economy. If there are any naming consultants out there, I’d love to see those ideas.
The language is important, because without a language it becomes difficult for the Web 2.0 community to place itself in relation to and communicate with established businesses and the mass audience that remains in the real world outside the echo chamber, largely unaffected and unconcerned. The 1.0 world will only fully take notice once this massive shift starts to make itself truly felt, and I believe those effects are primarily economic and social/cultural in nature.
The smartmob that is Wikipedia attempts a definition but in the end admits,
A consensus on its exact meaning has not yet been reached.
I believe that Web 2.0 is not merely a set of specific technologies and techniques like AJAX, RSS and the rest. A set of example applications (Google, Flickr, del.icio.us, Writely) doesn’t really help us define Web 2.0 in a useful way, either. When Yahoo buys Flickr, what would you call Yahoo? Is it 1.0 or 2.0? Ditto for NewsCorp/MySpace.
I would argue that Web 2.0 is actually much more than software. Seen in that light “2.0” actually provides a new clue, as it seems to indicate a generational shift. This generational shift is apparent in the different demographic profiles of the Web 2.0 innovators and those that surround them who are trying to get it, capture it or fund it – whatever “IT” is. IT is a complex combination of social values, technologies and economic relationships. One could call it a “movement”, if it were consciously organized. Perhaps Web 2.0 is an emergent property. It is at the very least a phenomenon. Ground zero was probably the Cluetrain Manifesto back in the 1.0 days.
Open networks, open standards, open source, social connections, agile development methodologies and user-centric design are creating a cultural shift in both the creators and the audience. These cultural and value changes combined with network technologies fundamentally change the relationship between producer and consumer, creator and audience. Preferences are changing both for how we want to work and what/when/how we buy/consume/interact.
From my point of view, all these forces are pointing strongly in one direction: disintermediation. Web 2.0 is the disintermediation engine of a nascent Network Economy. In the Network Economy, producers and creators meet their customers and consumers directly and engage in a value exchange that is increasingly intangible in nature. It is happening – too quickly for some, too slowly for many – but the inevitable rise of this Network Economy defines for me one of the fundamental political economic battlegrounds of this generation.
So, What’s in a Name? As it may turn out, an awful lot.
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