by C.G. Lynch

Getting 2.0ed Out: When Will Web 2.0 and Other 2.0 Terms Fade Away?

Sep 05, 20083 mins
Enterprise Applications

After spending yesterday at the Office 2.0 Conference here in San Francisco, I came to the conclusion it’s time to move on from all things 2.0. Let’s surrender enterprise 2.0, office 2.0, and maybe even Web 2.0 to the marketing, PR folks and journalists (present company included) who eviscerated and overused the terms, and let’s work up a more honest term that describes these technologies more precisely.

Web 2.0, under the original version established by Tim O’Reilly in 2004 and 2005, has no doubt been helpful in communicating the central idea that technologies on the Web have evolved to become more user-friendly, interactive and feature rich, opposed to the Web of the 1990s marked by boring textual interfaces and few ways for users (with little or no technical experience) to contribute.

Not everyone liked Web 2.0 though. Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the world wide web, called it a piece of jargon and said the technologies and goals described by Web 2.0 had already been around since the alleged days of Web 1.0. Blogs and wikis had been around long before Web 2.0 as a term, he contended.

I didn’t fully agree with this “you can’t reinvent the wheel” argument though. To me, it all sounded like sour grapes (I’ve likened it to hardcore fans of an unknown band who get pissed off when that band plays some hits and goes mainstream).

Yes, we all know, blogs and wikis were invented long before 2004. We got it.

But blogs, wikis and other social and collaborative technologies weren’t as easy for an average Joe to use or apply to his or her life in the 1990s or even the early part of this decade, and the Web 2.0 movement (and term) helped facilitate bringing those technologies to the mainstream by software makers building user-friendly tools.

But then we got a little 2.0 happy. It started with the very insightful Harvard Professor, Andrew McAffee, who used the term Enterprise 2.0 to describe the addition of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, wikis and social networks inside the corporation. I doubt he could have guessed it would become the marketing mantra for a plethora of software companies and an eventual conference name in Boston.

Office 2.0 emerged as well and was used to describe the webifying of basic productivity applications and how the software as a service model made such traditional tools more collaborative.

Aside from overloading ourselves with terms, the fundamental problem is that it’s hard to decipher what technologies are truly Web 2.0 in nature anymore. Many of the project management and document management applications being built are based on old file storage methods. Yes, they are on the web instead of on your desktop, but they don’t really allow for true user freedom. They also aren’t inherently social.

Oliver Young, a Forrester analyst, has talked about Web 2.0 technologies fading to the background. In reviewing his research that contended the market for Web 2.0 technologies would reach $4.6 billion, we wrote in CIO, “Young says more and more enterprises will have to view these technologies the way we view productivity software such as [Microsoft] Office today: it’s essential, and will eventually just be ‘there.'”

So what are we left with then? Is Web 2.0 called social software? Or maybe interactive software? The next wave of emerging web technologies certainly can’t be Web 3.0 (that would especially piss off the 1.0 crowd who believe Web 2.0 is really Web 1.1).

Yet I’ve already received e-mails from PR folks asking me if I’m covering Web 3.0. I’ve shuddered in horror. This can’t happen.

Let’s do better. Comment below if you have a suggestion.