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Web 2.0 – Revolution or Mere Rebellion?

Is Web 2.0 the Advent of the Post-Modern Internet?

A question was recently asked by a young observer of the Web 2.0 scene, Skinner Layne. "Is this the advent of the Post-Modern Internet?" Layne contends that the key thing to determine about Web 2.0 is whether it is best characterized as a revolution in Web development or as a rebellion against Web 1.0 – two quite different things.

His chosen analogy is the French vs. the American revolution:

“Web 2.0 can take two distinct directions … [it] can be the French Revolution of Technology or it can be the American Revolution of Technology.”
His sense appears to be that Web 2.0 is more of a rebellion, a corrective to Web 1.0 which he calls “a destination-driven experience, one created not by users, but for users, and with little input or insight from them at all.”

There is a reason that this interpretation is bad news for Web 2.0 fanboys. As Layne puts it:

“The problem with successful rebellions is that rebels rarely know how to govern or else they take up the mantle of those against whom they rebelled, and like Orwell’s pigs in Animal Farm, they begin to sleep in the old rulers’ beds.”
Indeed Layne’s not altogether comfortable with the version number approach in and of itself:
“Web 2.0, Search 2.0, Life 2.0, World 2.0. The metaphor of software versions to describe technological and social phenomena once upon a time was clever. But, as with all clever sayings, it became overused and is now cliché. The draw toward terms like 'Web 2.0' is of course that it makes a strong implication that what it represents is a ‘next generation’ of something good enough to have gotten a second run. The trouble with such monikers, though, is their post-modern tendency to merely be what came after.”
Having introduced the notion of post-modernity into his essay, Layne then drops another word-bomb by referring to “the advent of the Post-Modern Internet embodied in the Web 2.0 movement.” Thus begging the question: Is Web 2.0 the Advent of the Post-Modern Internet? [My emphasis.]

There’s ten times more disagreement about what “post-modern” connotes than about what “Web 2.0” means simply because the former term has been around a lot longer than the latter. But even so, it is intriguing to contemplate that a phenomenon as young as the Internet might have already moved into its second era.

Are we entering a new historical period of the Internet and the Web, or merely an extension of the existing one?

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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