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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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Most Recent Comments
Mark Scrimshire 10/26/06 01:38:23 PM EDT


Your sign off question in this article is a great one
Are we entering a new historical period of the Internet and the Web, or merely an extension of the existing one?

I believe we are entering a new period - influenced increasingly by the cell phone. See the comments in my blog (http://ekive.blogspot.com/2006/10/web-20-new-dawn.html)

roguegramma 10/21/06 08:11:18 AM EDT

Web 2.0 is a mistake, because it replaces HTML standards with non-standardized javascript glue code. Example for bad effects: pages will in general no longer be bookmarkable, much like it was when frames came up.

It is a bit like "the revenge of the Java programmers": Somehow Java didn't take over web programming, so now the minds are working on converting HTML into Java. For example - View link: http://www.jackslocum.com/yui/2006/10/19/cross-browser-web-20-layouts-wi...)

It is a sophisticated joke when a simple layout that could have been done by a using a table(OMG tables!?) somehow requires using a layout manager and javascript (Of course, I agree it is cool in a sick way, and you get the panes for free).

Geoff Livingston 10/20/06 09:01:34 AM EDT

Here's a hot communications use of web 2.0 technology. Local B2B blog Neighbors Serving Neighbors, owned by Rick Dassler, primarily uses YouTube video shorts to disseminate valuable business tips. Great idea, Rick!

Here's the link: http://servingneighbors.typepad.com/

rogerd 10/20/06 08:56:10 AM EDT

Amidst all of the gushing in the press over Web 2.0, a dark side is emerging. One issue that may not be too startling is that while having users add content to sites is indeed wonderful, it also lets users add stuff that site owners don't want - spam links, slanderous statements, false reviews, phony identities, etc.

Discussion forum operators have had to cope with these issues for years, but I'm sure a few starry-eyed Web 2.0 fans will be shocked when they find that some portion of their visitors aren't there to improve the site and benefit humanity.

Stephan-Marc Solomon 10/20/06 05:02:19 AM EDT

I wouldn't even call it a revolution. Revolutions are bloody and violent. Like DotBomb with all its overrated IPOs. That was a revolution. We have a german saying, which probably translates into something like "the revolution eats its own children". That's what happened to web 1.0. And I don't believe that this will happen to the so-called web 2.0.
I would prefer to call web 2.0 a "transformation".

And yes, web 2.0 definitely has something post-modernish: just look at mashups. They constitute something that is typical of post-modern thought: everything has allready been said, and done. Everything is a quotation: it can only be copied and mixed. That's how something "new" is created.

Noah Brier 10/19/06 11:55:12 PM EDT

Blogs are an interesting problem for an organization. For one, they do not subscribe to the command and control ideology so many corporate communication departments use. Secondly, blogs cut across the silos. It's a communication/product/sales/marketing initiative. That leads to 'ownership' questions.

Ultimately, digitalness is at the core of the whole debate. In an analog world, silos were mostly okay, information couldn't really move across disciplines anyway. But in a digital world, where all information is made up of the same ones and zeros, those walls don't work so well.

This is bigger than just business, look at terrorism: The perfect example of a networked architecture fighting a more traditional hierarchical one. Just ask the United States army and they'll tell you it doesn't work so well.

Look at schools. Here they are broadcasting at students used to engaging with media. The system simply wasn't built to deal with a wired world and America's children are suffering as a result.

Bottom line is we are living in a very different world than we did fifty years ago and structures built then are going to be forced to change.

Charry Ellis 10/19/06 11:49:32 PM EDT

The postmodern mind is one that pieces thoughts and belief systems from a collection of pre-existing ones.

For example, the postmodern musician crafts music from a compilation of other works. The creativity of form is derived from the way in which the pieces are compiled, thus making it new and original. George Barna, a sociologist and postmodern theorists out of Santa Barbara, CA, calls this the "mosaic."

Postmodern creation is non-linear in its construct.

an0n 10/19/06 11:46:48 PM EDT

Whoever the nerd behind web 2.0 is needs to be shot and killed. Why? What the heck are you going to do with web 2.0 except kill your time? Del.icio.us has to be the biggest waste of a web site ever.

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