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Web 2 point Oh (no)

Books of academic criticism of a certain movement, whether literary, artistic or philosophical, always seem to start with the same introduction. Say you’re reading about abstract expressionism. The intro will say ‘first, what is abstract expressionism? It’s hard to define the movement in any definite way’. You will now feel a little annoyed that this author doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Then the intro will say ‘of course, none of the artists discussed in this book would call themselves abstract expressionists’. You will now start wishing you’d picked up the copy of Heat instead of this book about a movement that doesn’t seem to exist and that nobody wanted to belong to.

And that, my friends, apart from showing off my extensive knowledge of the art world, is all a bit like Web 2.0. Nobody seems to know what it means, and all the real innovators and cutting edge folk on the web seem to be shunning the label. No wonder – the phrase itself sounds incredibly smug, mainly because of the ‘point oh’ bit. It is scientifically impossible to say ‘Web 2.0’ aloud without sounding like a punchable buffoon – try it.

What’s more, it’s kind of innaccurate: the ‘version number’ format of the name implies a completely new version of the WWW, where instead, on the sites sited as being part of this exclusive club, all we find is more of a ‘Web 1.25’ – a web with a few bells and whistles on top. Ben Ramsey has been talking about the need for a new term, now that O’Reilly Media have claimed Web 2.0 as their own – but I’m thinking perhaps the whole buzzword needs to be binned, or at least saved until the web really is revolutionised.

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