Web 2.0… Or: The Web that Wasn’t

by hjanssen on January 08, 2007 07:05pm

Locate soapbox -
Place soapbox –
Make sure I do not fall off or thru said soapbox –
Stand on top of soapbox –

Start with a small cough, take a deep breath and begin………………….

The people I work with in the OSSL group know one of the easiest thing they need to do to push my buttons. The mere mention of Web 2.0 results in tirades from me that usually result in comments that are not fit for print.

Yet, I have decided to write a blog about this latest phenomenon called ‘Web 2.0’ or as I like to say, ‘the web that wasn’t.

When I started this blog, I was sitting in the Barcelona airport on my way back from a presentation I gave at TechED 2006. The talk was about what we do here at the OSSL. But that really has no relevance to this blog.

While sitting in the lounge at the airport I was reading an article in USA today that was left by somebody on the chair next to me. (I wonder if that makes me cheap?) The article was written by Kevin Maney. (I honestly have never met him) And it was called ‘Packed Tech Summit With Vats of Yahootinis Ring Bubble Warning Bells’ (The USA Today in question was from November 16, 2006 – Page 9A)

Not really a title that seems to have anything to do with Web2.0, but if you can get a hold of the article, I highly recommend reading it. It very much describes the Web 2.0 phenomenon, and he draws comparisons with the big telecom 2000 tech bubble. I will not get into the article here; I will leave that as an exercise to the reader of this blog. But it was the catalyst for me to finally write a blog on what has been bugging me with Web 2.0.

Having worked with OSS since the very first Linux kernels came out, and with Unix at AT&T for quite a few years prior to that, I have seen a lot of great and sometimes not so great changes happen. But one of the things OSS allowed you to do is take it and for the most part do with it (or to it) what you want. To make it serve your purpose. It is a very evolutionary way of creating software. The strong and useful survive; the weak and useless do not.

For me there is no such thing as Web 2.0. There never was, and there never will be. The whole mistaken concept of what Web2.0 is is something that actually completely flies in the face of what I believe OSS has stood for. OSS has always prided itself for its independence, its freedom. Not being able to put a label on. Where the web or the OSS movement is today is in large part due to natural evolution. And the great thing about natural evolution is that you never really know where it ends up. It is always changing. So putting a label on something, a label that basically is used by the ‘establishment’ does the concept of OSS a disservice. And when that label seems to imply a version of something I really get uncomfortable. Anandeep Pannu send me an interesting link to a cartoon that very nicely sums up a lot of my feelings on this subject, you can check it out here:


The cartoon seems to be done by the same person who does the cartoon in Linux Journal, It has the same characters and identifiers on the cartoon that Linux Journal seems to have.

And if Web 2.0 truly was such a thing that the OSS community was actively working towards can somebody than please tell me what Web 1.0 was? Or more importantly, please let me know what web 3.0 is _before_ it takes place. Not define something after it has happened.

When I explain to people my description of Web 2.0, I describe it as a big bus that has all kinds of developers on board (OSS and Commercial ones) they where all writing really cool stuff, and the never really did it with the idea of putting together what is now termed Web 2.0. Than there where the people that where running outside of the bus trying to slap stickers on it with Web 2.0 printed on it. It was something that was done not by people on the bus, but people that where running outside of it trying to keep up with it. Actually the people on the bus where not even aware that it was happening.

I have spoke to a lot of OSS developers, at conferences and thru contacts that I have, and often Web 2.0 comes up. And I am struck by the similarities of their view on it compared to my views.

For me one of the really cool things that has happened with the web in the last few years is that a lot of it was written by people who had a passion for solving or accommodating a vision of what they had (Both OSS and Commercial developers). The fruit of this labor then was merged and used by end users in such a way that the original creators never thought of. Which is the great thing about it!!   Technology was adapted/used/applied by people around the world to solve or create things they really wanted. A really cool way of developers and end users getting together without there ever having been a plan to do so.

Often software is created for a specific purpose; a lot of technical innovation goes into it. And frequently we forget about the people who will end up using what we create. What is happening on the web (and I am starting to see it in other software areas as well) is that other developers or in a lot of cases end users have put things together that where never thought of to be put together.

If we could agree on calling it something other than Web 2.0, which for me invokes a clearly defined software release. Something it certainly is not. Maybe call it something like ‘The unintended web collaboration framework’ (Can you tell I do not work in Marketing, my slogans would not sell water to a dehydrated person in the desert!)

The web is an evolution; I for sure am not smart enough to know where it is going. But I am looking forward with great interest and enthusiasm how everything will look like a year or more down the road.

Takes a small cough –
Steps down from his soapbox –
Puts soapbox away –

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