Does everything have to be Web 2.0?


Web 2.0 might have jumped the shark – that is not exactly what Peter Rip says, but that is the essence of his argument: Web 2.0 has gone mainstream, and the innovation around it is scuffling. The personal anecdote Rip retells is pretty amusing.

Much of the “easy” innovation seems to have been wrung out of the Web 2.0 wave. Web 2.0 was cheap – thanks to open source, simple – thanks to RSS/REST, and distinctive – thanks to AJAX and Flash.

Now the hard work begins, again. The next wave of innovation isn’t going to be as easy. Now the hard part is moving from Web-as-Digital-Printing-Press to true Web-as-Platform. To make the Web a platform there has to a level of of content and services interoperability that really doesn’t exist today.

It is difficult to disagree with him, because frankly the much overused marketing term (Web 2.0) has become a bit of a millstone around what is happening in the technology world. To retrofit everything into the Web 2.0 bucket is something just doesn’t make sense.

Take for example, GrandCentral, a VoIP application that aggregates many different phone numbers – cellphones, landlines, VoIP digits and office phones – and replaces them with a single number. Over the weekend, Tim O’Reilly, called the Web 2.0 Address Book.

There is nothing Web 2.0 about it. Not even according to Tim’s original Web 2.0 manifesto which completely overlooked how the world of Voice was changing. (If there was an update, I missed that!) Grandcentral, to some, like me, is a useful application, one that marries the web and the voice worlds nicely.

Others don’t really care for it, and they have their reasons. Maybe it is time to just put a fork in it, and stop calling everything Web 2.0. Lets just settle on an old fashioned word: innovation. Paul Kedrosky says it best when he writes:

It’s long past time to move on folks. While the media, advertising, and technology transformations continue apace, let’s just call them what they are and leave the marketing mumbo-jumbo to others.

Disclosure: GrandCentral were co-sponsors of a cocktail party that followed the ETel/GigaOm Launchpad event held last month.

Update: Valleywag says Alexa errors are the reason behind the drop in traffic stats as shown by Alexa, and that is why Rip’s argument might be doubtful. I find issue with the numbers, not with his general analysis and thesis – which is spot on, and was part of a bigger post that never got done.



I don’t believe everyting has to be web 2.0, but it really makes the internet experience a lot more enjoyable.

Hans Rey

All this talk about the end of Web 2.0. I guess for you guys it seems to ending and is near RIP. I in fact believe we are just at the beginning of web 2.0, as many novel and exciting new developments are taking place in other parts of the world.

Here is one example that I particularly like

It integrates and offers all those features that you termed RIP, but in fact are just at the tipping point!

Tim O'Reilly

Obviously, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but it seems to me that most of the folks saying “Web 2.0 is over” don’t understand Web 2.0, or at least what I meant by the term.

If it’s about the network as platform, virtually everything we’re seeing in computing is in fact Web 2.0, just like most of computing for the past few decades has been about the PC. Saying “Web 2.0 has jumped the shark” is like saying “personal computing has jumped the shark.”

Ajax has little or nothing to do with Web 2.0. It’s a nice computing innovation that’s used by lots of Web 2.0 sites, but google maps is a Web 2.0 phenomenon because of mashups (network re-use) not because of Ajax. And is the pre-eminent web 2.0 app with a dead-simple, minimalist UI because search engines are intrinsically network-as-platform apps, because Google figured out how to harness collective intelligence to provide search results better than their competitors, and because they built a self-service ad network that also harnessed network effects better than their competitors. Nothing to do with the interface.

Saying that Grand Central is not a Web 2.0 app indicates that you don’t understand what I was trying to get at in my original framing of the concept. (Now, I can’t be responsible for how people have remade that concept — I can’t control how the meme evolves — but I sure as heck can use it myself the way I originally meant it!)

Why did I call GrandCentral the Web 2.0 address book in the making? Because if they play their cards right, they are going to be building a user-generated phone book that no one else has, a superset of the call history held by any one carrier. This will be a very powerful network asset.

Plaxo, LinkedIn et al are also contenders, as are any of the big email players, but GC is the first company outside the phone companies themselves that looks to have a shot at tackling this problem from the phone end. And there are a lot more phones than PCs and PC-based web browsers.

Web 2.0 is not equivalent to “innovation.” Quantum computing is an innovation that’s not Web 2.0. Synthetic biology is an innovation that’s not Web 2.0. But for better or worse (and it’s certainly worse when people bandy the term about for marketing purposes, or bash it for marketing purposes — both are equivalent misuses), it’s a term that has been broadly adopted to represent the current era of computing and computing business models.


Gloria wrote:

Same old stupid technology focus.
Technology is of little use to
non-geeks. Wake up and look outside.
Most people want solutions to their
problems and are not interested in
the name of technology that is used
to solve the problem. sure, AJAX is a
big hit with geeks, but a plain user
couldn’t care less about the ‘magic’
behind it.

Gloria, I mostly agree but my answer would be a mix of “yes” and “no” not totally bipolar. Its probably true that non-tech people don’t really care all that much about the technology underpinnings and the names that geeks associate with such underpinnings. However, Ms. Gloria, I have met MANY non-geek people in the Real Estate business who just LOVE Google Maps. I had a gray beard who has worked in the Real Estate industry tell me how fascinated he is with how technology is changing the business and changing the dynamics of how people go about searching for information that just five to ten years ago was impossible (he mentioned Zillow for example). He said that its fantastic because his prospective buyers and sellers are more intelligent and are loaded with more information about buying and selling a home (or even renting). In Portland, OR for example, there’s even a web site that shows crime based on neighborhood blocks as reported to police.

I think it would be fair to say that Google Maps really gave this whole “AJAX” and “Web 2.0” name calling a shot in the arm. People are always going to coin terms. The fact is, there have emerged applications of these technology underpinnings that have proved to be useful to consumers. But getting back to Rip’s point, there is a deeper question as to whether or not these new applications can make money and are therefore worthwhile investment opportunities (that’s a whole other ball of wax). Anyway, its naive to say that names that people coin to technology should be shrugged off and that nobody cares. Consumers are becoming more intelligent as they have access now to boat loads of information. The trick of course is how to figure out what information is trustworthy (because there is clearly also a lot of amateurism and disinformation on the web). Anyway, the web is unstoppable and new applications will continue to emerge. The applications that attract and retain an audience’s attention long-term will be the ones that win of course and the challenge for Rip and his VC friends is to figure out how to lay their bets down (but that’s their problem — the VC business is the business they have opted in to and if they don’t like it then they should quit and do something else. I never shed crocodile tears for VCs, because they are in a sense gamblers sitting at a round table in a casino roayle).

Gloria white

Same old stupid technology focus. Technology is of little use to non-geeks. Wake up and look outside. Most people want solutions to their problems and are not interested in the name of technology that is used to solve the problem. sure, AJAX is a big hit with geeks, but a plain user couldn’t care less about the ‘magic’ behind it. Put users first. If a random poll of web users were to be taken, over 90% would not have even heard of Web 2.0.


shorter Om:

my web2.0 friends and i have been web2.0-blogging for web2.0+ years, so let’s stop everyone else from saying ‘web2.0’, now, because you know, i like to act above the riffraff.

Darren Dang

I love Craig Newmark’s post. Craig’s List rocks! It just works. It doesn’t have to be a “user experience” or an “expression” or art deco.

But not all applications can be a simple as Craig’s List.

I think the area that will require innovation however is most likely to be in the enterprise arena which moves slower and does not rapidly experiment the way the consumer space can and sometimes does (e.g., YouTube).

As for Rip’s comments needing a true Web-As-A-Platform (he is right, its hard or, as many like to say in the current vernacular, its “non-trivial”). I am encouraged when I see yesterday’s Apollo announcement and learn about tools like Adobe’s Flex which was originally an enterprise tool to begin with, and then I see some serious efforts by Adobe working with the innovative Rails community with stuff like the WebORB for Ruby on Rails < >.

Joseph Pally

Innovation, not current technology, is key.

Usage of “Web 2.0” is just like “.com” in olden days. The important thing is that a connected world is a paradigm that changes everything. We will be in a world where EVERYTHING is done over the web, and not on the PC.

Already, technology enables the
“experience-expression continuum” to blur – and for “YOU” to become the center of the Internet. Maybe the next generation web innovation should be named “You-Centric”.


I think that as the medium matures, it makes more sense to look at various trends as aesthetic distinctions instead of technological ones. For example, look at film. Throughout the past 100 years there have been constant advances in technology. However, we classify movies by their aesthetic and narrative goals (noir, horror, comedy, surrealism, Dogme, etc). Even though the Web’s technological capabilities are developing rapidly, in the future it will be aesthetics and mission that define it, not technology.


Web 2.0 was created by a few people to sell conference spots and to give tech writers something to talk about. Frankly, I like the term Innovation you use. That is all this is.

This is not some great revolution to rival what happened in France several hundred years ago.


Darren Herman

Om, you raise a great question. I believe that when many people look at sites, they have a Web 2.0 feel. We all know what this ‘feel’ is – as many sites share the same vibe. I believe that Web 2.0 is used loosely around this association.

Stan Schroeder

Grand Central is definitely a Web 2.0 service, simply because it provides functionality that couldn’t be done without the power of networking, and it intrinsically increases in value with the number of its users.

The problem with Web 2.0 is that many people simply cannot understand Tim’s definition, because it’s, well, not that simple to understand. But it doesn’t mean it’s a phenomenon that cannot be defined or understood.


Om – if you really want to pop the ‘web 2.0’ buzzword bubble, pay no attention to it. Making a blog post saying so will only do the opposite and extend the lifespan. You’ve probably introduced several new GigaOm readers to web 2.0 through this post alone.

No one I know in the off-line world has heard of web 2.0, and until they have, we need to remember it’s only the blogosphere that has become saturated with the buzzword.

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