Web "Me2.0" — Exploding the Myth of Web 2.0

By the way, as long as everyone is questioning the term,"Web 3.0" can we also please stop calling everything "Web 2.0.?" I am so tired of Web 2.0! Web 2.0 is a myth — there is no Web 2.0. It’s just the same Web, with more social features, tagging and AJAX. And so far Web 2.0 has not been very impressive. Not only that but the majority of "long-tail" Web 2.0 apps that are flooding the market will all be gone in a few years. It’s really easy for anyone to throw some AJAX on a page, add some tags, and make a nice UI. But that’s not enough to create lasting value. Worse still, many of the Web 2.0 apps that are now emerging are simply versions of earlier ones — I call this phenomenon "Web me2.0" (Web me-too-dot-oh).

I’ve seen this before — it happened just over 10 years ago in the
early days of Java applets. I should know, I launched
http://www.gamelan.com — which was THE portal for Java apps. Well
guess what — 10 years later, what remains of all those Java applets?
Not the hundreds of thousands of little applets that people made (even
though some were actually quite wonderful). No. They are almost all
gone. Instead, what really survived and continues to grow is the Java
platform itself, and large Java application platforms and development
tools. That’s where the real value is.

The same will be true today. We are just at the tail end of the
fascination phase with AJAX and Web 2.0 technologies. Pretty soon the
shakeout and die-off will happen. Only the robust platforms and
large-scale apps will survive. And guess what — these systems were not
created in a weekend by 2 guys with a $100 budget. They are almost all
large, long-term, efforts that cost real money in time and labor by
dozens if not hundreds of coders. The popular myth of Web 2.0
dramatically reducing the cost of building great software is just that,
a myth. Really good software is just as hard to make as it was before,
whether you use Ruby on Rails or C# or Java, and it costs about the
same as well. The ability to re-use open-source code is nice, but you
still have to build something significant and differentiable on top of
all that open-source goodness. That still takes work. And frankly,
patching together a bunch of different, sometimes unfinished or buggy,
open-source tools into a coherent system is not always as simple as
some might think.

As for online services — well except for the rare breakout hits
that get big and get bought before any real money is spent — most
sites that get big also get very expensive (Costs include: scaling,
bandwidth, customer support, security, maintenance,
internationalization, integration, API’s, legal fees, and the list goes
on…). It’s really not that much easier to build and launch a major
Web site today than it was 10 years ago. In fact, growing that site
into a big successful business is actually MORE expensive than it was
10 years ago because there is more noise in the marketplace, marketing
is more costly, there are more users and competitors, and the "bar is
higher" when it comes to user experience.

Many people have told me this week that they
think "Web 2.0" has not been very impressive so far and that they
really hope for a next-generation of the Web with some more significant
innovation under the hood
— regardless of what it’s called. A lot of people found the Web 2.0
conference in San Francisco to be underwhelming — there was a lot of
self-congratulation by the top few brands and the companies they have
recently bought, but not much else happening. Where was all the
innovation? Where was the focus on what’s next? It seemed to be a
conference mainly about what happened in the last year, not about what
will happen in the coming year.

But what happened last year is already so "last year." And frankly
Web 2.0 still leaves a lot to be desired. The reason Tim Berners-Lee
the Semantic Web in the first place is that it will finally deliver on
the real potential and vision of the Web. Not that today’s Web 2.0
completely — it only sort of sucks. It’s definitely useful and there
are some nice bells and whistles we didn’t have before. But it could
still suck so much less!

I mean let’s face it, after you’ve
seen about 500 AJAX-enabled social apps that show off tagging it starts
to be a bit repetitive and you start to wonder about what’s next.
Please show me something really cool, not just what I’ve seen 500 times
already. If it’s really that easy for anyone to create a Web 2.0 app,
is there any defensible value in such apps? Frankly much of what passes
for Web 2.0 today is curiosityware that we might look at once out of
curiosity, but will probably not reuse on a regular basis.

As for the technology of Web 2.0, other than AJAX and the idea of
doing mash-ups and making widgets, what actual new technology is there
under the hood? Not much, if any. AJAX was exciting for the first year
in and of
itself — it’s always nice to be able to make richer more interactive
GUI’s. But now the question is what does that shiny AJAX app actually
do, and how is that different from the other 500 AJAX apps that do the
same thing, and do I really need that app? The initial head-rush of
AJAX is wearing off. We now all know that we can do drag and drop on a
Web page. We can move widgets, we can re-order content. YESSS! But now

User-generated content is great — And we all repeat that mantra in
our sleep now. Mission accomplished, social software pundits! And RSS
and Atom are wonderful notification and syndication mechanisms. Great,
we’ll all enable that in our apps and services from now on. Done. Is
that all?

networking is important and we all like it. But, other than finding a
job or finding someone to hire or date (or both in some cases), what
the heck is it REALLY
useful for?

Blogging is
fun, and even actually useful (in some cases). Great, but blogs are
just the
beginning, not the end of what I want to do with my content on the Web.
Personal publishing is still not even close the sophistication of
desktop publishing in 1989. Not only are the authoring tools primitive,
but as for formatting or layout, or content management…that’s not
even an option (the little rich-text tool I am writing this in does not

MySpace and YouTube are hits — and
there are a 100 me-too companies trying to imitate them now. I don’t
know about you, but frankly how different is MySpace from Geocities —
a Web 1.0 play — actually? As for video, I just don’t really see that
much to jump up and down about concerning the mere ability to see a
video clip in a window and send that URL to my friends. I mean it’s
nice, but so what? We could do that in 1997. What’s fundamentally
different or better about doing it today? It’s hosted? It’s faster?
There’s no plugin download required? There’s more coprighted video
content illegally made available to me by billion dollar companies?
It’s easier to upload? I’m not that impressed. You could do so much
more with video than on the Web beyond simply enabling people to upload
it and play it.

As for uploading photos and sharing them — well Flickr is gorgeous
and great. We all agree. So are the other two dozen photo sharing
sites. Okay? Great that was last year. Now what?

And as for wikis — I like them, I use them — but I dearly hope
are not the last step in the process of augmenting human collaboration,
because frankly they are primitive and geeky (which is the
reason why wiki companies have struggled and so far failed to cross the
chasm to large-scale mainstream adoption). But let’s not single out
wikis — No Web 2.0 collaborative app
of any kind has come close
to the level of adoption, functionality, or utility, of old-fashioned
groupware products like Lotus Notes. And that’s why in a market with
more than 100 million potential enterprise seats, even tools like
BaseCamp (which is the best of the best of the Web 2.0 collaboration
tools) are only at around 1 million users. There’s still a long way to

Now let’s look at online shopping. There has been very little
innovation there in Web 2.0. Ebay, Paypal and Amazon are pretty much
the same as they have been for many years now. Web 2.0 has not done
much for e-commerce as far as I can tell — other than perhaps slap
some AJAX, and of course tags, onto commerce sites. Oh I forgot —
there are sites that scrape classifieds and aggregate them. Guess what
folks, WhizBang! was doing this in the 1990’s. There’s nothing new
about that.

I for one am tired of Web
2.0 — which was never clearly defined — being considered "cool" just
because it is well, what’s after Web 1.0. I have seen every Web
2.0 trick endless numbers of
times by now and I want to see something fundamentlaly new. I have seen
myriad features masquerading as apps, and I can foretell the day when
most of them will be gone. But where is the real lasting value? That’s
what I’m interested in. It’s true there is still a lot of
opportunity to make Web 2.0
better, but I can see its limits already, and I’m looking for what’s
beyond those limits.

I want the next frontier. I
want smarter tools, smarter content, and a richer, more integrated,
more unified, more connected, more productive Web experience. I want a
smarter Web. I want to be able to do things that I can’t do yet, not
just what I can do already plus tags! I want the next Web, not
yesterday’s Web, not today’s plethora of Web "Me2.0" apps. I want
tomorrow’s Web, or better yet, next year’s Web — whatever we decide to
name it (or not). Just do me one favor: please. When the next Web
arrives, you may not want to call it Web 3.0, but at least don’t call
it Web 2.0.

0 thoughts on “Web "Me2.0" — Exploding the Myth of Web 2.0

  1. There’s definitely a lot of undeserved hype when it comes to Web 2.0 – how many sites are there now that take a word ending with “-er” and just drop the “e”? ranchr.com still seems to be available.
    However, there is a significant change in how web sites are developed today than they were several years ago. Simplicity and standards are emphasized much more heavily than they were, mainly because AJAX is much easier to work with if your page is “clean”. Designers are now trained to create pages where content and presentation are separated – I consider that to be part of Web 2.0 as well. The CSS Zen Garden shows how that’s done. Unobtrusive Javascript is another step forward in a similar vein. All of these changes help pave the way for the semantic web – we’re at a point where there doesn’t need to be any difference between the human-readable web page and the machine-readable data resource. It’s just a matter of widespread adoption (which Web 2.0 is helping to move along), and then moving on to the semantic web will simply be a matter of a couple of tweaks to the standards we already have.
    p.s. I didn’t even get to how marketing companies (and politicians) have reinvented themselves to use viral techniques to keep up with the social networking trends. The effects go beyond the web.

  2. Wow… how old is this rant getting? Almost as old as everyone calling everything Web 2.0.
    Look, Web 2.0 is an annoying term, no doubt. But your conclusion are mostly dead wrong.
    You say: “We are just at the tail end of the fascination phase with AJAX and Web 2.0 technologies.”
    No we’re not. Just like we’ve not had Java technology end. It just has found its groove. When the web was new, there was a ton of business ideas as people tried out the new medium. Some failed, some didn’t. Pets.com proved that people don’t care about buying dog food online, while amazon proved they do like buying books and DVDs online.
    You say that software development hasn’t changed at all with the “Web 2.0” stuff. Bull. Starting a business based on tech has never been easier or cheaper. Maintaining a business might not be different than before, but getting into the web business game is the best its ever been.
    At the end of the post you talk about what you want – how in the hell do you think we get there?? Do you think that *poof* everything is advanced and new and better? If that *poof* moment happens, do you think that non-techies will instantly jump on board, welcoming revolutionary change without any hesitation??
    Yeah, right.
    You were around in the early days of the internet – remember trying to convince your parents to surf, much less put their credit card online? Doing basic things like adding tagging is part of the evolution of users changing their usage habits, becoming more comfortable doing things like plugging in their credit cards, participating in the social connection aspects, meeting people online (leading to offline), etc.
    Remember when online dating had a horrible stigma? How’s that today? How many of the early dating sites are still big today? On the basis of your premise, since the early implementations of dating sites aren’t around, online dating failed. Yeah, right.
    Bigger picture, man. Bigger picture.