The need to define (to exploit)

The good folks at Pew have come up with a report (.pdf) that attempts to quantify the term “Web 2.0.” It’s a fun read, and the task is a bit like trying to rope one of those slimy creatures from Ghostbusters.

And while O’Reilly and others have smartly outlined some of the defining characteristics of Web 2.0 applications –utilizing collective intelligence, providing network-enabled interactive services, giving users control over their own data–these traits do not always map neatly on to the technologies held up as examples. Google, which demonstrates many Web 2.0 sensibilities, doesn’t exactly give users governing power over their own data–one couldn’t, for instance, erase search queries from Google’s servers. Users contribute content to many of Google’s applications, but they don’t fully control it.

Instead, the Web 2.0 concept was intended to function as a core “set of principles and practices” that applied to common threads and tendencies observed across many different technologies.2 However, after almost three years of increasingly heavy usage by techies and the press, and, as the writer Paul Boutin notes, after “Newsweek released the word, Kong-like, from its restraining quotes,” critics argue that the term is in danger of being rendered useless unless some boundaries are placed on it.

It is all well and good to try and define things like this, but this is essentially modernism trying to understand a postmodern concept in order to pull it into its world. I think Web 2.0 is grossly overused, and it’s a term that VCs gravitate towards, but Web 2.0 is too small to describe the real disruption that’s taking place.

At AR&D, we call that Media 2.0, and we have a pretty simple definition. It’s an umbrella under which to place that which is enabling an increasingly informed, empowered and participating general population. Life, people; it’s about life. All Media 1.0 is top-down. 2.0, however, is collaborative and bottom-up. How can it not be about life then?

When a Media 1.0 company attempts to pull this into their realm, whatever it pulls ceases to become Media 2.0. I would argue that Google is very much a Media 2.0 company, and it doesn’t matter who controls what. The result of Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it easily accessible is the product of Media 2.0.

We must not make the mistake of thinking that technology and technology companies are doing anything new. It’s people, folks, and that’s the horse that’s left the barn.


  1. the word “verisimilitude” comes to mind.

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