Trying to Define Web 2.0

Web 1.0 Is So Last Year; Interaction, Multimedia Push Internet Forward

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YORK, Pa. ( -- Maybe the ultimate insult in the online world today is to be described as a Web 1.0 company. The so-called second wave of the internet revolution is all about Web 2.0. Sporting names such as Webaroo, Flickr, Trulia and Ning, the current crop of websites labeled Web 2.0 claim next-generation status.
Flickr: A Web 2.0 poster child.
Flickr: A Web 2.0 poster child.

But just what does Web 2.0 mean?

While there is much debate-mostly within tech circles-there are a few things most pundits agree on. Web 2.0 companies are interactive. They invite consumer-generated comments and content, unlike Web 1.0 companies, which publish mostly read-only content.

"The trends that are captured by the concept of Web 2.0 are extremely valuable, like user participation and social media," said Greg Sterling, analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence. "[But] the term is not meaningful to the consumer at all. Where Web 2.0 has meaning is in the venture-capital community, because it's a buzzword. And also, in the insider world of the net, people know it conveys a sort of sense of cool or forward-looking company."

Conference name
The term Web 2.0 was coined by O'Reilly Media's Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty several years ago when they were trying to come up with a name for a conference that would accurately describe the new generation of consumer-generated media. (In fact, the Web 2.0 term created quite a blog dustup for Mr. O'Reilly recently when Web 2.0 Conference, now owned in part by CMP Media, sent a cease-and-desist letter to promoters of a similarly-monikered conference in Ireland.)

Michael Arrington's TechCrunch blog serves as ground zero for Web 2.0 company profiles and reviews. His one-year-old online tome chronicles the up-and-coming and best of Web 2.0, and he wrote that he thinks of "Web 2.0 as the inevitable evolution of the web from a read-mostly medium to a read-write." He added that the trends of Web 2.0-such as RSS, podcasting and on-demand video-"throw many business models into question. New companies are being created to leverage these trends."

So Web 2.0 conveys, perversely, both an extremely insidery technical prowess, indicating complex software that allows interactivity at high levels, and plain old marketing gimmickry to attract investors, consumers or page views.

"My impression of Web 2.0 is it's the age of multimedia on the web, but there are so many ways you can slice and dice it," said IDC analyst Josh Martin. "Ultimately, if you really try, you can probably find a way to justify that your company is Web 2.0."

Maybe more action is what's needed to define the Web 2.0 era. "It's like that old joke about the guy on the first night of his honeymoon who tells his new bride how good this is going to be," said Richard Dougherty, analyst at Envisioneering Group.

Still, Web 2.0 pundits and purveyors alike agree that companies, whether labeled Web 2.0 or not, ultimately will be spurned or embraced on the value they offer to consumers.

"At the end of the day, companies need to prove themselves to consumers as opposed to just using a marketing term to define themselves," Mr. Martin said.
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