Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0

April 5, 2008

The first article I found for homework is actually referenced in Wikipedia’s Web 2.0 article called Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0 by Trebor Scholz. It is in a larger collection of articles called Critical Perspectives on Web 2.0 by Michael Zimmer. I wouldn’t have used it except for a statement made in it that struck me. In the section titled The Shifting Definitions of Web 2.0, they state that, “In 2004, the founder of a large technology publishing house, open source software proponent and multi–millionaire Tim O’Reilly coined the phrase Web 2.0, together with a colleague.” Remember that link from mental_floss where it shows a mention of Web 2.0 in The New York Times? That was in August of 2000. Not only that, but I remember a friend of mine in 2001, the designer of a Three Stooges fansite, addressed the high loading times of his site by saying that he wanted it to be “Web 2.0 ready” (though I don’t agree with my friend’s definition of Web 2.0 because he seemed to think it meant flashier, pseudo-interactive content that in fact was still only trying to pimp his fandom; though he did have a message board on the site). What the article may have meant was that Tim O’Reilly helped bring the term into the mainstream and provided a definite definition for the phrase.

The article itself isn’t too bad. It refutes the claim that Web 2.0 is a revolutionary change. Scholz basically states that using the phrase “Web 2.0” dumbs down the concept of what’s going on with the internet; that it phrases and hypes it for the mainstream. He does not deny that the internet is changing; he merely states that it is changing much more fluidly than one concept can capture. He claims that, while the Web 2.0 hype helped boost the use of the internet, it is “one that is build on false pretenses.”

In it, they reference the fact that much of the technology used has in fact been around for years. I say that, while it is true that those technologies were around for years, it is the application of such technology that makes it unique. Our use of the technology is maturing, and that is the beauty of Web 2.0.

Even though there were “Web 2.0” sites around for years before the dot-com bubble, the majority of the sites were one sided places where one could not provide much feedback. At that time I remember most websites were connected using webrings. There were a few sites, such as Yahoo Picks and Cool Site of the Day, that provided a site to go to per day, though those tended to be based solely on the preferences of the webmaster (ha, archaic term). The biggest thing about those old sites that stands out for me is that the user could not comment on these sites. Those sites’ Web 2.0 counterparts, such as i-am-bored.com, have user submissions and a place to comment. Many sites in the mid-90’s had guestbooks, but those were annoying as anything. The article only takes a look at the forerunners and does not look at the state of the majority of the sites at the time.

The article is right about the change being more gradual; it’s just that the article was that the author downplayed this shift by describing it as he had. Sure, it was more gradual than Tim O’Reilly makes it out to be, but many cultural shifts in history have labels that “dumb down” what happened. My first home computer was a Sony Vaio PCV-70, bought in 1996 (awful computer, full of bloatware). I connected to the internet via AOL using a 56k connection. Yet, I got into the game late; a friend of mine recalls accessing BBS’s using a 1200 baud connection. At least I had graphics, even though most of those were animated gifs and garish colors. There was a change between what my friend saw when he first connected and what I saw when I connected, just like there is a change in the ways people connect nowadays. The technology has been maturing and evolving for years at an exponential rate, and labeling this shift is only human nature.

The author annoyed me a bit at his description of Web 2.0. Labeling something does not dumb it down for the public, it’s only tries to substantiate a phenomena into a catchy term. Contrary to what the author states, the web has shifted its focus, as it has in the past, and will change for years to come.

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4 Responses to “Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0”

  1. jlphannah said

    I completely agree with your statement “the web has shifted its focus, as it has in the past, and will change for years to come.” I talk about the same thing in my post but unfortunately not as eloquently as you did.

    Its my first time blogging so hopefully I’ll only get better. I have to say WOW you found a lot of interesting information. I remember working in DOS black screen green letters blah. Computers as well as the Internet have changed considerably over the years. And interestingly enough there’s more to change to come.

    I still am trying to understand Web 2.0 and until I find a more viable definition I will stick with my first thought. “These classifications for the “Web” are just that, a labeling tool engineered by those to distingish the old concepts from the new ones.”

  2. Lindsey said

    I thought it was interesting when you said a friend of yours was talking about being “Web 2.0 ready” in 2001- I did not get the memo about Web 2.0 until around ’06, but I’m usually behind the times a bit. In 2007, I was working at a place where all of sudden *everyone* was using the term Web 2.0 all of a sudden. One day it became the thing to talk about. I can relate to what Scholz is saying in this article about web 2.0 becoming an overused marketing buzzword in a way. But I think it is an apt term to describe the shift from static information on the internet to interactivity and user-generated content. Great post!

  3. jdbosley said

    The term web 2.0 can’t be something that Tim O’Reilly was the first one to come up with. The adding of version numbers is something so commonplace in computing that it would be second nature to call a newer version of something version 1.5, 2.0 or 3.0. Everything is changing so rapidly that we will probably be looking at a new version number (even though these version numbers don’t coincide with any substantive way of knowing when it will start being called something else). I also remember using DOS and QBasic, alot has changed since then but it seems like things are changing much more rapidly these days. Hopefully we can all keep up.

  4. mwcain81 said

    I agree with you that the name is little more than a matter of convenience allowing us to talk about a concept in broad terms. The very idea of Web 2.0 has to do with finding new ways to look at things.

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