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Tim Berners-Lee Comes Under Fire: Is It Time He Let Go of "Web 1.0"?

"The love is in the letting go," they say

"The love is in the letting go," they say. But the creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (pictured), may be having difficulty relinquishing custody of his brainchild, "Web 1.0," and allowing it to evolve and grow...into Web 2.0.  SYS-CON Media's pioneering Web 2.0 Journal - edited by blogger and Web 2.0 consultant Dion Hinchcliffe - took time over the Labor Day weekend to sound out the wider Web community on Berners-Lee's now infamous remark that "Web 2.0" as a term is "a piece of jargon."

Here we bring a round-up of what ordinary Netizens are saying about the issue:
"It's a little sad, I think, that someone of his stature is making this common mistake. Essentially, people are thinking in terms of technologies, and on that score, yes, Web 2.0 is just hype. But the rest of us see Web 2.0 as a change in use and attitudes. If you like, Web 1.0 was about delivery of information, with the user as passive comsumer. Web 2.0 is about participation, placing the user at the centre of things as an active contributor of information.

When Tim claims all this for "Web1.0", he's just ... well, wrong.

What's really happening is that the Web is maturing, with a combination of access to high bandwidth for a large number of people, wide distribution of creative uses for existing tools (AJAX), and some highly original marketing models allowing interesting social services to be made available free to a very large population of users.

Nothing new, except in how we think about the web."

STEPHEN THOMASBlogger and Senior Systems Analyst, University of Adelaide Library, Australia


"The expression 'Web 2.0' was unfortunate. It makes a promise that it’s unlikely to deliver on - a web that’s twice as good, or fixed. If the other Tim, O’Reilly, had stuck to the expression ‘Infoware’, people wouldn’t get nearly so upset about the subject. He told me: “I started talking about ‘infoware’, which is much the same thing [as Web 2.0], at the same conference [Linux Kongress, May 1997] that Eric Raymond started talking about The Cathedral and the Bazaar.”

If Web 2.0 has jumped the shark, then it’s because people find the expression either embarrassing or inviting of mockery. There have been a bunch of startups with fancy interfaces and questionable business models: that doesn’t make for a computing revolution. However, the things that these companies are heralding, what it really stands for - social software, online collaboration, social media, many-to-many communications - aren’t going to go away. As they become mainstream, their importance will start to have the sort of effects that might one day earn a 2.0 label."

IAN DELANEY, Blogger and Editor of ICT for Education, UK


"Just read Techcrunch for week and see how many new, VC-backed start-ups are doing what so many other VC-backed start-ups are doing: social-networking, Flash video-sharing, IM, or blogging; throw in a pastel colour pallete, rounded corners and AJAX and make sure your new firm ends with the letter “r” (or should that be “lettr”?), and, Boom!, you have the now stereotypical Web 2.0 start-up. And, its fairly likely you will get cash thrown at you.

This all sounds worryingly familiar, but the first version wasn’t called Web 1.0; it was called “the dotcom bubble”. Back then, an awful lot of money was thrown at companies who ended up delivering nothing but promises and some fancy schwag."

ANDREW TERRY, Blogger (andrewterry.com)


"Is all of this 'frothy,' as Robert Scoble recently claimed. Not in the slightest. Are people excited about it? Yes, and they should be. And while I don't find the term itself to be particularly important -- it's the ideas behind it that are so interesting -- the fact that so many people feel so strongly about the term Web 2.0 tells us that it's something we should understand better."

DION HINCHCLIFFE, Editor-in-Chief, Web 2.0 Journal


"In general, I’m definitely a pragmatist...but I do have to say that it is exciting to, well, finally have something to get excited about.

In my estimation, while there were things going on in the past that were about connecting people like email and IM, I think we are experiencing new ideas that don’t just connect people, but use people’s connections in passive and active ways that are indeed different. It is not just about connecting, but doing it in a very subversive and grassroots way that is exciting.

What is further exciting, is that there is growth going on, and while I understand the fear of another bubble, I’d rather go through another 5 years of prosperity than continue the previous 5 years of boredom we had before. So calm and rationality is nice, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something new if just slightly askew from before going on."

DAVID MALOUF, Blogger and Interaction Designer, Brooklyn NY


"I actually agree with Tim Berners-Lee when he points out that the vast majority of developments that are being labeled Web 2.0 are in fact built on Web 1.0 components such as HTML and JavaScript.

This is true, but the difference is the inventive ways in which these components have been put together to create new solutions. An interesting parallel here is Apple and the iPod. The iPod was not the first digital music player to be introduced to the public. Neither was companion application, iTunes, the first music library software. The difference was the way Apple packaged hardware and software to breakdown the barriers to allow non-technical people to use the new device and re-discover their music collections.

When barriers to contribution are dismantled everyone benefits. As Dion Hinchcliffe expertly illustrates in the graphic in his recent column, the collective intelligence of the two-way web will massively outweigh the knowledge generated by the, mostly one-way, publication of information from traditional media and corporate sites."

MARK SCRIMSHIRE, Contributing Editor,  Web 2.0 Journal

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Brad Pierce 09/06/06 07:12:20 AM EDT

Not so long ago I remember complaining to my friends about how the internet was turning into an advertising playground, about it once being pure with information and now there was all this "commercial" crap glomming up my pretty static HTML pages.

Today, my browser works against pop-ups, my email is automaticly filtered for SPAM and my eyes have learned to avert themselves from the talking smily faces at the tops of web pages. I don't even notice the ads most of the time anymore, and, to be perfectly honest, they have gotten much better at focusing the ads I do see at the things I'm interested in.

Now the rage is about user generated content. Wikipedia, Myspace, Flickr, Ebay, reviews on Amazon, etc...

The difference isn't the technology. The difference is the attitude. The difference is the generation gap.

I have friends that when they ask "can I check my email" they are referring to checking their MySpace account. At first the technology snob in me was appalled at the idea of their "email" being the messages they receive on MySpace. However, when it was explained in very simple terms, "This is how my friends communicate." It made sense.

My friends and I started out with email, IRC, and ICQ. We made fun of AOL users and people with a "home page." That was our time, and it wasn't long ago, but it was a generation ago.

Today a MySpace account is a rite of passage for fourteen year-olds (and often younger), getting their music via iTunes and their movies through Google is just the way it is. Having Wikipedia, by rights a very accurate resource on nearly everything, is an evolution of our experience of 10 years ago.
The internet has changed, or maybe the people using it have. Technologies have enabled people to contribute and they are doing so as fast as possible and with ever increasing sophisitication.

For me that is the definition of "Web 2.0." It was when all the "normal" people figured out that what they had to say had some value. When the children who never grew up without computers looked at us and said "why shouldn't I?" and dove right in.