December 20, 2006

Web 2.0, baah… it’s just the Internet!

That's the title of a recent post by Rob Knopp commenting on the recent We Are the World article in Time magazine. For those who've missed it, Time has named basically everyone as Person of the Year in recognition of the explosion of the interactive web. Since we all create content for the web, we're all People of the Year. Except Canadians, of course. Our Person of the Year is new PM Stephen Harper.

Well, I'm always a bit skeptical of these grand pronouncements, even though with three blogs I'm as much a person of the year as anyone, except for the Canadian thing, of course. And Rob Knopp is a bit skeptical of all the hype too. After all, it's just the Internet!

The idea is that in 2006, more than any individual, the growth and explosion of many individuals doing lots of small things has influenced our culture. Arguably, the most important visual media force in 2006 was online video sharing sites like YouTub, and arguably, the most important publishing phenomenon was the explosion of blogs (most of which are crap, a very of which have been groundbreaking).

The Internet is what makes a lot of this possible.


The Web of today is an enhanced, improved, and accessorized, but not fundmentally different, version of the Web of Tim Berners-Lee 15 years ago. More than that, it’s the Internet of at least 1986 (the first time I became vaguely aware of it), and probably before that. There’s no revolution. There’s just more people using it, and more people realizing what it really is. The hurdle to get over was the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s… that was where nobody “got” the Web or the Internet, and instilled in the popular consciousness a false idea about its nature.


Here’s the idea of the Internet : every user is a peer. We can all be both information producers and consumers. We both send and receive. It’s a conversation, not consumption.

The Internet was designed this way from the start. You hear music and movie lobbyists talking about “Peer to Peer” software as if it were some recent evil created to destroy them, to corrupt the wholesome Internet with a new and terrible way of doing things. Well, no. Peer-to-peer is simply how the Internet works, no matter how many ISPs think it makes sense to have a “no servers” policy. In the 80’s and the early 90’s, many if not most of those on the web were academics, or students at Universities. Indeed, it was physicists who created the Web to share information. And those of us on the net back then got it. Yeah, not very many people were putting up web pages with a lot of information. However, the fraction doing that was much than the fraction of newspaper readers who wrote newspaper articles or published a newspaper.

Well, there's a lot more, but you can just read it yourself. It's nice to have a buzz word for everyone to rally around, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the web has been around for quite a while now and will certainly be around for a lot longer. Let's work to make it a better, more interactive, more informative and even more anarchic place but let's not let the big media companies tell us what's worthy or what's hot.


Jason said...

I agree that "Web 2.0" is little more than a construct purporting to identify radical changes from the original Web. A number of tools have appeared in recent years, but the general intent of the Web has not. It has been more of an evolutionary process, rather than some grand revolution. (How many of us actually feel like you're involved in a "revolution," anyway?) However, I suppose one could argue that such changes could generate "revolutionary" outcomes in the non-digital world.

I also express skepticism about Time's "Person of the Year" in .

Jason said...

... my blog.

[continuing my previous post... some HTML problem...]

John Dupuis said...

Jason, thanks for the comment. I think you nailed it right on the head with the web being evolutionary rather than revolutionary.