The death of Web 2.0 is nigh | Technology | Technology | The Observer
John Naughton, The Observer, Sunday 7 August 2011
Perhaps it was the spurious precision of the headline that caught my eye. “Web 2.0 will end on October 1 2012”, it said. The idea of a meme – an infectious idea – having a definite termination point was peculiar enough; but a meme as nebulous as Web 2.0?
Of course the phrase had become ubiquitous in PR-speak over the past few years. It seemed that the press release for every self-respecting online product or service had to have it somewhere in the text. But to ask the authors of these documents to explain what they meant by Web 2.0 was to risk accusations of mental cruelty, for they generally knew not whereof they spoke. (In that respect, it was like asking News International executives about “ethics”.) Many seemed to regard it simply as a synonym for “cool” or “the latest thing”. In that respect, Web 2.0 resembles many other technical terms – think “laser”, “turbo” and the prefix “i” – which have been co-opted by the hucksters of their days.
The prediction of Web 2.0’s demise was made by Christopher Mims, a technology commentator who writes for the MIT journal Technology Review. He started by typing Web 2.0 into Google Trends search engine. This shows that usage of (or at any rate searches for) the term peaked in 2007 and that it’s been going downhill ever since. Mims then extrapolated the downward trend until it hit the X-axis on the chart. QED.
As it happens, Web 2.0 does mean something, even though the definition gets a bit fuzzy round the edges. It first appeared in 1999 but didn’t really gain any traction until the publisher Tim O’Reilly and his colleagues were brainstorming a title for a conference they were organising in 2003. The basic idea behind the event was to challenge public perceptions that the collapse of the 1995-2001 internet boom implied that the web was a busted flush. So they decided to call the conference Web 2.0 and launched the meme upon an unsuspecting world.