Web 2.0 in 20 Years

The Web 2.0 paradigm has reached mass media. We read about it in newspapers and hear about it on CNN. Now that the hype is really big, its death is also close. Let’s take an unagitated look at the Web 2.0 phenomena: What will be left in 20 years?

Some heroes

Tim O’Reilly coined the term Web 2.0 and hence further helped to establish himself and his company as a trend setter and a leading WWW think tank. They even do good marketing around it. Tim, you deserve it: we’ll still remember you in 20 years – just like the Google, Flickr, YouTube, etc. founders.

Big Mac 2.0

With “2.0” we got one more label for marketing in the spirit of “reloaded”, “next generation”, etc. Only history can tell, how much longer it will be used and for which products. How about “Big Mac 2.0″?

Refrigerators of knowledge

Times are moving fast and in 20 years, the Web 2.0 will be a normal part of our life, just like refrigerators. Indeed, I am saying that the Web 2.0 is here to stay. It will be an integral part of the knowledge society and the always-online generation. That’s because the companies behind the Web 2.0 understand the needs of the mass of knowledge workers.

For example, those who blog (and effectively share knowledge), would like to know about the commentators and visitors of their site (using pingback, trackback, Google Analytics, etc.) to reflect upon the interests of their audience and optimize their information offerings. Web 2.0 provides the tools for the knowledge economy.

Knowledge workers want to use the Internet to treat their goods (aka information pieces) world-wide, hence reaching all potential customers. Tim O’Reilly said it very well:

The Web 2.0 lesson: leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.

The Web 2.0 will be as normal as refrigerators in 20 years – refrigerators which keep your knowledge fresh.

Modeling our daily life

Once there was a shining term coined “New Economy” which today causes pains for those who lost a lot of money back then. In fact, the crash of the new economy was a usual and typical phase of the adoption of new disruptive technologies.

What’s that got to do with the Web 2.0? Well, I am saying that the Web 2.0 is the succeeding (and much longer) phase of economic consolidation after the hype years of the Internet boom. The Web 2.0 is characterized by mature businesses built upon a more mature new technology and mature users better understanding the benefits of that technology. In terms of socio dynamics: several Web technologies have reached a level of maturity and sum up to a critical mass to actually constitute a new quality of applications. Just think of today’s better cross-browser interoperability allowing for AJAX.

Did you know that there were 274 American car manufacturers in 1909 before the car market collapsed just like the new economy did? In 1955 there were only 7 manufacturers left and the car had revolutionized our daily lives and made the 7 manufacturers very profitable.

The basic technological concepts of cars are nothing spectacular anymore, but they had and still have a big impact on societies as a whole. The same will happen with the Web 2.0: a change from hype to seamless integration and modeling of our daily life. That change is what a (German) article calls the transition from the new economy to the next economy.

It’s about maturity

Having said that, Web 2.0 is more about a concept explaining a mature symbiosis between a rather new technology and a changing society than about software alone. Critiques saying that the Web 2.0 is nothing new, are mostly right when it comes to the base technologies behind it. XML, JavaScript, CSS, etc. are indeed nothing new. Instead, those building the Web 2.0 have simply learned how to effectively make use of these technologies to solve the daily needs of knowledge workers.

True or not?

To testify my projections, we still got 20 years to go. One thing is already sure though: There will be some revisions of Web 2.0 within the next 20 years because we are still in the early days of the next economy. As a start, get Web 2.0.1.


Testifying the hype: Web 2.0 Most Cited Wikipedia Entry of the Year.

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