Web 2.0: I Told You So

I love to say it: I told you so. Many moons ago, I exclaimed that “Web 2.0” was nothing more than a conference. Today, I’ve been proven right to a fault. It was just a matter of time before this came and bit all the “Web 2.0” evangelists in the ass. Not Web 2.0 evangelists for O’Reilly’s conference, but “Web 2.0” evangelists for the ethereal movement (which I have oft referred to as a renaissance).

As has been stated by both Dave Winer and Jason Calacanis, Tim and his partners were 110% justified in protecting their conference brand. Anybody and everybody who holds a trademark on something profitiable (or, as is the case for O’Reilly, ungodly profitable) understands and supports the decision that was made – not necessarily in how it was handled, but certainly the reasoning behind it. I respect Tim’s personal and professional position in the matter, having a few not-quite-as-profitable brands of my own to protect. Anybody who’s ever owned a trademark [read: profitable brand] should wholly understand. That’s the kicker, underscored by Dave’s editorial: O’Reilly is NOT a non-profit organization.

I highly doubt that anybody’s ever going to take the word “Gnomedex” and use it for their own conference (it’s just not generic enough a term). However, if someone came along and used that title for their own conference, for-profit or non-profit, I would likely want to be involved at some level – because that’s a brand that Lockergnome has fostered for six years running. We don’t have a team of lawyers, and we’ve yet to strike a deal with any major conference organizers, but the onus is on us to protect that which is so closely associated to our revenue model(s).

If you read your history books, you’ll see that Tim O’Reilly spoke at Gnomedex III (the terms “blog” and “RSS” were just starting to creep into popular conscousness). We’ve exchanged a few emails since then, including around a false rumor I propogated and subsquently (publicly and privately) apologized for. I don’t think I would have handled this situation any differently than he did.

And if you still believe that “Web 2.0” (the ethereal movement) is all about openness and interconnectivity, you’ve got yet another thing coming. Your favorite “Web 2.0” (the ethereal movement) applications are still walled gardens – to the nth degree. Web 2.0, the conference, belongs to O’Reilly and CMP. Web 2.0, the ethereal movement, doesn’t exist. How O’Reilly / CMP chooses to define and protect their conference is completely up to them – and the blogosphere’s interpretation of what’s happening inside this ethereal movement should not be confused with the conference which O’Reilly is producing.

10 thoughts on “Web 2.0: I Told You So”

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  2. O’Reilly & co. didn’t exactly defend their brand vigorously between the first conference and last week, otherwise this never would have happened.

    It may be a meaningless moniker, but the world was bound to label the post-bust period with a catchy meme. Folks grabbed this term, yet O’Reilly & MediaLive said nothing. That probably means they’ve forfeited it.

  3. Many companies, some not even web related, have used the term “Web 2.0” to describe a new Internet-based initiative. I agree that web entrepreneurs creating new apps are far from offering their content open to the masses – a la “walled garden”. Companies still protect their data, because often times, it’s their most valuable asset. As I’ve discovered, creating a functional, useful API is not easy and should only be built once business partners are lined up ready to plug in.

  4. “Web 3.0, now with added etherealness!”

    (So, if no one has trademarked Web 3.0, how about we all upgrade and make O’Reilly look obsolete?!)

    Seriously, though, I think the problem is that Web 2.0 meant different things to different people. For me it was a nebulous but useful concept that implied a newer way of working with the web, using technologies such as Ajax and the various XML file formats (eg, RSS), setting up LAMP stacks and running Wikis, to provide interactions over and above just sticking up a IIS server and serving pages.

    For others it meant something different, and for Tim I think it meant the prelude to a sales pitch for internet commerce in the 21st century.

    But everyone seemed to recognize that many parts of the web in the ’00s are in a different place that the ’90s, and we needed some sort of term to refer to this newer level of operation. It’s unfortunate the term that stuck turned out to be the chief whipping stock of partisan bloggers who thrive on controversy.

    However, I think it’s a bit disingenuous for all these “friends of Dave” to gleefully chant that Tim has trademarked Web 2.0. His business associates registered it as a service mark for operating a conference. He had, and has, no claim to it in the wider context. Web 2.0 could still be used as a pragmatic term to refer to the “new web.”

    I think it will actually still be used, but will always be followed by a knowing laugh – “except O’Reilly trademarked it so we can’t use it” – then the people who actually do stuff will get on with evolving the web, while those who snark at each other continue to do what they do best too.

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