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.