There has been quite an excitement about Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside IBM, in the recent months. There are quite a few who are genuinely confused by the terminology, and then a few more who have expressed an extreme disgust with the term's overhyped use. Surely, the truth lies somewhere between the views that Web 2.0 is a pure marketing term and the grand solution to all our problems.
What I have been wondering is this: how could this concept be so controversial?
The more I think about it, the more it seems that the controversy is rooted on the fact that Web 2.0 is an evolutionary—and not at all revolutionary— transformation of the Web.
Why, human evolution itself is, of course, a controversial subject.
If one looks at the components, the memes, that make up Web 2.0, one can argue that each individual thing is not that big a deal. Ajax, for example, has been in use for many years, long before the term Web 2.0 was born. Similarly, focus on simplicity, user-centered design, the use of standards, web services, and so on, name them all, people will swear, and I believe them, that these have been practiced and implemented "forever". So, the question is: "Where is the big deal?"
I am arguing that this situation is not unlike the incremental changes that happened along the way as humans evolve from the "Java Man" to the "Modern Business Man" (given that you do believe in human evolution, and, please, no offense to those who happened to be born in the Island of Java). You can only appreciate the significance of the transformation when you look at the two endpoints, side by side: how similar they are in their fundamental structures, and yet how different they behave because of the cumulative differentials.
So, in order to make an objective appraisal of Web 2.0, I think we need to compare the typical websites of, say, early 2000, and those that are typical nowadays (or go here for a list of "award winning" Web 2.0 sites). The Wayback Machine is a great tool to use for looking back to those early years. After comparing a few websites, ask the same question again: "What is the big deal?" I believe that the answer will become more apparent.