Labels That Mean Nothing

I’m going to pile on to Fred Wilson’s post titled Web 3.0 Nonsense where he suggests that Jason Calacanis’s Web 3.0, the official definition is “nonsensical versioning.”

I’ve never liked the Web 2.0 label.  I don’t like the Enterprise 2.0 label.  I don’t like anything about the 2.0 label.  I can’t even begin to think about wrapping my mind around the 3.0 label.

I was in a meeting with an entrepreneur the other who I like a lot.  He’s got a neat company, is making great progress, has a good understanding of what he is trying to do, and is now out in front of customers with his product.  However, his investor presentation had “2.0” littered through it.  Web 2.0.  Enterprise 2.0.  Community 2.0.  Marketing 2.0.  After the meeting, I gave him a lot of feedback, including my allergic reaction to all things labeled 2.0.

Labels should be evocative.  2.0 might have meant something once – when the energy around the Web began emerging again out of the rubble of the Internet crash of 2001.  But it doesn’t mean anything to me any more.  Be wary of labels that mean nothing.

  • It’s like pornography, the best deffinition anyone ever gives is: “I know it when I see it.”

    That said, I think with a particular context it can be helpful the evolution of something. In a shameless bit of self promotion, I would point to this post as giving context to web 2.0 for legislation and politics.

    The summary: I think Web 2.0 is the web finding its own voice. In the early days it was just an electronic version of all that had come before. Now we are seeing applications that just couldn’t have existed before.

  • Do you think there has been a real transformation since the first dotcom boom, in terms of what’s possible online? And just that Web 2.0 doesn’t describe it? Or do you think it’s just been a continuum from then to now, with no revolution in how people approach and use the web?

    I think Web 2.0, while overused as a term, does actually mean something. The first version of the web was about corporations and their audience, customers, or employees. The second version allows people to come online as individuals in their own right.

    For example, Web 1.0 was iVillage, people secondary to the site. Web 2.0 is blogging, sites revolving around individuals.

    Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a great term either but it also might point to an interesting shift, from hierarchical command-and-control corporate governance and IT systems towards more social and decentralized approaches. How well that can actually work when most big companies need command-and-control isn’t clear.

    Still, I’d revolt against a presentation that used so many 2.0 terms too.

  • I agree completely with your point about useless versioning and with the first commenter on Jason’s post. Jason’s 3.0 tag is just a shameless way to define Mahalo (and human intervention in alrorithms) as the next big thing. We often criticize algorithm-only targeting in ad serving because we believe it and because it serves our purpose, but it’s only one of many, many positive steps that are being taken to make the web more useful.

  • To me it’s like a medicine bottle. The label doesn’t have the power to heal. It might give an indication as to what is in the bottle but labels can easily be switched. It’s the contents that matter.

  • I think Brad has a good point, however, I also believe that those of us participating in these conversations are clearly the leading edge. The moniker is NOT for us! It is for all of the rest of the curve beyond the chasm we are going to help bridge. Those people need something short and sweet and descriptive in order to participate in the conversation (and all else which follows!)

  • Just had to share the humor I found in the fact that this article was sitting in my Google Reader directly above an article from the Mini-Microsoft blog titled “Microsoft 2.0″…

  • It’s funny how the meaning of words can get watered down from overusage.

    Consider “snafu”. It is a word that came from World War II soldiers, and it refers to “Situation Normal, All ***ked Up”

    Now it just means a hangup.

  • I think Herman and James make excellent points!