Archive: January 18th, 2006

Backlash 2.0

Wintertime… and the coding ain’t easy. Sharks are jumping and the bubble is high.

This season’s must-have accessory is the backlash. Jeffrey is modelling his cheeky little number over at A List Apart:

“To you who are toiling over an AJAX- and Ruby-powered social software product, good luck, God bless, and have fun. Remember that 20 other people are working on the same idea.”

Richard MacManus is also sporting his own tailor-made backlash:

“Web 2.0 as an umbrella term has become too problematic a term. It’s simply not worth arguing about any more, in my view.”

Sure, some backlashes are rather gauche, but you’d better get yours on if you want to stay hip.

Seriously though, this kind of railing against the term Web 2.0 was inevitable. Without a clear definition, it succumbs to the most nefarious abuse a buzzword can inflict: it can mean different things to different people.

The only problem with throwing out the Web 2.0 bath water is that we might also discard our technological babies. Ruby isn’t a buzzword, it’s a programming language. Rails isn’t a buzzword, it’s a framework. Ajax isn’t a buzzword… well, okay, Ajax is a buzzword but it does refer to a concrete set of technologies.

Since the term was first coined, people have been conflating Web 2.0 with a disparate set of technologies that just happen to be popular in a certain group of web applications. This cargo-cult mentality has spawned websites that use RSS, Ruby on Rails, Ajax and folksonomies, in the mistaken belief that this automatically confers Web 2.0 status. But, as anyone who was at d.Construct can report, Web 2.0 isn’t a cluster of technologies, it’s a way of thinking about data, design and user experience.

Too wishy-washy? Probably. It isn’t a very good definition but, let’s face it, it’s not a very good term.

So stop using the term. But judge its satellite technologies on their own merits. Just as you shouldn’t use Ruby on Rails just because it’s the hip thing to do, neither should you dismiss it when the backlash is in full swing. Just as adding Ajax to a site for no reason would be pointless, it would be equally foolish to reject the use of Ajax out of hand just because you don’t like the kind of sites currently using it.

Let each technology,methodology or framework rise or fall on its own merits, independent of its association with Terminology 2.0.