Lawrence Lessig has a thoughtful post about something that I've been mentioning in recent talks I've given, but haven't blogged much about.
I'm often asked to speak about "Web 2.0". I personally think that people are trying to build Bubble 2.0 on top of Web 2.0. Instead of becoming a platform for the future of the Web, it's possible that Web 2.0 is becoming the platform for the short-term future of greedy people. However, I do think that it is important to understand that the recent success and surge in innovation on the Web is due to a semi-new set of principles. Part of the principles are a return to fundamental principles. The innovation on the Web and the Internet is driven by what David Weinberger has called "Small Pieces Loosely Joined" - a network created by small groups working together around open standards. It is and was a community of people and projects trying to connect to each other.
Bubble 1.0 brought the "customer acquisition and barrier to entry" phase with players such as AOL and Yahoo gobbling up companies and focusing on barriers instead of connectivity. A good example of a technology that happened to emerge during these days is instant messenger. Even today this spoiled brat doesn't interoperate properly leaving its users on their little Bubble 1.0 branded islands.
I think Tim O'Reilly's description of Web 2.0 is the best one I've ever seen. (Read it if you haven't.) My own view is that after Bubble 1.0 collapsed many of the unemployed or the recently happily "exited" entrepreneurs and developers started building tools in the spirit of Web 1.0 - in communities of people collaborating around open standards. The big difference was that many of the dreams we had during the Web 1.0 era were now more feasible with broadband, wireless, higher penetration, stabilization of various standards, faster computers and some lesson learning from the bubble.
I still remember when we were building Infoseek Japan I kept talking about how the web was going to be an incredible place for user publishing and that Infoseek would be an engine that would democratize media and voice. I was ranting about something that sounded like blogs and the long tail. Unfortunately, it was too hard to keep your web page updated and search engines and methods were not yet smart enough to filter the noise and sort out the context. We ended up with most of the traffic going to the mega sites like CNN and Yahoo.
To me, Web 2.0 is about trying to get right those layers of the stack that we weren't able to get right the last time around.
One of the central themes of Web 2.0 is the ability for users to control their own data and the ability for people to share and remix. In this context, many, if not most good Web 2.0 services allow users to download, link and reuse all if not a substantial part of the content they work on.
While it is not easy to extract data from Second Life, the content of what you build in Second Life and videos that you make in Second Life are owned by the user.
As Larry points out:
# Flickr, for example, makes it simple to download Flickr images. (See, e.g., here.)
# blip.tv explicitly offers links to download various formats of the videos it shares. (See, e.g., here.)
# EyeSpot (a fantastic new site to enable web based remixing of video and audio) permits the download of the source and product files. (See, e.g., here.)
# Revver (the site that enables an ad-bug to be added to a video so the creator gets paid when each video is played) builds its whole business model on the idea that content can flow freely on the Net. (See, e.g., here.)
In this context, YouTube is a "cool" poster-child of the Web 2.0 trend, but doesn't meet the basic requirement of allowing the user to download videos from the site. While it is "sharing", it is what Larry is calling a "fake sharing site". I think Japanese sites such as Mixi are as well. (Mixi is a social network site that doesn't syndicate or allow remixing or including of content in the site but encourages users to create and upload content.)
Although we can't really expect users to initially understand the distinction, I think in the long run, users will understand that stand-alone or closed services do not allow them the freedoms that are becoming exceedingly more common in the Web 2.0 area. I do hope that the rush to Bubble 2.0 doesn't allow companies to trample over the core principles of the Web in their drive for more ARPU (Average Revenue per User). I think it is important to keep our eyes on the ball and not lose our focus on what is driving the innovation and the increasingly rich user experience.
UPDATE: Nick Carr responds to Lessig and mentions this post and Lessig responds.
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