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i-Technology Viewpoint: "Personal Blogs Will Be Dead in Another Two or Three Years"

What Really Is "Web 2.0," How Does It Differ from Web 1.0, and How Will It Differ from What May Come After?

Web 2.0 has been a buzzword shrouded in mystery. Although I've heard it used hundreds of times in the past year, I've never been able to find a good definition of what it actually means. This is in part because, as Paul Graham points out, Dougherty coined the term before defining it.

When brainstorming on Web 2.0, O'Reilly laid out a list of services that seemed qualitatively different than those that had come before and looked for patterns. What he eventually came up with was a list of seven principles and eight patterns. O'Reilly hits the nail on the head here with his inductive approach. However, I still come away from O'Reilly's manifesto wishing for definitive clarity.

So here I set out to put forth a working definition of what Web 2.0 really is, how it differs from Web 1.0, and how it will differ from what may come after. I am not proposing that these are absolute definitions, but rather I am sharing something that has been useful for me. So here we go:

  • Web 1.0 is about allowing individuals to create and share ideas
  • Web 2.0 is about allowing groups to create and share ideas
  • Web 3.0 is about allowing societies to create and share ideas
  • Web 4.0 is the singularity

The differences between each of the four have to do with something called digital identity, which I will explain using blogging as an example. One trend you will notice is that, paradoxically, the stronger our individual identities become, the more harmoniously we are able to coexist.1

Web 1.0: Allowing Individuals to Create and Share Ideas
Few people know that the first webpage ever created, Tim's home page, was actually a blog. Blogs are the epitome of web 1.0. They focus so much on the individual that even Ayn Rand would blush. At their best they can be truly uplifting and inspiring, but on average there are some serious problems with blogs as they exist today. Blogging will be around forever, but I think that personal blogs will be dead in another two or three years.2 I have four reasons for this:

  • The value of blogging comes mainly from two things: one, the feedback you get from others, and two, the ability to spread your ideas. In order to get enough people reading a personal blog to generate an interesting conversation I'd have to share something insightful every day for months or even years. And even then it's unlikely that I'd ever get more than twenty or so comments on average. However, I can go on a collaborative blog like Kuro5hin or Dailykos and write a diary about any random idea and get over 100 comments the first time if my ideas are any good. I'm not gonna lie, I usually don't even think of one insightful thing a day for myself, so trying to share something daily with others in order to gain a following is a non-starter for me and most other people. If I wanted feedback from just my friends and family I'd just ask them, and if I wanted feedback from lots of random people I'd just post somewhere where lots of random people will be reading. Personal blogs are a poor solution to both.
  • Secondly, personal blogs aren't emergent. The value of interconnectedness is that you can propose a part of an idea and hundreds of other people can work to complete it. Or you can post a fully thought out idea and hundreds of other people can critique it so that the idea can evolve. When everyone posts their own separate opinions of the same events on their personal blogs there is no emergence and less new insight is gained.
  • Thirdly, right now our public and private lives are translucent. As our public lives get more transparent, people may try to make their private lives more opaque to compensate, albeit our conceptions of public and private life will change.
  • Lastly, most people don't have anything interesting to say most of the time. Eventually people will figure out that the world doesn't revolve around them and no one gives a shit about what Johnny said about Suzie at the pool last weekend. Certainly there is a place for this type of stuff, but because people feel obligated to post every day there is a lot of unnecessary signal pollution.

So I believe the way of the future is in collaborative blogging. Specifically, posting when you have something good to say and learning to keep quiet when you don't. That way writers get the most reward for the least effort, and readers get a better signal to noise ratio. As fate would have it, the theory is modeled after reality; the few collaborative blogs in existence today are doing remarkably well.

Next page: The Benefits of Collaborative Blogging

More Stories By Alex Krupp

Alex Krupp is a student at Cornell University.

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