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Web 2.0 'Goes Mainstream'

For those who think that one weakness of the Newsweek piece is its title, MSNBC has come to the rescue

When newsstands throughout America displayed Newsweek with its cover story about "Web 2.0" - "Putting the 'We' in Web" - it seems to me that we have reached one of Malcolm Gladwell's now-famous Tipping Points.

In the Newsweek piece, written by the magazine's senior editor Steven Levy and its Silicon Valley correspondent Brad Stone, the authors report how, "less than a decade ago, when we were first getting used to the idea of an Internet, people described the act of going online as venturing into some foreign realm called cyberspace." But that metaphor, the authors suggest, no longer applies: "MySpace, Flickr, and all the other newcomers aren't places to go, but things to do, ways to express ourselves means to connect with others and extend our own horizons."

"Cyberspace was somewhere else," they write. Whereas "The Web is where we live." [My emphasis.]

What's the tipping point, you ask. Well, for me - and for plenty of others, it seems - what's special/unusual is that Newsweek, a mainstream publication, deems "Web 2.0" worthy not just of an in-depth article but also of an in-depth article that it puts on its cover. It means that the notion of a "live Web" is getting prime time, along with the terminology of Web 2.0 like "tagging," "mash-ups," "collective intelligence," and "social media."

Web 2.0, make no mistake about it, is going mainstream.

For those who think that one weakness of the Newsweek piece is its title, MSNBC has come to the rescue by repurposing it under the - in my view, far sharper- title "The New Wisdom of the Web." This is a much more powerful rallying cry and I, for one, should have much preferred to see it used as Newsweek's front-cover headline, but such is the way of the world. Maybe the editors at MSNBC "get it" better than those at Newsweek.

I can't wait for BusinessWeek to address the same story: they'll get the title spot-on, just watch!!

Newsweek's two authors triangulated on James Surowiecki, whom they quote, so his "Wisdom of Crowds" notion is included in the article. ("It's clear that the Web is structurally congenial to the wisdom of crowds," he's quoted as saying.) But my instincts tell me that, for all that Steven Levy and Brad Stone are to be thanked and congratulated for producing the article, they don't necessarily - yet, anyway - fully comprehend the technologies of "social computing" like RSS. And they certainly don't have a clue what AJAX actually is. (It is hastily referenced in a single sentence buried right in the middle of the piece.)

Again, all credit to Newsweek, though, for the resonant final paragraph:

Less than a decade ago, when we were first getting used to the idea of an Internet, people described the act of going online as venturing into some foreign realm called cyberspace. But that metaphor no longer applies. MySpace, Flickr and all the other newcomers aren't places to go, but things to do, ways to express yourself, means to connect with others and extend your own horizons. Cyberspace was somewhere else. The Web is where we live.

With these five sentences, given their appearance in one of the world's most widely read news magazines, "Web 2.0" has truly arrived in Main Street.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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