The term "Web 2.0" has become so ubiquitous that many of those who use it enthusiastically are unaware that it was coined by tech publishers O'Reilly Media. A lot of people hate the term because it is high on hype and short on explanation, made meaningless by overuse.
I'm one of those who use the term a lot! In fact, today's "Blagadoir" column is dedicated to the "blogging entrepreneur" and evokes "2.0" several times. I like it for many of the reasons others hate it: because it's shorthand, because it's vague and not completely defined, because it can mean different things.
I use it because I need a term to describe the exciting developments which are happening in internet technology. I need such a term, because I want to tell people: "Hey – this is new! It's not the same old internet - look at this!"
"Oh please!", say the internet professionals, and web developers, "there's nothing new here!" Maybe that's true from a technology point of view, but I think there is something new here: people. Where once I was bored by a web full of static shop-windows, now I find people, social networking, blogs, podcasts, flickr, boards - and used by real people – not just tech-heads.
I knew that O'Reilly Media ran a conference called "Web 2.0", but it didn't occur to me that they might be claiming any ownership of the term. They may have originated it, but I think their claim to trademark it is going to fall victim to their own success in promoting it. As I've said: it's ubiquitous, the genie's out if the bottle, and I think it's too late to try and trademark it. In these circumstances, the "cease and desist" letter sent to IT@Cork this week is a PR mistake.
The letter Tom Raftery received was sent by lawyers for CMP Media, co-sponsors with O'Reilly of the "Web 2.0 Conference". I appreciate this is a real difficulty for them. They coined a term, and organised a conference and so popular was the term that it spread like a virus into common usage. Equally, that same viral popularity has helped them to hype their conference and anything else they sell under the "Web 2.0" banner and - while they have enjoyed the wave of popularity that the term has gained through the various efforts of all who have promoted it – I am not aware that they have ever taken steps before now to assert their exclusive rights to it. They certainly didn't challenge the Irish government body Enterprise Ireland who organised a "Web 2.0 conference" in Dublin last month.
The thing is: I think O'Reilly and CMP are trying to have it both ways. It seems to me that they effectively open-sourced the term "Web 2.0", and having reaped the benefits of the community's promotion of it, they are now trying to close it down again. I think it's too late to do that now.
It's been pointed out that the trademark application is only pending and has no jurisdiction in Europe. Some people have encouraged Tom and the IT@Cork team to ignore it. I have another idea.
Tom, why not use the Irish translation: "Gréasán-a-Dó" *? It has the advantage of having the same cadence as "Web 2.0", and I think it sounds lovely in a Cork accent!
(* Note: accented characters may not appear correctly depending on your browser's character encoding. Unicode UTF-8 recommended. For pronunciation check out today's podcast, timecode 4:05, "Tionólfaidh an grúpa IT@Cork cruinniú leath-lae ar Gréasán-a-Dó ar an 8ú Meitheamh i gCorcaigh")