In explaining the business value or advantages of web 2.0, we often have to rely on analogy and metaphor. It’s a common technique to make sense of the unfamiliar in terms of what we already know.
In making these comparisons, it’s useful to juxtapose web 2.0 with what came before – Web 1.0. (We didn’t call it web 1.0 back in the day, the term was called into being only once we came up with web 2.0.)
However, this juxtaposition is often presented in black and white. As if web 2.0 sprang forth fully formed, in complete opposition to what preceded it. A clean break with the so-called 1.0 era. Some might even refer to it as a revolution.
I think it’s important to avoid this — we should recognize that the seeds of what we now consider Web 2.0 were planted way back in the early days of the web.
Today’s commenting systems on blogs have their roots in email newsgroups and internet forums. Twitter has its roots in text messaging and IM. And so on. It’s only when the social, participatory elements that have always been present in the web hit a critical mass that “web 2.0” surfaced.
Why is this important? It lessens the shock of the new. It emphasizes that today’s web represents an evolution not a revolution. All of which makes it less threatening for people experiencing it for the first time.
I do recognize that today’s participatory web has great potential for social transformation — the documentary film Us Now makes a great case for this. But in a slow-moving, risk-averse bureaucratic context, talking revolution is unlikely to encourage decision makers to take you seriously.
And if you are trying to convince skeptics (your bosses perhaps) to “get social” or at least unblock access to the social web, it might be good strategy to point out that web 2.0 is not such a new thing after all. That the status quo will not be turned upside down from using a wiki or starting a blog. Rather, it makes sense to position these innovations as the logical next step in updating your web presence or your work environment.