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Web 2.0 – Unconfirmed Assertions on the Death of an Epoch

Rest in peace, Web 2.0

By Fellows and Associates' independent correspondent Oliver Cox.

The internet has proved, if anything, to be unpredictable. Despite this, internet oracles are pedalling a prediction: the death of Web 2.0 – October 1st 2012.

Web 2.0 is the internet convention which governs websites as YouTube, Wikipedia, and Facebook; wherein the user can upload, comment on, and, in the case of Wikipedia, modify content. The concept has been denominated as both democracy and noise – citing Twitter, which is appointed by some as home to enlightened and free discussion but by others as home to something far more pedestrian or even reactionary.

The date for this system's demise was predicted by Christopher Mims (who claims it has been a popular subject as far back as 2008). He did so by typing 'Web 2.0' into Google trends, a service which plots a graph for the popularity of a certain search criterion over time. It presented him with a graph which progresses upward from 2003 when the term originated, to 2007 where it peaks, after which it has been declining until today. Mims then extrapolated the graph onward (did I just hear the scientific community make a sucking-in noise?), finding that on the 1st of October 2012, nobody would be typing Web 2.0 into Google.

If Mims' predictions rely on the 'Product Life Cycle' graph – which shows how a successful commercial product's sales increase through 'introduction' and 'maturity', to their fall in 'decline' as the product becomes obsolete – they may fit. There are, however, other models for the way in which a product will vary in popularity, such as the Garner Hype Curve. This model describes a rapid growth after a publicity hype, followed by a decline, then another more restrained growth phase, on which Web 2.0 may embark before, if ever, it falls into obsolescence.

This is to say nothing of the fact that search density does not quite indicate the popularity of a certain service, because a product or system can be so popular that it is not searched very often because so many users have it cached or bookmarked. Google trends shows a constant decline in searches for 'Linux' since 2004, although that OS's user base has more than tripled since then.

Assuming that Web 2.0 behaves more like the concept of the internal combustion engine than a Play Station 2, users will continue to whip up Twitterstorms after injustice, keep challenging corporations with product discussion and advice forums, and carry on bickering about YouTube videos. A survey by McKinsey&Company which consulted 1,700 executives worldwide, found that 69% of them expressed that their company had experienced greater success due to Web 2.0 marketing. Nevertheless, a Web 2.0 antagonist may assert that the inflation in the volume of content – which results from the fact that anyone can post material – is partnered with a deflation in the value of content because these contributors do not have to be experts. Therefore, they might say, restraint could save time and improve quality.

Assuming that Web 2.0 will cease to be – the more Romantic option, announcing what will follow is probably as useful as any technology prediction. If there is a reaction against user generated content, it may give rise to a growth in material which is generated professionally. This will require a new revenue stream, such as more advertising or charges for views. However, such a reduction in the volume of content down to a few professionally and commercially generated instances from the mass of varied content which is currently available will require a major adjustment within business, where many firms rely on the abundant information, along with Web 2.0's PR utilities. The situation may be similar for education, in which conventional as well as electric learning and social learning students utilise this material; and in the case of social learning students, depend on it.

In fine technology tradition, nobody is sure whether Web 2.0 will disappear, and if it does, what will emerge in its place. All we have is a date. Be sure that I will be there on the 1st of October with a front-to-middle seat, a cup of coffee and a dustbin full of popcorn, watching the show.

This article reflects the author’s opinions only. You can contact our news team via email at journalists@fellowsandassociates.com.



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