Tim O’Reilly Sees the End of Web 2.0, Tries to Change His Stripes

Posted on September 19, 2008
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |

When Tim O’Reilly decided that the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in November was not going to be about Web 2.0, I stated:

The obvious truth is that even the organizers of the Web 2.0 Summit have realized how marginal Web 2.0 is and ostensibly didn’t feel confident that they could find enough fluff for 2008’s Web 2.0 Summit to deliver the type of hype paying attendees deserve to receive.

I noted that O’Reilly’s blog post explaining the Web 2.0-free Web 2.0 Summit essentially stated “the people involved with Web 2.0 have rediscovered the real world” and that “Web 2.0 is old news and the ’smart stupid money’ has moved on.”

Looks like I was right.

At O’Reilly’s keynote at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York (just how many of these fucking conferences are needed?), O’Reilly stated:

(These are) pretty depressing times in a lot of ways. And you have to conclude, if you look at the focus of a lot of what you call ‘Web 2.0,’ the relentless focus on advertising-based consumer models, lightweight applications, we may be living in somewhat of a bubble, and I’m not talking about an investment bubble. (It’s) a reality bubble. [Emphasis mine]

You think, Tim?

“And what are the best and the brightest working on?” he asked while showing slides of popular Facebook applications. “Do you see a problem here? You have to ask yourself, are we working on the right things?”

I, of course, have been asking these questions all along.

What’s curious to me is that O’Reilly seems to be trying to change his stripes despite the fact that he’s been one of the primary promulgators of the Web 2.0 hype. If the people within the Web 2.0 “community” had one iota of street smarts, O’Reilly’s revisionist history wouldn’t fly.

After all, in October of last year, O’Reilly stated in a press release:

At O’Reilly we’ve been monitoring the Web 2.0 movement since 2004, and Facebook Platform is one of the most innovative and exciting technologies to emerge in the past three years. Social networking platforms, and applications based on the social graph, are at the core of what’s driving today’s internet startups and their people-powered web services. [Emphasis mine]

I guess now that the writing is on the wall, O’Reilly has no choice but to rewrite history and pretend that he didn’t know about SuperPoke and the rest of the useless Facebook applications that have always represented the vast majority of popular Facebook applications.

This all begs the question - just what good are “thought leaders” like O’Reilly when they’re so fucking wrong so much of the time?

I’ve been calling bullshit on the whole thing for years. I don’t put on conferences. I don’t sell reports. I don’t hang out in Silicon Valley. I don’t even have a college degree.

Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve simply spent too much time honing my bullshit detector through real-world experience.

While it’s great to see that Tim O’Reilly has recovered from his kool aid-induced stupor, I can’t help but argue that his reputation as a “thought leader” is about as credible as Larry Ellison’s reputation as a “decent guy” at this point.

The real question, of course, is whether participants in the circle jerk known as Web 2.0 will ever stop to think about what O’Reilly said.

Frankly, I suspect not. After all, as soon as O’Reilly got done giving his keynote, it was time for ADHD-ridden conference attendees to hit the after-parties and catch flights to some other Web 2.0 conference.

When you consider that most of the people in Web 2.0 clearly aren’t in it for anything more than an awkward social experience (and party), it all makes sense.

That is all okay, though, as far as I’m concerned. When Tim O’Reilly asked “And what are the best and the brightest working on?” and suggested that Web 2.0 was distracting those who are capable of doing greater things, I don’t think he ever considered the possibility that the “best and brightest” were never working on Web 2.0 in the first place.

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7 Responses to “Tim O’Reilly Sees the End of Web 2.0, Tries to Change His Stripes”

  1. juliejulie on September 19th, 2008 9:54 am

    There’s nothin’ wrong with a good party, as long as you remember to go home before you puke all over your shoes.

  2. Drama 2.0 on September 19th, 2008 10:07 am

    Julie: the problem is that this isn’t a good party. I estimate that at least 95% of the people in the Web 2.0 “community” wouldn’t know a good party if they accidentally got invited to one because they’ve never been to a good party before.

  3. Tim O'Reilly on September 19th, 2008 10:38 am

    You’ve clearly never read What is Web 2.0? or anything else I’ve written about Web 2.0. This isn’t changing my stripes. I’ve always said that the idea that Web 2.0 is about lightweight advertising based startups misses the point.

    It’s always been about what I call “harnessing collective intelligence.” And I’m urging people to apply the principles learned on the consumer side to business, to science, to politics, and to solving the world’s urgent problems.

    This is not new. You’ve not been paying attention.

  4. Drama 2.0 on September 19th, 2008 12:59 pm

    Tim: don’t be disingenuous.

    When you stated “Facebook Platform is one of the most innovative and exciting technologies to emerge in the past three years” and that the applications based on the “social graph” are “at the core of what’s driving today’s internet startups and their people-powered web services,” were you totally unaware that the vast majority of the applications built for Facebook and similar platforms are completely and utterly useless (”lightweight”)?

    Beyond this specific example of how your new perspective doesn’t quite fit in with your old one, one really need look no further than the portfolio of Web 2.0 conferences you’ve run to see your real stripes.

    Your conferences have:

    • Attracted Web 2.0 so many kool aid drinkers that in 2005, the USA Today’s Kevin Maney wrote, “The industry is still tingling from the loud and sweaty Bubble 2.0 — whoops, excuse me, Web 2.0 — conference here late last week.”
    • Offered “sessions” about topics such as widget marketing and “Strategies for Pitching, Financing & Growing Your Web 2.0 Startup.”
    • Featured speakers from companies such as Facebook, Digg, Ning, Cyworld, Technorati, Vox, Federated Media, Flickr and Obvious/Twitter.
    • Been sponsored by companies like MySpace, OneSite, Profy, Userplane, Rojo, AnswerBag, Yoono and eSnips.
    • Taken money from no shortage of consumer Web 2.0 exhibitors including AddThis, Camwii, CatchReviews, Dixero, Friendster, FuseCal, Ifungo, Meetup, Photobucket, Smiley Media, Snap.com, TradeVibes and Vbuzzer.
    • Launched consumer-oriented companies such as Rollyo, Wink, Instructables, Stikkit, TripIt, Realius and Sphere.

    Frankly, you haven’t put your money where your mouth is. And I don’t blame you for that - if you did, you wouldn’t have much money.

    But please don’t try to maintain that your recent statements are consistent with your past actions. They’re not and while I have no doubt that you will continue to fool the dreamers in the Web 2.0 “community,” the bottom line is that you’ve been playing the Web 2.0 hype for all it’s worth. Stick with that and take pride in knowing that you’re probably one of the few people who has made real money from Web 2.0 - putting on conferences, selling for $375, etc.

    As it relates to “solving the world’s urgent problems,” please save the BS for somebody who actually cares. Civilization has been through a lot of shit over the millennia.

    The Internet is a powerful tool but civilization’s problems get solved through action in the real world. They aren’t going to get solved on the Internet and they aren’t going to get solved by people paying thousands of dollars to attend one of your conferences where they sit around listening to talking heads talk about solving problems.

    Want to save the world, Tim? Tell people need to log off the Internet and log back into the real world. And tell them that while you appreciate their patronage, they need to stop attending all of your conferences and start actually doing something useful.

    By the way, since I noticed that Al Gore is going to be attending this year’s Web 2.0 Summit and you apparently forgot to send me an invitation, maybe you’d be kind enough to ask a few questions on my behalf:

    • Has he managed to reduce his electricity bill?
    • Did the spike in fuel prices impact his use of ?
    • In an Inconvenient Truth in 2006, he stated that we had at most 10 years to avert a global catastrophe. This year, he started a push to encourage lawmakers to get the United States to 100% renewable energy within 10 years. By my math, the world will have been destroyed two years before the US is “green.” Can he explain this?

    Thanks in advance!

  5. k on September 19th, 2008 2:06 pm

    I’ve noticed that the only people that seemed to be making money off web 2.0 were the ones selling consulting services or educational products about how to make money off web 2.0. Obviously, there are exceptions but from my vantage, that is how it seems.

    But I do think that some of Mr. O’Reily sentiments are correct. It is lamentable that so many skilled developers are working on facebook apps instead of working on problems people and companies face. I run a small business and I really don’t need another venue to advertise. I really could use some of these “collective intelligence” apps if they could lower my labor and infrastructure costs. Everyone that I have used so far has been a disappointment.

  6. Time to Rename “Airplane Mode”?  »TechAddress on September 19th, 2008 5:30 pm

    […] the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it so here are a few recaps on Drama 2.0, Profy and More […]

  7. Time to Rename “Airplane Mode - Start-Up News”? | Internet Startups on September 19th, 2008 6:27 pm

    […] the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it so here are a few recaps on Drama 2.0, Profy and More […]

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Drama 2.0 spikes the Web 2.0 kool aid by providing critical analyses of Web 2.0, its people, its startups and its impact on the world of media. Other topics are explored when Drama 2.0 has been drinking too much 1975 Dom Perignon. Read more about the Internet's version of Keyser Söze here.