The Unifying Theory of Web 2.0

You know that feeling when something has been staring at you in the face and you don’t realize it. And then all of a sudden – bam! There it is!

I’ve just had one of those moments.

Quick background. Earlier this year at MSN Search Champs .4, I had the chance to meet in person for the first time a few of the Web 2.0 Workgroup members. In the evening, over a couple of drinks, I started asking Joshua Porter and Dion Hinchcliffe the question: ‘What’s the unifying theory of Web 2.0′. If I recall correctly, we all agreed there was something going on and that in each of the seven principles of Web 2.0 described by Tim O’Reilly there was something true but the ‘whole’ was still fuzzy. We concluded (or at least I did for sure) that the Web 2.0 notion lacked ‘something’ that unified the seven principles.

The Unifying Theory of Web 2.0

Yesterday, Ajit Jaokar, another member of the Web 2.0 Workgroup, threw up a post attempting to provide this missing unification. Tim noticed and I followed the link. I came across it earlier tonight and it made initial sense to me. And I stewed.

Then later, I read Ajit’s most recent post ‘A Web 2.0 FAQ‘.

In my view Ajit has nailed it. What he’s done, brilliantly and simply, is made one of the seven principles as the higher-level ‘collective application’, making the remaining six principles components of the collective application. The ‘collective application’ is the Intelligent Web.


“The intelligence attributed to the web (web 2.0) arises from us as we begin to communicate.”

This is a classic case of ‘the whole being greater than the sum of its parts’.

<<Note: Now as sure as eggs is eggs the naysayers, doom-and-gloomers, wannabie-party-poopers, those who ears bleeeeeed at hearing the term Web 2.0 and the imaginatively-challenged will pooh-pooh Ajit’s progress as just another example of vacuousnessnessness-ness marketing hype. Or will claim that this is really 3.0. Or 1.1., or whatever. And so I say to thee: whatever, dude – there is plenty of other stuff to get all frothed up about, so move along…)>>

To those who are still with the program…

It is the simplicity of the new model that I love as much as its conclusion. Ajit didn’t introduce a new principle to force the unification, he just re-arranged it. It feels like we’ve been frantically twisting a Rubik’s cube knowing there is a pattern ‘there’ but not finding it, and then along comes a clever chap and – bing!

At the heart of the model is the social nature of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. I knew it was there somewhere, but I hadn’t put it at the top in my mind’s eye like Ajit has done. The more I look at the diagram, the more I realize just how bloody obvious it seems to me now. The ‘collective application’ was the only explicitly ‘social’ principle. In retrospect, it is the only place it could be! To state the obvious once more: the other six principles are technical characteristics and design patterns.

I’ll leave the last word with Ajit:

What is web 2.0?: It’s the intelligent web.

What makes it intelligent?: We do.

How does it happen?: By harnessing collective intelligence

What do you need to harness collective intelligence?: The other six principles!”



Comments (15)

  1. BillyG says:

    I’m "still with the program" Alex, thanks for another playbook.

  2. orcmid says:

    This is a great diagram.  It provides a lot about how to tell about the instruments versus the journey and the destination.  I want ot blog about this and maybe we can talk about it at MindCamp 2.0.

    Meanwhile, keep this in mind: "The spirit only cares that there be flying."

  3. Okay so I’m always going to be interested in an article that emphasises the value of blogging, given my specific research interest, but I think the article from the Guardian on Tuesday informing businesses that they should ignore bloggers at their peril,

  4. Murray says:

    I thought this was obvious. I put "Harnessing collective intelligence" at the core of my business plan last June.

  5. Murray says:

    Collective intelligence is a good way of finding out what most people think is the best thing.

    Of course most people on myspace and tagworld think the best thing is soft porn pics from beautiful young people.

    Surprisingly hardly anyone thinks that web 2.0 is interesting.

    So the real question is how can we use collective intelligence to find the thing that is most interesting to me! (Not that I dont like pics of scantily clad young women)

  6. Mark Devlin says:

    This theory is meaningless without an indication of how Web 2.0 makes money.

  7. MSDNArchive says:

    Mark – I disagree, wholey.

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