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I’ve never thought about web 2.0 before.

Well, I have. But not really — just in a general, “Oh yeah, I know what that is, I think,” sort of way, or even more commonly, “Lol. So that’s the new buzzword people are using to make their site sound cool.”

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with many of the things associated with web 2.0; I’ve blogged, watched videos on youtube, downloaded music off the internet (Sometimes even legally!), and used a variety of web-based tools and services for years. It’s simply that, to me, this isn’t web 2.0. It’s just the web.

Don’t get me wrong, I remember a time when a lot of these things didn’t exist. I remember when AOL was synonymous with the internet, and I remember being surprised by being able to sign up for a completely free email account with yahoo. (No one ever emailed me. Jerks. Probably because there was no one to give my email address to) I also remember being surprised by how much free space gmail would give me, that you could get a free blog from blogspot or wordpress, and that I could find my house of googlemaps. I learned to type, and to a certain extent, write and argue on internet message boards. (Believe it or not, there are a few where a 14 year old can actually learn a thing or two, given enough skull-bashing) But there was never any discernible shift for me, as each new marvel simply built on the last.

Reading these three articles forced me to think about the concept of web 2.0 (And CreativeCommons) in a different, more formalized, way. There’s a lot of good stuff there — “architecture of participation,” data ownership, “microcontent,” “social software” — and it’s far too much for a single blog post to effectively cover in detail. But effectively what I got out of the articles was that this web 2.0 offers the opportunity for increasing control for the average web user. We can increasingly use innovative tools for telling stories and posting content, and in doing so can do more and more to shape how the internet actually is.

I realize it’s a whole lot bigger than that — I said it was too much for a single blog entry — but that seems like it’s the gist of it. (If I’m missing a crucial piece, or misunderstanding the whole thing, hopefully someone will point this out in the comments!)

I think I understand, at least partially, this concept of web 2.0 a bit better now. But having said that, I’m not sure how much I “buy” it, personally. I accept it as an actual thing, intellectually, of course. But on a personal, experiential level, to me the web is just the web. Maybe it’ll get upgraded to some sort of new, super-cool, new thing at some point, but it’ll be a gradual process that will only be discernible in the long term, and then probably retrospectively.

When a human being grows, it does so gradually, over time. There are growth spurts, but it really is a long term process. While we can reasonably impose stages onto the life cycle of a human being (Infant, adolescent, teenager, crotchety old person), this is really only possible in a broad sense, and usually retrospectively. It’s not like you suddenly wake up and you’re a teenager. I think, in some ways, the internet is similar.

After all, the internet is in many ways an organic thing. It grows, adapts, and changes almost like a living thing, which is unsurprising, considering that it consists of the collective, continually changing creations of billions of living beings. So when we label it web 2.0, we may just be saying that the internet has “grown up” a bit — an adolescent, maybe. Under this view, maybe it’s not so surprising that I’m having trouble with the idea of web 2.0 as something distinct; as a kid, I didn’t remember being an infant, either. But I remember being a kid, and then a teen, and then the beginning of the Epoch of Young Twenty-Something Wisdom. Maybe, in the same way, I just need a longer sense of internet-past before I can appreciate internet-present for what it is.

So maybe one day I’ll wake up as a crotchety old person and think, “Hey! That was web 2.0 after all!”

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