What exactly is Web 2.0? There are plenty of ways to explain it and define it, but what is it really? It's a marketing slogan meant to attract investors, media and users back to the Internet after the dot com crash.
The inability to adequately define what Web 2.0 is a clue that it has roots in marketing. Marketers (and I'm one of them) are good at creating things that resonate without making complete sense. For instance, the phrase 'virtually spotless' for a dishwasher detergent seems good but upon inspection really means 'has some spots'.
Max(x) Barry aptly skewered this situation in his book Syrup.
Pick a random chemical in your product and heavily promote its presence. When your customers see “Now wth Benzoethylhydrates!” they will assume that this is a good thing.
Even Tim Berners-Lee, Web pioneer, sees through the Web 2.0 smoke and mirrors. Ars Technica does a good job of digesting Tim Berners-Lee's podcast text and presents the most relevant quote about his view of Web 2.0: "nobody even knows what it means".
But that's the brilliance of Web 2.0, it can mean whatever you really want it to mean. Want Web 2.0 to include the semantic web? Sure. Want it to be about microformats? You betcha. Want it to be about user generated content? No problemo. Want it to represent a way to use software and technology to connect people to people? Of course. Mashups? Yup. Tagging? Check. Social Media? Okay.
The mythology is that Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty came up with the term at a brainstorming session at a 2003 conference. I don't think they came up with the term, but O'Reilly created the buzz around it, promoted it and subsequently fought over it. Let's face it, O'Reilly isn't a slouch in the marketing department!
Don't believe me? Well what about Dermot McCormack's 2002 book titled Web 2.0: The Resurgence of the Internet & E-Commerce.
So instead of trying to figure out who coined the term or what it actually means, just be happy that it ushered a new influx of ideas and investment into the Internet.
Like Web 2.0? Thank your nearest marketer today.