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Economics and "Web 2.0"

The analysis of the economic implications of "Web 2.0" applications and loosely-associated technologies such as wikis, blogs, social-networking, open-source, open-content, file-sharing, peer-production, etc. has also gained scientific attention. This area of research investigates the implications Web 2.0 has for an economy and the principles underlying the economy of Web 2.0.

Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams argue in their book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2006) that the economy of "the new web" depends on mass collaboration. Tapscott and Williams regard it as important for new media companies to find ways of how to make profit with the help of Web 2.0. The prospective Internet-based economy that they term "Wikinomics" would depend on the principles of openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally. They identify seven Web 2.0 business-models (peer pioneers, ideagoras, prosumers, new Alexandrians, platforms for participation, global plantfloor, wiki workplace).

Organizations could make use of these principles and models in order to prosper with the help of Web 2.0-like applications: “Companies can design and assemble products with their customers, and in some cases customers can do the majority of the value creation”. “In each instance the traditionally passive buyers of editorial and advertising take active, participatory roles in value creation.“ Tapscott and Williams suggest business strategies as “models where masses of consumers, employees, suppliers, business partners, and even competitors cocreate value in the absence of direct managerial control”.

Tapscott and Williams see the outcome as an economic democracy.

Some other views in the scientific debate agree with Tapscott and Williams that value-creation increasingly depends on harnessing open source/content, networking, sharing, and peering, but disagree that this will result in an economic democracy, predicting a subtle form and deepening of exploitation, in which Internet-based global outsourcing reduces labour-costs. In such a view, the economic implications of a new web might include on the one hand the emergence of new business-models based on global outsourcing, whereas on the other hand non-commercial online platforms could undermine profit-making and anticipate a co-operative economy. For example, Tiziana Terranova speaks of "free labor" (performed without payment) in the case where prosumers produce surplus value in the circulation-sphere of the cultural industries [23]


Given the lack of set standards as to what "Web 2.0" actually means, implies, or requires, the term can mean radically different things to different people.

The argument exists that "Web 2.0" does not represent a new version of the World Wide Web at all, but merely continues to use so-called "Web 1.0" technologies and concepts. Note that techniques such as Ajax do not replace underlying protocols like HTTP, but add an additional layer of abstraction on top of them. Many of the ideas of Web 2.0 had already featured in implementations on networked systems well before the term "Web 2.0" emerged., for instance, has allowed users to write reviews and consumer guides since its launch in 1995, in a form of self-publishing. Amazon also opened its API to outside developers in 2002.[24] Previous developments also came from research in computer-supported collaborative learning and computer-supported cooperative work and from established products like Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino.

In a podcast interview Tim Berners-Lee described the term "Web 2.0" as a "piece of jargon": "nobody really knows what it means"; and went on to say "if Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along."

Conversely, when someone proclaims a website "Web 2.0" for the use of some trivial feature (such as blogs or gradient-boxes) observers may generally consider it more an attempt at promotion than an actual endorsement of the ideas behind Web 2.0. "Web 2.0" in such circumstances has sometimes sunk simply to the status of a marketing buzzword, which can mean whatever a salesperson wants it to mean, with little connection to most of the worthy but (currently) unrelated ideas originally brought together under the "Web 2.0" banner.

Other criticism has included the term "a second bubble," (referring to the Dot-com bubble of circa 1995–2001), suggesting that too many Web 2.0 companies attempt to develop the same product with a lack of business models. The Economist has written of "Bubble 2.0."

Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman noted that Web 2.0 excited only 53,651 people (the number of subscribers to TechCrunch, a Weblog covering Web 2.0 matters), too few users to make them an economically-viable target for consumer applications.


In November 2004, CMP Media applied to the USPTO for a service mark on the use of the term "WEB 2.0" for live events. On the basis of this application, CMP Media sent a cease-and-desist demand to the Irish non-profit organization IT@Cork on May 24, 2006, but retracted it two days later.[29] The "WEB 2.0" service mark registration passed final PTO Examining Attorney review on May 10, 2006, but as of June 12, 2006 the PTO had not published the mark for opposition. The European Union application (application number 004972212, which would confer unambiguous status in Ireland) remains currently pending after its filing on March 23, 2006.

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