Aah - it's just like the old days

I've been pondering over the last few days the extent to which the feeling around Web 2.0 reminds me of the feeling around the Web back in the mid '90s when I first went online.

In fact, I've been trying to work out when I first saw a web site. It wasn't so so early as to be particularly impressive - the browsers were Mosaic or Netscape, so I guess that puts it around 1995.

Anyway, back in those days, the world wide web was a place almost entirely free of commercial activity (apart from the "adult industry", of course - they always seems to lead the way in the use of new technology!). It consisted of lots of web pages written by amateurs or academics. User generated content, you might say! It felt like suddenly anyone could publish to the world. Joe Random could, in 5 minutes, knock together a page that looked as good as any other page. They tended to look like this or this. There was no such profession as "web designer".

Then, over the years, big business woke up to the possibilities of the Web, and bandwidth improved, making fancier graphical websites feasible. Eventually, it became difficult for Joe Random to produce a web page that didn't look amateurish in comparison to commerically produced web sites. The Web didn't feel like it belonged to us anymore.

And now we have Web 2.0. From my perspective, I couldn't initially see what all the fuss was about. The Web has always been a place that I wrote to. But I realised as I reflected upon my history that most people joined in much later on, seeing the Web as a source of information that they consumed, rather than something they helped to create. For them, Web 2.0 does represent a renewal of the original purpose of the Web.

Of course there's much more to Web 2.0 than user generated content - Web as platform, rss, folksonomy etc etc - I just couldn't get why people were excited about being able to write on the Web. Now I do.


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