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Upgrading to the term Web 2.1


Unfortunately I tuned into this podcast a couple of weeks after the fact, but even so, I’d like to share an interesting perspective. It was one of many discussions that flared up around this blog post by Tom Raftery from IT@CORK (in Ireland) who received a cease and desist letter from the legal team of O’Reilly publishers. Apparently O’Reilly StyleMarked (similar to TradeMarked) the term “Web 2.0 Conference” and after many opportunities, took this opportunity to start enforcing it on a small 1/2 day conference on the other side of the world. Follow either of the above links for more info.

Firstly, I should mention that I am not against companies protecting their ideas and their names, but I think O’Reilly has stepped way out of line for many reasons. Firstly, having known about it for 9 months and waited till the last 2 weeks was just rude. Secondly, not bothering to have a polite discussion and jump straight into legal threats is not only very rude, but very inefficient (unless you like feeding legal piranhas). Thirdly, when I was taught about trademarks, I was told that you had to be careful, because if your trademark becomes a generic term, you loose control of it, so I think O’Reilly has lost their dubious control anyway.

It is almost an anti-climax that O’Reilly have no jurisdiction in Ireland to be trying to enforce anyway – while it is extremely shameful to O’Reilly, it kind of leaves the core issue unresolved. And as I learn from Lawrence Lessig, unresolved issues are a lawyer’s playground, and ‘chill’ the environment. In this case, people in America will still be scared of receiving a letter from O’Reilly, so many will confirm, whether they really need to or not.

So I propose an interesting solution to this issue. I think from now on, everyone should refuse to refer to the term “Web 2.0” and instead use the term “Web 2.1”. Not only does this give O’Reilly no leg to stand on, it also sends a clear message that the social web will not stand for corporate intimidation. So in this way, it is describing a new version of the web, which justifies an incremental version increase. And with an almost self prophetic irony, it is creating a new version of the web that the term itself ushers in. Web 2.0 has been around long enough for it to look significantly different now compared to when it first emerged, so I think it is high time to evolve to Web 2.1. Web 2.1 can also represent the related fights for Internet Neutrality (www.savetheinternet.com and www.itsournet.org) and Free Culture (www.lessig.org and www.eff.org).

To pre-empt any future issues, I’ll state that not only Web 2.1, but Web X.X can now be considered a generic term, so no one can own trademark control over it in the future.

Of course, the only way for the term Web 2.1 to become completely generic and for people to be free of unacceptable corporate restrictions and intimidation is for this idea to be spread and used. Ok, sure, it is a long shot, but if it was to happen, ideally, it should not be used blindly, but should be used with knowledge of what it represents and why it became necessary.

I’ve now dug a little deeper, and found that quite a few people have proposed that incrementing Web 2.0 is a good idea, which is great – it might just catch on yet. Liam Breck mentions that Web 2.5 is already coined for “the fusion of web 2.0 tools with mobile tech” so its probably a good thing we steered clear of that. However, none of the posts that I read went into the same detail I’ve covered above:


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