January 11, 2006

Does the Web 2.0 tag reduce innovation?

Posted in Innovation at 11:34 pm by scottmaxwell

I was sitting at lunch yesterday with Firas Bushnaq, co-founder and CEO of eEye Digital Security (one of my portfolio companies). Part of our discussion centered around Ajax and Web 2.0. Firas had an interesting point that perhaps the Web 2.0 themes tend to reduce innovation as they make people think about a specific set of themes rather than what they are truly trying to accomplish and then expressing their desire in the best way possible with available technologies (or creating new technologies).

Perhaps getting too stuck on the themes creates a “box” that developers live within? Perhaps also, the themes create the desire to utilize as many of the themes as possible so that they live within the entire box, thereby adding complexity without adding utility (rather than the volume inside and outside the box that best expresses the intent of the developers)?

I am sure that the original intent of the term “Web 2.0” was to give a theme for a conference, which turned into a “tag” for innovative web apps. Perhaps at this point, the “tag” has outlived its usefulness of expanding innovation and now does create constraints as many of the themes have played out? Or, perhaps the themes continue to resonate and will help innovators brainstorm new ideas that will lead to better services?

Interesting questions.



  1. I would agree were it not for the fact that part of the “web 2.0” theme is the constant one-upping in innovation. At least that is my perception. As long as the box we function within in includes thinking outside of the box, innovation won’t be stiffled by putting tags on emerging trends.

    However, there can be a danger in accepting the entire package instead of carefully evaluating and adopting individual parts. This is especially true when something is the latest hype. Then there’s seldom evidence of the long-term effects of adopting a certain technology or way of thinking.

  2. Very interesting issue. Perhaps I can add something rather peripheral to your thoughts on innovation.

    From my perspective, I think the Web 2.0 tag is important to anyone trying to second guess the future because it allows to predict what Web 3.0 is going to be like.

    The point I am trying to make is that it’s crucial for Web 2.0 to be seen in its larger context where entrepreneurs and vcs start breaking down the development of the internet into epochs (or any other identifiable stages).

    Perhaps this is important because the history of the internet is a journey towards *somewhere*, web 2.0 is one of the stops on this information superhighway we ar all travelling and if we have a faint idea of where this *somewhere* is, there is a fair chance we can start predicting what the next stop is going to be so we can snap up a few of the available seats before the other guys.

    There is a lot of talk now about re branding Web 2.0. Some would say these memes are useless, and even detrimental to innovation. I don’t really think so. On the contrary, I’d venture to say that if the idea of an *informational event horizon* (the final destination of where the net is going) became common knowledge, innovation would work more efficiently and we’d all smoothly transit into web 3.0, knowing full well that there’ll be the next stop after that.

    After all, for energy to be productive, it needs a point of reference and boundaries. If this point is termed Web 2.0, and it’s seen in context of a great journey humanity is having towards the *informational event horizon* – then I’m all for it – otherwise there’d be nothing left by feeling rudderless. I guess that a contrary point of view to would lead us to believe that standardised tertiary education, too, is detrimental to the emergence of new ideas.

    P.S. In terms of innovation: Scott, if you are looking for an interesting discussion on what hurts innovation, you might like;

    How Venture Capital Thwart Innovation

    Written by Bart Stuck and Michael Weingarten from Signal Lake Management (early-stage telecom fund), I’ve found it to be a good, comprehensive feature article (complete with pretty graphs and everything).

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