Time Magazine has named the Web-powered "You" as its coveted Person of the Year. In the accompanying articles, the term Web 2.0 is used and there's talk of an Internet "revolution". I think this is all great as a general recognition of the read/write Web - but a few things in the article bothered me...So Web 2.0 finally goes mainstream.... kind of.
What Time got right
Yes, the Web is "a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before." It is about normal people contributing to media on a mass scale, thanks to web sites like MySpace, YouTube and Wikipedia. It is also about "an explosion of productivity and innovation" which is "just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy."
All of this is what I refer to as the Social Web, or the read/write Web. Time magazine generally refers to it as Web 2.0 - which they archly note is what "Silicon Valley consultants call it".
What Time got wrong
This isn't a "revolution". It's an evolution of the Web - and I've written a hundred times about how Tim Berners-Lee always wanted the Web to be read/write, or editable. Sure Sir Tim probably never envisaged the Web he created 15 years ago as being the center of our electronic social lives in 2006, at least on the scale it's become. But he always wanted the Web to be a two-way medium - which is exactly what Time magazine is celebrating today. So no, it's not a revolution - the Web has evolved to be what it is over 15 years, including a few years of growing pains in the early part of this century known as the 'dot com' years.
I also somewhat resent the (usual) mainstream media condescension about blogs and social networks. Consider this passage from Time's cover article:
"Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?
The answer is, you do."
Gee, thanks Time. I'll just go and blog about my state of mind now... I'll leave the real journalism to the professionals. And btw, what the heck are "steak-frites"?!
One final thing bothers me.... Time goes to great lengths to say that the Web is a democratizing force for 'the people'. Yet their view of the Web seems to be very centered on one place: Silicon Valley. I can understand this, to a degree. The Valley is where most of the action is, just like Hollywood is where it's at for movies.
But still, it seemed like the international people that did get mentioned were just clichéd bit players in this Web 2.0 world: the French rapper, the Pakistani Flickr user, an "irreverent Chinese blogger", "a mother in Baghdad with a videophone"... you get the picture. Meanwhile Silicon Valley bloggers Dave Winer and Om Malik got to explain what the new Web actually means and in another part of the Time coverage Web 2.0 was described as "an excess of democracy" (which, let's face it, is a very US-centric way to view the Web). I'm not sure what my point is here, other than I think the international players on the Web deserved wider and less clichéd coverage. But then I would say that.
Overall though, I can't wait to pick up a paper copy of this edition of Time magazine - I'm thrilled that the Web is their Person of the Year!