Home Time’s Person of the Year is You – a Silicon Valley fueled, Steak-frite eating You

Time’s Person of the Year is You – a Silicon Valley fueled, Steak-frite eating You

So Web 2.0 finally goes mainstream….
kind of.
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…

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
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!

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