First Monday

Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0 by Trebor Scholz

This essay debunks the myths of the Web 2.0 brand and argues that the popularized phrase limits public media discourse and the imagination of a future World Wide Web.


The Shifting Definitions of Web 2.0
The New Newness of Technologies
Wikis and User–submitted Content
Collective Intelligence, Voice, and Conversation
Social Networking Sites, RSS, CSS, and Blogging
Podcasting and Folksonomies
The Web 2.0 Ideology, the Power of Naming, and the Imagination of the Future of the Web
Birds of a Feather




As a teenager, coming of age in East Berlin in the 1980s, I was frequently questioned by Western European tourists who were amused by the nightly state–delivered television shows in our country. They could not understand what made interviews with factory workers or farmers newsworthy. And indeed, the German–style reality of Socialism force–fed the ideas of the ruling class to the people, the imagined shareholders in this collective social experiment. Today, in the United States, I am startled by the total takeover of market ideologues. The desires and needs of young users seem to match neatly with the needs of corporaties. There is, to be sure, a difference between the needs of users and the rhetoric of marketers who claim to cater to their desires. It is useful to remember that the desires of users did not grow in a vacuum; they are largely created by the market machine in the first place. Web 2.0 is a good example of marketers entering the discussion about the Internet.

From Love 2.0 to copyright, law, business, and even authorship, the versioning virus has infected many writers [1]. The root of this branding mania and obsession with newness is the phrase Web 2.0, which is not solely a marketing buzzword but also a household name, not unlike Wonder Bread [2]. To this day the definition of Web 2.0 is vague at best and those who claim novelty for the technologies associated with the phrase, are wrong. The widespread adaptation of the phrase, however, makes it hard to ignore it as a fad. The Web 2.0 hype drew broad media attention and financial resources to businesses that manage to profit from networked social production [3], amateur participation online, fan cultures, social networking, podcasting, and collective intelligence [4].

The Web 2.0 Ideology, however, goes far beyond the confines of these recent phenomena. It does not solely embrace “a series of ethical assumptions about media, culture, and technology” that worships the creative amateur [5]. This ideology is a framing device of professional elites that define what enters the public discourse about the impact of the Internet on society.

As an épistémè, Web 2.0 filters from a large number of statements those that are acceptable within public discourse [6]. By defining what is associated with the Web today as common sense, it directs the imagination of its future. The following passages will demonstrate the ideological function of this concept and its associated technologies and phrases.



The Shifting Definitions of Web 2.0

In 2004, the founder of a large technology publishing house, open source software proponent and multi–millionaire Tim O’Reilly coined the phrase Web 2.0, together with a colleague. The event producers needed a catchy title for an upcoming conference. Later, the event title was expanded into a concept that proposed a separation of various versions of the Web. “The Internet was back! This shiny new version of the Internet, the dream of a fully networked, always–connected society was finally going to be realized. The Internet would democratize Big Media, Big Business, Big Government.” [7]

Mr. O’Reilly characterized Web 1.0 through a set of static, one–way browser–based applications like personal Web sites and the encyclopedia Britannica Online, publishing, content management systems, and taxonomies. Subsequently, he distinguished Web 2.0 by associating it with the “new participatory architectures of the Web” that allow for online services such as the photo sharing site Flickr, blogs, the peer–to–peer file sharing standard BitTorrent, Wikipedia, event sites like, the file–sharing service Napster, wikis (collaborative Web sites that allow for real–time editing), folksonomies (user–generated taxonomies), and the aggregation of online content through Web feeds [8].

The definition morphed considerably over time. Late in 2005 O’Reilly wrote that:

Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications  & [are] delivering software as a continually–updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation,’ and & deliver rich user experiences. [9]

O’Reilly was onto something. Not only was he accurate about the network effect but he also understood the increasing importance of participation online. The network effect holds true for telephones and fax machines but also for social networking sites. The more people own a telephone, the more valuable this technology becomes. There is no point in owning a fax machine if none of your friends or clients have one at their avail. And equally, on Facebook, you will only be able to track down old buddies if very many people congregate on this site. People like to be where other people are. O’Reilly was also cognizant of the fact that now U.S. Americans at least had for a large part broadband access to the Internet, which set the stage for the success of Ajax, an important Web developing technique. His only possibly willful misinterpretation was that none of this had launched like a Web 2.0 rocket just in 2004.

The privately owned social milieus of the Web become the time–sucking turf for millions. Server farms and an infrastructure of nodes and cables are the new authority.

Wikinomics co–author Don Tapscott hearts Web 2.0. He really does; it makes him think of authenticity, openness, the relinquishing of control, the sharing of code and most importantly, the building on the efforts of others [10]. The Wikipedia authors of the Web 2.0 encyclopedia entry share his conviction. For them, it is also about the decentralization of authority, the freedom to share, and re–use [11]. Authority in the Web 2.0 world is introduced through property and the availability of the means of production. The latter is available to users and so are the means of distribution but the virtual real estate belongs to Yahoo’s YouTube. The privately owned social milieus of the Web become the time–sucking turf for millions. Server farms and an infrastructure of nodes and cables are the new authority. With great clarity and an elegant writing style, the Wikinomics authors communicate this brave new world of Web 2.0 to the business priesthood. Tapscott describes with single–minded focus how to squeeze profits out of peer–to–peer technologies and even refers to the Katrina People Finder project. When interpreting the new conditions for production and consumption online, his sole mission is a socially friction–free update of the timeworn capitalist power dynamics. He discovers and celebrates how today, perhaps more than ever, fewer and fewer people can become richer and richer by using the very many who earn less and less.

The core question for Yale law School professor Yochai Benkler is how “to manage the marriage of money and nonmoney without making nonmoney feel like a sucker.” In other words, how can we harvest/monetize the labor and presence of those millions on Myspace, for example, without making them feel bad?

Technology writer Nicholas Carr, while being a respected member of the business community as executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, has a less consoling understanding of the situation: “Businesses are using the masses of Internet gift–givers as a global pool of cut–rate labor.” [12] Carr, also the author of the book The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, sees a move from personally or institutionally owned software to software services delivered over the Web [13]. But he has a strategic fetish for the dark side of the Social Web, leaving out all the sunny–side up ways of taking stock of the Web that Yochai Benkler convincingly champions in The Wealth of Networks [14].

In 2007, O’Reilly, silently, hidden in the comment section of Jason Calacanis’ weblog, admits that he got it wrong.

... Web 2.0 was a pretty crappy name for what’s happening (Microsoft’s name, Live Software, is probably the best term I’ve seen)... Web 2.0 is not about front–end technologies. It’s precisely about back–end, and it’s about meaning and intelligence in the back–end. [15]

Unfortunately, Tim O’Reilly’s sea change is unlikely to take away from the popular appeal of the phrase that, by now, is dyed into the fabric of the mass media.



The New Newness of Technologies

Which technologies are commonly collected under the Web 2.0 umbrella? Evangelists of the phrase huddle technologies like the Web development technique Ajax [16], the Ruby programming language, CSS, RSS, OpenAPIs [17], wikis, blogs, mashups (digital media works that draw from already existing texts or audio), and podcasts (media files that are distributed over the Internet to be played back on portable media players) under its roof. They highlight user–friendly interfaces, activities like tagging, social networking and microformats as Web 2.0 descriptors [18].

So far, I walked you through the very short history and varying definitions of the phrase Web 2.0. Now I’ll argue against the novelty suggested by the phrase. Tim Berners–Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, is among those who questioned whether one can use the term in a meaningful way, since many of the technology components of “Web 2.0” have existed since the early days of the Web [19]. Like with any bubble, the suggestion of sudden newness is aimed at potential investors. It is not completely unlike the techno–economic utopianism of the 1990s and a bit like McDonald’s re–stacking of their beef layers every six months ramping up for new ad campaigns. Newness sells conference tickets (and hamburgers); it drives up speaker fees and helps the circulation of books that are bought by those who are afraid (very afraid) to miss a hot new technology trend.

I’m not suggesting, however, that Mr. O’Reilly cheaply runs after well–paying conference gigs or solely attempts to amp up book sales. But already the first time around, when the nascent World Wide Web took a hold in the United States in the early 1990s, it was important for O’Reilly’s publishing house to be perceived as being linked to emerging technologies. On the upside Web 2.0 created a new enthusiasm for the Web. On the downside it created a new enthusiasm for the Web, one that is build on false pretenses such as novelty of its components and a sudden leap in user participation. Many of the changes described under the umbrella of Web 2.0 have been incremental, not sudden. A closer look at the history of elements that define the concept will clarify false claims of newness. You will be hard–pressed to find a born–again Web.



Wikis and User–submitted Content

Wikis, for one, are not new. The American computer programmer Ward Cunningham started developing WikiWikiWeb in 1994. He installed it on the Internet in 1995. While it is true that social life online drastically increased in scale over time, the Web has always been social. You can go back as far as 1973, just two years after Ray Tomlinson of BBN had created an e–mail program that allowed ARPANET users to send messages. Already on this most nascent network of the Internet, ARPANET, e–mail was, quite unintentionally, the most popular use. Given the opportunity, people like to socialize.

Similarly, user–submitted content started to gain importance not in 2004 but in 1995, when launched. The book selling Web site invited users to write reviews and consumer guides. Beyond this early form of self–publishing, sociality in general has been an aspect of the Web since its inception. Nicholas Carr’s commented on the early monetization of communities:

Even very early online communities and Web sites made extensive use of free labor. In the 1990s, so many thousands of America Online members were performing unpaid jobs for the company, such as moderating chat rooms, that Wired magazine called AOL a “cyber–sweatshop.” [20]

I’ll return this aspect of labor in a later example.



Collective Intelligence, Voice, and Conversation

Already in 1997, University of Ottawa professor Pierre Lévy analyzed the potentials of networked sociality for large–scale collaborative actions and in 2007; author of Everything is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger says:

[B]ack from the very beginning what drove people onto the net was not so that they can shop at Amazon. Weblogs and all that have made it way, way easier but the Web has always been about voice and conversation. [21]

Today, participation is made easier as familiarity with computers and software, as well as Internet access, have improved in the economically developed world.



Social Networking Sites, RSS, CSS, and Blogging

A quick look into the history of the Web will also set the record straight about social networking sites. was founded already in 1995, soon to be followed by One year later, the social networking site Lunarstorm opened as a platform for Swedish, Danish, and British teens and in 1999 the Indian social networking site Sulekha and the African–American social networking site launched.

Equally seasoned is Real Simple Syndication (RSS), which allows users to subscribe to a dynamic Web site such as a blog. The first version of RSS was created as a format for syndicating content based on XML by Netscape in 1999 [22].

Style sheets have existed since 1970s. Cascading Style Sheets were developed as a means for creating a consistent approach to providing style information for Web documents. The CSS Working Group published CSS in 1997 and it became the official (W3C) standard in 1998. In recent years CSS became important as it facilitated the separation of form and content, thereby allowing the same content to be delivered to different mobile platforms such as cell phones and personal data assistants.

Finally, it’d be hard to argue for blogging as a recent breakthrough technology as Justin Hall is known to have pioneered it in 1994 by posting exhibitionist diatribes to his Web page on a daily basis [23]. A student at Swarthmore College at the time, these early blog posts largely contained detailed descriptions of his non–repressed sex life on campus. In 1997 Kuro5hin, a collaborative weblog where users vote for what goes to the front page, was released. Two years later, and the blogging platform LiveJournal started.



Podcasting and Folksonomies

Fairly new, however, is the podcasting phenomenon and the term folksonomy, which became popular in 2004. Folksonomy is defined as collaborative tagging, social classification, or social indexing. It is a method of collaboratively creating and managing keywords to annotate and categorize content.

These previous examples show that the novelty that Mr. O’Reilly’s phrase claims for the technologies that he embraces as part of Web 2.0, while readily accepted by countless adapters is, is fact, incorrect. O’Reilly’s phrase and its changing definitions describe and package technical trends, which are then presented with passion, authority, and the air of common sense. The language of Web 2.0 is a placeholder for several agendas. It burns the torches of 1960s–style rebellion, a “business revolution” of self–declared anarchists who frown upon authority and control as bad and deem openness as always good. But the fire is held by business elites who are trying to mobilize novelty as marketing ploy. There is some resemblance to the dotcom boom that captured the late ’90s (too much, too fast).



The Web 2.0 Ideology, the Power of Naming, and the Imagination of the Future of the Web

On the mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (iDC), the technologist and artist Adam Hyde writes that being annoyed by Web 2.0 obscures the fact that it is actually achieving what many of us have been hoping for. He asks “Isn’t it all just namespace?” [24] While Hyde points to opportunities for expression enabled by current Web technologies that deserve to be celebrated, the Web 2.0 concept itself merely boxes current phenomena to launch them as a brand. Activist, organizer, and writer Naomi Klein:

“The astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multinational corporations over the last fifteen years can arguably be traced back to a single, seemingly innocuous idea developed by management theorists in the mid–1980’s: that successful corporations must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products… this corporate obsession with brand identity is waging a war on public and individual space: … on youthful identities, … and on possibilities of unmarketed space.” [25]

The market ideology of Web 2.0 occupies the imaginary of near future scenarios for the World Wide Web on different levels. First, as Naomi Klein puts it, branding works on the level of identity formation (e.g., just take terms like the My —— Space). Much of identity formation and representation, in fact, takes place in the profile section of social networking sites. The Social Web determines a good part of the psychological lives of its users. Carr correctly characterizes it as a playground and laboratory for marketers whose wildest dreams of social control become true [26]. He writes:

Each of us may make hundreds or even thousands of clicks a day, some deliberately, some impulsively, and with each one we are constructing our identity, shaping our influences, and creating our communities. As we spend more time and do more things online, our combined clicks will shape our economy, our culture, and our society. [27]

Today, marketers can even learn about the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves; they are represented in the profiles of our social networking sites . As part of sea change toward the feasibility and importance of keeping private things private, American youth cares much less about their privacy than users of the Web a decade ago. Today, young people don’t mind so much that they share their “friends lists,” conversations, and navigational habits not only with their acquaintances but also the companies who interpret much of this data. With these firms (and possibly government bodies) as daily confidantes, latent possibilities for total control have opened up.

Second, considerations of the possibility of unmarketed space do not surface in public media discourse. Since its creation, market interests have increasingly dominated the Web. Technology writer Carr notes that:

By the end of 1995, half of all sites bore .com addresses, and by mid–1996 commercial sites represented nearly 70 percent of the total. … The Web had turned out to be less the new home of Mind than the new home of Business. [28]

Market exchanges are, to be sure, necessary to any society but the dominating market ideology elevates them to complete dominance. This ideological imperative that affords little or no visibility to visions of unmarketed space, for example, severely limits visions of a future World Wide Web.

A fine example of the Web 2.0 Ideology is immaterial free labor, a fairly unpopular and very complex subject. The Web makes people easier to use. By “surfing” it, people serve their virtual hosts and they are not unhappy about it. Online, service platforms, rather than products are offered and users are encouraged to participate, communities become the brand. The Web makes it possible to “out–source” many tasks to the users who can create in “self–service” mode. The United States Army, for example, involved many programmers online to develop their recruitment game “America’s Army.” Jeff Howe of Wired introduced the term “crowdsourcing,” which is an additional instance of the market ideology of Web 2.0 [29]. “Crowdsourcing” means that a company outsources a job usually executed by an employee to a large, undefined group of people through an open call over the Internet. This group receives little compensation or no pay at all.

This phenomenon is not just limited to the Internet. Offline, small acts of shopping require low-level acts of labor previously performed by paid employees. Fast food restaurants require their costumers to properly discard their trash when they exit, shoppers check out their groceries in self–service mode, and air travelers are requested to print out their tickets on service kiosks.

The users/producers on the Social Web are the base to the super structure of virtual real estate owners. In Wikinomics, business writer Don Tapscott makes sense of online participation for the market–minded. He starts by explaining that the speed of innovation is speeding up.

Smart firms can harness this innovation by using peer production to involve way more people and partners in developing customer solutions than they could ever hope to marshal internally. [30]

[There is] a new model of prosumption, where customers participate in the creation of products in an active and ongoing way. As in Second Life, the consumer actually co–innovates and coproduces the products they consume.

Second Life has no preset script, there are few limitations on what players can do. Residents just about create everything, from virtual storefronts and nightclubs to clothing, vehicles, and other items for use in the game. In fact, Second Life produces less than one percent of its content and now gets up to 23,000 hours of “free” development. [31]

Social milieus like SecondLife or MySpace are provided and maintained for more and more people by an increasingly smaller number of media magnates like NewsCorp or companies like Linden Research, Inc. People like to be where other people are. They enjoy using these platforms: from entertainment, to staying in touch with friends and family, to chatting, remixing, collaborating, sharing, and gossiping, to getting a job through the mighty power of weak links. It’s a tradeoff. Presence does not produce objects but life as such that is put to work and monetary value is created through the affective labor of users who are either not aware of this fact or do not mind it (yet). MySpace, which was bought by NewsCorp in 2005 for US$580M [32]. In 2008, its projected value is US$15 billion. The problem is not that Web presence is monetized but that more often than not, the social contract between user and platform owner is breached through a lack of transparency such as privacy “agreements” in the small print. In contrast to Tapscott and Howe, Nicholas Carr senses a kind of amplification of economic inequality.

In the YouTube economy, everyone is free to play, but only a few reap the rewards. [33]

On the one hand, the social milieus of the Web allow for increased autonomy and “the practiced experience of democracy, justice and development, a critical culture, and community.” On the other hand, this clearly does not happen on “non–market” grounds as Yale Law School professor Yochai Benkler claims [34]. “Non–market behavior,” for Benkler, denotes that market interests do not drive the motivations of users who participate. Conversely, the context of social life online is always entrenched in market relationships, no matter if users are motivated by profit.


Birds of a Feather

The takeover of the Web by business interests is also apparent when examining public discourse. The most visible authors, writing about the Social Web are lawyers, legal scholars at elite universities, business strategists, and corporate social media consultants. The bibliographies and acknowledgments in their books are almost exclusively pointers to others in their closed elite circle. This is surprising, especially as the phenomena that they write about (and frequently glorify), include the democratization of expert culture.

Favorite topics are ranging from copyright, to the “harvesting” of the fruits of networked social production, democratic government, the future of journalism, social justice, and the categorization of knowledge, and national defense, to name but a few foci. Peer–to–peer solutions only matter if they can be bent to squeeze out monetary value. Art and culture are rarely central to these discussions, unless copyright comes into play. While the mentioned issues are pertinent (!), they strictly operate within the market ideology. Their class consciousness, the oak panels that surround them, and the peers whom they reference shape the perspective of these professional elites and the issues that they care about. In 1995, Christopher Lasch wrote that it is white … elites who define the issues. He talks about an elite that has lost touch with the people [35]. Loosing touch in the context of the contemporary Web means not taking in participatory cultures on a daily basis. How can writers who argue for the democratizing effects of the Web, ignore all conversational research by many qualified voices online? A partial answer is that the Web 2.0 Ideology simply filters all statements strictly for applicability to the market.

But deep in the forest there is a door to another land. Since the creation of the Internet, there have been many social experiments challenging its commercial takeover. Project Gutenberg (the first and largest single collection of free electronic books), Virtuellen Plattform (VP) or Digitale Stad (1994) are but a few examples of this “other Social Web.” Non–wealth–maximizing goals or unconventional, non–mainstream options are off the Web 2.0 map or they are subsumed into smooth business narratives. A serious look at these social experiments, and not–for–profit projects is needed to envision a future Web that grows out of the needs and desires of all of its occupants [36]. The Web is empowering many individuals and also social movements today. However, users don’t just click for the good of all beings; more than 742,000 people make a living on’s used book “associate” program. The Social Web helps in the pursuit of individual self–interest. At the same time, it’s important not to forget that we, the users are guests in the house of Social Media giants. Standing on their shoulders, we are entering their rooms; we are banking on the hospitality of their server farms, we are trusting that all the data that we are sharing through our conversations and on our profiles are not abused in scenarios of total control, barely imaginable today.




If the TV news reports on East German television seemed outlandish to tourists, I wonder what the precarity of the labor dynamic of Web 2.0 and its hyperlocal news would look like to a visitor from a country that is not afflicted by capitalism. They would probably think of us as outright lunatics.

In this essay, I explored the brief history and evolution of Web 2.0 definitions leading up to Mr. O’Reilly’s admission that it was “probably a crappy idea.” I deflated its claims to a techno–social big bang. Instead I proposed a steady upward–moving line, not unlike the curve visualizing the process of learning a new language that can illustrate the historical development of social life online. The Web had an initial astronomical growth spurt but is now moving onwith unfaltering instead of explosive pace.

Flummoxed readers may, at this point, ask what else there is to the Web. Has not it always all been exclusively about commerce? Subtract the learned empathy with business needs and start searching for the essential needs of the millions using the Social Web including healthcare, a living wage, and job security. The Social Web is not and cannot be the all–mighty teacher, healer, and redeemer for everything that went astray in society. By defining today’s Social Web solely through the lens of business, however, we loose track of all that, which the Web could be. Re–imagine the Social Web as a place for unmarketed, non–mainstream projects that caters to all needs of those who inhabit it.

The Web 2.0 épistémè will not just go away. Therefore, it is important to have a clear understanding of its false claims, its ideological embedment, reinforced by professional elites. With Bill Thompson, a technology critic and essayist, I conclude that “If Web 2.0 is the answer then we are clearly asking the wrong question.” [37] End of article


About the author

Trebor Scholz is a media theorist, artist, and speaker on technology, activism, and culture. As founder of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (iDC), he has co–published the book The Art of Free Cooperation (Autonomedia, 2007) and written chapters and critical articles about the Social Web.
E–mail: trebor [at] thing [dot] net



1. Google searches for several 2.0 phrases returned the following results (accessed 11 July 2007). Copyright 2.0 (94,900), Business 2.0 (1,930,000), Identity 2.0 (330,000), Library 2.0 (1,150,000), Author 2.0 (76,600), Science 2.0 (349,000), Travel 2.0 ( 247,000), Law 2.0 (39,700), Office 2.0 (814,000), Research 2.0 (116,000 ) and even Love 2.0 (48,700).

2. In 2006 the term Web 2.0 was the most linked to article on Wikipedia. 8,929 people bookmarked Tim O’Reilly’s article “What is Web 2.0?” on Delicious and a Google search for the term returns almost 72.2M results (accessed 30 January 2008).

3. Yale Law Professor Yochai Benkler introduced this term in The Wealth of Networks (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).

4. Pierre Lévy coined the term “collective intelligence” in his book of the same title in 1997.

5. Andrew Keen, 2006. “Web 2.0,” Weekly Standard (15 February), at, accessed 30 January 2008.

6. In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault introduces a re–definition of the term épistémè, describing it as a strategic apparatus that permits the separation of statements that are acceptable within public discourse. Web 2.0 is an example of an épistémè. “Episteme,” Wikipedia (last modified 30 December 2007), at, accessed 4 February 2008.

7. Andrew Keen, p. 13.

8. Tim O’Reilly, 2005. “O’Reilly — What Is Web 2.0,” (30 September), at, accessed 9 July 2007.

9. Tim O’Reilly, 2007. “Today’s Web 3.0 Nonsense Blogstorm,” O’Reilly Radar (4 October), at, accessed 30 January 2008.

10. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, 2006. Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything. Ottawa: Portfolio.

11., accessed 28 February 2008.

12. Nicholas G. Carr, 2008. The big switch: Rewiring the world, from Edison to Google. New York: Norton, p. 142.

13. Ibid.

14. In his previous book Does IT matter? Information technology and the corrosion of competitive advantage (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004) Carr argued that information technologies matter less and less for businesses.

15. Tim O’Reilly, 2007. “Comments in response to Web 3.0, the ‘official’ definition,” Jason Calacanis Weblog (5 October), at, accessed 30 January 2008.

16. Ajax is like oil in the Web 2.0 fire. It stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. Its functionality signifies the changed role of the Web browser that now not only delivers documents but also works similar to desktop software. Not all homes, even in North America, can run Ajax because it requires a stable and very fast connection. Dialup does not work, as such connection cannot sustain the constant data traffic necessary for Ajax. Ajax is used to build the applications, which facilitate the sociality associated with Web 2.0. It modifies, checks and displays the content downloaded from the server. Ajax does so “on the fly,” almost in real–time, right when the information is presented in the browser. It is faster than other Web technologies, as it does not need to reload the entire page. The search feature in Facebook (FB), for example. When you start typing a term into the search box, the browser compares your text against the database of your friends. The most likely match is displayed to you in a drop–down menu. No page reload is necessary to provide this information.

17. OpenAPI facilitates the interconnection of Web sites. APIs are the doorway through which people with the right key can pass. Facebook, for example, released its OpenAPI in 2007, which allowed programmers to write applications that use many data about users that reside on FB’s server. The API allows petty much any programmer who can write a small FB application to draw in all data about the site’s users.

18. According to Wikipedia, “A microformat is a Web–based data formatting approach that seeks to re–use existing content as metadata, using only XHTML and HTML classes and attributes.” See, accessed 28 February 2008.

19. Nate Anderson, 2006. “Tim Berners–Lee on Web 2.0: ‘nobody even knows what it means’,” Ars Technica (1 September), at, accessed 30 January 2008.

20. Carr, 2008. The big switch, p. 139.

21. David Weinberger, 2006. “David Weinberger @ Syndicate NYC on Odeo,” (24 May), at, accessed 10 July 2007.

22. “RSS,” Wikipedia, at, accessed 30 January 2008.

23. Some people point to the update section of Tim Berners–Lee’s Web site as the first blog but Hall’s diaristic format fits more what we understand as weblogs today.

24. Adam Hyde, 2005. “[iDC] Against Web 2.0,” (27 May), at, accessed 10 July 2007.

25. Naomi Klein, 2000. No logo: Taking aim at the brand bullies. New York: Picador, p. 3.

26. In 2004 Christopher Allen, an entrepreneur, wrote the blog essay “Tracing the Evolution of Social Software” ( In it Allen outlines the evolution of terms like “groupware” and “computer–supported collaborative work” in the 1980s and “social software” in the 1990s. In 2004, Judith Donath, director of the MIT Sociable Media Group, defined “sociable media” as engagement with issues of identity and society in a networked society. In 2005, Howard Rheingold introduced the phrase “cooperation–enhancing technologies.” In 2005, danah boyd summarized various definitions of “social software,” starting with Clay Shirky (“stuff worth spamming”) and Tom Coates (“software which supports, extends, or derives added value from human social behavior”). Paul Dourish contested the term social software, however, arguing that all software is in some way social. Stowe Boyd called tools that facilitate a conversation “Social Media.” Throughout this essay I’m using “Social Web,” a phrase frequently applied to avoid the “Web 2.0” label describing the social, conversational, and participatory elements of the World Wide Web.

27. Carr, 2008. The big switch, p. 166.

28. Op.cit., p. 110.

29. Jeff Howe, 2006. “The Rise of Crowdsourcing,” Wired News (14 June), at, accessed 9 July 2007.

30. Tapscott and Williams, 2007. Wikinomics, p. 93.

31. Op.cit., p. 126.

32. “News Corp in $580m Internet buy,” at, accessed 28 February 2008.

33. Carr, 2008. The big switch, p. 247.

34. Yochai Benkler, 2006. The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 8.

35. Christopher Lasch, 1995. The revolt of the elites: And the betrayal of democracy. New York: Norton, p. 3.

36. The needs of users is of course not diametrically opposed to that of companies but to quickly equate them would be wrong as well.

37. Bill Thompson, 2006. “Web 2.0 and Tim O’Reilly as Marshal Tito,” Reg Developer (25 November), at, accessed 2 February 2008.


Copyright © 2008, First Monday.

Copyright © 2008, Trebor Scholz.

Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0
by Trebor Scholz
First Monday, Volume 13, Number 3 - 3 March 2008