Paul Graham has another excellent essay. This one is one “Web 2.0.” He’s talks about the origin of the term and what it means, and it boils down to three things:

  • AJAX ( or, “Javascript now works”)
  • Democracy
  • Don’t Maltreat Users

Then he points out that Web 2.0 is whole point of the Internet.

Web 2.0 means using the web the way it’s meant to be used. The “trends” we’re seeing now are simply the inherent nature of the web emerging from under the broken models that got imposed on it during the Bubble.

True, that.

One of the other interesting things is a little tidbit that, I think, illustrates what is going to happen to those who don’t understand Web 2.0, or work to fight against it:

During the 90s a lot of people probably thought we’d have some working system for micropayments by now. In fact things have gone in other direction. The most successful sites are the ones that figure out new ways to give stuff away for free. Craigslist has largely destroyed the classified ad sites of the 90s, and OKCupid looks likely to do the same to the previous generation of dating sites.

Odd as it might sound, we tell startups that they should try to make as little money as possible. If you can figure out a way to turn a billion dollar industry into a fifty million dollar industry, so much the better, if all fifty million go to you. Though indeed, making things cheaper often turns out to generate more money in the end, just as automating things often turns out to generate more jobs.

This means that many industries are simply going to be undone by the Web 2.0 approach. What kind of industries? Lots. But one specific example is here:

[Editors] control the topics you can write about, and they can generally rewrite whatever you produce. The result is to damp extremes. Editing yields 95th percentile writing– 95% of articles are improved by it, but 5% are dragged down…

On the web, people can publish whatever they want. Nearly all of it falls short of the editor-damped writing in print publications. But the pool of writers is very, very large. If it’s large enough, the lack of damping means the best writing online should surpass the best in print. And now that the web has evolved mechanisms for selecting good stuff, the web wins net. Selection beats damping, for the same reason market economies beat centrally planned ones.

I’ll go a bit further and say that any industry that relies on distribution, filtering or brokering of data, or counts on information asymmetry as an advantage is on the chopping block. There can be no more gatekeepers. This type of work can now be broken down into tiny chunks and handled by many, many people instead of a just select few.

I find it exciting and frightening at the same time. I work in the newspaper industry.