The perfectly timed Web 2.0 Question

This week is the Web 2.0 conference here in San Francisco. My company is a sponsor and my team is holding a small cocktail party on Thursday night to review some great research on consumers and RSS usage.

One thing i’ve noticed though, it seems like the conference organizers have realized there’s no better way to hype market the Web 2.0 conference than to get everyone blogging about the “What is Web 2.0?” question. So, of course, I’ll join in…

Richard McManus does a great job of laying out the simple point: no one seems to agree what the answer is.

Tim tries to lay it out simply:

Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: 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 going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.

And I actually kinda like that definition, but I still believe it focuses too much on technology. Yes, there are changes in technology, but what I’m seeing is so much more important: a shift in mindset. Looking at the Web 2.0 Meme Map that has been floating around, my favorite bubble here is:

“it’s an attitude, not a technology”

In my view, Web 2.0 is in many ways a return to the early days of the Net (is that Web 0.9??). The technology was simple, but the principles for the industry were there: enable people to communicate, enable people to connect, enable people to discover, enable people to express themselves and share. When we did that and enabled people, they did great things, created great content and left behind valuable information that we could use to build better products and a business around.

Web 2.0 is just the modern view of this premise: Put consumers at the center of the experience. It means building services around people in a thriving community (ala Flickr or even PageRank) and putting the consumer in complete control with a platform that enables them to easily do whatever they want, however they want.

Whatever you wanna call it, the midset is simple: focus on the consumer first and the technology second. That “attitude” is so much more Web 2.0 than any AJAX interface, API or hot little startup out there.