The new Internet "boom" doesn't live up to its name.
But there's no way this bubble—if there is a new bubble—will be anything like the last one. No one will forecast that the Dow will reach 30,000. (Well, almost no one.) No one will claim that Web 2.0 makes the concept of the nation-state obsolete. And no matter how much money everyone makes, no one will throw a $10 million launch party for at least the next 50 years.
The only way that 2.0 fits the current Web is if you use the original meaning. It's a technology upgrade, one that finally does what they'd said version 1.0 would do. For a contrived neologism, at least it's catchy. Compare Web 2.0 to other attempts to brand the zeitgeist: "Do It Together," "The Read/Write Web," "Small Pieces, Loosely Joined," or Newsweek's pick, "the Living Web." Imagine asking your boss for $3,000 to go to the Living Web Conference.
Still, the purpose of words is to convey meaning. Calling Technorati a "Web 2.0 search engine" sounds sharp but explains nothing. If you can only describe a word by examples, skip to the examples instead: "It's a search engine for blogs that uses tags, like Flickr." There's an easy way to describe today's online culture of participation without invoking Web 2.0 at all. Just call it the Internet. That way, everyone will know what you mean.
Paul Boutin is a writer living in San Francisco.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.