The Rise of the Multi-Player Web and Why Web 2.0 is Here to Stay
While investors seem to be going all in on Web3 at the moment, I’ve been noticing an interesting trend that has its roots firmly in the Web 2.0 era — namely the Multi-Player Web. Before exploring this trend in more detail, I thought it would be worth taking a quick step back to explore where it originated from.
Where it All Began
My first real experience with Web 2.0 happened a few years before Tim O’Reilly coined the term. I was sitting in the back of a SXSW presentation in the early 00s when a friend somewhere in the audience pinged me an iChat message. “Hey Andy, we’re taking collaborative notes using SubEthaEdit. Wanna join?”
I’d used SubEthaEdit, a slightly obscure text editor, before. Mostly for HTML/CSS coding, but I’d never used the collaboration feature. As I opened the file I saw around a dozen of my friends making notes together. Not just in this talk, but in various other talks around the venue. I was blown away. Up to that point editing had been a read only experience for me, and when you did share your thoughts on a forum or in the comments of a blog post, they were mostly asynchronous. So seeing people collaborate in real time was a revolution.
At the time I thought this sort of collaboration was pretty cool. However it also felt like a bit of a gimmick. After all, other than developers, what normal people wanted or needed to collaborate online in realtime? Little did I know that this gimmick would shape the course of the Web for the next 10 years.
The Read/Write Web
In 2005 tech publishing supremo Tim O’Reilly wrote a seminal article on the collaborative Web, and the term Web 2.0 was born. The idea was pretty simple. The previous version of the Web had primarily been read only (despite Tim Berners Lee, the founder of the Web, baking editing into the first browser, it never really took off), while this new version was much more collaborative and encouraged User Generated Content (UCG). Essentially the Web had moved from being read only to read/write.
Of course back then there was a lot of debate around whether Web 2.0 was actually a thing, and there’s still confusion about the term today.