The Origins of Web 2.0


Here’s a tip: MySpace is old news, as is your newfound enthusiasm for the web. If you want to impress people today, you MUST refer to everything you’re planning as “Web 2.0”.

Web 2.0 is “web services”, which generally include bloggers, MySpaces, Flickrs, searchers, and other standard (and old), yet “redesigned”-to-be-cooler services that people are now using to interact in greater, more sophisticated ways with marketers and each other. (Other categories include services for B2B).

Web 2.0 is also the evolution of the thinking that people are indeed interacting, but this time it’s with your brand (not just with each other), and in ways the marketer can’t control- a complete shock to the “establishment” that’s spent billions trying to modify our behavior so we can’t interact and just obey. Thus, this cool new “webonics” also happens to encompass the next level of “viral marketing”.

What is Viral Marketing? — A Historical Overview

Marketers have always regarded “water cooler” banter as buzz, without ever realizing the depth and breadth of this banter. Because they didn’t realize this, they were caught off-guard when the Internet became one big proverbial water cooler exposing the banter for what it really was – not always endearing to the marketer. But the same challenge persisted, and since it wasn’t measured, it didn’t mean anything.

Since 1998, at least 5 companies were creating and measuring real-time buzz using their own methodologies (our firm developed its methodology in 2000). Large marketers barely saw online buzz as a support service for their standard marketing activities, so these companies were relegated to working under the radar with media and entertainment companies. But as consumers increasingly engaged in online socializing (not a phenomenon, just the natural consequence of more people going online), the theories on which buzz marketers built their businesses were proved true; simultaneously, traditional advertising was delivering less bang for more bucks. These twin events led marketers of all shapes and sizes to seriously explore alternatives to traditional advertising, including online buzz. In 2004 and 2005, at least 5 companies were launched to focus just on this. Recently, one online buzz marketer even received $14 million in venture capital.

Got Half-A-Billion Bucks To Spend? Don’t Buy a Social Networking Site

The fascinating thing about MySpace is that the teens who use it aren’t supposed to use it. In discussions with teens during an ongoing student behavior study, they tell us that their parents, schools, and other online access points prohibit them from accessing these types of social networking sites. So, they’ve learned to bypass the usual gates by accessing their MySpace accounts via search engines, and when they’re done, deleting their histories on the browsers they use. This rebelliousness should not be mistaken for a sign of long-term loyalty to the brand, and neither should the amount of time they invest in creating their online profiles and collecting friends.

The history of online socializing goes as far back as viral marketing. After the original AOL members taught people how to connect online in the late 90s, Friendster – in perpetual “beta” mode – caught on in the earliest remembered part of the new century. And well after anyone realized that Friendster lost its popularly, (and before they went off beta), Xanga became the new social networking destination. In between, services like Ryze, LinkedIn, Tribe, Orkut, MeetUp, Facebook, and Classmates popped up to serve specific needs for socializing. Of course, relationship sites such as Match, Lavalife, JDate, and their ilk didn’t fail to exploit the ironic loneliness of online socializing (and for the record, desperately seeking companionship isn’t as “fun” as these relationship sites would like us to believe). In six years, mass networking inevitably lead to niche networking with “pic” sites like Flkr and Snapfish, “bookmarking” sites like Wikipedia and, and of course, blog sites like Blogger and Typepad leading the pack. Not surprisingly, these last few niche sites have and will continue to be bought by big corporations, the real engines behind Web 2.0.


  1. Mark Sigal, our VP of Marketing, used the same water cooler metaphor last week to explain our Web 2.0 efforts in the online video sharing space.
    We believe at vSocial that the core foundation of Web 2.0 philosophy is to tear down the “walled-garden” approach to online interaction. Sites like MySpace, Flickr and Facebook have demonstrated the power and influence of the “community”. Allowing user to communicate with one another using any/all available apps when, where, and how THEY chose is the natural maturation of the internet and why the WWW was created in the first place.


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