Death of a meme?

This morning’s Observer column.

Perhaps it was the spurious precision of the headline that caught my eye. “Web 2.0 will end on October 1 2012”, it said. The idea of a meme – an infectious idea – having a definite termination point was peculiar enough; but a meme as nebulous as Web 2.0?

Of course the phrase had become ubiquitous in PR-speak over the past few years. It seemed that the press release for every self-respecting online product or service had to have it somewhere in the text. But to ask the authors of these documents to explain what they meant by Web 2.0 was to risk accusations of mental cruelty, for they generally knew not whereof they spoke. (In that respect, it was like asking News International executives about “ethics”.) Many seemed to regard it simply as a synonym for “cool” or “the latest thing”. In that respect, Web 2.0 resembles many other technical terms – think “laser”, “turbo” and the prefix “i” – which have been co-opted by the hucksters of their days.

The prediction of Web 2.0’s demise was made by Christopher Mims, a technology commentator who writes for the MIT journal Technology Review…