Web 2.0 or Captcha?

11 December, 2006

Call them fads, trends, or memes, there's a type of idea that resembles kudzu. It may have evolved to conquer the requirements of a particular intellectual landscape, but eventually it becomes so wildly well-adapted that it spread way wide of its origin.

Case in point: Web 2.0. Starting as a carefully crafted intellectual framework for understanding emerging trends in the architecture of websites, it evolved into a lucrative tech conference and publishing juggernaut, and from thence into a wriggling and omni-present ecosystem of blogs, pundits, technical gurus, and commercial come-ons of all kinds.

When plants like kudzu reach truly far-flung places they begin to become a real problem, choking out native varieties and reducing the richness of the local ecosystem. At this point, the epithet 'invasive species' tends to get attached to them and people start to get t-shirts for participating in efforts to eradicate them.

So, in the spirit of doing a little bit of activist gardening (or at least some jocular mockery), I present:

Web 2.0 or Captcha?

It's a quiz! Below, you'll find ten strings of letters. Half of them are the names of Web 2.0 companies; the other half are the text of captchas I encountered on Blogger (captchas are those little distorted images of words that websites use to make sure that you're really a person before letting you submit information).

See if you can tell which is which. When you've got your guesses, click the links to find out if you're right. Ready…go!

Not that I mean to seriously argue the similarity between Web 2.0 companies and computer-generated bot prevention devices, but don't captchas even look a bit like web 2.0 logos (especially this one)? At least a few fit in each category from The Font Feed's ontology of Web 2.0 logo aesthetics. There are Softies, Futurists, and Classics.

Have we somehow reached a point where all of the barrier-lowering factors which Tim O'Reilly described in his original essay have actually created a kind of Web 2.0 assembly line that grinds out social networking, photo uploading, and information tagging sites so quickly and uniformly as to rival the growth of weeds? And if so, isn't it about time for a higher form of life to emerge and get to grazing?

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