Robert Cringely had some interesting things to say today about the Supreme Court's ruling on P2P filetrading networks Grokster and Streamcast, and its implications on the emerging Web 2.0 meme.
The concept of Web 2.0 is still hazy at best. The bottom line is the web we interact with today is not particularly efficient, nor entirely visible. Cringley uses the example of using an English-language search engine to search a Persian-language web site. Compare that to the proposed Web 2.0 world, where we will be able to use metadata to advertise who we are, what we have to say, and what products and services we might have on offer, or are looking for.
What is not clear is whether this metadata layer will emerge through people's own tagging and classification behaviours or just through better APIs provided by existing web services companies. Cringley thinks the latter, and questions whether people will ever really be bothered to label the world's content.
That misses a fundamental point. There is no doubt that the current crop of tagging services (aka del.icio.us et al) are far from user friendly, but there is clear evidence that people will create metadata when it suits them. And there are no end of possible benefits.
A reader will willingly tag a bookmark on the web, if it means he can find it more easily later. A picture enthusiast will tag one of his photos on Flickr, if it means that someone else will see it and post a comment on it. A job seeker, will tag his resume if it makes him turn up higher in a recruiter search query.
There is no doubt that there will be much cleverness in the coming months with people 'mashing up' APIs provided by the Google, Yahoo and the other big boys. But don't discount the emergence of a more profound order to the web created by human behaviour.