This is taking the FOO thing too far

by Mathew on May 25, 2006 · 9 comments


I — along with many other people — was hoping O’Reilly would respond to this whole Web 2.0 thing (see my previous post) by saying it was all CMP’s idea, or some lawyer’s overreaction, but it would appear that O’Reilly thinks it is in the right to be demanding that a non-profit IT group stop using the term Web 2.0. Although Sara Winge, in charge of corporate communications for O’Reilly, has said that the company believes it handled things badly by just sending a cease and desist letter (gee, ya think?) it is not backing down on the whole “we own Web 2.0” thing.

As my fellow Web 2.0 conference organizer Rob Hyndman points out, this is just dumb on so many levels. I’m tempted to say that it’s even more obviously dumb because a guy like Nick Carr agrees with it, but that would just be mean. But seriously — why would O’Reilly do this? Yes, an argument could be made that they were among the first to use the term, but they can hardly be said to own it. O’Reilly compares it to using the term LinuxWorld, but Linux is a product. Web 2.0 is a concept, one which I would argue predates O’Reilly’s claim to it.

It’s true that the term Web 2.0 has gotten overused (and I am as guilty of that as anyone, as people continually remind me), and maybe this is a good excuse to stop using it, so as not to give O’Reilly the satisfaction of owning something like that. But at the same time, I sort of feel like we should all use it as much as possible, just to give CMP and their lawyers fits. In any case, the thing that makes all this so ridiculous, as Paul points out, is that O’Reilly isn’t some corporate Darth Vader — Tim O’Reilly is widely admired, as is the company, for supporting startups and open source. This is about as anti- all of that as you could imagine.

Jeff Clavier argues that O’Reilly should do what Judy’s Book did after trademarking the term “social search” — they said that they would never enforce it because that would be, in Jeff’s description, “silly and a waste of money.” Exactly. Marc Hedlund of O’Reilly says in a comment that he trusts Tim and believes that in the end he will do the right thing, and I hope he is right.

Original post:

Somewhere, Tim O’Reilly is smacking his head with frustration, I would wager. It’s bad enough that lots of people blame him for coming up with the term “Web 2.0” in the first place (that’s a joke, Tim), but now he’s being virtually tarred and feathered for being associated with an attempt to trademark the term. Tim Raftery says IT@Cork, a non-profit group for information technology professionals, got a C&D (cease and desist) letter from lawyers associated with CMP Media, who organize Web conferences along with O’Reilly.

As someone who recently helped organize a Web 2.0 conference in Toronto called mesh, this one strikes kind of close to home — and seems like just the kind of ham-handed behaviour that lawyers (sorry Rob) seem to engage in a little too often. As someone said in the comments on one or the other of the postings about it, how Web 1.0. Of course, O’Reilly may have no idea that this is even going on, and for his sake I would hope that this is all some giant misunderstanding. Because it looks pretty stupid at the moment.

For anyone confused about the title of this post, FOO stands for Friends of O’Reilly, and FooCamp is a get-together that Tim has to which you have to be personally invited — which some people felt was a little too exclusive, so they started BarCamp. Then there was MashupCamp and GroovyCamp and, well… you get the picture.

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