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Abstract

Since Tim O'Reilly coined the phrase in 2004, there has been much ado about Web 2.0 as a democratizing force – a global conversation characterized by “grassroots participation, forging new connections, and empowering from the ground up” (Granick, 2006). Technological utopians claim that Web 2.0 is revolutionizing our political processes by encouraging user participation and open discussion of social issues. Additionally, Web 2.0 has become an industry buzzword haphazardly attached to any start-up seeking venture capital (Gilman, 2007). With the ubiquity of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, many online businesses are eager to capitalize on the tantalizing idea behind Web 2.0: create a site and have users do most of the “grunt” work in the site-building process for free via user-generated content. However, in spite of these assumptions, Web 2.0 sites have failed to produce results to justify this optimism. This paper aims to challenge two commonly held notions regarding Web 2.0. First, that it facilitates open discussion of social issues, thereby acting as a democratizing force in society, and second, that it is a largely successful and lucrative business model. In doing so, the paper suggests that Web 2.0 constitutes a second coming of the dot-com bubble.

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