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English's Millionth Word: Web 2.0

By - June 10, 2009

web2.pngFor the past few days I’ve been focused on a final draft of an essay, co-authored with Tim O’Reilly, focusing on the theme of this year’s Web 2.0 Summit. It’s rewarding work, reminiscent of the early days of Wired, when I’d regularly edit or write long form pieces focusing on big ideas and the future, but grounded in real world examples from today.  

But writing and editing this kind of stuff is also challenging work, and I often procrastinate, as I am right now, by writing a blog post or skimming the web for interesting tidbits. And boy, did I find a funny one today. According to CNN, the term “Web 2.0″ is not only now an “official word” in the English language, it’s also the millionth one, of all things. (This according to the Global Language Monitor, a website that uses algorithms to determine when words enter the language.)

Too funny!

The theme for this year’s conference is “Web Squared,” a very real nod to the idea that “Web 2.0,” five years in, needs to be refreshed. From the draft Tim and I are working on:

The Web is evolving so quickly, it’s clear the “versioning” terminology that we borrowed from the software industry – Version 1.0, 2.0, etc. – no longer captures the pace and impact of the Web’s true nature. The web opportunity is no longer growing arithmetically, it’s growing exponentially. Hence our theme for this year: Web Squared.

We plan to post a draft of this paper soon, and will be asking for all your input in making it better. Meanwhile, it’s kind of cool that a term Tim and his partner Dale Dougherty coined way back in 2003 has made it into the history books. I wonder if and when “Web Squared” might make it in?! I guess we’ll know in five or so years…


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6 thoughts on “English's Millionth Word: Web 2.0

  1. I don’t believe it is the 1 millionth word.

    It’s 80,000% more common on a google search than the 1,000,001 word (which was “finanical tsunami”)

    I think it’s all a PR stunt, as per my blog.

    http://changememe.com/

  2. Lucas Gonze says:

    Not to rain on this parade, because this is a fun thing to talk about, but how many words there are is a very fuzzy question. It’s so fuzzy that the idea of a precise 1,000,000 is pretty hard to support.

    A more likely number is something like ten or twenty thousand.

  3. Tom Clarke says:

    Yes, I’m afraid I’ll have to concur with the other comments (except for that ten or twenty thousand bit).

    The Global Language Monitor has been reporting this same ‘fact’ each year for at least three years now (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/04/07/national/main1482464.shtml) but it’s simply not accepted by experts in the lexicon.

    Attempting to define the number of words in the English language is really an absurd act, depending entirely on where you set the boundaries of what is and isn’t a word in the language. Including all possibly acceptable words (regional variants, technological, medical and scientific jargon, words recently adopted from other languages), I’ve heard that the number could be as high as 2 million. But that was just an estimate.

  4. Tom Clarke says:

    Yes, I’m afraid I’ll have to concur with the other comments (except for that ten or twenty thousand bit).

    The Global Language Monitor has been reporting this same ‘fact’ each year for at least three years now (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/04/07/national/main1482464.shtml) but it’s simply not accepted by experts in the lexicon.

    Attempting to define the number of words in the English language is really an absurd act, depending entirely on where you set the boundaries of what is and isn’t a word in the language. Including all possibly acceptable words (regional variants, technological, medical and scientific jargon, words recently adopted from other languages), I’ve heard that the number could be as high as 2 million. But that was just an estimate.

  5. Tom says:

    Sorry, my comment appeared twice!

  6. Scott says:

    “The Web is evolving so quickly, it’s clear the “versioning” terminology that we borrowed from the software industry – Version 1.0, 2.0, etc. – no longer captures the pace and impact of the Web’s true nature. The web opportunity is no longer growing arithmetically, it’s growing exponentially. Hence our theme for this year: Web Squared.”

    You’re just calling it that because I already own WebPointX.com aren’t you?

    In any case, Web Squared still locks you in a bit, doesn’t it?

    Scott