language change and slang linguistics and lexicography

It’s blogging 101

Sitting on a bus recently, I spotted a headline in someone else’s newspaper that read: Humanitarianism 2.0. I  never did find out what the article was about, but I soon discovered that Google has dozens of hits for this exact expression. And it looks like the 2.0 suffix can be added to just about anything, to imply a cutting-edge web-based way of doing things. A website called Gas 2.0 provides information about cars that use alternative fuels, while Wine 2.0 describes itself as ‘the innovator in social networking and events in the wine industry, with a focus on the next generation wine consumer’. There are Health 2.0 conferences which discuss the ‘web-based technologies transforming the healthcare system’, and the term Music 2.0 encapsulates changes taking place in the popular music industry, whereby musicians are connecting directly with their audiences, leaving the big record companies – who traditionally controlled the business – out in the cold.

Why 2.0? All these expressions are modelled on the term Web 2.0, which refers to the way the Internet has developed in the last five years or so to allow much more interactivity and information-sharing. Social networking sites and wikis are typical Web 2.0 applications, and of course so are blogs like this one. (When the Internet first emerged during the 1990s, none of this was possible.) But Web 2.0 was itself coined by analogy with the names given to different versions of software tools as they are continually upgraded. Microsoft Windows, for example, has been through numerous versions since it was first released in 1985 as Windows 1.0. (The numbers were abandoned after Windows 3.1, in favour of names like XP and Vista, but have returned for the latest version: Windows 7.)

You can see a similar process with the suffix 101. This is often used in the names of courses (or ‘progams’) in American universities to indicate an introductory or beginner-level component. So if you’re studying for a degree in biology, you are likely to start with a module called Biology 101. By extension, the number becomes equated with something simple and therefore obvious, and before long people are saying things like ‘Of course children are going to want something if you tell them they can’t have it – it’s Psychology 101!’ Here’s a nice example from our corpus:

When cycle safety interventions are ranked by likely effectiveness, helmets are always placed last. The reason is simple and obvious. It is risk management 101: first reduce risk at source, then reduce exposure to risk, and only when this fails apply personal protective equipment.

And this from an online advice column:

Joking aside, it’s relationships 101.You tell her how you feel, and if she shoots you down, that’s it.

101 looks like it’s here to stay but that may not be the case with 2.0 – because people are already starting to talk about Web 3.0. For the time being, no-one seems very sure Web 3.0 might mean, but once it catches on anything labelled 2.0 is going to sound old-fashioned.

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Michael Rundell


  • Stan: Very true. Maybe haiku was already 2.0 before web was even invented. ;o)

    I remember when I got married, one of my friends said it was ‘life 2.0’. Then, when I had my fist child, I moved onto ‘life 2.1’.

  • What an interesting post! I have a question, though: How do you pronounce 2.0? Two point oh? Two point zero? How about 101? One oh one? Hundred and one?

  • Judit: I think either of your pronunciations for ‘2.0’ would be fine – but maybe someone out there knows better? As for ‘101’, definitely the first one (and it’s in the dictionary so you can check (and hear) the pronunciation there).

  • I’ve heard both those pronunciations used in earnest, and also “Two dot oh.” Perhaps in part because it’s hard to standardise many seem to abbreviate to Web 2, which works for me! After all I don’t think we’re expecting sub-versions 2.1, 2.2 etc, so the decimal point is probably overkill! We’ll just charge right on to Web 3…

  • 3.0 is the semantic web. That’s when everything we know – in particular everything we know about the way we work and the way we think (mathematical formulas for our behaviour) has become completely logical and understandable to the machines we work on, enabling them to work the way we do. i.e. machine intelligence. 🙂

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