My views – The Tim O Reilly/web 2.0 issue ..

I first heard about the web 2.0 trademark issue on Friday evening. It was emailed to me by someone in Ireland – a country I am a frequent visitor to (more on that later). My first reaction was .. ‘Oh f***!’ I am about to release a book on mobile web 2.0 .. and if ‘web 2.0’ itself is service marked ..

But one look at the actual letters on blogosphere convinced me otherwise .. This applied only to conferences. I was not creating a conference. I thought nothing of it ..

Over the next few hours, following a number of emails and blogs, it became quickly apparent that this was seen to be a major issue .. and I did not understand why it should be an issue ..

I still don’t understand what the fuss is all about .. Let me explain ..

I was one of the few people who voiced (under my own name – not anonymously) – the view that Tim deserves at least an opportunity to explain his point of view. Having now heard from Tim, I still endorse Tim O Reilly, his vision and his company.

Here is why ..

a) Tim O Reilly was effectively sentenced in absentia. No one deserves that – not least someone who has a good track record in the industry. They at least deserve a chance to put their view point before being condemned

b) The O Reilly corporate response, inadequate as it may be, was not a ‘fob off’ because it had a definite date by which time they said Tim would be back(Monday). For example we heard nothing by Wednesday or a definite date not been given, the corporate response would have been a cover up – not so in this case

c) O Reilly was the ‘wrong’ target .. It was CMP who has the service mark

d) O Reilly was the soft target!. CMP had already bared it’s legal fangs – so although CMP was the organisation that sent the letters, it was easier to target O Reilly

e) The whole issue covers conferences only. How many people actually organise conferences? Not many!. Ironically, as a publisher, it’s possible I may well organise a conference on a related topic .. so it ‘could’ affect me IF I called it a web 2.0 conference ..

f) Which brings me to the point .. why would anyone want to call their conference web 2.0? Service mark or not, the association between web 2.0 and a specific conference is well known to almost everyone involved. Have you ever bought a product that looked suspiciously similar to a well known product only to find it was a cheap imitation? Point being .. If I created a conference and called it a similar name to an existing larger conference, I am actually devaluing my brand . Sooner of later, people are bound to find out that ‘my’ event is not related to the ‘original’. At that point, my reputation is damaged for ever. I am not saying that this was the intention in this case, but the concept is valid for conferences in general. Its to protect your brand – that you would not create a similar conference .. Quite irrespective of service mark issues …

g) Thus, in my view, the ‘crowd was not wise’ – the whole issue was not relevant to 99.9% of the people.

h) And then .. there were the ‘child molestation’ posts .. not much to say about that ..

And now some background about my own reasons / views for interest ..

a) Ironically, I had also invited Tim to a different conference in Ireland. With a name like ‘Ajit Jaokar’, I am obviously not ‘Irish’ :) – but last year I spoke at an excellent conference in Dublin – and this year – I am advising the conference itself to make it a lot more global.

Hence, the invite to Tim earlier in the year. Thus, I actually have a very positive view of Irish conferences from personal experience especially because there are so many interesting start-ups there. Hence, I do hope, Tim/ORA will support more conferences in Ireland – and I have a personal interest in promoting this specific conference.

b) I have emulated Tim O Reilly’s strategy. On a personal level, I am also a strong evangelist for openness in the mobile data industry(what I call ‘OpenGardens – as opposed to ‘walled gardens’). With issues like net neutrality looming on the horizon, we all bigger issues to address – than this one

c) On a professional level, my company (futuretext) is also modelled broadly on Reilly but within a specific sector(mobility and digital convergence). I have learnt a lot about publishing in general by reading O Reilly blogs under the ‘Ask Tim’ site. I have tried to emulate the same spirit of openness in my company as well. Reading the web 2 issue blogs, I still believe the spirit of openness is intact at Reilly

My personal, Randian views lead me to respect the rights of an individual – in this case – both Tim and Tom. Having now heard from Tim, I think everyone acted in their best interest, within the parameters that they found themselves in – and that included CMP. I think a Mozilla like resolution may well take place of the outstanding issues. Time (and Tim!) will tell.

Some will be convinced , others not so about the final state of play. However, what I am convinced of is: in most cases , we are addressing the wrong issue. In the sense that unless we are conferences organisers, it really does not affect us directly

In a final ironic twist, I think Tim O Reilly was born in Cork! Speaking as a first generation immigrant myselves (in my case to the UK), you always attach a deep significance to your country of birth (in my case India). So, of all the places in the world .. it’s ironic that it was in Cork that this should happen .. Just a quaint observation.

Comments

  1. A well balanced and measured view Ajit, which puts many of the ‘issues around branding’ etc into perspective.
    This extract from your above post “the whole issue was not relevant to 99.9% of the people” does pretty much sum up that in many ways this was/is a ‘storm in a teacup’.
    For those with a keen interest in the developments of Web 2.0 and Mobile Web 2.0 (including conference organisers now…and in the future) it will be interesting to see how this will finally play out. As you quite rightly say, only time will tell how ‘web healthy’ the final resolution of this debate will be.