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What could be more needlessly messianic than a Bruce Sterling speech, more wide-eyed than a feature story by a cub reporter at Wired, more bubbly than BusinessWeek's "dot com boys" cover story? The Sunday spread by the San Francisco Chronicle, a five-part hymn to Web 2.0.

The spread (ambiguous illustration shown here) comes, of course, just in time for the Web 2.0 Conference, held by Tim O'Reilly (who coined the phrase) and his company O'Reilly Media at SF's Palace Hotel.

Dan Fost writes all five chapters of this psalm. Here's a rundown.

  • DIGITAL UTOPIA: A new breed of technologists envisions a democratic world improved by the Internet: Fost gives the usual run-down of this glorious future — "the wisdom of crowds," "citizen media," and other gagologisms. Fost's piece is light on heavyweight sources, instead opting for quotes from up-and-comers like consultant Chris Messina, former visionary for the troubled makers of social browser Flock. His most relevant source is Nick Carr, the author of "Does IT Matter?" and always good for a contrarian quote.
  • What exactly does Web 2.0 mean? Well...: Ugh, this question again? It's like 2001, when every article about blogs began with a definition. But this time reporters aren't content with one paragraph; no, they need a whole second article. So what is Web 2.0? It's just what the Internet looks like now compared to six years ago — Google Maps vs. Mapquest, YouTube vs. Ebaum's World, blogs vs. homepages, and Yelp vs. the local alt-weekly's restaurant reviews. It's more social, it's prettier, and you can add shit to it.
  • Web 2.0 words — from ajax to wiki: Hey, this is helpful. Some of the definitions start with vapid histories ("Podcasts: The iPod portable music player created a boom in the once-sleepy world of Internet audio...") but most are as clear as dictionary entries.
  • The people who populate Web 2.0: After Dan Fost chides Newsweek in "What does Web 2.0 mean" about trying to rename the movement "The Live Web," he uses another failed name, "Digital Utopians." (How 80s!) This is a decent guide to the people Fost didn't source in his other articles.
  • Key Web 2.0 sites: The tricky thing about this list is that some entries (MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube) dominate the Web, whereas others (Dodgeball, YouthNoise, Blogger) are non-starters or dying brands — even if the core San Francisco crowd uses them. Not sure if that's a flaw — because I'm not sure what use this list is.