Nathan Torkington likes Doc Searls’ conception of Web 2.0 as a “morality of generosity“:

We give. We are open. We love without expectation of reward, or even accounting. (In fact, when you bring in accounting, you compromise it.) Think about how we give to our spouses, our children, without strings. It pays off, too. But that’s fundamentally not what it’s about.

I hate to be cynical, because this really tugs at the heart strings, but WHERE’S THE BUSINESS MODEL?

Doc also describes a “morality of self-interest”:

This gives us “owning”, “domination”, etc. The Old School. Industrial Age shit. Still prevails in many business plans that are just for killing other companies.

In all sincerity, I really do appreciate the earnestness of Docs’ vision — he’s a good guy, and I wish there were more like him.

The problem is that for-profit business is about self-interest — it’s about making money for shareholders — that’s how capitalism functions. If you want to be “generous,” form a nonprofit and develop a mission statement — maybe the Times will write a story about your “purpose-driven” efforts.

But I’m with Paul Kedrosky on purposefulness as a business trend:

The market here has moved faster and along a more unusual path (community-driven companies) than competitors could respond, so we’re confusing a short-term market dislocation with a trend toward “purpose-driven” companies.

If some people want to use Web 2.0 principles to make the world a better place, that can only be a good thing, and they have my full support.

But from a cold-hearted business perspective, other than Google, there are few if any companies that have figured out how to use Web 2.0 principles to increase profits.