According to Steven Johnson, Time’s Person of the Year for 2006 was almost “Web 2.0,” which would have been pretty embarrassing in the long term, since that particular buzzword is going to become nearly insufferable in about, oh, six months ago. The ideas behind Web 2.0, though — the Web as a platform, collective intelligence, services over products, etc. — are going to stick with us for a long time, much as the “information superhighway” and “B2B” have outlived their catchphrases, so it’s nice that Time kept running with the idea rather than the label, and chose “You” as its Person of the Year.

The big question I have is this: Is the “You” plural or singular?

Because a story requires characters, it makes sense that Time would focus on some of the people who’ve found success in the Web 2.0 era: Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, the heads of YouTube; Tila Tequila, the self-proclaimed queen of MySpace; Lane Hudson, who used his blog to out skeevy Mark Foley. As Time itself points out, though, the Web today isn’t about a few standout characters as it is about “millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity [getting] backhauled into the global intellctual economy.” Somewhere out beyond the old individualist/collecivist binary, the mass expressionism and exhibitionism of YouTube and Flickr and Facebook are creating a fabric in which the component threads aren’t combed through and smoothed out, but in which every flawed, interesting piece is clearly visible. The “You” is both singular and plural at the same time.