What Is Web 2.0 ?

Posted by on Dec 12, 2005

Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a supposed second generation of Internet-based services—such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies—that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. O’Reilly Media, in collaboration with MediaLive International, used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences and since 2004 it has become a popular (though ill-defined and often criticized) buzzword among technical and marketing communities.
Alluding to the version-numbers that commonly designate software upgrade, the phrase “Web 2.0” hints at an improved form of the World Wide Web.
In the opening talk of the first Web 2.0 conference, Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle summarized key principles they believed characterized Web 2.0 applications:
– the Web as a platform
– data as the driving force
– network effects created by an architecture of participation
– innovation in assembly of systems and sites composed by pulling together features from distributed, independent developers (a kind of “open source” development)
– lightweight business models enabled by content and service syndication
– the end of the software adoption cycle (“the perpetual beta”)
– software above the level of a single device, leveraging the power of The Long Tail.
Earlier users of the phrase “Web 2.0” employed it as a synonym for “Semantic Web,” and indeed, the two concepts complement each other. The combination of social-networking systems such as FOAF and XFN with the development of tag-based folksonomies, delivered through blogs and wikis, sets up a basis for a semantic-web environment. Although the technologies and services that make up Web 2.0 lack the effectiveness of an internet in which the machines can understand and extract meaning (as proponents of the Semantic Web envision), Web 2.0 may represent a step in that direction.
As used by its proponents, the phrase “Web 2.0” refers to one or more of the following:
– The transition of web-sites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming computing platforms serving web applications to end-users
– A social phenomenon embracing an approach to generating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and “the market as a conversation”
– A more organized and categorized content, with a far more developed deeplinking web architecture than hithertofore
– A shift in economic value of the Web, possibly surpassing that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s
– A marketing-term used to differentiate new web-based firms from those of the dot-com boom, which (due to the bust) subsequently appeared discredited
– The resurgence of excitement around the implications of innovative web-applications and services that gained a lot of momentum[citation needed] around mid-2005
Many find it easiest to define Web 2.0 by associating it with companies or products that embody its principles.[citation needed] Tim O’Reilly gave examples in his description of his “four plus one” levels in the hierarchy of Web 2.0-ness:
– Level-3 applications, the most “Web 2.0”, which could only exist on the Internet, deriving their power from the human connections and network effects Web 2.0 makes possible, and growing in effectiveness the more people use them. O’Reilly gives as examples: eBay, craigslist, Wikipedia, del.icio.us, Skype, dodgeball, and Adsense.
– Level-2 applications, which can operate offline but which gain advantages from going online. O’Reilly cited Flickr, which benefits from its shared photo-database and from its community-generated tag database.
– Level-1 applications, also available offline but which gain features online. O’Reilly pointed to Writely (now Google Docs & Spreadsheets) (gaining group-editing capability online) and iTunes (because of its music-store portion).
– Level-0 applications would work as well offline. O’Reilly gave the examples of MapQuest, Yahoo! Local, and Google Maps. Mapping applications using contributions from users to advantage can rank as level 2.
– non-web applications like email, instant-messaging clients and the telephone.
Examples of Web 2.0 (other than those cited by O’Reilly) include digg, Shoutwire, last.fm, and Technorati.
Time bar of Web 2.0 buzz words. This image shows the age of some buzzwords claimed for Web 2.0 or its dependencies.Commentators see many recently-developed concepts and technologies as contributing to Web 2.0, including weblogs, linklogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds and other forms of many-to-many publishing; social software, Web APIs, Web standards, online Web services, and many others.