What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0! In this, as in many things, opinions differ. There are those who see the term Web 2.0 as a fatuous buzzword without weight behind it, while others acknowledge it as a name synonymous with a 2nd generation of online capabilities and utilities in terms of web development and design. So what's the reality? Well, while everyone is entitled to his or her opinions on what Web 2.0 is or isn't, it is lately recognized as the term people use to describe the more communicative and widely used, people-friendly online environment that is globally embraced today. The term is used to refer to the means that communicating, the sharing of data, interoperability and associations are implemented on the World Wide Web. It is reflective of the era of Web 2.0 that the progression of web-based communities, host services and web-based applications has been so rapid. Since its inception there has been an upsurge in the popularity of social-network sites, media-sharing sites, wikis and blogs.

The person accredited with coining the phrase Web 2.0 is Darcy DiNucci, who made the reference in an article entitled Fractured Future. In her text, DiNucci described the web as it we knew it then to be in embryonic form which she predicted to evolve from a series of static screens to something more in the vein of a 'transport mechanism'. She envisioned how the web would indeed spread and be made accessible through TV sets and cell phones, joking that even the microwave might one day be equipped with web connectivity. While DiNucci's observations were incipient and at the time thought by some to be on the whimsical side we can see now that much of what she said has become reality. So much so that the reference Web 2.0 which we attribute to her has since been embraced by others, most famously by Tim O'Reilly during the O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference. The general consensus is that Web 2.0 refers to the collective revolutionizing of the ways developers of software and web users utilize the World Wide Web.

Distinguishing features of what is widely termed Web 2.0 are:

  • Easier searching — Web searching is now easier and more productive due to the efficacy of keyword searching.
  • Relevancy — Effective and valuable link building from one relevant site to another — both in and outgoing.
  • Ad-hoc guides to pertinent information and authoring — The ability to create and constantly update content using a platform that experiences rapid evolution — an originally small amount of content is in a continual state of renewal and expansion due to updated and interlinked submissions. In wikis, for example, the content is open to reiteration. Users see fit to upgrade, edit and alter each others' contributions, resulting in informative collective works. In the case of blogs, content has a cumulative quality — posts and comments build up over time, attracting both visitors and active subscribers.
  • Tags — The categorization of content by creating tags: these are simple, one-word user-determined descriptions put in place to facilitate effective searching. The greatest advantage of tags is the avoidance of rigid, pre-assumed categories. In short, the creator or administrator can decide on numerous categories, some of which he or she may invent, under which to tag content.
  • Domain extensions — In the beginning there was DOT COM. Now there are ever more extensions to choose from. Some will bear relation to the geographical location of a given business, such as .co.uk or .de extensions, (the United Kingdom and Germany respectively). Others have more convoluted connotations, but all have their value.
  • Algorithmic power — Powerful algorithms that leverage the World Wide Web as an application platform as well as a matured collaboration environment.
  • Signals — The facilitation of RSS technology allows users to be informed of online content changes with immediacy.

The salient points regarding Web 2.0:

  • Interactivity
  • Navigability and Usability
  • Interconnection
  • Syndication

Web 2.0? In the opinions of many, it's more than just a buzzword. It's an evolution of a better web.