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What is Web 2.0?

November 10th, 2005 · 3 Comments · System Architecture, Terms & Definitions, Web 2.0

As I write this, definitions for the term Web 2.0 continue to be drafted by technology pundits. Although I find the hype and promise of the Web 2.0 world to be quite exciting, I am not interested in establishing any authorative definition (it’s a little like trying to nail jello to the wall).

As far as I can tell, Web 2.0 is a useful catch-phrase to describe a series of related trends that are promising to improve (notice I didn’t say ‘revolutionize’) the online experience of web users through more user-friendly and user-controlable systems.

Tim O’Reilly’s What is Web 2.0 article and the Web 2.0 meme map he presents in that article are the most lucid and referenced resources I have come across thus far.

Tim O'Reilly's Web 2.0 meme map

Dion Hincliffe’s 10 Issues Facing Web 2.0 is also an insightful reality check that seeks to bridge the gap between Web 2.0 hype and promise.

In true Web 2.0 fashion, I expect the most comprehensive and accurate definition to be available on Wikipedia at some point in the near future. The current (Nov 10, 2005) version is, in fact, not bad. [the most recent version is available here]

Within the context of my research topic I am interested in new web technologies and practices that can improve the functionality and usability of archives access systems. Therefore, rather than dwell on the meaning and future of Web 2.0, I am going to simply use the term as a point of entry to identify and analyze specific architectures, technologies and practices (regardless of what those may be referred to collectively a year from now).

Below is a short list from my notes on Web 2.0 thus far. I have organized them along three viewpoints – Users, Technology, Service Providers:

1. Users
1.1 Personal Publishing – Blogging, Picture Sharing, Bookmark Sharing
1.2 Collective Intelligence – Collaborative Maintenance of Information Collections, Wikis, Forums, Commenting, Tagging, Profiling
1.3 Social Software – Social Networks, Shared virtual spaces, Collective Experience/Memory
1.4 Do it yourself, take ownership, request features, build features
1.5 High Signal to Noise ratio – confusion – scattered services and interfaces. New technologies and information delivery channels. What is trackback? Why do I need an aggregator?
1.6 Loss of control or orientation over personal information universe? How do I backup my blog? Who’s minding my data? Where’s my data? My pictures are on Flickr, my bookmarks at del.icio.us, my blog is on blogger.com, my email is in Yahoo!Mail, my videos are on OurMedia.org, ‘what?! you want me to create another user profile!’

2. Technology
2.1 Rich Client – AJAX
2.2 Rich Client – FLASH
2.3 Live Web – Syndication (RSS), Trackback
2.4 Permalinks – clean URLs
2.5 Standards Compliance – XHTML, CSS
2.6 Tags – keyword-driven information architecture

3. Service Providers
3.1 Web As A Platform – Software as a Service, web services/apis
3.2 Web As A Platform – Open Access/Open Content/Open Data
3.3 Loose coupling – facilitate lightweight integration
3.4 Model-View-Controller frameworks- seperate data from logic from presentation, reduce development time
3.5 Device-independent information – PC, cellphone, gaming device, mp3 players (podcasting)
3.6. The Long Tail – all the little, specific services and information collections that provide a high quality product but may only be useful or relevant to a small proportion of online users are, collectively, just as significant and powerful as the handful of large, all-in-one services and information collections
3.7 Decentralize – trust users
3.8 Permanent Beta – release crap with no documentation and hope that lots of people get sucked into testing and bug fixing while VCs line up to shower you with cash ;-)

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Peter Van Garderen // Nov 14, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    I have since come across Amy Hoy’s Web 2.0 presentation which contains excellent examples of Web 2.0 technology at work (copies of the presentation are at the bottom of her article).

    Her observation on the role of community and open APIs to Web 2.0:
    ҉ۢ Most successful Web 2.0 endeavors are focused on community in some way
    • Whether it’s mapping available housing from Craigslist on your local Google Maps area, or browsing Flickr photos by the color wheel, or getting people together to talk about their dreams
    • The focus on community, or servicing the community, is part of the ‘authenticity’”

    ҉ۢ APIs make closed web sites and services open and usable from remote web sites or software
    • eBay, Amazon, Google Maps, etc., all have great open APIs—and they’re free
    • Letting go of your data lets “a thousand flowers bloom”
    • Your users can do things you would never have the time or resources (or idea) to do
    • It creates some of that “authenticity” for your company and creates community, too”

  • 2 Peter Van Garderen // Dec 30, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    …And here comes the backlash: Web 2.0? It doesn’t exist

    The Web 2.0 experts then talk it over and re-group in a follow-up discussion.

  • 3 Peter Van Garderen // Feb 17, 2006 at 11:18 am

    More useful references:

    Dion Hinchcliff (web2.0 blog): 10 Ways to Take Advantage of Web 2.0

    John Blyberg (blyberg.net): Taking Advantage of Web and Library 2.0

    John Blyber (blyberg.net): 11 Reasons Why Library 2.0 Exists and Matters