Web 2.0


I’ve been hearing a lot about Web 2.0 lately and was wondering exactly what is meant by the term. Wikipedia, itself a Web 2.0 concept, has the following definition:

  • a transition of websites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming a computing platform serving web applications to end users.
  • a social phenomenon referring to an approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterised 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 more developed deeplinking web architecture.
  • a shift in economic value of the web, up past a trillion dollars surpassing that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s.

However, a consensus upon its exact meaning has not yet been reached.

Tim O’Reilly wrote what is considered a seminal piece on Web 2.0, but even after reading it twice, it’s still difficult to articulate exactly what makes something a Web 2.0 vs. Web 1.0 concept. According to O’Reilly, things like blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, and Flickr are examples of Web 2.0 concepts.

One of the common underlying themes I’ve noticed is that the technologies associated with Web 2.0 are open and free. They don’t rely on proprietary software. In the event that they are web-based, they either don’t have an obvious business model (like Wikipedia, for example) or they have a lightweight advertising subsidized model that seems reasonable to most people. You wouldn’t think a Web 2.0 application would lock-in users, but some of the services seem like they are handing out free drugs with a future expectation of a creating dependent addicts who will begin to pay once the freebies run out. In most cases that I know of, when a free service suddenly is no longer free, it creates a mass exodus toward a new free service which users expect to remain free forever. Any service that costs money to run will eventually have to pass those costs on to someone, and the users of the service seem like the most likely candidates. You can write software and give it away for free, but when there are servers humming away consuming power and bandwidth, there is no end to the accumulating costs and so eventually the piper will have to be paid.

It will be interesting to see how Web 2.0 unfolds. According to Tim Berners-Lee, who just started his own blog, Web 2.0 is much closer to what he expected of the web in the first place.

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