Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 Bubble
I'm often asked "What really is web 2.0?" I wanted to write about the Web 2.0 phenomenon and cover it as much as possible in today's post.

Web 2.0 is a misnomer

The Web, since its inception, has changed constantly, never remaining static even for a moment. There was never a period of upgrade or when something major changed. There was never a Web 1.0 or an upgrade, which warrants a new "2.0" label. Though the term bears the familiar version number so often attached to software products, it doesn't actually refer to any one technology. Rather, Web 2.0 is the moniker for an emerging set of Internet-based tools and an emerging philosophy on how to use them. In that sense, "Web 2.0" is a misnomer.

Not Just Online

The name "Web 2.0" gives the impression that its strategies are entirely web-based. In reality, Web 2.0 is a collaborative communications plus community-building strategy that is enhanced by online technologies but exists beyond it. In fact, they work best when they reach us in both our online and real world lives.

Web 2.0 History

The term "Web 2.0" was coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999 when she wrote "Fragmented Future." Her use of the term deals mainly with Web design and aesthetics; she argues that the Web is "fragmenting" due to the widespread use of portable Web-ready devices. Her article is aimed at Web designers, reminding them to code for an ever-increasing variety of hardware. As such, her use of the term hints at - but does not directly relate to - the current uses of the term.

A company called O'Reilly Media, one of the most prolific and best-known publishers of books about computers and other/general tech, coined the phrase "Web 2.0" in 2003, before the 1st "Web 2.0" conference that took place in 2004. The term, at its most basic, refers to the Internet becoming a platform.

When I'm asked ...

When I'm asked about what Web 2.0 means, I'm often trying to say the following but rarely get it all out:
  • The Web as an application platform
  • Social affiliation
  • Being online vs. going online
  • Digital self-expression
  • The participator (read/write) web
  • Glocalization ("making global information available to local social contexts and giving people the flexibility to find, organize, share and create information in a locally meaningful fashion that is globally accessible")
  • Cloud computing

Web 2.0 is social, it's open (or at least it should be), it's letting go of control over your data, it's mixing the global with the local. Web 2.0 is about new interfaces - new ways of searching and accessing Web content. And last but not least, Web 2.0 is a platform - and not just for developers to create web applications like Gmail and Flickr. The Web is a platform to build on for educators, media, politics, community, for virtually everyone in fact!

Web 2.0 Philosophy

Web 2.0 is recently associated with tools like blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. But as I'm sure you gathered, it's more than that. For example, it's about how educators are adapting to a new generation of kids who are growing up on the Web, the so-called "Digital Natives." Tangent: The challenge for educators now and for the future is to learn and teach internet literacy, converse and collaborate with their students using Web tools, and help our children make sense of the huge amounts of information and media that surround us.

Web 2.0 Explanation Chart

It's worth mentioning and clarifying that the technologies encompassed by Web 2.0 include, but are by no means limited to, blogs, tags, RSS, social bookmarking, mashups, and Widgets & AJAX. It's how these, and many others, intersect and interact with one another. For example, it's how RSS meets social bookmarking. It's how AJAX, blogging, tagging & social bookmarking and RSS all come into play all on one page. Although it could be argued that it's separate from "Web 2.0" I personally believe that the philosophy behind Web 2.0 also encompasses cloud computing. The Web 2.0 philosophy focuses on the idea that the people who consume media, access the internet, and use the Web shouldn't passively absorb what's available -- rather, they should be active contributors, helping customize media and technology for their own purposes, as well as those of their communities.

Web 2.0 & Social Meda/Bookmarking

This philosophy contrasts sharply with the old "Web 1.0" methodology (if there was ever one), in which news was provided by a handful of large corporations, Web pages were static and rarely updated, and only the tech-savvy could contribute to the development of the World Wide Web.

What does this mean for me?

Web 2.0 tools are important, but their impact goes much deeper than their gadget-novelty might suggest. Individuals and organizations alike are finding new and increasingly effective ways of connecting through Web 2.0 technology. This is the human side of this technical transformation.

Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0

Even the smallest organization has a story to share and voices to amplify. Web 2.0 can help you be heard. This new Web of connections is already allowing many to build movements for social, environmental, economic, and political change.

It's all that and more

Web 2.0 is all of the above things and I'm sure a lot more, which I'm sure I'm overlooking. Don't let anyone tell you it's one or the other definition. Web 2.0 is about the people, when it comes down to it. So it has to be inclusive. The definitions of technologists, social scientists, web designers, philosophers, educators, business people, anybody - they all count.

What does Web 2.0 mean to you? Let us know in the comments.  ▣

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