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Readers' Web 2.0 definitions

A couple weeks ago, I asked, "Just what is this Web 2.0?"

I'm not the only one who ponders the wide use of a phrase to label everything from start-ups ("Oh, that's a Web 2.0 company") to services ("Here's another Web 2.0 site") to a point on the technology evolution timeline ("we're in the Web 2.0 era").

Not surprisingly, the answers to my question were almost as varied.

For Romasha Roy Choudhury of Cynapse, Web 2.0 is, at its core "a marketing concept." In a blog post, Choudhury writes, "The new Web has no direct implication to design or technology whatsoever. Things have been progressing in a pretty linear fashion, technology wise. What is now marked as Web 2.0 technology is not new at all, plain JavaScript, glorified."

He makes a strong point that Web 2.0 is the achievement of what many have been seeking for a very long time: a simpler, more engaging experience with services that are useful and valuable.
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Rachel Lyubovitzky of Adaptive Blue places emphasis on the specific application of the technologies, not merely the technologies themselves. Her take: Web 2.0 is "the next generation Web technologies focused on user collaboration, information sharing and improving user experience."

Rachel adds "the challenge with coming up with a single comprehensive definition stems from the fact that there is no consensus on what was wrong with the original Web that the current Web 2.0 apps are looking to fix. Once we get a clear idea of what some of these shortcomings were, it would be crystal clear how today's solutions pave the way for the better Web."

The French - or at least one Frenchman - chimed in with a perspective that backs up Ms. Lyubovitzky's definition. "Web 2.0 indicates Web sites where net surfers become actors and not only passive readers," writes Sylvain Muller, a student at ESC-Rennes in Rennes, France. "It also implies an enhanced dimension of multimedia with podcasts and videos that are continuously more numerous (YouTube) and tend to replace written articles (CNET)."

Dharmesh Shah, however, threads the needle between the technology and the applications. "Web 2.0 is a combination some basic concepts that are identified with a `new generation' of Web applications. These are different from the prior generation in two important ways:

1. These applications have some "social" component to them allowing communities of people to collaborate and create value.

2. These applications "expose" their data and services (or consume that of others) to allow unique combinations of applications to be created in a "composite" manner.

Note [that] I do not use the term AJAX when speaking of Web 2.0, as I think it is incidental to these applications. Sure, the applications need to be "easier to use" and provide a "rich experience" when compared to their predecessors, but that's enough to make AJAX a *mandate* for Web 2.0"

Clearly, I'm not the only one struggling to answer the Web 2.0 question, and I was referred to a couple of interesting blog posts that tackled the question well.

Abel Quitoriano offers up a user's perspective of Web 2.0 in his blog.

Even so-called Web 2.0 entrepreneurs wrestle with the question, as does Gibu Thomas, the CEO of DEMO 2006 demonstrator Sharpcast in two interesting posts. In the first, he makes an elegant argument that Web 2.0 "is about extending the power of native applications to the Web and to other devices, to deliver a seamless access to our entire workspace — not just our files."

It's a definition that works well for the products and services that Sharpcast is building, but I don't think he's being entirely self-serving, as evidenced in a follow-on post on the topic.

For all the dialog on this question, though, perhaps one bit of feedback nailed the Web 2.0 question best of all. Wrote David Cutler:

"Web 2.0 simply means that you are still alive and relevant on the Net."

Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld's DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at chris@demo.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.

This column was reprinted with permission of Network World Inc. All registered trademarks are owned by IDG. More information can be found at http://www.idgef.com.

Copyright 2006 IDG. All rights Reserved

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

Comments

William Dollar responded 8 years ago: #1

Dharmesh Shah, however, threads the needle between the technology and the applications. "Web 2.0 is a combination some basic concepts that are identified with a `new generation' of Web applications. These are different from the prior generation in two important ways:

1. These applications have some "social" component to them allowing communities of people to collaborate and create value.

2. These applications "expose" their data and services (or consume that of others) to allow unique combinations of applications to be created in a "composite" manner.


A pretty good answer to the question don't you think?

Jason Stitt responded 8 years ago: #2

Most answers to this question focus on technology. Here's one I don't see much: the ongoing development of the Web ("Web 2.0" being a buzzword and just a point along the way) is about making geek technology accessible to non-geeks. Most of the technologies involved in "Web 2.0" are not that new. The change is in scale of use.

Having a "social" component is certainly not an innovation. Whether it was bulletin boards or e-mail, the social use of the Internet predates the Web itself and the widespread use of the Web for publication (one-way communication). But in the beginning, it was mostly techies and a few brave souls. Now, anybody who wants one can get a blog and just start typing. And there are tens of millions of people, at least, doing just that.

Today, only an in-crowd cares that much about AJAX, tagging, etc., just as only an in-crowd was making their own Web sites in 1995. These technologies are the next wave. The public will probably never care about tagging, for example, as a technology or as a buzzword, but eventually it will simply be known as the way certain things are organized.

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