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What is Web 2.0?

2006-08-16

In response to a question posted on Ryze, I started thinking about what Web 2.0 means to the average surfer and the typcial site owner. It seems everyone has an opinion of what Web 2.0 represents, so I thought it was time to offer my opinion with this response:

Basically, Web 2.0 refers to using the internet as a platform to produce interactive or collaborative web sites. Instead of simply rendering a page that visitors read, Web 2.0 allows them to become engaged with the site. MySpace, Flickr, blogs, wikis, sites that allow you to write reviews, Ryze, etc. are all examples of Web 2.0. Functionality provided over the internet instead of an application running on the user's desktop (part 1 of my definition), and allowing the user to participate, collaborate, contribute, or otherwise become engaged (part 2 of my definition).

There's no specific technology or design format for Web 2.0 ... it's more a case of existing technologies being used to allow interaction with the visitor. Just as you can use PHP, ASP, AJAX, to create sites considered "Web 2.0", they have been long-used for what I guess would now be called Web 1.0 ... it's not the technology, it's the functionality provided over the internet (instead of a desktop application) and participation of the user.

Regards,

Russ


The following response was offered to a question asking for clarification that "web 2.0" was not about a design or 'computer programming thingy' ...

Yes, there are two parts that can be applied to most definitions ...

The function attributes refer to using the internet as the platform. In other words, use of a feature won't matter on whether you run Windows, Mac, or Linux, whether you are on a desktop, PDA, or phone (in an ideal world). In other words, the internet is the platform that applications run on. Lawrence's link to Internet2 deals more with the technical improvements to improve upon this aspect of web functionality.

The experience attributes are the "so what does it do for me?" features. Basically, anything that allows a visitor to participate in some form (adding content, reviews, feedback, or using a web-based application such as wordprocessing a.k.a. Office Live) is being slapped with a "Web 2.0" label. We have to remember that Web 2.0 is simply a buzz word; it is not a series of standards, minimum requirements, etc. There is nothing that can determine whether your site qualifies as "Web 2.0" other than your desire to call it such; and, there are so many definitions that no one person can say what is right or wrong. The functionality has been around for years; Hotmail is a good example of an early site that could be considered Web 2.0, as would Yahoo's home page.

As for your other questions, there will be an increased cost for a "Web 2.0" site. Instead of simply creating flat, static web pages, your designer will be involved in creating some form of dynamic site, whether using PHP, ASP, etc. But again, it is not as much about the tecnhology as the purpose and functionality; in other words, how do you want to engage your site visitors, and what functions / features will you make available to them (and more importantly, that make sense to your internet marketing plan). Whether designing a static site or dynamic, interactive site, you want to design from the visitors' perspective, i.e. what they want to read/ learn / do, and NOT solely around what the client wants to "tell" them.

The benefits are as varied as the definitions! Social networking sites have allowed site visitors to be an active part of the community and feel they 'belong'; online banking allows us to manage our finances more securely; Gmail and Hotmail allow us to have our email follow us regardless of which computer in which country we happen to be in front of; Flickr allows us to share photos with the world. The common theme is that Web 2.0 can make your site "sticky", in other words visitors will become frequent return visitors (and may help promote your site through word of mouth, also referred to as viral marketing).

For instance, most of my current projects are built on "wikis", which are collaborative websites (pages that any visitor can edit in their pure form), and an early example of "Web 2.0". While we add layers of security to the site to lock down edit privileges (so it's no longer a collaborative site), the ease of editing allows my customers to edit their site and add pages, images, and documents about as easily as writing an email. From a visitors perspective, the site may or may not be "Web 2.0" depending on the features we have built in, but from the site owner's perspective we're offering easy content management, which is a Web 2.0 hallmark

Russ Jackman


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Russ Jackman, Internet Advisor
Russ Jackman is the principal of Internet Advisor, a web design and internet marketing firm located in St. Thomas, Ontario.

The concept of the "Internet Advisor" is that the designer becomes a partner or trusted consultant, who can simply provide advice and direction, completely implement a solution from start to end, or any degree in between. This insures that the strengths of a client are utilized, to minimize the investment required and maximize the benefits to their organization.

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