Understanding Web 2.0

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This afternoon, I was in a Skype discussion with an old friend in the UK and part of our conversation strayed into a discussion about Web 2.0.

My friend thinks it’s just meaningless marketing hype and similar to all the talk that we heard in the late 90s dot-com era (or Web 1.0, as I pointed out to him) and early 00s on how everyone would make a fortune and change the world with things like web services, e-commerce, and sticky websites.

You could even go back a bit further into the mid 90s when we heard about the Information Highway (remember that?), ubiquitous video on demand and the networked computer. If you were around in those days, you may remember Larry Ellison of Oracle proclaiming that this was the age of the networked computer and the end of the PC as we knew it. A great concept but quite some years ahead of its time.

In trying to explain to my cynical friend why I don’t agree with him, I was actually a little stumped at one point in recalling some simple ways to illustrate why Web 2.0 is different to Web 1.0.

Yes, we have blogging and other social media. And I’ve seen lots of posts and other online content talking about Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Meme Map. This type of illustrative description isn’t really helpful to cynics like my friend who say they’ve seen it all before (and who said, incidentally, that the image helped confirm his negative opinion about Web 2.0). I don’t like it much either, as it is very similar to such diagrams in the 90s – they weren’t called “meme maps” in those days – that hyped how e-commerce (for instance) was what you just had to be in.

So is Web 2.0 just a load of old cobblers as my friend would say?

That meme map was part of “What Is Web 2.0,” a lengthy article in September by Tim O’Reilly in which he goes into some length to explain how he sees Web 2.0. I think it’s a very good article which should be a starting point for gaining a better understanding of how the technologies and tools we’re using today (which I’d call Web 1.5, perhaps even 1.7) are evolving into what, I believe, will be Web 2.0.

Yet stuff like this can seem a pretty dense read when what you want to see more easily is the wood amongst all those trees. Tim O’Reilly’s article actually does contain a way to do that which was probably over-shadowed by the snazzy meme map.

Here’s how to get a sense of Web 2.0:

The transition to Web 2.0

This is perfect for a right brain individual like me. This I can explain. How about you?

And by the way, here’s a neat quiz that will help you determine whether you’re left brain or right brain (although if you’re left brain, you probably already know that).

Reader Comments

Neville Hobson is the author of the popular NevilleHobson.com blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: NevilleHobson.com.

Understanding Web 2.0
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  • Craig Tobias


    I hear a lot of discussion around defining Web 2.0; I think a simpler definition is better, such as “user-based collaboration and content generation.” There are a number of people who want a clear-cut definition on exactly what Web 2.0 is and everything that encompasses  Web 2.0. This is analogous to asking for a list of every animal that exists now or has ever existed before they are willing to talk about dogs or buffalo. Even today new species are being discovered.   If I may borrow the famous words of the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward, “I may not be able to find  it, but I’ll know it when I see it.”   Web 2.0 is still growing and evolving and this is why it is still so hard to define.
    The biggest issue facing Web 2.0 is not technology. Most of the technology used in Web 2.0 has been around for quite some time. It is the application of this technology that  is  unique and challenging.  Web 2.0 is analogous to the concept of democracy, elements of which have been around since before the ancient Greeks. The elements of democracy have evolved over time and been integrated into something far different than what the ancient Athenians would recognize. Similarly, the elements of Web 2.0 continue to evolve and are being integrated into something different.
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  • http://wolfet.co.uk NeuroToxic

    Well its funny that some of the most dominant forces on the internet still haven’t made the effort to push out Web 2.0.

    One substantial example of this would be DMOZ / ODP.

    Its pretty much the same now as it was a decade ago.

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