Understanding Web 2.0

    October 29, 2005

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).

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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.