Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What is Web 2.0?

This may be a little late in coming, but I attended the Web 2.0 Conference a couple weeks ago in San Francisco. I enjoyed the conference immensely, outside of the crowds and plastic containers they served lunch in. But for those who are asking, what is Web 2.0, I’ll give you a brief synopsis.

Web 2.0 came from what was before it. Web 2.0 is an evolution of technology and an evolution how people learned how to use the web. Web 2.0 is blogs, is wikis, is Google Maps and YouTube and things with funny names like Twitter and Flickr and mashups and Joost and Django and Jaiku. It is about people wanting to connect and be connected to in order to discover themselves (Stowe Boyd). Web 2.0 is about letting your customers build your brand.

To loosely define it, Web 2.0 is represented by four themes (Dion Hinchcliffe):
- enabling technologies, mainly AJAX (Google Maps) and ubiquitous mobile
- user generated content, like MySpace, Wikipedia and Digg
- social networking software, like LinkedIn, Last.FM, and Upcoming.org
- syndication through blogs and feeds and user programmable services

Web 2.0 is about immediate interactivity via seemless, rich applications. No page reloads required!

About 1,000,000 blog entries are written every day and there are about one billion people to read them. New applications and websites allow for unprecedented user input (Friendster and del.icio.us), commentary via the blogosphere and customer review (Amazon reviews).

Simplicity, standards, frameworks (Django/Rails) and open APIs are key. The more complex something is, the less people will use it. SMS is easy to use.

Network effects occur when a good or service increases in value the more exchange of information happens between people. Think phones, email, instant messenger, websites with user reviews and blogs. Sites like Yelp, Flickr, and Google AdSense take advantage of network effects.

Lastly, widgets (WidgetBox.com/Windows Live Gallery) and gadgets (Google Gadgets) and APIs (Amazon Fulfillment) that regular people (not just programmers) can use flatten the barriers to accomplishment and free information.

Web 2.0 is about a single person having a blog and getting the top rank in google or the most views on YouTube. Web 2.0 is describing information with words via tags and tag clouds to make it more meaningful.

Web 2.0 is mobile (Twitter and Jaiku). It is about new technologies to let people express themselves without having to ask a programmer (Google Gadgets/mashups). It is about deciding how your information will look, like a personalized Google home page. It is about having the information you want (blog/RSS feeds) come to you.

Web 2.0 is about comments and commentary, recommendations and reviews and people talking to each other about the stuff they like and the stuff they don't like. It is about accelerating the value of the data that everyone contributes.

It is about new platforms like Django and Rails and simple-to-use products like Coghead and Apollo that make it easier for people to share information.

Web 2.0 is about freeing the means of production for the average person. It is about having your data out in the cloud (YouTube and Flickr), ready to share with old friends and new friends.

Web 2.0 is built on the shoulders of giants. Just like the last one, the next decade will be one of change and upheaval. Hopefully for the better this time, as we should be finally be able to reap the benefits of harnessing the collective intelligence of the net.

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