“An emerging network- centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.”
- John Hagel
Web 2.0 is such an amorphous terms that defies a hard definition. In the many years that have been talking about and working in in web development and interactive marketing I would often describe the evolution of the web as generational, heralding each leap in concept from media, content, browsers, systems and platforms as contributing generational stepping stones to where we are today. The hyperbolic change that occurred in the early internet years seemed to have generational change each successive year with competing technologies, media companies and battling it out for a controlling position. When the dot com bubble finally burt in 2001 there was a turning point in the web. The point where after a shakeout the ascendent technologies began to differentiate themselves from the raft of “frothy flotsam ” washed up in wake of the the crash. Perhaps the corporate agendas of owning or controlling the web , the antithesis of its organic and free form, had failed. What was apparent at this time was that new sites and technologies kept on revitalizing the digital space in an open and collaborative way.
While the boom was definitively over the web just kept evolving in open way and the transition to Web 2.0 was enabled by the emergence of platforms such as blogging, social networks, and free image and video uploading, that collectively allowed extremely easy content creation, access and sharing by anyone who had a computer and a connection. The barrier to entry of web publishing or content creation was over and the social voice of the digital consumer had begun its transformative ride over traditional media.
If you think Web 2.0 as simply social networking or just about the technical or geek jargon…. you really need to think again. Every aspect of Web 2.0 is driven by consumer participation, from content, its voice, browser development, technology platforms, and an ever evolving digital life. The most definitive trend and primary direction of Web 2.0 is for users to control the content they create, the data captured about their web activities and their identity and their willingness to participate and socialize collectively. The gradual opening or advances in digital standards have allowed for a common interfaces and integration across content and applications allowing a less constrained environment then had previously existed before. Decentralized in its architecture, participation, and usage, Web 2.0′s real power and flexibility emerges from distributing applications and content over many points rather than having them locked down on centralized or controlled systems. Its is truly becoming a plugin and play open environment for digital interplay between content and devices where the consumer experience of media or content mobility is quintessential.
What is very clear is that the Web 2.0 is not a trend or fad, it is not going way or will disappear, its here to stay. What is even more interesting is that the internet development chatter is about the next evolution , Web 3.0 or the semantic web, an intelligent web based on behavioural understanding of the consumers digital actions. What’s going to be interesting about Web 3.0 and will define just how far it can go will be the consumer privacy laws. There’s potentially an imminent consumer back lash looming in the near future concerning the use of known and personal data points surrounding behaviours.
There are a small number main characteristics that help define web 2. 0 In the marketers world there are a few we should be aware of as these have become part of the mainstream marketing language:
New Media Marketing: a term to describe the building and managing of social networks and online or virtual communities, and extend the reach of marketing to the low-frequency, low-intensity consumer in a cost effective way.
Buzz Marketing: The strategic use of word of mouth, the transmission of commercial information from person to person in an online or real-world environment.
Viral Marketing: The intentional spreading of marketing messages using social networks, with an emphasis of the casual, non-intentional and low cost.
Collective Intelligence or Collaborative Filtering : Essentially what this means is that “users” contributions greatly help build and make the foundation stronger and more popular by adding their content, such as links, comments, forum posts, reviews, rating others, an aggregation of the best work of thousands, then millions of web users (example: YouTube – more comments, more “thumbs-up” the more popularity), and any content contribution really. Without the end “user” the sites popularity goes down – if there is no interactivity for the end user, it’s not collective “anything.” So in short – the site grows organically in response to user activity.
Users Add Value: The architecture of your software development relies on “public” users to add their own data thus adding more value to your application. FireFox, Mozilla , Red Hat Linux WordPress ,(possibly the most used blogging software in the world ) grow in functionality through a network of contributing developers.
“Some” Rights Reserved: Expanding the range of creative works accessible for others to legally build upon and share. The Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to just that. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. These licenses, depending on the one selected, restrict only particular rights (or none) of the work instead of customary copyright, which is more restraining.
The constant Beta: Sites like, Frappr, CafePress, Flickr, FeedBurner…etc. rely on a services evolution or constant improvements and enhancements , New features are packaged up into massive releases, but instead added them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience.
Rich User Experience: Web 2.0 applications are built of a network of cooperating data services.
When it comes to the driving Web 2.0 technologies we should also aware of:
Aggregation: Bringing multiple content sources together into one interface or application.
API : (Application Programming Interface) A defined interface to a computer application or database that allows access by other applications.
Embedding: Integrating content or an application into a web page, while the original format is maintained.
Folksonomy: Rich categorization of information that is collectively created by users, through tagging and other actions. (cf. taxonomy)
Mashups: Combination of different types of content or data, usually from different sources, to create something new.
Remixing: Extracting and combining samples of content to create a new output. The term was originally used in music but is now also applied to video and other content.
RSS : (Really Simple Syndication) A group of formats to publish (syndicate) content on the internet so that users or applications automatically receive any updates.
Ruby on Rails: An open source web application framework that is frequently used in Web 2.0 website development.
Tag cloud: A visual depiction of tags that have been used to describe a piece of content, with higher frequency tags emphasized to assist content comprehension and navigation.
Tagging: Attaching descriptions to information or content.
Virtual architecture :The creation of avatars (alternative representations of people), buildings, objects, and other artefacts inside virtual spaces.
Widget: Small, portable web application that can be embedded into any web page.
XML : (eXtensible Markup Language) An open standard for describing data, which enables easy exchange of information between applications and organizations.
Open web: The entire space of the World Wide Web open to anyone to access and participate. This has been the initial domain in which Web 2.0 technologies, applications, and attitudes have developed.
Suggested reading Future Exploration networkTags: blogging, buzz marketing, collaborative filtering, collective intelligence, consumer engagement, consumer voice, content, convergence, creative commons, digital life, digital marketing, media, new media marketing, platforms, social, social networks, user generated content, viral, web2.0