Web 2.0: Way Of The Future Or Marketing Gimmick?
The term Web 2.0 has come to dramatically increased usage over the past few years. Many people have since begun to appropriate this hot new buzzword for their own websites while others are not quite so eager to embrace this new concept, considering it little more than an inappropriately named web-marketing gimmick. It has clearly polarized the web into two opposing camps, of adherents on the one hand and skeptics on the other. Yet in spite of all this-or perhaps because of this-there is still plenty of confusion and controversy surrounding Web 2.0. What is it exactly? And are the changes to the way the Internet has come to be used in recent years really significant enough to warrant this name? The phrase itself is attributed to O’Reilly media, the company who coined it in 2003. Subsequently, the first Web 2.0 conference, which was held in 2004, brought it into widespread public consciousness. A series if conferences hosted by O’Reilly media has made the term even more popular than ever and facilitated the adoption of it by many industry pundits. The term as it has come to be used by O’Reilly media, refers to what many in the Internet industry perceive to be the second wave of Web-based communities and hosted services, following the first wave of communities which flourished during the initial Internet boom. These web sites encompass social networking sites, wiki sites and folksonomies-all of which share the trait of encouraging and facilitating content collaboration and sharing among its many users. Perhaps some of the confusion surrounding the use of the tem Web 2.0 stems from the fact that it does not actually signify a change or an update to the technical specification of the World Wide Web as we have come to know it. Instead it more appropriately describes the widespread changes that many systems developers have implemented in the way that they use the existing web platform. The founder of O’Reilly media, Tim O’Reilly has himself termed it a business revolution in the computer industry that was caused by the move to the Internet as a platform. He further goes on to say that attempts to come to grips with the rules for success on that new platform is an integral part of Web 2.0. On his own blog, which can be found at http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/10/web_20_compact_definition.html, O’Reilly wrote a compact yet more detailed definition of the term and refers to Web 2.0 as his view of the network as a platform that encompasses all the devices that are connected to it. According to him, Web 2.0 applications are the applications that are in the best position to take advantage of most of the inherent benefits of that platform. The means by which they can achieve this is through the delivery of software to the public that is continuously updated and generates its content through the merging of data from many different sources, which may include the individual end user. The Web 2.0 applications in turn generate their own data as well as services in a way that other users can readily mix according to their own needs. This paradigm clearly goes beyond the nature of Web
1.0 into a network that is built upon as O’Reilly calls it “(an) architecture of participation”. The end result is a richer web experience for the end user by way of applications that actually get better the more it is used. To further illustrate the differences between Web 1.0 and Web
2.0, it may help to view Web 1.0 as primarily focused on the connectivity between computers and a way to make technology work better for computers, while Web 2.0 strives to link people together and make technology work better for people. While some people would disagree with this last illustration-and indeed claim that the opposite is actually more accurate-the fact remains that the Web 2.0 is increasingly reliant on the varied input from its users and the dividing line between people and technology is becoming more and more blurred as time goes on. While computer mediation is still-and will probably remain for the next foreseeable future-an integral part of the new paradigm, the utilization of the collective input from its users will bring about a continuous improvement of the particular application based on the same users’ interaction with it. The clear shift in focus from “technology” to “people” is perhaps no better illustrated by the change in technological demands from the ’90s to the present. While many users previously focused their requests on solutions to very specific technological demands, the overwhelming clamor nowadays is for applications that allow for far more end user intervention and input. The controversy rages on as to the validity of the term Web 2.0, but by all indications it seems that it is here to stay.