Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What makes a Web 2.0

I recently heard that a business wanted a Web 2.0 Content Management System (CMS) with all the video and other media as publishable content. I asked, well, if its Web 2.0, what/who is the user-base. And, the answer was, that the content managers would publish content for public viewing.

That triggered my question, so what's Web 2.0 about it? Does the availablity of music / video / pictures make a site Web 2.0 or is it some set of standards that one has to meet?

Obviously, the term Web 2.0 has been around for a few years now. And there are many definitions of what make a site Web 2.0. So, one must ask, when a definition of Web 2.0 is desired, is it the original definition of what was intened by Web 2.0 or is it what is accepted as a norm (if there is any) now ?

A quick look on internet will show you that the term was first floated in the O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Tim O'Reilly defines Web 2.0 as

"Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I've elsewhere called "harnessing collective intelligence.")"(*1)

This is a pretty general definition, and it leaves room for some variance. Which I think is good, for something that is still in development or formation. Web 2.0 is still forming and changing as we speak, so to have a defintion that touches the essence but leaves the details out is a good thing.

But the its side-effect is that it is difficult for some to exactly pinpoint what makes a site Web 2.0.

I say, 'an' answer is in the original definition, "Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects.."

Which I would like to interpret (and Yes, I can be wrong), as applications where the content / service is produced / used (read harnessed) by the user base (read the network).

So, lets take some examples.

  1. eBay
  2. faceBook
  3. myspace
  4. wikipedia
  5. flickr
  6. del.icio.us
  7. youtube

These sites are commonly given as examples of Web 2.0 sites. But what makes them a Web 2.0 site and not others, like

  1. NYTimes
  2. CNN
  3. Amazon

The question that should be asked is, Who generates the content and uses the services in these sites. And the answer is : People. They post stuff to sell on eBay, they post profiles in faceBook and MySpace, they post articles on Wikipedia, they upload pictures on Flickr, they mark bookmarks on Del.icio.us and they post videos on Youtube.. and the common purpose is to network and share, and use internet as a 'platform' to achieve that goal. The former set of sites are examples of Web 2.0 sites. And the 'harnessing of network effects' is what is common amongst all of them.

(*1) http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/12/web-20-compact-definition-tryi.html

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