The term "Web 2.0" describes the
changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design
that aim to enhance creativity, communication, secure information
sharing, collaboration and web functionality. Web 2.0 concepts have led
to the development and evolution of web culture communities and hosted
services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis,
blogs, and folksonomies.
Tim O'Reilly is generally credited for coining the term and the first Web. 2.0 conference was held in San Francisco in November 2004. In the conference, he defined the concept as "the web as the platform," emphasizing the participatory aspect of the web as opposed to the web-as-information-source model. In the early stages of the development of the World Wide Web, information flowed from the creator to the receiver (web users) and the web was conceived as an information source. After the decline of the dotcom economy around 2001, users began to generate and share information to affect the flow of information.
Origin of the term
The term first became notable after the O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but rather to changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web. According to Tim O'Reilly:
Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.
O'Reilly has said that the "2.0" refers to the historical context of
web businesses "coming back" after the 2001 collapse of the dot-com
bubble, in addition to the distinguishing characteristics of the
projects that survived the bust or thrived thereafter.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has questioned whether one can use the term in any meaningful way, since many of the technological components of Web 2.0 have existed since the early days of the Web.
Web 2.0 encapsulates the idea of the proliferation of interconnectivity and interactivity of web-delivered content. Tim O'Reilly regards Web 2.0 as the way that business embraces the strengths of the web and uses it as a platform. O'Reilly considers that Eric Schmidt's abridged slogan, don't fight the Internet, encompasses the essence of Web 2.0—building applications and services that use the unique features of the Internet.
In the opening talk of the first Web 2.0 conference, O'Reilly and John Battelle summarized what they saw as the themes of Web 2.0. They argued that the web had become a platform with software above the level of a single device, leveraging the power of "The Long Tail," and data that acted as a driving force. According to O'Reilly and Battelle, an architecture of participation where users can contribute website content creates network effects. Web 2.0 technologies tend to foster innovation in the assembly of systems and sites composed by pulling together features from distributed, independent developers. (This could be seen as a kind of "open source" or possible "Agile" development process, consistent with an end to the traditional software adoption cycle, typified by the so-called "perpetual beta".)
Web 2.0 technology encourages lightweight business models enabled by syndication of content and of service and by ease of picking-up by early adopters.
O'Reilly provided examples of companies or products that embody these principles in his description of his four levels in the hierarchy of Web 2.0 sites:
- Level-3 applications, the most "Web 2.0"-oriented, exist only on the Internet, deriving their effectiveness from the inter-human connections and from the network effects that Web 2.0 makes possible, and growing in effectiveness in proportion as people make more use of them. O'Reilly gave eBay, Craigslist, Wikipedia, del.icio.us, Skype, dodgeball, and AdSense as examples.
- Level-2 applications can operate offline but gain advantages from going online. O'Reilly cited Flickr, which benefits from its shared photo-database and from its community-generated tag database.
- Level-1 applications operate offline but gain features online. O'Reilly pointed to Writely (now Google Docs & Spreadsheets) and iTunes (because of its music-store portion).
- Level-0 applications work as well offline as online. O'Reilly gave the examples of MapQuest, Yahoo! Local, and Google Maps (mapping-applications using contributions from users to advantage could rank as "level 2," like Google Earth).
Non-web applications like email, instant-messaging clients, and the telephone fall outside the above hierarchy.
Web 2.0 websites allow users to do more than just retrieve information. They can build on the interactive facilities of "Web 1.0" to provide "Network as platform" computing, allowing users to run software-applications entirely through a browser. Users can own the data on a Web 2.0 site and exercise control over that data. These sites may have an "Architecture of participation" that encourages users to add value to the application as they use it. This stands in contrast to very old traditional websites, the sort which limited visitors to viewing and whose content only the site's owner could modify. Web 2.0 sites often feature a rich, user friendly interface based on Ajax, OpenLaszlo, Flex or similar rich media.
The concept of Web-as-participation-platform captures many of these characteristics. Bart Decrem, a founder and former CEO of Flock, calls Web 2.0 the "participatory Web" and regards the Web-as-information-source as Web 1.0.
The impossibility of excluding group-members who don’t contribute to the provision of goods from sharing profits gives rise to the possibility that rational members will prefer to withhold their contribution of effort and free-ride on the contribution of others.
According to Best, the characteristics of Web 2.0 are: rich user experience, user participation, dynamic content, metadata, web standards and scalability. Further characteristics, such as openness, freedom and collective intelligence by way of user participation, can also be viewed as essential attributes of Web 2.0.
The sometimes complex and continually evolving technology infrastructure of Web 2.0 includes server-software, content-syndication, messaging-protocols, standards-oriented browsers with plugins and extensions, and various client-applications. The differing, yet complementary approaches of such elements provide Web 2.0 sites with information-storage, creation, and dissemination challenges and capabilities that go beyond what the public formerly expected in the environment of the so-called "Web 1.0."
Web 2.0 websites typically include some of the following features/techniques that Andrew McAfee used the acronym SLATES to refer to them:
1. “Search: the ease of finding information through keyword search which makes the platform valuable.
2. Links: guides to important pieces of information. The best pages are the most frequently linked to.
3. Authoring: the ability to create constantly updating content over a platform that is shifted from being the creation of a few to being the constantly updated, interlinked work. In wikis, the content is iterative in the sense that the people undo and redo each other's work. In blogs, content is cumulative in that posts and comments of individuals are accumulated over time.
4. Tags: categorization of content by creating tags that are simple, one-word descriptions to facilitate searching and avoid rigid, pre-made categories.
5. Extensions: automation of some of the work and pattern matching by using algorithms e.g. amazon.com recommendations.
6. Signals: the use of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology to notify users with any changes of the content by sending e-mails to them.”
Universities are using Web 2.0 in order to reach out and engage with new generation and other prospective students according to recent reports. Examples of this are: social networking websites – YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Youmeo, Twitter and Flickr; upgrading institutions’ websites in their ways – stand-alone micro-websites with minimal navigation; placing current students in cyberspace or student blogs; and virtual learning environments such as Moodle enable prospective students to log on and ask questions.
In addition to free social networking websites, schools have contracted with companies that provide many of the same services as MySpace and Facebook, but can integrate with their existing database. Companies such as Harris Connect, iModules and Publishing Concepts have developed alumni online community software packages that provide schools with a way to communicate to their alumni and allow alumni to communicate with each other in a safe, secure environment.
Web 2.0 initiatives are being used within the public sector, giving more currency to the term Government 2.0. Government 2.0 is an attempt to integrate the social networking and interactive advantages of Web 2.0 approaches into the practice of government. Government 2.0 can provide more effective processes for service delivery for individuals and businesses. Integration of tools like wikis, development of government specific social networking sites, use of blogs, multimedia sharing, podcasts, RSS feeds and data mashups are all helping governments provide information to citizens in a manner that is most useful to them.
Web 2.0 initiatives have been used in public diplomacy for the Israeli government. The country is believed to be the first to have its own official blog, MySpace page, YouTube channel, Facebook page and a political blog. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs started the country's video blog as well as its political blog. The Foreign Ministry also held a microblogging press conference via Twitter about its war with Hamas, with Consul David Saranga answering live questions from a worldwide public in common text-messaging abbreviations. The questions and answers were later posted on Israelpolitik.org, the country's official political blog.
Web-based applications and desktops
Ajax has prompted the development of websites that mimic desktop applications, such as word processing, the spreadsheet, and slide-show presentation. WYSIWYG wiki sites replicate many features of PC authoring applications. Still other sites perform collaboration and project management functions. In 2006 Google, Inc. acquired one of the best-known sites of this broad class, Writely.
Several browser-based "operating systems" have emerged, including EyeOS and YouOS. Although coined as such, many of these services function less like a traditional operating system and more as an application platform. They mimic the user experience of desktop operating-systems, offering features and applications similar to a PC environment, as well as the added ability of being able to run within any modern browser.
XML and RSS
Advocates of "Web 2.0" may regard syndication of site content as a Web 2.0 feature, involving as it does standardized protocols, which permit end-users to make use of a site's data in another context (such as another website, a browser plugin, or a separate desktop application). Protocols which permit syndication include RSS (Really Simple Syndication—also known as "web syndication"), RDF (as in RSS 1.1), and Atom, all of them XML-based formats. Observers have started to refer to these technologies as "Web feed" as the usability of Web 2.0 evolves and the more user-friendly Feeds icon supplants the RSS icon.
Specialized protocols such as FOAF and XFN (both for social networking) extend the functionality of sites or permit end-users to interact without centralized websites.
Machine-based interaction, a common feature of Web 2.0 sites, uses two main approaches to Web APIs, which allow web-based access to data and functions: REST and SOAP.
- REST (Representational State Transfer) Web APIs use HTTP alone to interact, with XML (eXtensible Markup Language) or JSON payloads;
- SOAP involves POSTing more elaborate XML messages and requests to a server that may contain quite complex, but pre-defined, instructions for the server to follow.
Often servers use proprietary APIs, but standard APIs (for example,
for posting to a blog or notifying a blog update) have also come into
wide use. Most communications through APIs involve XML or JSON payloads.
The analysis of the economic implications of "Web 2.0" applications and loosely-associated technologies such as wikis, blogs, social-networking, open-source, open-content, file-sharing, peer-production, etc. has also gained scientific attention. This area of research investigates the implications Web 2.0 has for an economy and the principles underlying the economy of Web 2.0.
Cass Sunstein's book "Infotopia" discussed the Hayekian nature of collaborative production, characterized by decentralized decision-making, directed by (often non-monetary) prices rather than central planners in business or government.
Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams argue in their book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2006) that the economy of "the new web" depends on mass collaboration. Tapscott and Williams regard it as important for new media companies to find ways of how to make profit with the help of Web 2.0. The prospective Internet-based economy that they term "Wikinomics" would depend on the principles of openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally. They identify seven Web 2.0 business-models (peer pioneers, ideagoras, prosumers, new Alexandrians, platforms for participation, global plantfloor, wiki workplace).
Organizations could make use of these principles and models in order to prosper with the help of Web 2.0-like applications: "Companies can design and assemble products with their customers, and in some cases customers can do the majority of the value creation".
"In each instance the traditionally passive buyers of editorial and advertising take active, participatory roles in value creation."
Tapscott and Williams suggest business strategies as "models where
masses of consumers, employees, suppliers, business partners, and even
competitors cocreate value in the absence of direct managerial control".
Tapscott and Williams see the outcome as an economic democracy.
Some other views in the scientific debate agree with Tapscott and Williams that value-creation increasingly depends on harnessing open source/content, networking, sharing, and peering, but disagree that this will result in an economic democracy, predicting a subtle form and deepening of exploitation, in which Internet-based global outsourcing reduces labor-costs by transferring jobs from workers in wealthy nations to workers in poor nations. In such a view, the economic implications of a new web might include on the one hand the emergence of new business-models based on global outsourcing, whereas on the other hand non-commercial online platforms could undermine profit-making and anticipate a co-operative economy. For example, Tiziana Terranova speaks of "free labor" (performed without payment) in the case where prosumers produce surplus value in the circulation-sphere of the cultural industries.
Some examples of Web 2.0 business models that attempt to generate revenues in online shopping and online marketplaces are referred to as social commerce and social shopping. Social commerce involves user-generated marketplaces where individuals can set up online shops and link their shops in a networked marketplace, drawing on concepts of electronic commerce and social networking. Social shopping involves customers interacting with each other while shopping, typically online, and often in a social network environment. Academic research on the economic value implications of social commerce and having sellers in online marketplaces link to each others' shops has been conducted by researchers in the business school at Columbia University.
The argument exists that "Web 2.0" does not represent a new version of the World Wide Web at all, but merely continues to use so-called "Web 1.0" technologies and concepts. Techniques such as AJAX do not replace underlying protocols like HTTP, but add an additional layer of abstraction on top of them. Many of the ideas of Web 2.0 had already been featured in implementations on networked systems well before the term "Web 2.0" emerged. Amazon.com, for instance, has allowed users to write reviews and consumer guides since its launch in 1995, in a form of self-publishing. Amazon also opened its API to outside developers in 2002. Previous developments also came from research in computer-supported collaborative learning and computer-supported cooperative work and from established products like Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino.
In a podcast interview Tim Berners-Lee described the term "Web 2.0" as a "piece of jargon." "Nobody really knows what it means," he said, and went on to say that "if Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along."
Other criticism has included the term “a second bubble” (referring to the Dot-com bubble of circa 1995–2001), suggesting that too many Web 2.0 companies attempt to develop the same product with a lack of business models. The Economist has written of "Bubble 2.0." Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman noted that Web 2.0 had excited only 530,651 people (the number of subscribers at that time to TechCrunch, a Weblog covering Web 2.0 matters), too few users to make them an economically viable target for consumer applications. Although Bruce Sterling reports he's a fan of Web 2.0, he thinks it is now dead as a rallying concept.
Critics have cited the language used to describe the hype cycle of Web 2.0 as an example of Techno-utopianist rhetoric. Web 2.0 is not the first example of communication creating a false, hyper-inflated sense of the value of technology and its impact on culture. The dot com boom and subsequent bust in 2000 was a culmination of rhetoric of the technological sublime in terms that would later make their way into Web 2.0 jargon. Communication as culture: essays on media and society (1989) and the technologies worth as represented in the stock market. Indeed, several years before the dot com stock market crash the then-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan equated the run up of stock values as irrational exuberance. Shortly before the crash of 2000 a book by Robert J. Shiller, Irrational Exuberance. (2000) was released detailing the overly optimistic euphoria of the dot com industry. The book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (2006) even goes as far as to quote critics of the value of Web 2.0 in an attempt to acknowledge that hyper inflated expectations exist but that Web 2.0 is really different.
In November 2004, CMP Media applied to the USPTO for a service mark on the use of the term "WEB 2.0" for live events. On the basis of this application, CMP Media sent a cease-and-desist demand to the Irish non-profit organization IT@Cork on May 24, 2006, but retracted it two days later. The "WEB 2.0" service mark registration passed final PTO Examining Attorney review on May 10, 2006, and was registered on June 27, 2006. The European Union application (application number 004972212, which would confer unambiguous status in Ireland) remains currently pending after its filing on March 23, 2006.
Open Source Movement
Traditionally, an author of information or knowledge maintained an authoritative position, while the general audience were recipients of knowledge. Traditional proprietary information architecture well fitted this sociological structure of knowledge. Web 2.0 is a radical challenge to this traditional model of knowledge; in the Web 2.0 model, numerous individuals, rather than a single author, collaborate to produce content. Furthermore, a shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 suggests a shift from a proprietary information architectural model to an open source model. The open source movement and Wikipedia are some early examples of Web 2.0.