Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What is this Web 2.0 thing?

A lot of people have asked me in the last month "What is Web 2.0?" It's funny - I was using the web applications that are supposedly part of this trend but didn't realize it was turning into the latest media event. If you haven't heard this term- chances are you will in the next year, just like blogs were the hot topic last year. I'd like to give you a little head start into what Web 2.0 refers to, in plain English.

It is not all hype actually - although as always, the media jumps on its bandwagons without really knowing what they are talking about and some part of it is baloney. Some of the articles I've read make ME glaze over. But actually, a shift has been taking place on the web and I can at least tell you what web 2.0 refers to -- as a card carrying web geek who has been around since the birth of web 1.0 :) And before you ask - NO, the web as we know it is not going anywhere.

If you were to look at a list of web sites which were called "1.0" and a list of those bandied about as "2.0" there is a common denominator. Community. In almost every case. But it is much more than that.

Now - about community. That really is what the web was always intended to be about. You may recall the Sheep story I linked to on my blog last year? In a perfect little nutshell, that tale tells why the web is so spectacular to the human race. And yet, in 10 years, we've only just begun to explore the potential.

How web sites, web data and applications grow and evolve is changing because we're finally TRULY tapping into the collective minds of the users with vastly superior ways of interconnecting and searching for relevant information. Until recently, we were literally buried in a deluge of information online and finding relevant data was darned near impossible. Web 2.0 refers to the model that is changing all of that.

Let's look at what I mean with just a couple of the examples from a recent Tim O'Reilly article.

Web 1.0 ----------------->Web 2.0

Ofoto was a way to put your digital photos online. Great stuff at the time. Flickr made it possible to connect your photo albums in new ways, tagging them with key phrases, allowing people to comment and share albums ... in essence, creating community.

Mp3.com changed the music industry with the file format that made it possible to create low file size, high quality digital audio. Napster created "peer to peer" (direct connections) between users computers for the purpose of sharing those huge music collections, creating a huge community of fans (and yes, a nightmare for the music industry.)

Britannica Online----------->Wikipedia
A bunch of very smart linquistical and PhD types compile entries into Brittanica and have been doing it for hundreds of years. So they put it online to be searched. But, NOW, we have Wikipedia - a way for anyone in the WORLD to contribute, no degree required.

personal websites----------->blogging
Mid-to late 90's, personal html sites were all the rage - IF you knew how to code HTML, you too, could air your dirty laundry online. Then blogging came along with an easy push to publish way to create web pages, and interconnect blogs across the web community, plus new ways to search and deliver the information.

Evites still are a great way to invite people to an event. But it's just YOUR event. Upcoming.org is a massive community operation where everyone gets to list their upcoming events and its all quickly searchable by anyone using the site.

directories (taxonomy)------>tagging ("folksonomy")
Tagging is a HUGE part of the web 2.0. Old days, data was stored in databases, in directories, browsable, searchable... dig dig DIG. Now, information can be tagged - and the members of the community use the tags to find more relevant data. Have you ever used del.icio.us? It's a web based say to store all your favorite web sites online in an account, tag them with key phrases, sort and organize them so you can find what you want from any computer you log on to. Then, you can tap into the community to find web sites that others have tagged with those key phrases. For example, you save a site on aphid bugs with the tag "aphids" and then you click that tag and get the sites others have tagged "aphid." It takes relevant search responses to a whole 'nother level!

The big mantra of the early 21st century was to build sticky sites... somehow find a way to get people to come back over and over again. We threw everything we could at it to see what would stick - ezines being the more popular strategy. Syndication is the current approach -- you publish, then syndicate with RSS and people are automatically notified of your changes. And, of course, since it ties into the whole blogosphere, there is your community connection.

Bottom line, Web 2.0 is still a media buzz word. They have to call it something, need a hip trend to toot about, a way to explain what is happening. But I think something IS happening - a shift in how we find, organize and share the vast amounts of information online. And remember, the web as we know it is still only in it's infancy.

As I have been saying since the first day I got online "It is GOOD to be alive right now!"

Or perhaps this is more appropriate: "Welcome to the hive."


(c) Eileen Parzek, 2006

Eileen Parzek is an award winning graphic designer and writer providing digital and print graphic design and web design services. Always found at the intersection of information, creativity and technology, her business, Business Design Studio (www.businessdesignstudio.com) helps small businesses make a big impression, increase their reach and grow.

May be republished with full bio and credit link to http://www.businessdesignstudio.com