Why Web 2.0 is a Big Deal

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From the time the internet started it has been touted as the one of the greatest inventions of all times. What started off as a network of machines has grown into a phenomenon and continues to do so at the “speed of thought”.

The web which started off serving customers with purely static pages has been continuously moving to a more dynamic and interactive environment. The recent transition has been in moving from a website owner driven web to a user driven one. More and more power is being given to the user to drive things the way he/she wants on the web.

The current wave which we are witnessing – although not intentional has been aptly called Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is the name given to the array of new age websites which are popping up that are more focused on bringing people together to one place and allowing them to them to share, discuss, post, vote, form communities etc. – basically be able to express themselves on the web like they have never been able to do so before.

If you have to go by definitions, Wikipedia – one of the leading new age Web 2.0 site defines the term Web 2.0 as:

“Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a supposed second-generation of Internet-based services – such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies – that let people collaborate and share information online in previously unavailable ways. O’Reilly Media, in collaboration with MediaLive International, used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences and since then it has become a popular (though ill-defined and often criticized) buzzword amongst certain technical and marketing communities.”

Well, then again Web 2.0 might mean different things to different people. Most of the dedicated techies can be heard saying – a plain social networking site alone is not good enough, it has to support AJAX as well for it to qualify to be a Web 2.0 site. Although AJAX was a starting point of the newer web sites, I think the “social networking and collaboration” bit is the key differentiator.

Although O’Reilly coined the term “Web 2.0”, the intention was not to suggest a newer version of the web instead this term was formed to be a part of the core attractive punch-line to be used in of one of the conferences they were going to organize about the web.

Let’s talk about some of the Web 2.0 sites that’s changing the way we use the web right now. This would ideally give a better understanding of what’s being done on the web in the Web2.0 paradigm.

Web 2.0 top sites

1. Wikipedia.com – Wikipedia is a web based encyclopedia which is free. Well the surprising part is not that it is free. It can be edited by anyone not necessarily a registered user, which means absolutely anyone. Please try it.

This really epitomizes the beauty of the web. With multiple users editing this site all the time, it only makes us wonder how on earth does this site provide accurate information. Its just like life, the good over evil theory. Works on the web too. There are the good people working tirelessly towards making sure content on Wikipedia is latest and accurate. So even if you enter the wrong data, in some time or worst case in a couple of days you will see the information corrected. The magic of user driven content.

The concept of wikipedia has become so popular that the term ‘wiki’ is now used to refer to any website the visitors can edit the content of the site.

2. digg.com – This is one of my personal favourites. Just a site which allows you to pull news from anywhere on the web and the digg community can vote for the news posted. The greater the number of posts the higher the chances of it getting listed on the front page of digg.com. Simple, concise to-the-point and well thought out site. But I still can’t relate the site design to the traffic digg has managed to generate. Digg.com has millions of viewers.

3. YouTube.com – Iam quite sure by now everyone has heard about this one. Basically a video sharing website where users can upload videos, view other videos and share videos with other users. Just started in Feb 2005 has managed to create such a huge user base that Google has decided to buy them out for $1.6 billion

4. flickr.com – What YouTube is to videos, flickr is to photos. By the way this is now a Yahoo company.

5. MySpace.com – This is a social networking site where you can create your own space, add friends, share music, videos, photos etc. You can post personal profiles and also blog using myspace. They claim to have 106 million accounts. In July 2005 Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought out myspace.com for $580 million.

6. del.icio.us – A social bookmarking site which organizes content based on user defined tags. Once registered a user can bookmark any site and tag and share bookmarks with the del.icio.us user community.

New Web 2.0 terms

Wiki – A term given to any website which allows users to directly edit the content of the website and in some cases sometimes without even being a registered user.

Voting – digg.com gave a new meaning to this word in the Web2.0 world. These days users can vote to show their like or dislike for a specific content on a website. It is an important way for a user to exercise his views on the web.

Tagging – Users can now submit a posting and associate tags or keywords with them. Users can define their own tags. Other users who search for a tag and find all relevant postings with that specific tag. Again a user driven way of labelling and searching. This is basically metadata. If the author wants to reclassify the page at a later time, this can easily be done by changing the list of tags.

This process is also referred to as Folksonomy. This concept has been popularised by sites like del.icio.us and technorati.com.

With so many new websites coming up and more and more users flocking to them basking in the new found freedom and power to throw their views, this looks like only the beginning of the very many innovative ways in which users are going to play a bigger role in developing the future of the web.

The arena is open for anyone to network, share views or even start a social networking website and who knows maybe get bought out someday.

( I have used this article purely to put across my thoughts and to share knowledge)

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