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What is Web 2.0?

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While Web 2.0 would suggest that a new version of the web has been released, it’s actually a reference to the changing way in which developers and end users interact with the web and continue to assist it’s growth from a static information portal to a fully collaborative information sharing platform.

This is not a definitive answer as to what Web 2.0 means. But I can pinpoint the changes that have taken place on the web leading to the invention of the term Web 2.0, as well as the advancement since.

Cast your mind back a few years to 2004 and beforehand, in particular around 2001 at the time of the dotcom boom. Everyone wanted a website (although many didn’t know why). Any self-respecting business or individual from the whole spectrum of industries didn’t feel they were moving forward unless they had their own website.

Ok, if you had a business or service that you could sell online, you may have felt the benefit. But many businesses simply had a static website that sat there doing nothing to indicate their investment had been worthwhile. End users wanted more than to just be presented with information and so the money fell out of the industry, leaving many wondering what purpose the web could serve – particularly to those who did not have a product or service to sell.

Since this era, the ways in which information is presented to users has changed. Users can now visit a website and do more than just read the information presented to them, they can interact and participate with the site to increase the site’s value. The common theme that Web 2.0 sites follow is a network of national or global users contributing to the dynamic content of the site.

This is mainly down to that fact that during this time, the web has evolved to become a platform with a desktop application being developed to now run from a browser. As browser technology has advanced, web sites are able to offer a much richer application via technologies such as Ajax.

Note, Ajax is not a Web 2.0 technology as such, it is not requirement of Web 2.0 applications, but can certainly help with the interaction. Similarly, there is no such thing as Web 2.0 designs; instead there is a layout trend that designers follow as Web 2.0 sites have become popular.

Web 2.0, for me, is demonstrated in the type of sites that have become popular of late via the common community-based elements that allow users to participate such as blogs, wikis, tagging etc. The ones that immediately spring to mind are Facebook, Flickr, Digg, eBay etc.

My personal favourite Web 2.0 website is Lovefilm.com. As a film buff, I am able to search their massive library of films, and by contributing to the site in terms of film ratings, reviews etc I am able to discover films that I may have otherwise missed, stumbling across films recommended by other users with similar tastes to my own.

Whilst this concept is nothing new – Amazon has been displaying "What other customers who liked this also bought" for years – by being able to read user content and interact, there is certainly more of a feeling that the content being provided on such sites is relevant.

I also find that content of football-related, and indeed many other, websites have also become far more interesting now that users are able to comment and interact. Previously, a journalist, would have to heavily research an article before publishing. Now, they can take a topic, introduce this to the user, and raise one or two questions, leaving the debate to the users in the form of a blog.

The blog too has been around for some time but in Web 2.0 terms it has evolved from the daily ramblings of a personal website to a powerful tool for developing an online brand, increasing the delivery power of content and adding massive value to a website in terms of its relevance in an industry. In business terms, this is a highly effective advertising tool.

As has already been stated, there is no concrete definition for Web 2.0, but essentially, if you want to embrace the culture of a Web 2.0, make sure that your users can participate within and add to the content of your website, as the opinion and input of these users are a key component in the growth of your website, whatever your goal maybe. 

Guy Levine started his first internet company when he was bitten by the bug at just 17. After exiting his dotcom 366 days after starting it, the day after his 18th birthday, he started another and never looked back.

Today, the internet whizz is CEO of SEO company Web Marketing Advisor. He believes in earning money and prospecting for new clients while he sleeps – and reckons the internet is the way to do it.

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