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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Does Web 2.0 exist or is it a buzzword?

Whenever I discuss Web 2.0 with a group of developers they are confused about what it means. I have referred to O’Reilly’s definition, but it is way too generic. I have pointed out that there is a Web 2.0 style in Graphic Design and that does not interest them. Every service vendor out there is talking about Web 2.0 and job portals have Web 2.0 specialists.
In spite of all this hype, it is still hard to explain what web 2.0 really means. One friend suggested content sharing between users; another mentioned Ajax based websites. There are still lots of technical people who are skeptical that there IS a "Web 2.0".

I have realized that the core fault is in asking if there is a web 2.0 to the wrong group of people – it is pointless asking developers or service providers whether they can code web 2.0 or they offer web 2.0. The true set of people to ask about web 2.0 are web users – not the builders.

Internet users have been using the web since 95. Many more begin to use it every year. These are the best people to ask – do you see a way in which your usage of the web has become different? Do you see a better web to call it web 2.0? We should be asking the political blog writer who writes commentary. We should ask the student who uses the web to research and collect information. We should even ask developers whether they USE the web differently.

Forget about Semantic Markup, W3C compliance or cross browser – what do the millions of web users see different?
As such an user myself, avid follower of political blogs and blog writer, I see such a change myself. (That change has nothing to do with Ajax).

The primary way in which the web has changed for me is in simple services that I am able to avail of and then link with other people around the world very easily. The ability to form a kind of community fast is the primary reason I feel the the web has changed.

One example is del.icio.us. By storing links in del.icio.us, I can actually observe that other people stored the same links and so take a jump in to see if they have more interesting information and so on in a rapidly complex linking mechanism. These links that del.icio.us forms sits one layer above the hyper text linking at the core of web 1.0 itself.
Reddit.com offers similar services – the ability to discuss within a community about an article.
Then of course RSS – that I can subscribe to feeds and pull information from the internet for my own content construction is amazing to me.
If I am a content author, if I want to take my content around to a community (flickr, youtube, blogger), , if I want to establish a community of like-minded people (Facebook, Orkut, MySpace), if I want to have the ability to combine this content with others effectively (Mashups and RSS), then the current web is way different from the original web.
Do not tell me that these facilities existed in some form in the original web - I don't care. These are much more available, visible and usable now and that is what I care about.

These features have nothing to do with the way the websites are built technically. They have to do with adding personal and social value.

I think Wikipedia and similar ideas are the greatest achievements in human collaboration – because they fulfill the original goal of the internet. The original goal was that all human knowledge, historical and otherwise should be available in an easily accessible, hyper-linked form. Web 2.0 adds the ability to form communities on top of this massive data and analyze it and parse it and add additional information.

Just for that, Web 2.0 does exist – it is not a phantom buzz word. It is a real phenomenon and we have to be proud of it.

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1 Comments:

  • Amazing amazing blogs. I stumbled upon your blog today and have been hooked for the past several hours. Your writing skills and clarity of thoughts are phenomenal. Keep up the good work.

    By Blogger brindha, at 3:34 PM  

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