Web 2.0 has taken the internet world by storm - even though people are not generally aware of it. Web 2.0 is the name given by O'Reilly Media to the emerging web patterns, particularly how people interact in the web, what and how content is delivered, how software applications are used, how important are the end-users in the new internet, and so on and so forth. Suffice it to say that the movers and shakers of the internet world felt the cyberspace shift. The result of the 'shift' is the new web, popularized as the Web 2.0.
Web 2.0 in Broad Strokes
It is hard to understand the Web 2.0 concept except in very general terms: it is what people in the know are calling the new landscape of the World Wide Web. This statement, though it makes the concept of Web 2.0 understandable at a very general plane, actually raises more questions than it answers. Foremost among these questions are, "What does this new landscape of the World Wide Web look like?"
I personally understand the confusion and my aim is to provide points of reference so as to locate you as precisely as possible within this new Web 2.0 phenomenon as well as give you a guide to help you navigate within this new web.
Web 2.0 Characteristics: For Your Reference
To help you comprehend the new web landscape which is Web 2.0, we'll sometimes need to go over the old web landscape which is now being called Web 1.0. The discussion will deal with comparison and contrasting when applicable, so that you will have an idea how the Web 2.0 'lay of the land' departs from the one that it is in the process of replacing it (experts still view the Web 2.0 as a destination, that the transformation towards it is a work in progress; this is actually the reason why the concept remains so hard to grasp).
End-User or Client Defined
At the core of the Web 2.0 phenomenon is the transformation of the web, from the advertiser/business-centric model to the customer/client-centric one. The new web landscape is being rearranged, every minute of everyday, not by the controllers of the software but by its users.
This core principle is evident everywhere. First, it is found in the recurrence and widespread use of blogospheres and social networking sites, where people or the internet crowd determines the value of a topic and the worth of ideas. What people deem important, Web 2.0 highlights, without any say from the producers of the original blogging applications or the originators of the ideas and the topics involved. The users pronounce what is important and the advertisers, the information owners and originators adapt to what the end users say.
End users also gain the upper hand in the way things, objects, concepts, and ideas in the web are perceived by people. For instance, the users of the internet now define the tags by which internet objects can be classified: what is called "folksonomy," where people's (the internet folks') subjective classification gains more weight than centrally defined and implemented classifications.
For instance, if a person is to classify or 'tag' a picture of a Caribbean beachfront property, a person may tag it as "Caribbean" or "beach" or a combination of both. However, a person may also tag it as "beautiful." In the new web order that is Web 2.0, this is highly acceptable and is in fact encouraged, so that people's opinions are reflected in the web classifications. It is done so that the web will become more adaptable and will reflect what the internet users are thinking, saying and feeling.
Software as a Means of Delivering Service not as a Means of Control
It is important at this point to compare how the direction Web 2.0 is taking differs from Web 1.0. The Web 1.0 major player, Netscape, provided web browser software to the end users so that people could navigate through the web.
Netscape, however, was a way to deliver advertising messages to the users who used Netscape in their desktop. The users were encouraged to make Netscape their home page. To become part of the home desktop web browser, companies in the internet had to avail of Netscape's server services.
In this way, Web 1.0 painted the picture of the web platform as a means by which companies like Netscape increased the monetary worth of their services. Control the way services were delivered and you control the web. Thus, Netscape earned money by selling its commodity, the server services, whose value came from the Netscape web browser application.
The users also had to adapt. They had to install the software Netscape browser if they wanted to use Netscape in web navigation.
On the contrary, Web 2.0 is about delivering service to the end users in a way that gives the users the greatest convenience. For instance, Web 2.0 major player Google acts more as an intermediary rather than the choke point that Netscape aspired to be. It does not require its users to adapt to the browser, Google adapts to its users. It facilitates movement of data and offers its application as a service, free of direct charge to end-users.
Data with User Feedback as More Valuable than Base Data
When software regressed in significance, data took its place. In fact, whoever had control of the data had control of the flow of money. For instance, creating a database of world maps using satellite imagery is a task that requires enormous amounts of monetary investment. Only a few companies had the money to invest and these companies controlled the price of the data they have collected.
Other secondary users, like Google, have to pay the owners of the mapping data to be able to provide their maps to Google users. However, it is Google who has the upper hand when it comes to user popularity. This is because Google lets the users add value to the data by asking for their feedback and by integrating the end-users' inputs.
As another case in point, Wikipedia, the publicly accessible and modifiable web-based encyclopedia has become a prominent Web 2.0 player by utilizing the scores of internet users in building a database of user reference materials. If Web 1.0 relied on encyclopedia authorities like Britannica that had data screened, monitored and controlled by the said company's editors, Web 2.0 has Wikipedia whose materials come from collective wisdom and the materials of which continue to be improved upon through successive use.
Web 2.0: Implied Uses
Web 2.0 is a web environment where what the users say matter most. Companies who can reach these end-users are imbued with power. Thus, companies wishing to make it in the new Web 2.0 set-up must keep their software and applications easily and readily available to their target consumers. Furthermore, they should welcome their consumers' feedback and modification of the same. By doing this, a company can increase its target reach.
Companies can take advantage of the Web 2.0 phenomenon by putting their clients - the internet users first. They should always be on the look-out for ways to improve their service delivery systems. The object should and always be, keeping the consumers and internet users involved by actively interacting with the users to gauge people's inclinations and preferences. They should harness people's talents into one collective effort to make services, software and data better merely through the addition of various people's inputs.
Companies wishing to get ahead in the new Web 2.0 landscape must also remember that the most effective means of making their mark in the new landscape is by keeping their websites and web-based applications interactive. By letting people add their feedback on these applications, they can be continually improved. This leads to greater customer satisfaction, return customers and powerful viral marketing. In Web 2.0, he who wins the consumer wins the internet market. It all boils down to that.