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Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a classic case of a new term being bandied about by commentators and publicists without anybody having a very clear idea what they’re talking about. Almost every new application or idea for anything to do with online commerce or user interaction with the Web is being described as part of this wonderful new concept, but it’s hard to tie down what it means.

The term was coined by Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty in 2004 during a conference discussion about the future of the Web. Their view was that the companies that had survived and prospered after the bubble had burst in 2000 had certain qualities in common. All had a strong connection to and involvement with their user base or customers (think of’s reader reviews, for example) or they were collaborative, like Wikipedia or Flickr, or they relied on people telling each other about good ideas in a process called viral marketing. Tim O’Reilly summed their ideas up in an article in September 2005 as “Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era”. Or, putting it more simply, “Users add value.”

But others argue that the term means something different. As the Birmingham Post put it in December 2005, “Typically, a Web 2.0 service is one that uses the very latest technologies to provide a website that works more like an application on your desktop.” And others suggest it can include the idea of taking various sources of Web information and mixing them to make a new interactive service, for which the term mashup has been borrowed from the underground music scene. People have included within the Web 2.0 concept such technologies as social networking, wikis, social bookmarks, blogging and RSS newsfeeds.

Since then the 2.0 element has been borrowed and applied to a wide range of technological innovations, mostly Web-related. In June 2007, Computer Weekly remarked that “We have had Marketing 2.0, PR 2.0, Democracy 2.0, Identity 2.0, Jobs 2.0 and even Lunch 2.0.” I’ve also seen travel 2.0 and several examples of television 2.0. I’ve also seen it several times as a verb, 2.0-ify.

Perhaps one day everybody will come to a consensus about what Web 2.0 and 2.0 actually mean.

All that guesswork underlines another fundamental shift in the web: the move away from static web pages to a more interactive, real-time environment. It’s the next generation. It’s the Web 2.0. And it’s already underway.

Entrepreneur, 1 Jan. 2006

Furthermore, some believe that the future of the Internet is a trend dubbed Web 2.0 (though some skeptics call that moniker an empty phrase, born of marketers and smacking of empty sloganism). Community-based sites like Wikipedia are a big part of the supposed Web 2.0 movement, and companies like Yahoo! are moving to capitalize on what they apparently believe will be a big part of the Web’s future.

The Motley Fool, 20 Dec. 2005

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Page created 14 Jan 2006; Last updated 28 Jul 2007