Web 2.What?

I’m preparing a presentation for a staff development day coming up in March. One of the things the presentation includes is a series of slides with short definitions of buzzwords. Blog. Wiki. Podcast. Phishing. Terabyte. No problems.

Web 2.0? That’s a little tougher. I quickly found that I needed two slides. Then, maybe, half a dozen. Then, perhaps, an entire presentation. The word gets thrown around a lot, and it’s even starting to creep into more mainstream media now. But what is Web 2.0?

Well, if you start at reference.com (which, I think, is connected with dictionary.com and thesaurus.com), you see Web 2.0 as a computing platform. More accurately, it’s the transition of the web from the traditional static broadcast medium, where there are few authors and lots of information consumers, to a system where people can create, modify, and interact with the content. The next two pages of text go into social networking and the technologies involved to implement this transition.

Over at Wikipedia, the explanation is a  little more detailed. They offer four different definitions, including a decentralized, collaborative approach to distributing web content, more organized and categorized content, and a shift in the economic value of the web.

Interestingly, it appears that one site is plagiarizing the other. Consider these two excerpts:

From reference.com:
" An earlier usage of the phrase Web 2.0 systems such as was a synonym for Semantic Web. The two concepts are similar and complementary. The combination of social networkingFOAF and XFN with the development of tag-based folksonomies and delivered through blogs and wikis creates a natural basis for a semantic environment."

From wikipedia:
"An earlier usage of the phrase Web 2.0 was as a synonym for "Semantic Web", and indeed, the two concepts complement each other. The combination of social networking systems such as FOAF and XFN with the development of tag-based folksonomies and delivered through blogs and wikis creates a natural basis for a semantic environment."

Tim O’Reilly proposed a more compact definition last fall:

"Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation," and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences."

He’s focusing on the web-as-platform aspect more than the social networking/collaborative workspace idea.

Last winter, Richard MacManus took a more scientific approach to determining a definition for Web 2.0. In the end, he also sums it up by using the "web as platform" definition, though he leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Utimately, I think it’s more along the lines of what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind for the web. It’s a place where people can create their own organization systems, draw their own connections between ideas. Everyone is a both a publisher and a reader. It’s all about organizing, classifying, and sharing ideas.

Now, how do I fit that on a slide?

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