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What is Web 2.0?

How Web 2.0 Is Defining Society

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What is Web 2.0?  It is the idea of a more social and collaborative web.

Photo © Flickr user bensheldon

What is Web 2.0? It is a question with many different answers. There is no clear definition of web 2.0, and like many concepts, it has taken on a life of its own. But one thing is clear: Web 2.0 marks a fundamental change in how we use the Internet.

Web 2.0 is the move toward a more social, collaborative, interactive and responsive web. It is a change in the philosophy of web companies and web developers, but more than that, Web 2.0 is a change in the philosophy of society as a whole.

Web 2.0 marks a change in us as a society as well as the Internet as a technology. In the early days of the web, we used it as a tool. Today, we aren't just using the Internet as a tool -- we are becoming a part of it.

What is Web 2.0? It is the process of putting us into the web.

Web 2.0 is a Social Web

The idea of human society merging with a network of computers might sound like the bad plot out of a pulp science fiction novel, but it is a fair description of what is happening in our society today.

Not only are we increasing our usage of the Internet -- from how much time we spend on it at home to how we are increasingly carrying around a version of it in our pocket -- but we are changing the way we interact with it.

This has led us to a social web where we aren't just getting information dumped to us from a computer, but we are reaching out to connect with other people to hear what they have to say on a subject.

We do this in the form of social media sites like blogs (Techcrunch, Mashable), social networks (MySpace, Flixster), social news (Digg, Propeller) and wikis (Wikipedia, Wikia). The common theme of each of these websites is human interaction. On blogs, we post comments. On social networks, we make friends. On social news, we vote for articles. And, on wikis, we share information.

What is Web 2.0? It is people connecting with other people.

Web 2.0 is an Interactive Internet

These Web 2.0 ideas of bringing the power of people into the Internet wouldn't be possible without the technology to support it. For the collective knowledge of people to be harnessed, websites must be easy enough to use that they don't stand in the way of people using the Internet to share their knowledge.

So, while Web 2.0 is about creating a social web, it is also about creating a more interactive and responsive web. It is in this way that methodologies such as AJAX become central to the idea of Web 2.0. AJAX, which stands for Asynchronous Javascript And XML, allows websites to communicate with the browser behind the scenes and without human interaction. This means you don't have to click on something for the web page to do something.

It sounds simple, but it is not something that was possible until the last few years. And what it means is that websites can be more responsive -- more like desktop applications -- which means that they are easier to use.

This allows websites to harness the collective power of people because the more difficult a website is to use, the less people that are willing to use it. So, to truly harness that collective power, websites must be designed to be as simple as possible so as not to get in the way of people sharing information.

What is Web 2.0? It is an easier Internet.

What is Web 2.0? Putting It All Together

Web 2.0 ideas have taken on a life of their own. They have taken people and put them on the web, and the idea of a social web has transformed the way we think and the way we do business.

The idea of sharing information is being valued as much as the idea of proprietary information. Open source, which has been around for decades, is becoming a significant factor. And the web link is becoming a form of currency.

This is Web 2.0.

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