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Web 2 or Web 2.0 : What is it?

library1.jpgWhat is web 2.0? It’s a term that gives a lot of technology-savvy people a chance to argue about the definition all day long. One of the reasons that’s true is because Web 2.0 is the name observers gave to the evolution they’re seeing, not an actual specification such as HTTP on which the web is fundamentally based.

If you’re over 40, Web 2.0 is the stuff your kids use naturally, but you’re still puzzled about. It’s the online material they can spend hours building with, molding it to meet their own needs, expressing their creativity. It’s not the newspaper-like web pages that you load and read. It’s social networking, ‘wiki’ websites, sites that change as you make selections and help you to find and configure an experience that meets your personal needs. Whether you’re collaborating on MySpace, sharing photo albums on Flickr, or creating your own iGoogle page with the news, weather, phase of the moon or funny videos that you want, it’s all part of Web 2.0.

The technologies used with Web 2.0 range from ancient to born yesterday. That’s one reason why it’s more of a concept than a specification. Some of the more advanced applications use dynamic web technologies like AJAX, but a community ‘wiki’ can be built with the most basic of web programming. Sometimes the designers are aiming for flashy, responsive interaction, while other times they’re designing to just make it easier to share information.

Through bookmarking sites like Digg and Technorati, the web becomes even more like a spide’s web as static, old-style information, evolving websites and personal journal-like ‘blogs’ are synthesized through a kind of computerized gossip page, where participants offer links to their favorite sites and check out others, while indicators track the popularity of each suggestion and organize and present them to the participants. If you have used Amazon.com and enjoyed the ‘people who read Hamlet also read these other books’ suggestion feature, you’ll find the social bookmarking sites are a great way to broaden your horizon.

Web 2.0 means that many applications you formerly had to download and run on your computer are now becoming available online. In fact, Software as a Service (SaaS) is predicted to be an important part of the software industry’s offerings to consumers and also large businesses in the future. Software companies will take care of everything, and you’ll just fire up your web browser and use your application. An example of this already in place is ‘Google Apps,’ where users can work on their documents online from any web browser, even collaborating with others, never downloading specialized software to their computer.

As with many technological revolutions, the beginning is people playing around, then looking for a way to make money with what they’ve discovered. In the case of Web 2.0, the transition from presenting information to truly interactive web sites has fired up many imaginations, and possibilities are growing as companies and enthusiasts create ‘toolkits’ and other ways to share technologies that enable interactive websites. Even some of the features added to Microsoft’s Windows Vista seem internet-inspired, where applications and operating system features aren’t compartmentalized as before, but are more designed for users and programmers to create the tools and experiences that they want to see.

Web 2.0 resources include open source packages and software from companies like Microsoft (which provides its own version of AJAX, formerly called Atlas), and Sun Microsystems (creator of Java). It’s available to software developers to work in programming languages, and on many sites like iGoogle in a form that just allows ‘drag and drop’ configuration and a creative touch, so simple that many children are doing it. Where computers once came with a large set of manuals telling you what you could do and how you must do it, Web 2.0 means users are freed to design their own experiences, and share them with others.

Web 2.0 evolution will likely be in the ‘application space,’ as educators, homes, and libraries and other users join the business users already exploring the possibilities. Regular Web 2.0 conferences are gathering to brainstorm and talk about possibilities, but all it might take for a new Web 2.0 application might be an elementary school student with curiosity. Here are some people (brothers in fact) who know more about Web 2 or social traffic generation than anyone I know at this point. I know these guys personally so I’m comfortable with sending you to their site.

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