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Web 2.0: The power of 2 August 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Blogging, Internet.

The web has always had more than its fair share of buzzwords and acronyms. But, every now and then, one pops up that causes everyone to go completely nuts, yet no-one can actually explain what it means. Web 2.0 is one. A search for it on Google returns no less than 820 million results, more than ‘iPod’. At this year’s Internet World in May, six speakers, including Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman, chose to talk about Web 2.0, and drew the biggest crowds as a result.

But, what is it and, more importantly, what impact will it have on brands’ web marketing? As with most buzzwords, there are various interpretations.

Even Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of computer book publisher O’Reilly Media, who coined the term in 2004, required 17 pages to clarify its meaning in an article last year, in which he admits: “There’s a huge amount of disagreement about what Web 2.0 means, with some people decrying it as a meaningless buzzword and others accepting it as conventional wisdom.”

It might be easier to start off with explaining what Web 2.0 isn’t, rather than what it is. James Aylett, chief technical architect at Tangozebra, says: “One of the things everyone is agreed upon is that Web 2.0 isn’t a technology or even a group of technologies: it’s a different way of thinking about web sites.”

Many see Web 2.0 as the second generation or phase of the internet, and the key thing that differentiates it from ‘Web 1.0’ is that it is more open. Or, as Julian Smith, senior research analyst at Jupiter, says: “(The web) has moved relatively quickly from a predominantly one-way, read-only medium to a more two-way, participatory, collaborative and interconnected medium.”

This is reflected in the popularity of blogging platforms such as MSN Spaces and Blogger. According to a report by Technorati last year, a new blog is created every second.

Other sites seeing huge growth include: social networking site MySpace.com (now owned by News Corp); online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, edited by millions of people; Youtube, which lets users upload videos; and photo-sharing web site Flickr.com. These are all regularly cited as classic examples of Web 2.0 services, and what they have in common is that they allow users to upload and share their own content.

The Web 2.0 movement is being aided by new technologies such as AJAX, RSS and Ruby on the Rails, which enable web developers to create more dynamic, interactive content. These tools, along with the rapid growth of broadband, are giving users more control over what they consume.

Consumer content

If we take Web 2.0 to mean the democratisation of content and the empowerment of people, it becomes more than just a meaningless buzzword. There’s no getting away from the fact that many web sites being built today are more interactive than those developed 10, or even, five years ago.

“Applications like Flickr and Youtube have the consumer at the centre.

These sites exist because of the content consumers contribute and their success speaks volumes. Millions of people are viewing the content,” says Rob Forshaw, managing partner at digital creative agency Grand Union.

MySpace’s user base has more than quadrupled to nearly 80 million over the past year, with as many as 270,000 joining every day.

The idea of users participating online and creating communities isn’t new. For example, eBay is an online community built around people buying from, and selling to, each other. Shopping sites like Amazon have allowed consumers to post their reviews for many years. Agency.com’s European chairman and founder, Andy Hobsbawm, says: “The difference is that (user participation) is on a much bigger scale now because there are more than a million people online.”

Read the article at > Web 2.0: The power of 2

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