Coined by Tim O’Reilly and O’Reilly Media in 2003, “Web 2.0” speaks to how the collective minds of people bring value to everyone through the use of the Internet. At Joint Contact we like to think of this as the “Power of Us“. Although exciting, the Web 2.0 movement has ushered in a host of new business trends and technologies that can leave one feeling dizzy and often confused. This article attempts to unravel the mystery of this growing technology trend.
What happened to Web 1.0?
In trying to define Web 2.0 many of us still don’t grasp the concept of “Web 1.0” and how things have evolved in the past few years. Although we haven’t heard of any organizations or think tanks that have come up with an official definition, our group defines Web 1.0 as the “Power of Me“. If we go back to the late 90’s, businesses began to harness the power of the Internet in order to extend brick and mortar businesses to reach customers in places they never thought possible.
Soon it became clear that the Web could not only allow companies to increase sales, but could help reduce costs by providing self-service tools and processes. Now banks, grocery stores, investment firms, travel agents, department stores and airline companies all use web based tools to help them reduce organizational costs by promoting online customer self-service. Companies like Dell Computer were also quick to see its advantages and were able to shrink their supply chain by selling computers direct to consumers, bypassing the need for storefronts and product resellers.
Now that most of us have adapted to the first version of web, “Web 2.0” is allowing us to extend the 1.0 model by connecting with others. At Joint Contact we see Web 2.0 as a combination of sub categories. These include “connecting with people we don’t know” and “connecting with people that we do know”.
Connecting with people that we don’t know
Examples of this trend are seen with “Social Networking” sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Linked-In. Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you understand the basics of this model, and probably use one of these sites on a periodic basis.
Lately we’ve been hearing the phrase “Social Media”. Our assumption is that the idea of connecting with people that you don’t know extends not only through web pages and blogs, but through other types of media including audio and video. Podcasting (audio or video) through iTunes and YouTube are great examples of services that increase in value based on the collective participation of its contributors.
Creating value with those you don’t know isn’t limited to business or personal networking. Ongoing projects such as Wikipedia, Linux and the Mozilla Foundation (e.g. FireFox) are initiatives based on the participation of people working together to build online encyclopedias, desktop operating systems and software.
Connecting with people that we do know
On the other side of Web 2.0 are services and technologies that allow us to connect with people that we do know. This is a nice bonus of the Web 2.0 movement, as people are now discovering they can also use the web to collaborate and share information across vast distances for relatively little cost.
Before Web 2.0, sharing computer data within groups to was limited to establishing a local or wide area network and setting up the appropriate software to connect each computer. Information retrieved was also limited to the desktop which meant you couldn’t easily share your list of contacts or files with your colleagues that used Mac OS or Linux (yes we are assuming you run Windows).
Under Web 2.0, the goal is to share information without any limitation in technology or infrastructure. This popular trend has created a foundation for open standards such as HTML, XML, RSS, OPML and iCalendar formats that are used to connect people with information – regardless of platform or device type. Building on these standards many companies (including Joint Contact) have built web based solutions that transcend the need for a LAN by providing these applications as a software “service”.
Similar to their social media counterparts, SaaS (Software as a Service) applications are designed to enhance communication for groups that need to share information. Examples of SaaS based applications include Document Management and Collaboration (e.g Joint Contact), Customer Relationship Management, Timekeeping, Wiki’s, Calendar Management, Task Management, Defect Tracking Systems and Project Management.
Where do blogs fit it in?
Because blogs are easy to setup and update, blogging is one of the fastest growing areas of the Web 2.0 movement. Joint Contact considers blogs to be hybrid of Web 2.0 categories as they can be implemented to meet different needs. For example, a blog can keep customers informed of product announcements (like ours), provide help documentation, or can voice opinions on news, politics or technology. One trend that we see emerging are small groups coming together in a “co-op” fashion to blog on a number of closely related topics. Successful examples of this can be seen at sites like Slate, SimpleTalk, Digg, ReadWriteWeb and WebWorkerDaily.
Blogs are also unique Web 2.0 solutions as they incorporate technologies like RSS that are traditionally used in SaaS based offerings (Click here to learn more about RSS and XML).
Beware of Buzzword Bingo
Now that you understand the basics of Web 2.0 one item you should be aware of is “Buzzword Bingo”. Buzzword Bingo occurs when people use cool technology phrases like “Web 2.0” to describe anything technical, and is usually unrelated and nonsensical. Why do people do this? As with anything in business, people like to show off and demonstrate how they are more in touch with the latest trends than the next person. Here’s a great example from IBM of Buzzword Bingo in action:
If you hear your colleagues talking about “value added, disruptive, AJAX based, SEO applications” as being a part of Web 2.0 movement, take what they say with a grain of salt.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this overview but hopefully things are starting to make sense. This tutorial is continued with an overview of RSS and XML technologies.
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