Definition

Web 2.0 (or Web 2)

Part of the Internet technologies glossary:

Web 2.0 (or Web 2) is the popular term for advanced Internet technology and applications including blogs, wikis, RSS and social bookmarking. The two major components of Web 2.0 are the technological advances enabled by Ajax and other new applications such as RSS and Eclipse and the user empowerment that they support.

Tim O'Reilly is generally credited with inventing the term, following a conference dealing with next-generation Web concepts and issues held by O'Reilly Media and MediaLive International in 2004. O'Reilly Media has subsequently been energetic about trying to copyright "Web 2.0" and holds an annual conference of the same name. There is, however, some dispute about whether O'Reilly is responsible for the original coinage. Joe Firmage, for instance, used Web 2.0 to describe using the World Wide Web as a platform in 2003.

One of the most significant differences between Web 2.0 and the traditional World Wide Web (retroactively referred to as Web 1.0) is greater collaboration among Internet users and other users, content providers, and enterprises.

Originally, data was posted on Web sites, and users simply viewed or downloaded the content. Increasingly, users have more input into the nature and scope of Web content and in some cases exert real-time control over it. For example, multiple-vendor online book outlets such as BookFinder4U make it possible for users to upload book reviews as well as find rare and out-of-print books at a minimum price, and dynamic encyclopedias such as Wikipedia allow users to create and edit the content of a worldwide information database in multiple languages. Internet forums have become more extensive and led to the proliferation of blogging. The dissemination of news evolved into RSS.

There is no clear-cut demarcation between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 technologies, hardware and applications. The distinction is, to a large extent, subjective. Here are a few characteristics often noted as descriptive of Web 2.0:

  • blogging
  • Ajax and other new technologies
  • Google Base and other free Web services
  • RSS-generated syndication
  • social bookmarking
  • mash-ups
  • wikis and other collaborative applications
  • dynamic as opposed to static site content
  • interactive encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • ease of data creation, modification or deletion by individual users
  • advanced gaming.

Critics of Web 2.0 maintain that it makes it too easy for the average person to affect online content and that, as a result, the credibility, ethics and even legality of web content could suffer. Defenders of Web 2.0 point out that these problems have existed ever since the infancy of the medium and that the alternative -- widespread censorship based on ill-defined elitism -- would be far worse. The final judgment concerning any web content, say the defenders, should be made by end users alone. Web 2.0 reflects evolution in that direction.

Some industry pundits are already claiming that Web 2.0 is merely a transitional phase between the early days of the World Wide Web's existence and a more established phase they're calling Web 3.0.

This was last updated in March 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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