Web 2.0 is the current state of online technology as it compares to the early days of the Web; that state is characterized by greater user interactivity and enhanced communication channels.
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.
The social nature of Web 2.0 is another major difference between it and the original, static Web. Increasingly, Web sites enable community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Types of social media sites and applications include forums, microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis.
Elements of Web 2.0
- Wikis: Websites that enable users to contribute, collaborate and edit site content. Wikipedia is one of the oldest and best-known wiki-based sites.
- Social networking: The practice of expanding the number of one's business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals. Social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
- User-generated content (UGC): Writing, images, audio and video content -- among other possibilities -- made freely available online by the individuals who create it.
- Unified communications (UC): The integration of multiple forms of call and multimedia/cross-media message-management functions controlled by an individual user for both business and social purposes.
- Social curation: The collaborative sharing of content organized around one or more particular themes or topics. Social content curation sites include Reddit, Digg, Pinterest and Instagram.
The History of Web 2.0
The two major technological components of Web 2.0 were the 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 popularizing 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.
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.