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What is Web 2.0?

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Last night, I was at a dinner, where one of the topics of discussion was Web 2.0. More appropriately, what is Web 2.0? It is a damn fine question, and difficult one to answer. D. Keith Robinson writes, “Depending on who’s using the term, you could be talking about the Web as a platform for applications, a philosophy in building and designing Web applications, a group of powerful Web technologies, and much more.” Mark Sigal says, “At the core, it is an applied web service model that blurs the line between software and service.”

Dave Winer says, “Web 2.0 is a marketing concept used by venture capitalists and conference promoters to try to call another bubble into existence.” Richard McManus has his own take here.

From my perspective, I define Web 2.0 as a “collection of technologies – be it VoIP, Digital Media, XML, RSS, Google Maps… whatever …. that leverage the power of always on, high speed connections and treat broadband as a platform, and not just a pipe to connect.” Clearly, Web 2.0 is different and many things to many people. What is your definition? How do you view it? Curious to find out, especially before next week’s Web 2.0 conference.


59 Responses to “What is Web 2.0?”

  1. So I like your characterization Om, because it shifts the perspective of the Web from simple commodity (asphalt) to meta-service (interstate system).

    Winer, as usual, is hilarious and accurate. However, since we’re branding the “next big thing” let’s play with that. Every generation gets a name, why not this phase of technology development?

  2. I’ll make an analogy with a skyscraper building process….

    The Internet is the steel open structure. Thanks to the links of multiple nodes we got a beautiful structure

    Web2.0 refers to the result of the hard work of the stunt builders (hackers), its knowledge and new tools that climb into the open structure and lay down walls and floors that allow us the mere mortals to move into the building and get a new a completely new perspective from its heights.

    Web3.0 will be Sir TBL dream, and open, free Semantic Web for all where no digital divides will exist.

  3. Metrofeed

    Oh, I also meant to add that I mostly agree with Winer, as the networking of the world through communication devices is an ongoing process. But at the same time, it is helpful to have marking points to help keep track of history :)

  4. Metrofeed

    I think web 2.0 is just about tools– tools to let users and larger groups of people do more with the web. It used to be that it took serious technical knowledge or cash to express yourself using the internet. Web 2.0 is the next wave in people using the web and changing it at the same time. VOIP would fall into this, because it’s a tool that allows more people to use the web.

    Web 3.0 might be the ability for even causal users to create tools for other users, or perhaps the coming wave of 3rd world internet use and integration.

  5. This is about the death of inefficiency more than the rise of Blah X.0.

    All of these crazy benefits of communication are the result of new, open standards and the commodification of existing technology.

    When all this stuff stabilizes a little and truely new applications are developed then, maybe we can call it Singularity 0.2 beta, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

  6. the funny thing is, is how caught up we are in “definitions” – as far as i know, there was no web 1.0 conference, so why the need to define a second gen? has anything actually CHANGED? are different services being offered? is a blog not a personal webpage on angelfire/geocities? is meebo not AIM express? is netvibes not myyahoo?

    im all for the way things are working, i just hate succumbing to the buzz factor – it makes me question our own development for fear of trying to be “web 2.0” rather than just implementing cooler and more efficient ways of doing things we did before

    what i hypothesize is that there is a new generation of webbies that witnessed the fun and excitement of the 90’s and since things are opening up, everyone is trying to get some action. along the way they invented some words to make it seem like they are “different” – which is fine, because i am in this group as well… which is why i can admit to what is going on.

  7. Although I agree with Dave on some things I disagree with Dave on this one. Come on this is so simple.. Web 2.0 is the next version of the Web 1.0 (second generation) – it’s simply a better version than the previous version. Om you hit the key highlights. Web 2.0 transends development, deployment, and utility for users.

  8. Nick Murphy

    All this talk about Web 2.0 makes me think of what Web 3.0 will be. My bet is ubiquitous access to the Web 2.0 services/applications. It’s having access anywhere and everywhere to the data of Web 1.0 in a usable fashion create by the applications of Web 2.0 with the added benefit of place information.

    The mesh of wireless technologies should make Web 3.0 possible.

  9. How strange, my girlfriend asked me this exact question tonight. My reply was *almost* word for word what yours was. I left out VOIP, although I should have included it, but concentrated on RSS and explained that information will be delivered rather than sought.

  10. In my view, Web 2.0 is the transition from HTML to XML, or put another way, automating many user activities into machine2machine processes. Ironically, the more machine2machine the web becomes, the more it allows communities to participate in the development of services/products in open source/mashup fashion.

  11. Web 2.0 is Tom Cruise in Minority Report waving at an intelligent interactive screen, accessing and sharing information. That information is anything digital: audio, visual, programs, ajax, rss – and is fed to whomever, wherever, whenever – instantly.

    Or maybe that’s Web 3.0

  12. I heard Jonathon Schwartz describe Web2.0 as Internet37.0 … as in just the next step in a long line of slightly improved internet-based communication platforms.

    In line with Ross’s take, and knowingly side-stepping Om’s very good technical assessment, I lightheartedly say “Web 2.0 is passion, Web 2.0 is people, Web 2.0 is participation, Web 2.0 is mojo, Web 2.0 is fun, serious fun.” Without all that I just don’t think, for example, WIKI, RSS, AJAX, and the website APIs would have been made or used as they have been.

    So far in this entry I haven’t read a definition I don’t agree with, so maybe we need a bigger name ;>

    I wrote an unrant on the web2.0/internet37.0 topic the other day:

  13. With some of the debate about what Web 2.0 is or isn’t, I also was thinking about the conference (which I’m attending) next week. After reading this post, I went off to my own blog and looked at all my posts that I tagged with “Web 2.0”:

    Pretty eclectic bunch of posts. Is it a pipe? Yep. A set of enabling technologies? Yep. Applications? Check. How about interoperability (i.e., web services). Oh yeah.

    The analogies to a PC or even distributed enterprise I.T. (processing; messaging bus; I/O; applications; communications) is clear. That can only lead to one conclusion: the internet *is* a platform upon which applications are built as well as services (and the line between applications and services — whether on the desktop or within the enterprise — are blurring).

    The differentiator of Web 2.0 (vs. 1.0) is that humans en masse are infusing our collective consciousness in to the usage of this platform and its applications/services. In addition, critical mass of use of the always on internet has been achieved and the building blocks of a platform are in place.

  14. I would definitely agree with Nick Murphy (2:40PM) that Web 2.0 is in part about aggregation, manipulation, and presentation of readily available data and information. Companies like Google have provided fodder for innovation with their web search, map services, and blog search. The innovators of the late 90’s harnessed the newly found power of the internet by devleoping applications for e-commerce, collaboration, and information sharing . As many of the “killer apps” in those spaces have been developed brought to the masses, the new innovators have gone on to stand on the shoulders of the previous generation by utilizing the informational infrastructure put in place by Web 1.0 to provide value added services and products.

    As an example, my company, Blogniscient, has developed and launched (currently in beta) a product/site which categorizes and ranks content from blogs. There is a massive amount of interesting and valuable information available within the Blogosphere. Companies like Technorati and Google have provided access to this information through search. Search works well if you know what you are looking for, but many times people just want to browse and see what is being talked aobut (e.g. Watching CNN vs. using google). Blogniscient uses its Article Ranking System to continuously catalog and rank blog content in order to present to the user the information within the Blogosphere which is currently having the greatest impact. This allows the user to get a 30,000 foot view of what the latest buzz within the Blogosphere is and then drill down where there interest is piqued.

    Blogniscient can be found at

    In addition, people reading this site might find the Technology portion of Blogniscient particularly interesting

    Please check it out and feel free to email us and let us know what you think (positive or negative). We are in beta mode and actively seeking feedback from the community.

  15. Nick Murphy

    I think Web 2.0 can be better defined in reference to what “Web 1.0” was. In what I’ll call Web 1.0 the goal was to get as much raw information onto the web as possible. Everyone had to have a web presence and most of those sites consisted of just raw information.

    Web 2.0 is about putting this information resource to work. This generally means web based applications/services that take advantage of raw data often from several sources to turn aggrate data into more than the sum of it’s parts.

    Web 1.0 is still an ongoing project. More raw data is being added to the internet all the time. Web 2.0 began for some a long time ago. Now that everyone is catching up we slapped a name on it.

  16. I entirely agree Gobi…isn’t Web 2.0 errierly similar to dotbomb? we all know how this story ends!

    it’s so sad to see smart people continue to fall in line all for the mighty dollar.

    don’t discount open source, AJAX, RSS, and so on but i’m damn certain things progress just like they did in the past.

    1 out 100 sticks…not the other way around.

    isn’t it funny how popular rss is when we had pointcasts 10 years ago?

    how about podcasts? last time i checked an mp3 file with someone talking on it was old news. another 10 year old story.

  17. Can’t really argue with Dave, but I would agree with Ross Mayfield, who said recently (and simply): Web 2.0 is about people.

    More specifically, it’s about people interacting with the Web and other people on it, and creating something out of that interaction. Clearly, definition creep has hit this term (earlier arguments sampled here:, but Ian Davis at the end of the post nailed it: “Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services.”

  18. anon … actually the whole concept of click to call, or treating voip as an application that can be built into pretty much anything using voicexml was the reason why i included voip. “the consumer voip” is something which i wasn’t hinting at.

  19. I agree with Dave Winer , Web 2.0 is just a clever marketing hype!.

    I bet most of the so called web 2.0 startups (including the likes of will never get out of the geek crowd into mainstreem use !

  20. That’s a great question. I tend to lean towards the concept of it leveraging and extending internet technologies more efficiently and intelligently. Our Open Source CMS (see my link on my name) is a perfect example of this. As is VOIP. :)

  21. what does voip has to do with web2.0? if it is your personal niche and you are interested in it, then fine, but let’s not bundle the whole world into “web 2.0”.

    enough is enough.