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Web 2.0: Is it just hype?

For the past year or so, there’s been lots of chattering about this Web 2.0. The term came to life when Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media brainstormed with MediaLive’s Craig Cline.

Is it just another term that Web experts and personalities are spreading to drum up followers and business? If nothing else, many (resources at the end of the article plus we’ll skip quoting the ones that have been quoted a hundred times already) agree the Web is still maturing and it’s changing from “I go get” to “come to me,” says Thomas Vander Wal.

The term is hype. That is all it is. Hype. Cry and scream, if you want, but the Web can’t have a label like this. It’s not a project with a start and finish timeline. It evolves. When the first phone came to be, it didn’t get names like Phone 1.0 or Phone BC (before cell). The phone industry involved and now the lines are blurring between phones and Internet connections, even cable television.

But, the thoughts and ideas behind it are important.

Poster children for 2.0

The Web is no longer static and one-way ó visitors read content and play no role. Instead, we’re seeing users who participate and connect to each other using services as opposed to Web sites. Applications are no longer limited to desktops or even the Web site itself as more Web-based applications come out.

Sites are becoming more interactive so users aren’t simply sitting and watching the Web go by. They can do something with the content they see, even if it’s not their own and it happens instantly.

Zimbra, Netvibes, Writely, CalendarHub, ObjectGraph Dictionary, TuDu, and a Periodic Table of the Elements are examples of two-way communication that occur in real-time. Go to these sites and play with them. It should be easy to see why these (and few other obvious that don’t need another mention) are the epitome of where the Web is going.

Repeating themes

In most Web 2.0 articles, the following are recurring themes:

*Semantic markup.


*Portable content - content crosses paths, appears in multiple places, and connects.

*Users get real-time control.

*Adding metadata, tags, keywords to anything and everything.

Content can go anywhere thanks to RSS feeds and API (application program interface). Feeds allow people to subscribe to a Web site’s content or port them into their own Web sites or mobile devices. Google, Amazon, and eBay have APIs to let developers build applications that use these Web site’s tools. An example of API is adding a Google map to your Web site that shows how to get to your location.

All of these are indicators of the big steps forward we’re seeing on the Web. They should not be grouped and labeled.

I still don’t get it. What is 2.0?

Forget Web 2.0, but not what it represents.

It represents the change in how people and information interact on the Web. It represents designers and developers are thinking about how people use information and that users add value. It represents different approaches for making this happen.

To be honest, writing this article has been difficult. Read the many definitions of Web 2.0 on the Web and no two say the same thing. It’s yet another buzzword. As Rick Segal writes in his post on the topic, “Don’t look for the buzz words to get you into the game or get you a check.”

The term isn’t important. It’s about seeing a change in the Web as users enjoy more real-time control and participation while connecting to each other through many means. So to heck with the “label” and just know the Web is growing up and a lot of things are happening in terms of the advances made to make it a more interactive experience that puts the user in the driver’s seat.

“The term Web 2.0 particularly bugs me. It’s not a real concept. It has no meaning. It’s a big, vague, nebulous cloud of pure architectural nothingness,” writes Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software.

Vander Wal says, “There is more hype in Web 2.0 than great steps forward.”


Special thanks to Nick Finck of Digital Web.

Posted October 24, 2005 08:00 AM :: Tags: :: Category: Web Design


Thanks for the great article, Meryl.

"The term isnít important. Itís about seeing a change in the Web as users enjoy more real-time control and participation while connecting to each other through many means"

You nailed it.

Posted by: Joshua Porter at October 27, 2005 05:39 AM
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