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Web 2.0 is hot but greater gains await


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POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2009

People talk about Web 2.0 as though it is a huge sea change in Internet technology.

But the fact of the matter is that Web 2.0 represents a relatively slow set of improvements that have come out over the space of a few years.

Such improvements continue to be released. As such, it's often hard to define where Web 2.0 began, and even harder to decide when it ends. But there are certain characteristics that define Web 2.0.

  The foundation of Web 2.0 is better, faster, and more user friendly software. The core of this is a better, faster, more robust user interface.

Other traits include storage of user data on the Web, improved communications and dynamic, up-to-date content.

These software innovations have aided the development of different types of Web sites like social networking, wiki's, and blogs. Many pundits claim that these types of participatory sites are the be-all and end-all of Web 2.0.

This is not the case. The broader spectrum of Web 2.0 includes many other types of popular applications. Typically, such Web sites have attributes usually only seen in desktop applications. Google Maps or Microsoft's Live Search Maps are excellent examples of what we in the industry refer to as “;rich user interfaces.”;

Other Web sites that started out very simply but are behaving more and more like desktop applications include eBay and Craigslist.

Going the other way, we're seeing desktop applications being deployed to the web. This includes word- and spreadsheet-processing, as well as presentation applications. These are all part of the Web 2.0 landscape.

  Contrast this to the early days of the Internet, when Web sites were pretty much limited to providing information that could be modified only by their owners. Basically, users were restricted to entering very small bits of information, hitting “;go”; and waiting for data to come back. This data was often stale.

Sure there were some pretty useful sites, like airline reservations or financial services like online stock trading. But these were very clunky by Web 2.0 standards. In fact, juvenile-thinking Web users often made a game of trying to crash prominent Web sites.

But the defining line of Web 2.0 is often blurry. For example, bulletin boards (bbs) pre-date the Internet. These bbs morphed into message boards, which covered all kinds of topics, like entertainment, news, or your favorite sports team. Nowadays, however, allowing users to post their own contributions to a Web site is often considered to be Web 2.0.

  The bottom line is that folks shouldn't be concerned about whether they're using whether they're using Web 2.0 or not. Instead, focus on whether your software works for you and determine if it's the best available solution to fit your needs.

Before you know it, we'll be on Web 3.0 and having this same discussion.