Defining Web 2.0

Greetings all. Forgive the somewhat off-topic post but I’d like to write a small informative post about a topic that has been popping up left and right at the firm I work for (as well as all over the web): Web 2.0. This post is being written not to remove the phrase “Web 2.0″ from your vocabulary, but rather to insure that you use it correctly through conversation.

First off, in order to understand what Web 2.0 is, you must understand what it isn’t.

Web 2.0 Isn’t a Style

I always hear people saying things to the effect of “Redesigned with a [Web] 2.0 look”. If this is you, sorry buddy, you missed the point. If Web 2.0 was a look then we would need to account for all of the various design trends over the last decade or so (including the God-awful pill buttons, gradient text and unmatched, obnoxious color schemes); in which case we would be somewhere in the neighborhood Web 10,000.7 or so.

Web 2.0 Isn’t a Behavior

JavaScript is once again being embraced by the community (thankfully) and you are sure to see lots of slick animations, fades, wiggles, pops and their friends. Although JavaScript is currently at version 1.7 and is most likely in it’s second reincarnation (from a trend perspective), JavaScript does not offer a good definition of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 Isn’t a Technology

There are lots of buzz-words and acronyms floating about the web now. AJAX, Ruby on Rails, SOAP, REST, Web Services, XHTML, CSS etc. If any of these technologies were Web 2.0, the folks giving the version numbers would need to get a little history lesson. Asynchronous web applications have been around for years (via JavaScript and Flash). Ruby is a well seasoned language with an MVC wrapper around it to make it plug into the web nicely. SOAP, REST, and any other XML-based standard (including XHTML) have also been around for quite some time now and have seen several iterations.

What Web 2.0 Is

It’s possible that you are pretty confused at this point seeing that I’ve made a small list of what Web 2.0 isn’t. So here it is:

  • Web 2.0 is nothing more than an idea; a great one at that.
  • Web 2.0 is user-centric design/development.
  • Web 2.0 is separation of presentation and structure.
  • Web 2.0 is semantic.
  • Web 2.0 is accessible.
  • Web 2.0 is usable.
  • Web 2.0 is using the Internet as a stable platform for applications, commerce, communication, etc.

To put it in complete layman’s terms, Web 2.0 is simply us looking back, reflecting on the past, examining mistakes and making damn sure never to do them again.

Hopefully folks reading this will have further clarity on this seemingly confusing topic. Truth be told, Web 2.0 is simple. Granted, there are lots of technical details that I’m excluding from this post. In summary, think of this more of a general synopsis aimed toward the folks who are adding more to the confusion. If you are interested in learning more about this, be sure to read Tim O’Reilly’s “What is Web 2.0.”

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