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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The birth of the new Internet : Web 2.0

By Kwami Ahiabenu,II

Introduction

The internet is growing in bounds and leaps since it inception in 1969 and by 1996 the word "Internet" assumed widespread public use.
It quite obvious that the Internet is undergoing tremendous evolution and this is reflected in the numerous new technologies and concepts contributing to this progression. So are we on the path of development a “new internet” which would replace our good “old internet”? This is a billion dollar question which we must strive to answer because this would bring us closer to translating the potential of the “new internet” into reality. If there is any new word which brings this subject mater into a very sharp focus it would be Web 2.0.


How did Web 2.O begin?
It beginnings is quite easily traceable to a conference brainstorming session in 2003 toward the end of the dotcom depression, between Tim O'Reilly the founder of O’Reilly Media and Dale Dougherty, web pioneer. Mr. Dougherty dropped the term “Web 2.0” as an allusion to the nomenclature for software upgrades, and Mr. Dougherty was applying it to what he hoped would be a second generation of the internet alluding to the many exciting new application regularly found on the web The term "Web 2.0" has no doubt taken hold but like a lot of new concepts does not have one universal definition since there's still a huge amount of disagreement about just what Web 2.0 means. While some people are still arguing about what it means, others perceived it to be a meaningless marketing buzzword, and many others are accepting it as a new contribution to our knowledge bank. There is ample evidence to point out that since 2004, when Tim O'Reilly founded the Web 2.0 Conference, held annually in San Francisco,Web 2.0 has since expanded from a conference into a way of thinking, a new approach at looking at opportunities on the Internet.


What is web 2.0?
There is no standard definition for web 2.0; we can look at it as a cluster of new ideas describing innovations and changes linked to the web, it clear that most Web-based software and services are often referred to collectively as Web 2.0. At this juncture we shall attempt to provide some definitions.
Writing about web 2.0 the economist.com said “It began with a specific and useful definition. In contrast to the static web pages of the 1990s, the second wave of websites would use software (such as AJAX, or “asynchronous JavaScript and XML”) that makes web pages look like dynamic software applications that traditionally run only on personal computers. These applications, moreover, would work with one another in so-called “mash-ups”. Google Maps, for instance, is a web page that not only updates itself constantly but can also share data with other websites to yield independent web pages that display, say, crimes committed or houses for rent in an area. At some point “Web 2.0” took on a life of its own, being applied to online social networks, collective intelligence, blogging and podcasting and “participation” in general”.
According to wikipedia, currently the world largest collaborative piece of encyclopedia written by individuals spread throughout the global, the term Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages.
Web 2.0 isn't a 'thing', but a collection of approaches, which are all converging on the development world at a rapid pace. These approaches, including APIs, RSS, Folksonomies, and Social Networking, suddenly give application developers a new way to approach hard problems with surprisingly effective results.( Jared M. Spool)
One can describe web 2.0 in context of its platform. The key differentiator of web 2.0 is that it designed as the platform itself rather than serving a conduit for other platforms to run on it. Thus web 2.0 serves as an operating system itself enabling it to run more productivity tools such web-based Word processors, calendaring, spreadsheets etc…. Currently on-line word-processing service such as Writely (now owned by Google), Think Free office, Jotspot and Zoho Writer allows users to upload and edit Word documents and other files, and to share them with others. Also Google recently launched a spreadsheet. The industry is now recording a number of web-based products being developed for web 2.0 thereby making web-based applications are a very big component of Web 2.0.
Do we actually have a new version of the web in web 2.0? Though the web is constantly changing, with new things such as web 2.0 coming on the web this significant changes does not mean we have a complete new version of the web since the fundamental underlying system of the web remains the same.

Characteristics of Web 2.0
The main characteristic of Web 2.0 is clearly seen in how it empowers the end user through a flexible content management rather than centralized taxonomy. In this direction, the end user is provided with a very flexible powerful tool with unlimited opportunities. The radical decentralized nature of the web 2. 0 is therefore a core characteristic. For example, instead of centralized “personal websites” blogs empower people to easily post content as and when they want it without any restrictions. Furthermore by allowing comments, users can participate actively instead of being passive consumers of content. When it comes to Web 2.0 marketing it works using a viral system, where friends encourage other friends to use products they are happy about rather than massive marketing directed to all and sundry. This system is a perfect fit for the idea of "permission marketing" – where the users’ permission is sought before marketing information is passed on to them.
Also another characteristic of web 2.0 is democracy. Web 2.0 provides tools for democracy on the web to play out and we can point to a lot of examples in this direction. One popular example is the manner the tool of wikis which allow all and sundry to be part of conversations in an open and participatory manner. Web 2.0 democracy is manifested both in the selection of ideas and its production as well. In the news process as well, democracy seems to win is in deciding what counts as news, for example, http://digg.com/
At the end of the day, the crucial characteristic of Web 2.0 is the speed and ease at which new applications are being built buttressing the assertion that Web 2.0 holds immerse potential.


Benefits of WEB 2.0
The key benefit of web 2.O is the provision of an easy way for users to collaborate and share documents and data with others, which can help speed up the rate at which ideas are generated, process and hopefully used. It premised on social interactions both in a top up and bottom up manner across various elements of social strata.
The web with its billions of pages can be very impersonal but with web 2.0 users can now personalise the web content in a very practical manner thus leading to more dominance of user generated content. Furthermore, connectedness, collaboration and the social internet, sharing and connectivity are all benefits that can be derived by the use of Web 2.0 tools. Also web 2.0 can provide a very important process to foster and sustain innovation both at end user and corporate level.
Peer production process where mass production of content takes place by the masses, is one of the central benefits of Web 2.0. which is enabling us to capture collaborative wisdom. Wikipedia is a good example of peer production process.


Web. 2.0 for business = Enterprise 2.0
The benefits of web 2.0 are not only limited to the end user alone, companies and organizations can also take advantage of it. By using web 2.0 tools organizations can create an environment where innovation is encouraged, promoted and rewarded. Such web 2.0 tools can enable organization teams members be more productive, create, share knowledge and innovate.

Building blocks and tools of WEB 2.0
You can think web 2.0 building blocks as various technologies which are enabling applications and tools to be created for Web 2.0. Web Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), web standards and Ajax "(means javascript now works.) are very important building blocks which enable applications and tools to be built. The increasing availability of these building blocks is driving the growth of Web 2.0 applications. For example, The Google Maps API allows anybody the power to overlay any data such as crime data, public health report etc onto any place Google Maps can show.
Many recently developed concepts and technologies are seen as contributing as key building blocks of Web 2.0 they include but not limited to podcasts, tags, wiki, weblogs, vlogging, linklogs, wikis, podcasts, video sharing, news readers and aggregators, RSS feeds and other forms of many to many publishing; social bookmaking , web APIs, web standards, online web services, among others.

WEB 2.0 Products and services
There are numerous products and services enriching the web 2.0 basket. See some collection of web 2.0 products and services at
http://knowledgechief.blogspot.com/2006/07/some-collection-of-web-20-products-and.html



end of part one
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PART TWO – takes a look some selected web 2.0 products and services

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