Friday, February 03, 2006

Web 2.0, naturally

So, what's next? Why, Web 2.0, naturally / Latest buzz is about making sites more interactive, less static: "Executives frequently cite the phrase to refer to a new generation of Web sites that are far more dynamic than their predecessors. Instead of a solitary experience, like reading a newspaper or a catalog online, these Web sites allow users to interact with each other and help shape what appears on the screen.

Think of Web sites that call on visitors to share vacation photos, bookmarks, gift wish lists, restaurant reviews and concert listings with millions of others. The more users who add data, the better the experience is supposed to be.

Indeed, some Web 2.0 features have been around for years, such as eBay feedback, which allows buyers to rate sellers on their customer service. Another is's reader book reviews and the suggestions the company gives to visitors based on what others with similar interests have purchased.

The term Web 2.0 was actually coined a couple of years ago by executives of O'Reilly Media, a publishing company that also helps organize technology conferences (including the Web 2.0 Conference, held annually in San Francisco). It was meant to describe Web sites emerging from the ashes of the technology industry's recent collapse.

(Jargon check: Web 2.0 is a far cry from Internet 2, a super-high-bandwidth version of today's Internet that is still under development.)

A telltale sign of Web 2.0 is user contributions, whether photos, video clips or writings such as travel reviews. Another indicator is tagging -- the ability of users to annotate content with brief descriptions to make it easier to find later in searches.

On YouTube, a year-old site, viewers can watch people dance as if on an Apple iPod commercial, join groups around narrow topics such as punk rock videos and share lists of their favorite videos. Following one of Web 2.0's precepts of open data, the videos uploaded on the site are easily portable and can also be shown on users' blogs or any other Web site.

Digg, the technology news site, operates like a popularity contest. Individuals nominate articles from various news sources to appear on the Web site. Articles that generate the most votes from users become the top headlines. No editors are involved.

What's accelerated Web 2.0 ideals more recently are new technologies. Implementing the movement's basic principles is less expensive and easier than it was several years ago because of the evolution of data storage and software, plus the wider adoption of high-speed Internet connections by consumers.

Ajax, a kind of software that makes Web site features faster to use, is a staple of Web 2.0 companies. So too is RSS, a technology behind online news feeds.

Of all the major Web sites, Yahoo, the Sunnyvale Web portal, has probably embraced Web 2.0 the most. Over the past year, it has acquired a number of rising stars in the field, including online photo-sharing service Flickr, events listing service, and, a site where users can store links to their favorite Web sites and search those of others.

The reputation of Web 2.0 was recently sullied by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written by volunteers. Held up as a shining example of Web 2.0, it suffered a scandal after one of those amateur contributors rewrote history by accusing a former government official of being involved in the Kennedy assassinations.

In any case, some say the definition of Web 2.0 has expanded so that almost every Web site can qualify."

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