So what exactly does Web 2.0 mean?

Keep up with the very latest developments in the digital marketing world

By Dave Ashworth
on 3/11/09

It’s fair to say that Web 2.0 is a well used buzz word within the digital marketing sector; we are asked all the time as to what exactly Web 2.0 means.  In particular, we have also found much debate over what is actually meant by a “Web 2.0” website. Due to ambiguity of the term it’s often used without any real understanding of what it means with regards to the changing nature of the World Wide Web.

Whilst Web 2.0 would suggest that a new version of the web has been released, it’s actually a reference to the changing way in which developers and end users interact with the web and continue to assist it’s growth from a static information portal to a fully collaborative information sharing platform.

Whilst I don’t claim to have a definitive answer as to what Web 2.0 means, I think it’s pretty obvious to see the changes that have taken place on the web leading to the invention of the term Web 2.0, as well as the advancement since.

Cast your mind back a few years to 2004 and beforehand, in particular around 2001 at the time of the dot com boom.  Everyone wanted a website, many didn’t even know why but any self respecting business or individual within many industries didn’t feel they were moving forward unless they had their own website.  Ok, if you had a business or service that you could sell online you may have felt the benefit, but many simply had a static website that sat there doing nothing to indicate their investment had been worthwhile, whilst end users wanted more than to just be presented with information, and so the money fell out of the industry leaving many wondering what purpose the web could serve, particularly to those who did not have a product or service to sell.

Since this era, the ways in which information is presented to users has changed, users can now visit a website and do more than just read the information presented to them, they can interact and participate with the site to increase the site’s value. The common theme that Web 2.0 sites follow is a network of national or global users contributing to the dynamic content of the site.

This is mainly down to that fact that during this time, the web has evolved to become a platform with a desktop application being developed to now run from a browser, and as browser technology has advanced web sites are able to offer a much richer application via technologies such as Ajax.

But note, Ajax is not a Web 2.0 technology as such, it is not requirement of Web 2.0 applications, but can certainly help with the interaction.  Similarly, there is no such thing as Web 2.0 designs; instead there is a layout trend that designers follow as Web 2.0 sites have become popular.

Web 2.0 instead, for me, is demonstrated in the type of sites that have become popular of late via the common community based elements that allow users to participate such as blogs, wikis, tagging etc.  The ones that immediately spring to mind are Facebook, Flickr, Digg, eBay etc.  My personal favourite Web 2.0 website is, as a film buff whilst I am able to search their massive library of films, by contributing to the site in terms of film ratings, reviews etc I am able to discover films that I may have otherwise missed discovering the films recommended by other users with similar tastes to my own.  Whilst this concept is nothing new, Amazon has told you for years what people who bought certain DVDs also bought, by being able to read user content and interact, there is certainly more of a feeling that the content being provided on such sites is relevant.

I also find that content of football related, and indeed many other, websites have also become far more interesting now that users are able to comment and interact on articles left by journalist, who may once have had to heavily research an article before publishing but who now seem to take a topic, introduce this to the user and raise one or two questions, leaving the debate to the users in the form of a blog.

The blog too has been around for some time but in Web 2.0 terms it has evolved from the daily ramblings of a personal website to a powerful tool for developing websites in terms of increasing the delivery power of content and adding massive value to a website in terms of its relevance in an industry which in business terms is a highly effective advertising tool.

As has already been stated, there is no concrete definition for Web 2.0, but essentially, if you want to embrace the culture of a Web 2.0, make sure that your users can participate within and add to the content of your website, as the opinion and input of these users are a key component in the growth of your website, whatever your goal maybe.