The old days, when the web simply delivered information to people who passively accessed it, are over. It’s a Web 2.0 world now, where people interact, contribute, and connect.
When you look at the power of the Web 2.0 trend in the Internet economy, most people point to the success of Facebook, or the influence of Web 2.0 on business and e-commerce, but the most dramatic example was the political campaign of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, dubbed “Obama 2.0” by some:
• According to the Washington Post, Obama raised about a half a billion dollars from online donations.
• On Facebook, Obama has more than three million friends, compared with about 600,000 for McCain.
• Obama’s campaign videos on YouTube have been viewed an estimated 100 million times, more than triple the number for McCain.
Still, many people are unclear about what “Web 2.0” means. Some see it simply as a new style of web design — simple layouts, bright colors, tabbed navigation, larger font sizes, and boxes with rounded corners. Others equate it with social networking because of the use of Facebook and text messaging in the Obama campaign. Some people see it as just another Internet “meme” — a catch-phrase or idea popular in cyberculture.
But whatever the perception of it, Web 2.0 is a transformational wave that has already taken us from the original World Wide Web we once knew (there was no official “Web 1.0” — in this case the egg came after the chicken) to a new attitude about the Internet, which is: it belongs to the people who use it. This may seem too simplistic, but the truth is that for the most part, the old web was a world where some people published websites and other people passively accessed them. Now, people are less interested in sites that simply deliver information — they want sites with functionality, sites that are actionable, sites where they can interact with the site, contribute content, or connect with other users. The ability to interact, contribute, and connect is at the heart of Web 2.0’s success.
For example, in the ancient days of the web (the 1990s), many sites offered you a way to create a personal homepage (e.g. Geocities) or a blog (Blogger.com), but Web 2.0 sites, such as the pioneering MySpace and the newcomer Facebook, offered a personal homepage that also included a blogging tool, photo galleries, and a way to find and add a network of links to other users. While email and instant messaging had been around long before that, the Web 2.0 sites integrated different tools for interactivity and connectivity.
Where did the term Web 2.0 originate?
The term Web 2.0 first became popular in 2004 after an O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 Conference (O’Reilly is a highly respected publisher of technical books). Even at that time, though, there were websites that offered interactivity and connectivity, and blogging had already been around since the late ‘90s. Facebook had just been launched that year, but it was only intended for college students, not all Netizens. Photo-sharing site Flickr was also launched that year in Vancouver, so it really was a watershed year for Web 2.0 in many ways.
Sites like Go2Web2.0 (www.go2web20.net/) list hundreds and hundreds of Web 2.0 sites. Web 2.0 is not just about social media, though. There are many types of Web 2.0 sites ranging from blogs to wikis (see the list of examples on page 55). As well, many British Columbia companies (and several on Vancouver Island) have developed Web 2.0 sites, such as Flickr, Flock, Udutu, Sitemasher, and DailySplice.
How can businesses benefit from a Web 2.0 strategy?
A recent article in BusinessWeek titled “Why Web 2.0 has Corporate America Spinning” lists the following reasons Web 2.0 is becoming such a popular buzzword in the business community:
• Corporate blogging. Executive blogs, such as those by General Motors and IBM executives, give companies a channel for informal dialogue with their grassroots customers and also provides a way to offer another perspective on what people are hearing in the mainstream media.
• Problem-solving. Web 2.0’s emphasis on social networking can create opportunities for collaboration and outside-the-box thinking in larger organizations. Wikis offer a way to share information and also track how that information changes as people add to it.
• Staying young. Older executives know that Web 2.0 attracts younger employees who are already interacting and sharing information online outside of work. It’s good for recruiting and retention and helps create a more youthful culture in a company.
Web 2.0 is also changing the thinking behind e-government
Over the past few years, the big buzz in public sector organizations was about how to use technology to transform government into e-government. But the popularity of Web 2.0 has started the public sector talking about something that’s being called “Government 2.0.” From the government of Canada right down to municipalities, governments are interested in how they can use social media, such as blogs and message boards, to engage the public, create citizen-centric e-services, and share information.
The city of Toronto’s Web 2.0 Summit, held on Nov 26 and 27, 2008, was held to share ideas about how Web 2.0 and social media (such as wikis, blogs, and social networking profiles) can increase civic engagement, reach all communities, and improve city services, as well as learn new ways for elected officials to engage communities on the services that affect their quality of life.
Here are some different types of Web 2.0 sites and specific examples of each type.
• Blogger is one of the original free blogging services, now owned by Google.
• StumbleUpon is an addictive software that you add to your browser to “stumble” on random websites, but you can also indicate your preferences with a rating tool or suggest sites that should be added.
• Meebo is the web messenger that lets you access instant messaging from anywhere, such as MSN/Live, Yahoo!, AIM, Google Talk (Gtalk), Gabber and ICQ.
• Udutu was created by another Vancouver Island company and provides a free tool for authoring e-learning courses that can also be downloaded and distributed for free.
• Gmail is one of the most popular of the free webmail services, created by Google.
• Mediafire is a free tool for easily sharing files of any type or size over the Internet.
• Trendio is an online prediction game.
• Twitter is a leading micro-blogging site that allows people to post short updates about what they’re doing, called “tweets,” and follow other people’s tweets, too.
• NewsGator allows you to read all of your favourite news, websites, and blogs all in one place.
• Zoho Office Suite is a growing suite of software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools that range from a simple word-processing tool to project management and customer-relationship management tools.
• DailySplice.com is a social media company created by yet another Vancouver Island start-up.
• LinkedIn is a kind of Facebook for business users, a social networking site for connecting with other businesses and professionals and is also used for job searches and hiring.
• YouTube is the most popular free video-sharing web site and lets users upload, view, and share video clips.
• Skype is voice over IP (VoIP) software that’s free to download and offers free-to-call long distance numbers.
• Sitemasher.com is a development and hosting platform (created by a Vancouver company) that includes integrated content management and search engine optimization. Sites can be designed for free, and developers only pay subscription costs after they publish the site.
• Wikipedia is the biggest multilingual free-content encyclopedia on the Internet with content created by its users.