What is this Web 2.0 thing all about?

This column was published in The Times on 6 June 2007. You can see the published version here.

There is a lot of jargon floating in the Web 2.0 soup, so much so that the talk about the Web today is beginning to resemble the bubble of the late 1990s (and we all know how that worked out).

Web 1.0 was about static web pages and garish banner ads and promises of revolutionising the business world with the amazing platform that is the Internet and which would enable a small business to access millions and millions of customers with a simple web page. Ultimately the bubble burst because there was little common sense applied to the many businesses that launched on the Web. Startups were selling dog food on the Web without giving a moment’s thoughts to the costs involved in transporting heavy bags of dog food or selling nappies without considering the convenience of, well, convenience store. In short, Web 1.0 was big on promise and lacking when it came to the deliverables.

Along came Web 2.0. This next generation of the Web is accompanied by improved bandwidth (which makes some of the promised services of the Web 1.0 era possible and even profitable), a new communal mentality and a new level of user friendliness.

Leaving aside all the fancy jargon that seems to have become part and parcel of the Web 2.0 era (examples include “blogs”, “podcasts”, “wikis”, “netcasts” and “mashups”), Web 2.0 (or the Social Web, as I prefer to think of it) is about three things: listening to the conversations people are having about you and topics you are interested in, participating meaningfully in those conversations and sharing your thoughts, ideas and knowledge with like-minded people. To put it another way, Web 2.0 is about connecting with people around you and on the other side of the globe in a very real, personal way.

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