Web 2.0, School 2.o, Classroom 2.0, Parent 2.0 --- Oh dear -- what is everyone talking about. To tell you the truth no-one seems to agree on one definition, especially for Web 2.0 so why not start at the beginning and make it up as we go along.
1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.65 -- This is the common way for software vendors to keep naming versions of the same program. Each time they do a fix or an update they need to designate a new number that reflects where the program is now. It is like when Susie leaves her therapists office she has now gone from Susie 2.14 to Susie 2.2!! So at it's very basic level Web 2.0 is the next "version" of the internet. Don't get me wrong -- it's not as if one day the "web overlord" came a did a massive upgrade of the whole World Wide Web. Things like that can't happen (or at least I think they can't) and there is no such thing as a "web overlord" (or at least I hope there isn't). It was a subtle change that happened due to some advances in programming that made it easier for ordinary people (like you and me) to actively participate and contribute to content on the internet. As the new possibilities and functionality started hitting the forefront, the term Web 2.0 was coined to describe this new "version" of the world wide web.
The question becomes what's the difference between Web 1.0 and 2.0? In my mind the three words that answer this best are interactive, social and collaborative. Where 1.0 was the teacher at the front of the class writing notes endlessly on the blackboard and lecturing(think Ben Stein -- in Ferris Bueller's Day Off), 2.0 is the cool teacher that invites you have discussions, do experiments, work as a group and get involved (think Ms. Frizzle of Magic School bus). If we look at a few of the applications of Web 2.0.............
we might get a better idea (or just terribly confused). Overwhelming isn't it. All these applications have one or more of these 3 qualities in common -- interactivity, socialization and collaboration.
Let's take a look at Flickr for our first example. In Web 1.0 there were sites to upload your photo's and send them off to the developer -- there may have even been some simple editing that could be done. In contrast at Flickr you can upload photos, decide who can view them, choose in what way they can be shared (via varying copyrights), tag them for content/location/theme, comment on your own and others photos. In other words you can INTERACT with your photos and others photos, SOCIALIZE with those who have similar interests (tags) as you, and COLLABORATE by tagging and organizing a huge database of photos that can act as a resource for people all over the world.
Probably the best example is the personal Web Page vs Facebook. There were some people who did manage to put up personal web pages in the early web. It was a bit tedious, required some technical know how and tended to consist of a few photo's and static text. There wasn't much chance for a visitor to your website to actually interact with you other than to send you an email from a link on your page. Well, if you have ever been on Facebook, I needn't go on. If you haven't there is an untold number of ways to INTERACT with fellow Facebookers, the whole concept is based on the fact that people want to SOCIALIZE with each other and, whether people realize or not, they are COLLABORATING to produce the content that is available on the internet. The makers of Facebook merely created the platform -- it is you, the end user, that is creating the information that makes up the site and makes the site successful. Makes the Facebook creator sound kind of lazy in a way -- doesn't it?
So what's the big deal?? The big deal for me personally is that all of this has made the internet a more enjoyable and useful place to be. It has become more than a place to do research and gather information. It has become a platform from which I can manage my schedule (Google calendar), connect with old friends (Facebook), write this column (Blogger), edit and create documents (Zoho), and even just listen to some tunes (MixWit). All of these things can be easily shared, published and edited with other people. I don't think I'm alone in my increased use of 2.0. Many of my fellow parents who really didn't have any use for the internet are now going online in impressive numbers. What can I say -- they prefer the Ms. Frizzle version of the net!! It engages people and connects people like never before and maybe that's what was really missing from Web 1.0 ---- people.