By popular demand, I give you a new post.
If you’re hip to all things web, then you either know what people mean by “Web 2.0″ or you think you do, or you’ve at least heard the term. If your business isn’t principally on the web you may not even have heard the term, but you might within the next few months.
If you want the authoritative explanation of what Web 2.0 is, read O’Reilly’s explanation of Web 2.0. If you want my take, continue reading.
The way I’m explaining Web 2.0 to people if anyone bothers to ask my opinion is that when someone says a company or an application is “Web 2.0″ they most likely mean is that the focus is more towards being web-based than similar companies or applications in the past, or it’s just a new way of doing things online that has replaced an old way of doing things online. Quickbooks is accounting software that runs as a client application on your server and/or desktop. But Quickbooks releases a version that is entirely web-based which you can access from any Internet-connected computer. For some people, that’s Web 2.0 because something that was done the old way is now completely web-based and done the new way.
To most of society, Web 2.0 will be a meaningless term, even if it affects their lives. That’s because 1) they won’t see or understand the difference between whatever was Web 1.0 and what is Web 2.0, 2) even if they see it they won’t care because they’ll see it as a new name for something that already existed or which they thought already existed. I think this last point is key–many Web 2.0 companies or applications are merely doing what many less-technical people assumed was already being done years ago. Only those of us who are more technically literate understand the difference between the web in 2001 and what’s going on today in 2006.
What is driving Web 2.0? I think there are three principal factors:
1. High-speed internet finally becoming widely available and widely used. I got DSL in 1999 and I thought everyone would have DSL or something high-speed within 1-2 years. I had no idea it would take this long to get where we are today, and now I’m thinking that it will be a good 5-6 years or more before dial-up is a thing of the past. But high-speed internet is what makes a lot of Web 2.0 apps viable, because a dial-up connection simply isn’t enough to support a high level of interaction.
2. The economy. Democratic party leaders refuse on political grounds to acknowledge anything positive about the economy while Republicans are in power and they’ve got the bulk of the news media following their lead, but any idiot can see that the economy is doing a lot better than it has done since things started going downhill in March 2000. People are excited about investing and throwing money around by way of corporate spending, and this is resulting in more startups and more companies able/willing to spend money on their products/services, including Web 2.0 products/services.
3. A more technically-savvy populace. People who, at the height of the dot-com era, were confused by email and scared to use a credit card online now take the web for granted and use it every day for a variety of purposes. Suddenly businesses that didn’t work in 1999 are now viable, not because the business has changed, but because there is a customer base that didn’t exist before. I don’t think there will ever be enough of a customer base for PimentoLoaf.com, but who knows.
To sum up, for most people Web 2.0 will simply be a buzzword. For those involved with it there are many meanings for many people, but primarily it means something that is more purely web-focused or is a new way of doing things online. For me, Web 2.0 is the reality of what the original promise and hype of the Internet was in the dot-com heyday. My question is whether we’ve all grown up enough to avoid creating another bubble.