Free Video: Recognizing Web 2.0

I’ve just put up a free video of the slides from my talk, Recognizing Web 2.0, which I delivered recently at a meeting of the Victorian Association for Library Automation (VALA).

The following is republished from the Tech Times #153.

In the week between being asked to speak on the subject of Web 2.0 and delivering the talk, I spent a lot of time turning over in my head the loose collection of concepts that have come to form the foundation for Web 2.0.

I’ve covered what Web 2.0 is about in the past; however, presenting this talk to a largely non-technical audience meant taking a fresh look at these ideas. As I assembled my slides, here’s what I came up with:

  • sites as applications

    The progress of browser technology has enabled developers to produce richer user experiences that, in some cases, enable web sites to take the place of desktop applications, with the benefit that your data is stored online and is accessible anywhere you can get Internet access.

  • user participation and the wisdom of crowds

    The Long Tail would suggest that web businesses should be targeting as wide a market as possible, but there are limits to the in-house expertise of any one company. Consequently, we are seeing a trend of successful web applications that generate some or all of their content as a by-product of user participation.

    In some cases, sites even release control of their navigation structures, allowing users to generate a Folksonomy through content tagging. The best and most successful examples of these extract from the “selfish” activities of individual users some valuable result for all users, thus overcoming the so-called “1% rule.”

  • open data and services

    It has become accepted practice for any site that expects users to input valuable information to provide some convenient and automated means to extract that information from the site in a standard format for use in other contexts. Feeds, Microformats, and APIs are all examples of this trend.

That’s all fine as far as it goes, but I still felt like there must be something more, some unifying principle that ties together these disparate concepts, a central idea that is important enough to justify the name “Web 2.0.” It finally came to me on the evening of the talk, as I sat awaiting the arrival of the organizer of the event.

Throughout history, each new medium (books, radio, cinema, television) has first been used to produce content equivalent to that found in existing media. The classic example is radio, which was first used to broadcast radio plays—content based on the familiar medium of theater. Eventually, however, out of the unique strengths of a medium will arise a new kind of content: one that doesn’t mimic what came before, but instead delivers an experience that would never have been possible before. Web 2.0 is that stage in the evolution of the Web as a medium.

I had just enough time to whip out my laptop and add a couple of extra points to my slides before it was time to begin, and as eyes lit up in the audience I knew I’d hit on something.