I have read a lot about web 2.0, but one of the best explanations I have come across recently was the opening sections of Key differences between Web1.0 and Web2.0 by Graham Cormode and Balachander Krishnamurthy, published in First Monday. V.13No.6, June 2008. Now I must admit I have not read the whole article yet, but the author’s attempts to define web2.0 struck a chord with me. Here are some excerpts:

“Web 2.0” is a term that is used to denote several different concepts: Web sites based on a particular set of technologies such as AJAX; Web sites which incorporate a strong social component, involving user profiles, friend links; Web sites which encourage user–generated content in the form of text, video, and photo postings along with comments, tags, and ratings; or just Web sites that have gained popularity in recent years and are subject to fevered speculations about valuations and IPO prospects.

Deciding whether a given site is considered Web2 or Web1 can be a difficult proposition. This is not least because sites are dynamic, rolling out new features or entire redesigns at will, without the active participation of their users. In particular, there is no explicit version number and active upgrade process as there is with a piece of software or a communication protocol, and many sites are referred to as being in “permanent beta.”

Some of the important site features that mark out a Web2 site include the following:

  • Users as first class entities in the system, with prominent profile pages, including such features as: age, sex, location, testimonials, or comments about the user by other users.
  • The ability to form connections between users, via links to other users who are “friends,” membership in “groups” of various kinds, and subscriptions or RSS feeds of “updates” from other users.
  • The ability to post content in many forms: photos, videos, blogs, comments and ratings on other users’ content, tagging of own or others’ content, and some ability to control privacy and sharing.
  • Other more technical features, including a public API to allow third–party enhancements and “mash–ups,” and embedding of various rich content types (e.g., Flash videos), and communication with other users through internal e–mail or IM systems.