Buzz words run riot around technology and there’s none so ambiguous as “Web 2.0”. Often misused, Web 2.0 simply describes what the web is becoming today and how users are interacting with it.
The old web was about one-way consumption of content. You read pages, played the odd game, watched a video. Websites were essentially closed doors where you could peek in, read some stuff and wander off elsewhere once you were done. The new web moves beyond this, empowering users to contribute content, to interact with the site and with one another, to gain access to their own data and to move a lot of traditionally desktop-only activities online.
Social interaction is a fundamental aspect of Web 2.0, allowing users to communicate and collaborate together, making them the authors of the website. Photo sharing with Flickr, networking and socialising with LinkedIn and Facebook, sharing links on Delicious, planning business trips on Dopplr.
Websites interact on the platform of the web, sharing data via APIs and syndicating content via RSS feeds, using best practise technologies such as CSS, semantic HTML, web services, and microformats. Data can also be shared in simple ways, such as YouTube giving its users code to embed videos on their own website.
You can do more and more on the web these days, from managing (or sharing) your schedule with sites like 30 Boxes and Google Calendar, or writing documents with Google Docs. With the rise in functionality of what you can do on the web more people will go online, thus creating large and economically valuable communities.
Although Web 2.0 is a rather loose term defining a collection of technologies and methodologies to build websites, some of which may not apply to you, there are simple things you can take away from it.
Adding an RSS feed to your site is a great quick win, instantly pushing your content out to a wider audience. The VCard format has been used for years by businesses sharing contact details. You can use Microformats to mark up contact details in this format, allowing users to export contact details to their address books. You can see an example at the Judge Business School where we tagged up the entire faculty in this way.
Web 2.0 is the evolution of the web. It’s still early days and as users become more aware of how to connect and interact with what is around them, the web can only become a more mature and useful tool for us all.