your help?

I’m trying to write a summary of Web 2.0 for someone, and I’d like to bounce this draft off of my peers out here.  My goal is to get the basics across, including terms that might come up in a discussion of Web 2.0, without being totally overwhelming.  My tone can be fairly casual/conversational.

In particular: is there anything I can cut or need to add? Is anything way too confusing? I’m planning on also sending a link to those Commoncraft videos.


The “Web 2.0” name was invented in 2004 by Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Books, one of the top publishers of technical books. (About half the books on my shelf are from O’Reilly.) The name itself is often used tongue-in-cheek by web folk, and argued over as much as the word “blog,” but like blog, it’s stuck.

In this case, to describe an amorphous universe of technologies, visual identities, and social expressions.  I started this as an email with 3 or 4 bullet points and then realized I was only getting the tiny tip of the iceberg.  This is tricky for me to capture because I’ve been pretty well immersed in it from the beginning.

The elements of Web 2.0 emerged from two basic trends.  First, in the period 2001-2004 there were a lot of unemployed web people with nothing but ideas and time.  Second, bandwidth has steadily been going up, which makes it possible to do more with programming, graphics, audio and video.

Basic concepts:

1)      The web as an application. (Not just reading, but doing.)

2)      Interaction among site visitors. (Rating, commenting, reviewing, etc.)

3)      Standards for creating and using data across sites.

4)      Radical transparency.*

Top 10 terms to know: 

1)      Blogs: a website with small-ish pieces of content organized in reverse chronological order.

2)      Wikis: a website that can be edited inplace by the visitors and that is organized on-the-fly.

3)      Forums: a website that creates visitor-to-visitor direct conversation.

4)      Podcast: an audio blog. iTunes can subscribe to podcast feeds (see #4) and sychronizes with iPods, thus the catchy name.

5)      AJAX: a combination of web programming techniques & approaches that increase the interactivity of a site.

6)      RSS: a standard for publishing notifications of site updates.  Also known as Atom, feeds, or syndication. RSS files are used by software/web applications, not by humans.

7)      API: a concept of publishing data standards and methods so that your site/application’s data can be used by other sites and applications.

8)      Tagging: a user-generated way of organizing content, created over time.  Often seen as “clouds” of keywords.

9)      Social networking: a website to connect with existing friends, online acquaintances, and new people.  Everybody has a profile and there are various ways of connecting between profiles.

10)  The Long Tail: there’s an audience for almost anything. Imagine a graph rating the popularity of all movies: a huge spike of the few most popular, rapidly declining to a “long tail.”

The look & feel: 

  • Big fonts, especially for headlines
  • Lots more white-space
  • Design elements that are shiny, wet-looking, or that cast shadows
  • Unusual product names, not necessarily descriptive of the service

Key sites:

  • Google Maps, Docs, Reader and Mail: full-fledged applications that run in the browser (honestly, almost anything Google does is by definition Web 2.0)
  • Flickr: photo-sharing, tagging, rating, discussion
  • shared bookmarks, tagging
  • Wikipedia: collaborative encyclopedia, anyone can edit
  • MySpace/Facebook/LinkedIn: social networking
  • Netflix, Amazon: collaborative rating, long-tail stocking practices
  • Basecamp: collaborative project-management, mainstay of Web 2.0 design philosophy

* On radical transparency: it means letting go of control of the message to some extent, being aware that people are going to talk about their experiences somewhere anyway.  Some scary but meaningful possibilities here.  I have a good article from Wired earlier this year that might be helpful.


So, fire away….