What Web 2.0 Really Means

Web 2.0 is such a popular new that you probably cannot hear people mentioning it now and then when they talk about the Internet. There is one small problem though… what Web 2.0 really means? It seems that even experts cannot agree on a clear definition.

Term Web 2.0 was originally used by O’Reilly and by Web 2.0 they try to describe design patterns and business models for the next generation of web software. They have faced criticism: Tim Berners-Lee for example says “nobody even knows what it means”. Read those articles for further information and decide yourself.

Examples of Web 2.0 are said to be blogs, flickr.com, YouTube.com and other services that use technologies such as AJAX and let users provide major part of the content. Critic is presented that all these sites represent what the Web should have been in the first place.

One of the problems with the Web 2.0 definition is that it seemingly don’t have one, but many people “know a web 2.0 site when they see one”. It’s bit similar problem as “casual games” have. “Casual games” is a loose definition (and some the descriptions could very well belong to AAA games – that are played “casually”) – but people know what a “casual game” is when they see one.

Whether there’s Web 2.0 or not, I think I’ll understand the phrase enough to spot what people mean. And when I don’t know what they mean, I can always ask clarifying questions. I don’t much care about the exact definition – and less about arguing over it.

What is important – in my opinion – is to understand Web 2.0 as a business opportunity and what it is doing for games. Kaneva is taking one approach, and using “aspects of Web 2.0” in games. I previously mentioned David Perry going in the MMO vehicle – they are aiming to get 100,000 candidates for making one game. Outback Online is taking even more radical approach by letting users really create content for the game. Pjio is a gaming portal in beta phase using new technologies to bring fun. Great Games Experiment (or GGE) is a social site for game developers, producers, players, publishers and others (I also have my own account there) taking advantage of social aspects of Web 2.0.

I agree that there is no a 100% clear definition for Web 2.0, but there’s much less reasons for spending energy on debating whether Web 2.0 is a buzzword or not. What matters is how your company is benefiting from it. Web 2.0 elements – such as social sites, user generated content – are becoming more and more popular, and there are opportunities there.

It’s up to you to how you approach it: whether you ignore, benefit from or argue over it.

Juuso Hietalahti


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  2. @Hanford: There was some stuff mentioned in that O’Reilly article that mentioned:
    “AJAX is also a key component of Web 2.0 applications such as Flickr, now part of Yahoo!, 37signals’ applications basecamp and backpack, as well as other Google applications”
    I believe that the main idea is not the technology like you said – but to provide “rich user experiences”: smoother and easier than traditional HTML pages. So while technology is not necessarily the driving force, I think it has its role in Web 2.0 world: to enhance that user experience.

    And as mentioned: there’s no right or wrong answer here (well, not for me anyway :) and I’m not saying that the stuff I write here would necessarily be “the way it is”. I’m simply suggesting that many Web 2.0 applications use bit more elegant technologies.

  3. I don’t think web2.0 has anything to do with the technology (AJAX, CSS, etc). Web2.0 is about community and about end-user empowerment.

    Blogs are a great example. Blog sites let anyone be an author, and blog comments empower the end-user (the readers) and give them a voice. Flickr and Youtube make the user’s content the star. Amazon understood the power of this in the first wave and pioneered user reviews, ratings, and overall community building.

  4. I like to look at Web 2.0 as all of the technology and standards that define the new face of the web. For example: CSS divs vs. HTML tables; Using AJAX instead of some inefficient method; Usability vs. nobody cares; User-generated content vs. don’t trust users; SEO/SEM vs. my website is my business card. My Web 2.0 is a departure from all things old for something new and more interesting.

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