Being the dot in .com and in Web 2.0 - what's the difference?

The Internet is said to be going through a new, secondary stage in its development - the so called Web 2.0 phenomenon. Compared to even a year ago, significantly more Internet users are fully 'participating' online by sharing their own content with others - either through blogging or wikis, or through uploading their own photos, videos or sound files to social networking sites such as myspace or bebo or to specific video sharing sites like youtube.

In the case of Wikipedia, users are able to contribute new or correct existing encyclopedia entries unlike the conventional britannica.com publishing model for example where groups of Encyclopedia Britannica authors and editors would contribute and control all the content.

The term 'Web 2.0' is usually attributed to the industry commentator Tim O'Reilly, who used it at a conference in 2004 to describe a new community-based approach that was resulting from a growing number of applications that empowered individual users to be content publishers themselves. The full article is availble at:

http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

Previously, the 'Web 1.0' model assumed that in the longer term, the Internet would follow conventional publishing rules whereby web site owners would publish content to view and download via a browser or media player. As a result, ADSL broadband technology was developed around maximising download speeds. In most homes in the UK, depending on a number of factors including distance from the local exchange, users can normally download at speeds of 3-4 mbps. By contrast, the return path speed (required to upload content to a web site) is nearly always capped at just 576 kbps.

Equally significant, Web 1.0 was centred around a browser user experience running on the user's desktop. Web 2.0 extends to cover any device connected to the network - anywhere - anytime.

The earlier Internet was dominated by large organisations, whether start-up firms awash with IPO funding or the online divisions of established businesses. Frequently, the most successful web sites employed were able to employ their own in-house web design teams, usability consultants and search engine optimisation specialists, to ensure that their online presence (and investment) attracted the highest traffic volumes. In effect, the end-user was kept on the outside, browsing content using the functionality to access it that the web site owner provided.

Consequently, both the network infrastructure and web site hosting environment evolved around a single directional model. Webmasters mainly needed to take into account scalability, security and availability, while at the same time having a contingency plan to handle spikes in usage.

Web 2.0 is changing the rules. Webmasters additionally need to have an agile, flexible infrastructure that can adapt to constantly changing user-driven requirements. The web site owner is no longer the dominant party setting the editorial agenda. Instead within the constraints of the hosting environment, individual users between them can determine what type and format is posted.

For any company or individual setting up a Web 2.0 business, they need to ensure that their technical infrastructure can continuously adapt to changing circumstances and is not locked into closed, proprietary standards that restrict future growth. From now on, groups of users are more likely to set the direction of the Web.

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