Trying to Define Web 2.0

Web 2.0 has taken the Internet by storm. This year we set the record for the largest number of web sites generated in a single year–17.5M–and the year is not even out. This beats the previous record attained during the height of the “” boom of 16M sites. New companies and projects are springing up left and right with names like YubDub, Rollyo, and Zimbra. Yahoo acquired Flickr. Ebay acquired Skype. AOL acquired Weblogs. The Web 2.0 conference was sold out at $2800/head. Apparently there was not even standing room. In short ladies and gents–the web is back. Although these are undoubtedly exciting times the question still remains, what the heck is “Web 2.0?” Is it an adjective? Is it a noun? Can it even be described?

Some very smart people have dedicated entire blogs to this topic, publishing a litany of associated terms and accompanying philosophical treatises. Some folks define the term with respect to a certain set of technologies such as AJAX, XML, RSS, etc. Other parties attempt to define Web 2.0 with a more sociological bent. The web is characterized by a culture of participation that is evident from the “tag-mania.” There are also those brave souls that try to describe the phenomenon at a higher level of abstraction, calling it the “read/write web,” “web as a platform,” and “social web.” Finally, there is the ever popular “core-dump” approach where people simply try to say that Web 2.0 is all of these things and more. It is a holy force that is not subject to our primitive semantics. We should not try to capture the essence of Web 2.0, lest we incur the wrath of the Internet Gods.

I don’t believe that to be the case. I think we can probably hack something out. Can’t we? Let’s give it a shot just for giggles.

Web 2.0: (1) A platform enabling the utilization of distributed services, (2) the phenomenon describing the transformation of the web from a publication medium to a platform for distributed services. (3) characterized as a technology, service, meme, or entity that leverages, contributes, or describes the transformation of the web into a platform for services.

Ex 1) Your program should to leverage the emerging Web 2.0.
Ex 2) Web 2.0 is generating a huge buzz!

Ex 3) Flickr is definitely Web 2.0.

A service can be an end-user facing service (Flickr), or a programmatic service (REST/SOAP/RSS).

Wait! You did not give us one definition. The dictionary doesn’t always do it, why should I? I felt obligated to try both out. I am most definitely not the not the first to use the term “web as a platform.” In fact, Tim O’Reily has this at the center of his ever-popular “meme-map.” So, let’s try to test my definitions with some popular terms. Let’s try a couple fun test cases for (3). I think the first two are clear by inspection.

RSS – A technology that contributes to the transformation of the web into a platform. RSS is effectively an API for data.

AJAXA technology that leverages existing services to create applications (user-facing services) inside of a web browser.


A meme that effectively describes a breed of niche web-based applications that leverage existing services. Long tail applications can be remixes (mash-ups), social applications, or extensions of existing services (Andale).

REMIX (Mash-up) – See LONG TAIL

GOOGLE – An entity that is leveraging web sites to create a search services and is contributing to the transformation of the web into a platform by creating additional services that have open APIs.

See Google

AMAZON – See Google

This meme is another way of saying that the web is a platform.

Web-based, end-user facing services, that contribute to transformation web as a platform for services by fueling the creation of syndicated content (RSS).

CULTURE OF PARTICIPATION – Meme that is fueling the creation of increased data services (RSS) and providing incentive for entities to create more services.

VOIP – A technology that provides an additional service on the web.

The web is clearly transforming from a publication mechanism into a platform for services. This is an eventuality that we could not avoid. We have supply chains in manufacturing. It only makes sense that as we transition to an information economy, we have supply chains for data as well. All of the major players ranging from Amazon to Google have made their APIs available to the public. Remixing has hit the web by storm and adventurous developers have given birth to a new breed of rich, internet application fueled by open web services. Even the Microsoft Empire is moving to unleash some of their treasure trove onto the web. It looks like it will be exciting year with lots to write about.

As always, I sincerely appreciate your comments and suggestions. Whew that was tough! I suppose this an exercise that I must undertake not only because I am building a Web 2.0 company, but also in order to maintain my own sanity.

That’s all for me fan-boys. Back to weaving the web for your Friendly Neighborhood Hoo. Stay tuned for more exciting posts!

hoomanradfar Written by:

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