By Anadi Taylor

The term Web 2.0 was coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci, a consultant on electronic information design in her article “Fragmented Future” and became closely associated with Tim O’Reilly who used it in a Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004 to describe the future, as he saw it, of the World Wide Web. The term, seen by many as misleading, stuck. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, labeled the term “a piece of jargon.” Although the term Web 2.0 implies a new or updated version of the World Wide Web this couldn’t be further from the truth. There were, and have not been, any technical updates to the Web.

So what is Web 2.0? It actually refers to websites and web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability and user-centered design.

What is Interactive information sharing?

A great example of interactive information sharing is Social Media websites. People use websites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and WordPress – to name but a few, to share information in the form of photos, music, photos – in fact, anything digital. The great thing about these mediums is that once the information has been published it is available around the world. Some of this will be in the public domain, like blogs for example and some will be kept only for confirmed friends and family – like Facebook. This form of sharing falls into one of the four Sharing design patterns: one-to-one sharing, one-to-many sharing, many-to-many sharing, and many-to-one sharing. Technologies that meet all four of these design patterns include blogs, wikis, really simple syndication (RSS Feeds), tagging, and chat.

What is Interoperability?

Interoperability refers to systems that work together or that inter-operate. James A. O’Brien and George M. Marakas define interoperability as: Being able to accomplish end-user applications using different types of computer systems, operating systems, and application software, interconnected by different types of local and wide area networks. A good example of interoperability is the use of XML or Extensible Mark-up Language. XML is a generic format intended for maximum flexibility to provide information in a wide variety of structural formats. It is not dependent on any particular platform (Windows, Mac, Linux or Unix for example) and is therefore inter-operable. In fact RSS feeds are a very good example of being able to present data in a format that can be interpreted on just about any platform, even mobile phones. This is interoperability.

What is User-centered design?

User-centered design is a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process.

This is a multi-stage problem solving process that involves testing how users will use a product. It is multi-staged because every interface design has to be tested; this is based on what a first-time user of their design experiences. If a developed and designer of a product do not go through this process, users may not intuitively understand how the product works. To provide true user-centered design, it is necessary for these products to have changeable user interfaces that is appropriate to each user-class. User-centered design of a web site, for instance, seeks to answer the following questions:

* Who are the users of the document?

* What are the users’ tasks and goals?

* What are the users’ experience levels with the document, and documents like it?

* What functions do the users need from the document?

* What information might the users need, and in what form do they need it?

* How do users think the document should work?

So the term Web 2.0 is more about the development of the technologies used on the web rather than the web itself.

These developments are based on user experience and user expectations. The freedom of communicating with friends regardless of time and distance, and the ability to share anything in digital format are the expectations that have led us from Web 1.0 and static web pages to Web 2.0 where we can create our own interfaces for our social websites and share our videos with friends and family on the other side of the world.



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