What is Web 2.0, Definition, Design & Principles

Web 2.0 is referred the the second stage of development of the internet mainly led by Google, characterized especially by the change from static web pages to dynamic or user-generated content and the growth of social media.

In the words of Martin, he is more leaning to the techno-cultural side of the phenomenon, nut sufficiently covered by the otherwise very good wikipedia-entry. At present He sees five characteristics of the Web 2.0 infrastructure, or Web 2.0 applications:

(1) ?The Web As Platform?: This was the formula for the first Web 2.0 conference, ?exploring how the Web has developed into a robust platform for innovation across many media and devices – from mobile to television, telephone to search.” (For Tim O’Reilly being interviewed by McManus see here.) The Web is becoming an metadata-driven infrastructure that is not anymore only accessible by traditional browsers. Web 2.0 applications ?can serve content that exploits network effects with or without creating a visual, interactive web page?. The Client can be a browser, a program acting in the background or even a human agent who can create new XML-microcontent fed back into the environment.

(2) Point of Presence: Web 2.0 is a “Point of Presence on the Web for exposing of invoking Web Services and/or Syndicating or Subscribing to XML based content” (Kingsley Idehen). I prefer to understand the term in a metaphoric way: first people were “visiting” a “site”, then they had something like a “cockpit” (in Web 1.5 like Amazon or eBay) … and now the user feels immersed in the media (as McLuhan had put way back in the 60s).

(3) Microcontent-based: As said in an article of McManus/Porter (and others), Web 2.0 is based on openly accessable microcontent (for a definition of ?microcontent? see here and of course microcontent musings) ? it resembles more a field of dynamic content ?clouds? than an archive of web ?pages? and ?documents?. The result is an infrastructure that is open, decentralized, bottom-up and self-organizing.

(4) Second order content or metacontent: Web 2.0 applications are quite commonly based on microcontent coming from a different and distributed source that is machine-processed, reused and put out of context (more on ?user-generated content?). The concept of “second-order content” deserves further exploration.

(5) Metaweb: ?Web 2.0? has earlier been used as a synonym for the ?Semantic Web? (which in itself is a rather vague concept). According to the Wikipedia article, ?the two concepts are similar and complementary?. The combination of social networking systems with the development of tagging and delivered through blogs and wikis ?creates a natural basis for a semantic environment?. The Web 2.0 is not only a better environment for computers, but also for ?human clients? who can now get their microcontent aggregated, assembled and structured according to personalized ad-hoc points of views. (see Yahoo’s Emergent Semantics, and of course the whole avalanche of the folksonomies-vs-ontologies-discussion in the first months of 2005).

Characteristics of Web 2.0  by Jeff Clavier 

According to Jeff Clavier Web 2.0 is, three characteristics are included in Web 2.0: openness of data and services, rich user experience and low cost of delivery.

    1. Openness of data and services, to contrast with closed data silos that still exist today (Amazon reviews/recommendations, eBay reputation).
    2. Rich user experience, based on technology providing increased interactivity (Ajax, Ruby,…) and clever remix/combinations of numerous services (maps, photos, calendar, lists,…) that free the developers from building infrastructure and focus on the user and its needs. I found that Trulia is a great example of such rich user experience, providing instant gratification upon the first use (Disclosure: I have no relationship with Trulia).
    3. Low cost of delivery, as I have written/talked about many times over, this new generation of applications is built bootstrapped on $50K to $100K tops (provided that the founding team pays itself very little). From there, the odds are that:
      • a few will hit it big (or even huge)
      • some of these companies will reach profitability relatively quickly and have their options open, but it is not clear how far they will scale
      • others will have very decent exits with one of the GEYAMA club after taking in just a minimal investment $$$
      • a number will be rolled up into other Web 2.0 startups during a (necessary) consolidation
      • the rest… well… will stagnate, fade away and eventually disappear. But because of the limited working capital requirements, a consolidation might take a long time to effect.

Note that these scenario can be applied to any startup, and the only difference here is the limited requirement on capital intake. Which led to my “closing” remark, that I was not sure how the usual VC economics will work out in this otherwise fascinating space.