Web 2.0 has numerous definitions. Tim O’Reilly regards Web 2.0 as business embracing the web as a platform and using its strengths (global audiences, for example). O’Reilly — What Is Web 2.0 O’Reilly considers that Eric Schmidt’s abridged slogan, don’t fight the Internet, encompasses the essence of Web 2.0 – building applications and services around the unique features of the Internet, as opposed to building applications and expecting the Internet to suit as a platform (effectively “fighting the Internet”).
In the opening talk of the first Web 2.0 conference, O’Reilly and John Battelle summarized what they saw as the themes of Web 2.0. They argued that the web had become a platform, with software above the level of a single device, leveraging the power of the “Long Tail”, and with data as a driving force. According to O’Reilly and Battelle, an architecture of participation where users can contribute website content creates network effects. Web 2.0 technologies tend to foster innovation in the assembly of systems and sites composed by pulling together features from distributed, independent developers (a kind of “open source” development and an end to the software-adoption cycle, the so-called “perpetual beta”). Web 2.0 technology encourages lightweight business models enabled by syndication of content and of service and by ease of picking-up by early adopters.
O’Reilly provided examples of companies or products that embody these principles in his description of his four levels in the hierarchy of Web 2.0-ness. Level-3 applications, the most “Web 2.0”-oriented, only exist on the Internet, deriving their effectiveness from the inter-human connections and from the network effects that Web 2.0 makes possible and growing in effectiveness in proportion as people make more use of them. O’Reilly gave as examples eBay, Craigslist, Wikipedia, del.icio.us, Skype, dodgeball and AdSense. Level-2 applications can operate offline but gain advantages from going online. O’Reilly cited Flickr, which benefits from its shared photo-database and from its community-generated tag database. Level-1 applications operate offline but gain features online. O’Reilly pointed to Writely (now Google Docs & Spreadsheets) and iTunes (because of its music-store portion). Level-0 applications work as well offline as online. O’Reilly gave the examples of MapQuest, Yahoo! Local and Google Maps (mapping-applications using contributions from users to advantage can rank as “level 2”). Non-web applications like email, instant-messaging clients and the telephone fall outside the above hierarchy.
In alluding to the version-numbers that commonly designate software upgrades, the phrase “Web 2.0” hints at an improved form of the World Wide Web. Technologies such as weblogs (blogs), wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds (and other forms of many-to-many publishing), social software, and web application programming interfaces (APIs) provide enhancements over read-only websites.
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