Web 2.0 Definition and Solutions

Web 2.0 topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

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Why is Web 2.0 such a big deal?

What are the Web 2.0 technologies?

What do those technologies let you do?

How does Web 2.0 change the user experience?

How can Web 2.0 benefit my business?

What's the borderline between the hype and the promise?

How can Web 2.0 benefit my business?

To the casual observer, Web 2.0 is primarily a consumer trend. But it's harder to identify the "obvious" benefits of Web 2.0 for traditional businesses.

Certainly, Web 2.0 is important if you're building yet another website to share digital photos. It also has business implications if you create business-to-consumer online resources, such as a hotel reservation site in which the user can dynamically change search criteria, and which encourages user-generated content such as hotel reviews. However, Web 2.0 is equally important in business-to-business IT.

For businesses, Web 2.0 often becomes intertwined with SOA and other Web services technologies. (See the CIO tutorial, ABC: An Introduction to SOA, for more on this topic.) The key is to tie the flexibility of Web 2.0 to the service-oriented principles of loose coupling, encapsulation and code reuse.

Web 2.0 creates rich media by integrating data sources and Internet- (and thus intranet-) provided services. That means Web 2.0 can act as a flexible and lightweight user interface, relying on network accessible services that are built on an SOA foundation. The interaction between the two enables businesses to create and manage business processes with greater flexibility. Users can create enterprise mashups by collecting, assembling and sharing existing enterprise content whether to simplify business integration efforts or to provide portals that monitor and improve systems information and transactional flows.

All of this spells benefit for corporations. After all, the drivers that make Web 2.0 compelling to consumers—such as its ability to provide contextualized, personal information, and to use community and social connections to improve communication—are equally important in a business context.

What's the borderline between the hype and the promise?

One of the first barriers to overcome is the term itself. Some curmudgeonly old-timers in the industry (among which I sometimes include myself) consider the name "Web 2.0" a bit presumptuous. On one hand, the cynics argue, wasn't the real distinction in the Web's evolution the point where content and presentation were separated—otherwise known as cascading style sheets (CSS)? Alternately, they say, it's history's place to say when the industry evolved to another level, and what we call Web 2.0 may not be significant enough of a change in the long run.

Still, Web 2.0 does mean something, although what it is can be hard to quantify—even for the guy who came up with the term. According to O'Reilly:

A lot of people are wrapping themselves in the Web 2.0 mantle today, and a lot of them don't understand it. For example, if someone says that they were working with JavaScript and XML (i.e. Ajax), that doesn't mean that they were working with Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is about harnessing the Internet as a platform, using network effects to make your application get better the more people use it.

Whatever else Web 2.0 is, however, it's clearly the next stage in what we can do with technology.

Esther Schindler is a senior online editor at CIO.com.

Read more on Web 2.0:

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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