From Web 1.0 to 2.0…

(Originally posted by John Breslin on the IIA Blog.)

Hello and welcome to the first of my guest posts for the Irish Internet Association’s blog. For the next two weeks, I’ll be talking about matters Web 2.0 related – hopefully with enough material to pique the interest of those who are both new to or already involved in this and related areas.

20070201a.jpgAbout me: I’m a researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway, and co-founder of boards.ie. Some more information about myself can be found on my personal and work pages. In parallel to this guest blogging session, I’m teaching a new module in “Emerging Web Media” to Masters in Digital Media students at the Huston Film School, and some of the topics being covered in that will overlap with these entries.

First off, I will mention Web 1.0. The structural / syntactic web put in place in the early 90s is still much the same as what we use today: resources (web pages, files, etc.) connected by untyped hyperlinks. By untyped, I mean that there is no easy way for a computer to figure out what a link between two pages means – for example, on the IIA website, there are hundreds of links to the various organisations that are registered members of the association, but there is nothing explicitly saying that the link is to an organisation that is a “member of” the IIA or what type of organisation is represented by the link. On my work page, I link to many papers I’ve written, but I haven’t said that I am the author of those papers or that I wrote such-and-such when I was working at NUI Galway.

20070201b.gif In fact, the Web was envisaged to be much more, as you’ll see from the image on the right which is taken from Tim Berners-Lee’s original outline for the Web in 1989, entitled “Information Management: A Proposal”. In this, all the resources are connected by links describing the type of relationships, e.g. “wrote”, “describe”, “refers to”, etc. This is a precursor to the Semantic Web which I’ll come back to…

Now to Web 2.0, a term made popular by Tim O’Reilly and explained here. But what exactly is it? I’m sure if you ask 10 different people you’ll come up with at least five answers. (Here are a Web 2.0 meme cloud, meme map and an elements picture. Any clearer as to what it is?!). The global brain, or as it likes to call itself, “Wikipedia”, says in one place that “Web 2.0 … has … come to refer to what some people describe as a second phase of architecture and application development for the World Wide Web.” I like to think of it as a web where “ordinary” users can meet, collaborate, and share [content] using social software applications on the Web – via tagged items, social bookmarking, AJAX functionality, etc. And there are many popular examples that work along this collaboration and sharing meme: Bebo, del.icio.us, digg, Flickr, UseAMap.com, Technorati, orkut, 43 Things, Wikipedia, and so on.

Over the last 13 years, there’s been a shift from just ‘existing’ on the Web to participating on the Web. Web 2.0 is a platform for social and collaborative exchange with reusable community contributions, where anyone can mass-publish using web-based social software and others can subscribe to desired information, news, data flows, or other services. It is “social software” that is being used for this communication and collaboration, software that “lets people rendezvous, connect or collaborate by use of a computer network. It results in the creation of shared, interactive spaces…” Examples include instant messaging, IRC, forums, blogs, wikis, SNS (social network services), social bookmarking, podcasts, and MMOGs / MMORPGs.

O’Reilly wrote a long article on the seven features or principles of Web 2.0, to which some have added an eighth: the long tail phenomenon. But in short, Web 2.0 is all about being more open, more social, and through user-created content, cheaper!

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Tomorrow I’l talk about the move from Web 2.0 towards what has been termed Web 3.0, or the “Semantic Web”.

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