What is Web2.0? or I know it when I see it.

My husband and I went out to dinner last night and as we are wont to do, we got into a discussion about the meaning of x (x being in this case, Web 2.0, or more precisely, the definition of 2.0 as applied to different things such as Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Learning 2.0, etc). What started it was that we’d both read a post by John Blyberg about whether or not Library 2.0 required technology and being ‘plugged-in’, or if Library 2.0 was something more or different than just technology (to poorly paraphrase).

I’d been mulling over this ever since I first heard the term applied and I thought it was a very interesting question. Sean felt that technology (specifically, the web) was inherent in 2.0. That without the web and all the things it now allows people to easily do, 2.0 (as is defined) would not exist. (My apologies to Sean for trying to quote him. I’m sure he will be writing a blog on the same thing and I will put a link to it when he does).

I felt that 2.0 was a concept of a web that was facilitated and enhanced by technology, but that it was a mindset/concept rather than something concrete that requires the web and/or technology. I believed that many of the 2.0 tools could be replicated in other, non-technological ways (albeit on a smaller scale and/or not as easily or well). In fact, I felt they already have been, it just was not recognized as being a valuable way to interact and worth evaluating how it fits into the business, learning, library, etc. models.

I think from a social and a “geek” (for lack of a better word) standpoint, it has been around for quite a while. People who share strong common interests will always find a way to interact. Through conventions or clubs or contests or meeting places or correspondence or any number of other ways, they will find a way to interact and to share ideas, discoveries, passions, etc. I also believe though, that the value of that interaction and sharing was not recognized as something that is of value for more standardized, generic, broad-based things, like learning or libraries or businesses and that this is where 2.0 comes into play.

However, that all being said, I realized that I don’t really know the accepted definition of generic 2.0, much less the definition is of Web2.0, Library2.0, Learning2.0, etc. And I’m not sure there is a definition of 2.0 in general. It seems to have started with (been coined by) a conference brainstorming session between O’Reilly and MediaLive International. in 2003 or 2004, as near as I can tell. Here is a quote of his “compact definition of Web2.0“:

“Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an “architecture of participation,” and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”

That does seem to be referring to it as specifically a platform, rather than a web of people, ideas, sharing, etc. Here is the long version of his creating and defining Web2.0 (it goes into a lot of detail and the thought process they went through). And here is another view of Web2.0, the Web2.0 Cheat Sheet. After just browsing for Web2.0 definitions and reading the many, many comments they get, I still have not figured out exactly what it is and encompasses (although I have a better idea of what it “means”).

And I wonder if it really matters if we can say definitively what is and isn’t “2.0”. Perhaps the value of the 2.0 label is to get people to broaden, examine, enhance and change how they view doing things. To see what other people have done by doing what I am doing, by trying to find out what is Web2.0, Learning2.0, Library2.0. And then, by that process, seeing what has been done and what can be done and using it to start thinking of ways to incorporate the various tools or ideas or creations that they find in the process.

I guess that for me, it is like the famous quote on obscenity: “I know it when I see it“.

~Susan Mellott


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