Raising Awareness

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An Introduction To Web 2.0

What Is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term which is widely used to describe developments to the Web which provide an emphasis on use of the Web to provide collaborative and communications services, as opposed to a previous environment in which the Web was used primarily as a one-way publishing tool.

Web 2.0 also refers to a number of characteristics of this pattern of usage including a richer and easy-to-use user interface, delivery of services using the network, continual development to services, the social aspect of services and a culture of openness.

Criticisms Of Web 2.0

It should be acknowledged that the term 'Web 2.0' has its critics. Some dismiss the term as 'marketing hype' whilst others point out that the term implies a version change in the underlying Web technologies and some argue that the vision described by the term 'Web 2.0' is little different from the original vision of Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

In addition to these criticisms of the term 'Web 2.0' others have doubts concerning the sustainability of Web 2.0 services. The use of externally-hosted Web 2.0 services has risks that the service may not be sustainable, that its terms and conditions may inhibit or restrict the ways in which the service may be used and that social networking services may be inappropriate for use in a work context and may infringe personal space.

Using Web 2.0 Effectively

Although the criticisms have an element of truth, and it is also true that Web 2.0 can be used purely for its hype value, it is also true that many Web 2.0 services are very popular with large numbers of users. Organisations which seek to exploit the benefits of Web 2.0 should be mindful of the need to address their potential limitations such as the sustainability of the services; accessibility challenges; dangers of a lack of interoperability; privacy and legal concerns; etc.

Web 2.0 Technologies

The main technologies which are identified with the term 'Web 2.0' are:

Typically Web pages provided in date order, with the most recent entry being displayed first. Blog tools produce RSS, which allows the content to be read via a variety of tools and devices.
Simple collaborative Web-based authoring tools, which allow content to be created and maintained by groups without needing to master HTML or complex HTML authoring tools.
The Really Simple Syndication (RSS) format allows content to be automatically integrated in other Web sites or viewed in applications, such as RSS readers. A key feature of RSS readers is the automatic alerts for new content.
Podcasts are a type of RSS, in which the content which is syndicated is an audio file. New podcasts can be automatically embedded on portable MP3 players.
The user interface of many Web 2.0 applications is based on a technology called AJAX, which can provide easier to use and more intuitive and responsive interfaces than could be deployed previously.

Web 2.0 Characteristics

The key characteristics of Web 2.0 services are:

Network as platform
Rather than having to install software locally, Web 2.0 services allow applications to be hosted on the network.
Always beta
Since Web 2.0 services are available on the network, they can be continually updated to enhance their usability and functionality.
Culture of openness
A key benefit of Web 2.0 is provided by allowing others to reuse your content and you to make use of others' content. Creative Commons licences allow copyright owners to permit such reuse. This has particular benefits in the cultural heritage sector.
Rather than having to rely on use of formal classification systems (which may not be meaningful to many users) tags can be created by users. The tags, which may also be meaningful to their peers, provide communal ways of accessing Web resources.
Many examples of Web 2.0 services allow the content to be embedded in third party Web sites, blogs, etc.
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