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3.2  What Is Web 2.0?

In a sense, this entire chapter defines Web 2.0, but let’s begin with a brief, one-section discussion. Web 1.0 was focused on a relatively small number of companies and advertisers producing content for users to access—some people called the web at the time the “brochure web.” Web 2.0involves the user—not only is the content often created by users, but users help organize it, share it, remix it, critique it, update it, etc. One way to look at Web 1.0 is as a lecture, a small number of professors informing a large audience of students. In comparison, Web 2.0 is aconversation, with everyone having the opportunity to speak and share views.

Web 2.0 embraces an architecture of participation—a design that encourages user interaction and community contributions.1 You, the user, are the most important aspect of Web 2.0—so important, in fact, that in 2006, TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” was “you.”2 The article recognized the social phenomenon of Web 2.0—the shift away from a powerful few to an empowered many.

We cant be device centric...we must be user centric.

Bill Gates, MIX06 conference3

Many Web 2.0 companies are built almost entirely on user-generated content and harnessing collective intelligence. The significance is not just in having user-generated content, but in how it is used. Google—the leading search engine and Internet advertising company—sends its users to user-generated websites by considering what users collectively have valued in the past. For websites like MySpace®, Flickr™, YouTube and Wikipedia®, users create the content, while the sites provide the platforms. These companies trust their users—without such trust, users cannot make significant contributions to the sites.

A platform beats an application every time.

Tim O’Reilly4

The architecture of participation is seen in software development as well. Open source software is available for anyone to use and modify with few or no restrictions—this has played a major role in Web 2.0 development. Harnessing collective intelligence,5 communities collaborate to develop software that many people believe is better than proprietary software.

You, the user, are not only contributing content and developing open source software, but you are also directing how media is delivered, and deciding which news and information outlets you trust. Many popularblogs now compete with traditional media powerhouses. Social bookmarking sites such as and Ma.gnolia allow users to recommend their favorite sites to others. Social media sites such as Digg™ or Reddit enable the community to decide which news articles are the most significant. You are also changing the way we find the information on these sites by tagging (i.e., labeling) web content by subject or keyword in a way that helps anyone locate information more effectively. This is just one of the ways Web 2.0 helps users identify new meaning in already existing content.RSS feeds (Chapter 14, XML and RSS) enable you to receive new information as it is updated—pushing the content right to your desktop.

The rise ofsocial networks has changed the way we interact and network. MySpace— the largest social network—has rapidly become the world’s most popular website. Other popular social networking sites include Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn, and Second Life—a 3D virtual world where you interact with others via your online persona called an avatar.

Many Web 2.0 businesses leverage the Long Tail.6 Coined by Chris Anderson in an article in the October 2004 WIRED magazine, the Long Tail refers to the economic model in which the market for non-hits (typically large numbers of low-volume items) could be significant and sometimes even greater than the market for big hits (typically small numbers of high-volume items).7 So an online company like Netflix—which has a catalog of over 80,000 movie titles for rent—typically rents a large volume of less popular movies in addition to the substantial business it does renting hits. A local movie store has limited shelf space and serves a small, local population; it cannot afford the space to carry the Long Tail movies in every store. However, Netflix serves millions of people and does not have the physical constraints of stores; it can keep a small inventory of many Long Tail movies to serve its entire customer base. The opportunity to leverage the Long Tail is made possible by the relative ease of running a Web 2.0 Internet business and is fueled by the social effects of Web 2.0 that increase exposure for lesser-known products.

In this chapter, we introduce some of the key technologies used to create Web 2.0 applications. Many of these technologies are discussed in detail in the programming chapters of Internet & World Wide Web How to Program, 4/e. You’ll learn web development technologies, such as Ajax (Chapter 15); its component technologies, including XHTML (Chapter 4), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS, Chapter 5), JavaScript (Chapters 6–11), the Document Object Model (DOM, Chapter 12), XML (Chapter 14) and the XMLHttpRequest object (Chapter 15); and the popular Ajax toolkits—Dojo (Chapter 15) and (Chapter 24).

You’ll learn how to build Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)—web applications that offer the responsiveness and rich GUI features of desktop applications. We discuss key tools for building RIAs, including Adobe’s Flex (Chapter 18), Microsoft’s Silverlight (Chapter 19), ASP.NET Ajax (Chapter 25) and Sun’s JavaServer Faces (Chapters 26–27). We present web development tools such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver and its Ajax-enabling capabilities (Chapter 20). We also discuss other popular development technologies including JSON (Chapter 15), the web servers IIS and Apache (Chapter 21), MySQL (Chapter 22), PHP (Chapter 23), and ASP.NET (Chapter 25).

We discuss the emergence of web services (Chapter 28), which allow you to incorporate functionality from existing applications into your own applications quickly and easily. For example, using Amazon Web Services™, you can create a specialty bookstore and earn revenues through the Amazon Associates program; or using Google™ Maps web services with eBay web services, you can build location-based mashup applications to find auction items in certain geographical areas. Web services, inexpensive computers, abundant high-speed Internet access, open source software and many other elements have inspired new, exciting lightweight business models that people can launch with only a small investment. Some websites with robust functionality that might have required hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to build in the 1990s can now be built for nominal amounts of money.

Section 3.17 overviews key Web 2.0 business models, many of which are also explained in greater depth throughout the chapter. Figure 3.1 includes a list of Web 2.0-related conferences. Some have a technology focus, while others have a business focus.

Fig. 3.1 | Web 2.0 and related conferences.

Web 2.0 and related conferences


Affiliate Marketing Summit

AjaxWorld Expo

All Things Digital

Always On

Blog Business Summit

eBay Live

Emerging Technology

Emerging Telephony

Future of Online Advertising


Microsoft MIX

Microsoft Tech Ed

MySQL Conference and Expo

Open Source (OSCON)


Search Engine Strategies

Tools of Change for Publishing

Ubuntu Live

Web 2.0 Expo

Web 2.0 Summit

Where 2.0



  1. O’Reilly, T. “What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.” September 2005 <>.
  2. Grossman, L. “TIME’s Person of the Year: You.” TIME, December 2006<,9171,1569514,00.html>.
  3. “Bill Gates: Microsoft MIX06 Conference.”Microsoft, March 2006 <>.
  4. O’Reilly, T. “What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.” September 2005 <>.
  5. O’Reilly, T. “What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.” September 2005 <>.
  6. Anderson, C. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Hyperion, 2006.
  7. Anderson, C. “The Long Tail.”WIRED, October 2004 <>.
Update :: January 17, 2020