Because of the huge wave of enthusiasm and evangelism around the so-called Web 2.0 phenomenon, there is no single, all-covering and 'correct' definition for the term. However, here are a few good attempts:


"Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies. The term became notable after the first O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web."

For a YouTube version of the story see "What is Web 2.0?" (3:01min). Also worthwhile, a small peek into the future, see "Eric Schmidt, Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0" (1:50min).

Anyhow, whatever the ultimate definition for Web 2.0 may be, the following criteria at least are widely accepted to be essential to the phenomenon (Curran K, 2007):

  • User-generated content, as opposed to content created solely by the site author(s).
  • Treats users as if they are co-developers of the site: The more people that use the service, the better it becomes. User contribution, by means of reviews, comments, tagging, ratings etc. is encouraged.
  • Highly customizable content and interface.
  • The core application of the web site runs through the browser and web server, rather than on a desktop platform.
  • The incorporation of popular internet trends such as blogging, tagging, podcasting, wikis, the sharing of media and content and the use of wen standards such as validated XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • Integration of emerging web technologies such as Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), RSS and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
  • Web 2.0 enables the exploitation of "The Long Tail"

Maria Collins describes the Web 2.0 in her Electronic Journal Forum column, "Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the Hyperlinked Library", as follows:

Simply, Web 2.0 is the next incarnation of the World Wide Web, where digital tools allow users to create, change, and publish dynamic content of all kinds. Other Web 2.0 tools syndicate and aggregate this content. In this ecology, users will all be publishers and creators of their own information and entertainment channels. (...) To better understand Web 2.0, it is useful to examine its principles or affordances. These include conversations, community, participation, a sense of experience, and sharing.

  • Conversations: User participation, discussion and feedback are welcomed and encouraged
  • Community: Open conversations can lead to a sense of community and belonging within social sites.
  • Participation: New information is created via collaboration between users. Everyone can create content; ideas and knowledge flow freely and are remixed and reused.
  • Experience: Engagement with other users and the community as a whole is rewarding and provides some type of fulfillment.
  • Sharing: Users can post about as much or as little of their lives as possible.

To summarize: In Web 2.0, the surfers generate the wave

A list of different Web 2.0 tools includes:

Good examples of Web 2.0 applications are for example (Rantanen, 2007):

  • YouTube: A Web video sharing site that lets anyone store short videos for private or public viewing through websites. Uploaded videos are usually entertainment, news or statements. After sign-in, people can recommend videos to friends, share their "Favorites" etc.
  • Blogger: A blog publishing system, which allows easy updating, designing without special skills and service reliability.
  • OhmyNews: A South Korean online newspaper, which accepts and publishes articles from readers. In 2005 it had 36,000 "citizen journalists" and one million daily readers.
  • Users tag (mark) useful and interesting sites into personal account and describe the tags with keywords. All tags from all accounts are combined for the users to see what is popular and thus often interesting.
  • Facebook: A social networking website originally developed for college and university students. Today it includes several online communities: schools, companies and regions.
  • Answers: Aggregates dictionary and encyclopedia content from more than 100 sources in all fields. Used databases include Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Investopedia, Columbia University Press, etc.
  • Flickr: An online community platform for photo sharing and categorizing of photographs. It's widely used as a photo repository for blogs, and a networking site for professional photographers.
  • Wikipedia: An on-line encyclopedia that is constantly evolving and can be edited by anyone. Wikipedia is created and maintained by thousands of users, and it is accuracy approaches the one of Encyclopedia Britannica (Lakhani & McAfee 2007).

Other well-known websites and organizations taking advantage of user-generated content include:

  • On-line store (mainly books) where majority of the content is prepared by administrators, but numerous user reviews of the products being sold are submitted by regular visitors to the site.
  • Ebay: An online auction and shopping Web site in which people and businesses buy and sell goods and services worldwide.

As seen here, Web 2.0 applications and social software are revolutionizing the way we communicate, find information, purchase things and navigate the web and the world in general. The change has only begun. The development is further accelerated by the fact that "computer processing is becoming so powerful that traditional desktop tasks can be moved to centralized super computers, which are accessed and controlled through the Web. Applications moving to the Web increase also the momentum of Web 2.0 applications" (Rantanen, 2007). This can be seen in the increase of social software users globally, and the rate at which new applications are being developed at the moment. For example, on November 3, 2007, there were seven thousand different applications on Facebook, with another hundred created everyday (Catherine Rampell: Widgets Become Coins of the Social Realm, retrieved 2008-07-01).

See also


  • Curran K, Taking the information to the public through Library 2.0, 2007, Library Hi Tech, available at Emerald
  • Rantanen T, University 2.0 - Enhancing communication and collaboration in Universities,2007, available at