what is web 2.0?

– This is an article I wrote last summer for our company newsletter. –

In the vast arena of the world wide web, there are ever-emerging tools and technologies.  Many of these new tools fall under the category of web 2.0.  But what exactly is web 2.0?  From the name, it may seem like an updated version of the existing internet, perhaps requiring yet another download of upgraded software or a new operating system.  In fact, web 2.0 is quite different.  While it does take place over the internet, it’s nothing that can’t be accessed via your current browser software.  In fact, you may already be using web 2.0 software technology and not even know it!  Let’s look further at what web 2.0 means, and then I’ll describe further some of the useful web 2.0 sites out there.

What do sharing, creativity, and collaboration have in common?  All are foundations of web 2.0.  Instead of a platform for retrieving information, the internet becomes the platform for interactive tool resulting from the input of its users.  Still confused?  Simply put, web 2.0 allows users to run applications using only the internet – no installation of programs, lengthy downloads, and costly upgrades.  Rather, web 2.0 promotes interactivity, supporting participation and the addition of value by its users.

Now, aren’t you curious to find out if you’re web 2.0 savvy?  Have you ever looked for a definition or description on Wikipedia?  Ever placed a bid on eBay or posted something for sale on craigslist?  How about downloading songs from iTunes, posting photos on Flickr, or looking up directions on MapQuest?  Have you watched a YouTube video or created a database of your favorite links on del.icio.us?  If you’re into networking and staying in touch with friends, you might be using MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn.  Like keeping up with the latest news through tools on Technorati, Digg or NewsGator?  If any of these are familiar to you, then you’ve already used web 2.0 technology!

Wikipedia: This interactive encyclopedia allows users to update entries, making information the collective effort of all of those who choose to participate.  Know something about the Civil War that isn’t posted on Wikipedia?  Feel free to submit it!  See something wrong with a posting about the lifespan of the earless monitor lizard?  Fix it!  Wikipedia is officially, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”  There you have it – it’s yours!

eBay, craigslist: If you’re looking to buy or sell something unique, these two sites are for you.  craigslist is organized into local “classifieds” which you can browse, while eBay serves as an online search auction site.

Flickr: Save the time and effort of e-mailing photos back and forth by using Flickr.  Set up an online account, and you can upload your photos to this site and direct friends and family to the site to view any photos you select.  You can also flag your photos as public, sharing them with the world.  Undiscovered photographers, this one’s for you!  Other similar sites include Fotolog and SmugMug.

YouTube: This is a rapidly growing site dedicated to video sharing.  If you pay attention to politics, you may have heard about or watched one of the presidential debates in which voters asked questions of the candidates via YouTube.  Voters created videos, posted them to YouTube’s site, and videos were then selected for presentation to the candidates in the televised debate.  Perhaps you’ve watched sports or news clips on this site.  In addition to watching videos, you can also share your own captured moments with friends, family, and/or the world through YouTube.

del.icio.us: Known as a site for social bookmarking, del.icio.us not only allows you to share your favorite sites with whomever you choose (Or not!), but it’s a great way to keep your favorite links all in one handy place!  You no longer need to remember web addresses, keep a paper list, or waste time thinking about a site you visited two months ago.  With del.icio.us, you can even organize your links by keyword, referred to as “tags.”

MySpace, Facebook & LinkedIn: Is your social network stronger than your real network of colleagues, friends and family?  If so, you’re certainly subscribed to at least one of these social networking sites!  It’s networking without the face-to-face element.  FYI: LinkedIn takes a particularly professional spin as compared with MySpace and Facebook.

Technorati, Digg, NewsGator: Do you follow the latest news?  Subscribe to blogs?  If either of these topics are of interest to you, check out one of these sites.  Serving as either news or blog feeds, these sites give you a single source for all of the news to which you choose to subscribe.  A true one stop shop!

Hungry for more?  Check out http://www.go2web20.net/.  This site has an insane number of links to the latest web 2.0 tools.  As of early January, there were over 1,800 tools listed on the site, and that number is sure to have grown by now!

Now that you’re armed with all of the latest internet tools, get to your computer and start clicking … just don’t forget to save your links to  del.icio.us and share your new knowledge on Wikipedia!

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