The term ”Web 2.0″ was introduced to our vocabulary about a decade ago to describe the new direction the Internet community is headed. Observers noted that the increasing utilization of social media was creating numerous online communities in which the majority of the content was generated by the users. The concept of Web 2.0 is exceptionally broad and there are no hard boundaries to it. Rather, it’s a set of principles that guide practices which facilitate user-to-user interaction.
What Does Web 2.0 Mean?
In its most basic sense, Web 2.0 can be defined as:
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with the invention of the World Wide Web, considers the term to be nothing more than jargon, as the Web was always intended to serve in this role. From its beginning, it facilitated the transfer of information from person to person and was originally designed to be a collaborative space where people can interact. Regardless, it’s hard to deny the way the Web is changing how we progress by increasing our capabilities for interaction and creating a larger role for social networking.
How Does Web 2.0 Work?
Since Web 2.0 is a general term, it manifests in reality through a combination of elements. In the case of a program like BitTorrent, each individual user contributes to the resources of the entire system. Every user with a specific file operates as the file server for that data, allowing others to access it. In this example, not only are the users generating the content, they’re providing the infrastructure needed to disseminate it.
Wikipedia is a different manifestation of the Web 2.0 ideology; it serves as a platform for collaborative information gathering where any user can join and contribute to an area of knowledge. It has a similar peer review process to that used by the scientific community, in which faulty information is identified and removed.
A final example of the Web 2.0 culture is Amazon. Amazon’s website is based primarily on presenting access to information, specifically product information for the items the company sells. This trait isn’t based on user-to-user interaction, but it is augmented through the incorporation of user reviews. These reviews serve to legitimize the quality of items through the testimonials of other users.
The Role of Web 2.0
Human beings love to share what they know; it only makes sense that we’d utilize the ultra-connectivity of the Informational Age to share more than ever before. The Web 2.0 iteration of our culture is increasing the rate of collaboration like we’ve never seen. More and more websites are appearing that are simply frameworks for people to generate and share information. Youtube, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, and the Thingiverse are just a few; we currently generate more information daily than the total amount of data created over thousands of years.
Open source projects tend to be the most successful when there’s a large number of individuals contributing in a distributed fashion. The more eyes that look at the project, the more insight available to formulate improvements. Social media allows the leaders of open source projects to easily connect to the people who use their product. This creates an environment that allows for dynamic adaptation of the project based on how users respond.
Like BitTorrent, each user contributes to the resources of an open source project, whether the knowledge shared, design information or the sources of dissemination. Similar to Wikipedia, open source projects focus on collaborative information gathering during the design and planning phase. Just like Amazon, good open source projects directly benefit from user feedback. A well-designed open source project will incorporate virtually every aspect of Web 2.0.
As user-interaction becomes more widespread across the Internet, open source projects will have a much greater impact on humanity. Growing levels of user interaction will greatly benefit the open source projects that rely on distributed communities. Whether it’s construction experts adapting the WikiHouse to a specific locality or doctors providing feedback on the progress of the Open Hand Project, the notion of Web 2.0 is alive and thriving in the open source community.Image Credits: Ben Lloyd Pearson, Wikimedia Commons, Open Hand Project