"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Web 2.0

While some people say Web 2.0 is only a buzzword, others describe it as a concept, a term, an idea, or a new definition that characterizes the World Wide Web. It originated at a brainstorming session between Oreily and MediaLive International, where Dale Dougherty observed that after the burst of the dot-com bubble, the web was becoming more important than ever [1]. Terms referring to Web 1.0 such as content management systems, personal websites, domain name speculations and publishing sites were now evolving to wikis, blogging, optimized search engine, and participating sites [2]. Although there is no real conformity on the exact definition of Web 2.0, most agree it is an implicit form of participating architecture where users are the driving force of the concept. The idea is that end-users can add considerable value, and as a consequence the web is moving towards a more dynamic and interactive platform.

Even if Web 2.0 has not yet been clearly defined, it sure has some important impacts and consequences on the world, current societies, and professionals. First, users are learning how to communicate with each others as opposed to publishers learning how to communicate with users. This decentralizes information and power. Second, it creates rich participating architectures where individuals can share information, ideas, and knowledge. At the same time, it allows the web to be developed into a solid structure where individuals build up content and data. It also creates stronger connected communities, where people sharing the same ideas and values can collaborate together. My vision of the futuristic Web 2.0 is an even more interconnected web. At the center of it, there is an enormous collaboration between people, organizations and services. I picture the web as a platform capable of analyzing and grouping data, showing content which is most relevant to us at the right time. I imagine it as a new layer capable of making associations, links between people, information, and technology.

As it looks today, the web is still very fragmented and disconnected, and to find information is similar to reconstructing the pieces of a gigantic puzzle. However, it has already been very beneficial to both organizations and individuals. On one hand, organizations can use Web 2.0 to co-operate with individuals by providing the technology, and by letting individuals build the content. Some organizations already use a form of implicit user feedback, where new applications are developed and put on the web [3]. If users don’t use these applications, they are removed from the web and newer ones are developed. Others organizations, such as the widely known social network Facebook, has opened their website to developers, allowing them to build their own applications on top of the Facebook framework [4]. On the other hand, Web 2.0 is a self-organizing tool that allows individuals to perform simple tasks. Each individual act independently and the power of the Web 2.0 is to regroup these individuals together, building online communities and hierarchies.

If Web 2.0 is the new bubble of the 21st century, it is only the beginning. While people still try to define its meaning, others start to understand its significance against the world and societies. Until we agree on a common definition, we will continue to hear the words: participation, collaboration and interaction.

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