Not long ago, before it was commonplace for pretty much everyone to have a basic understanding of the Internet, there were some fairly amusing terms flying around. The “Interweb” was one commonly used by those *not* in the “know”.
Years on, I feel the same is happening with social media. I can’t tell you how often I see the term “the social web” or variations of it, most often used in a really misinformed way….as though the “social web” is some sort of new Internet that has recently materialised. Further, the term “Web 2.0” often seems to get thrown in there haphazardly, which is a particular pet peeve of mine. I also often see the terms Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 attached to the term “the social web”.
New social media based sites and applications seem to come out daily, but it’s important to remember that social media is just the good old Internet in action, and that this thing people refer to as “the social web” are examples of various Web 2.0 enabled technologies. Web 2.0 is not a new concept.
What is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is a phrase used to describe attributes given web technologies that can facilitate advanced and usually interactive functionality.
A review of Internet-based literature shows two unique phases: Web 1.0 (content delivered to users by producers) and Web 2.0 (content customised to suit the individual, who has the ability to add or publish back to the site/application).
In 2005 Tim O’Reilly wrote the paper What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation Software. His paper claims that Web 2.0 began with a conference brainstorming session between his company O’Reilly, and MediaLive International (2005: 1) and I think his thoughts on Web 2.0 still stand true today.
Importantly, O’Reilly worked to define the term “Web 2.0” beyond the buzzword stage. In his definition, he uses the example of BitTorrent, which is a free, open source file sharing application. The application uses the bandwidth of those trying to download it so that effectively, the more popular the file, the faster it can be served and downloaded (2005:5). His point in using this example is to show that the the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is that Web 2.0 services automatically get better the more people use them.
Adding to the defintion later on in the paper, O’Relly writes:
One of the key lessons of the Web 2.0 era is this:
Users add value. But only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application via explicit means. Therefore, Web 2.0 companies set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value as a side-effect of ordinary use of the application. As noted above, they build systems that get better the more people use them. (2005: 7-8).
I hope you’ll agree that O’Reilly’s definition still rings true and is still a good foundation definition for social media. When we think of all the social media sites and apps out there, I think we can all agree that they get better and better with the more people that sign up and use them.
People may still feel the term “the social web” has it’s place and that is okay by me, as long as people don’t forget its roots!