Web 2.0

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Web 2.0 is one of those "buzz words" like DHTML that do not have a clear meaning but does refer to a trend or practise that does favor new technologies.

Web 2.0 refers to a certain kind of rich internet applications and means:

  • New kinds of webservices (e.g. see social computing)
  • cloud computing, i.e. various new types of server-client architectures
  • Improved user experience (e.g. AJAX)
  • Both of these combined (webservices as rich internet applications)
  • Mashups like webtops, virtual office etc. (this is a more recent trend)
  • For some people, Web 2.0 means just just blogs and wikis. These are just part of it, but by no means to whole picture.
  • For others, web 2.0 is when corporations took over community contents and exchanges.
Examples of web 2.0 technologies

The BECTA 2008 report on Web 2.0 technologies for learning (page 10), distinguishes the following categories of Web 2.0 activities:

Buying, selling or exchanging through user transactions mediated by internet communications
Media sharing
Uploading and downloading media files for purposes of audience or exchange
Conversational arenas
One-to-one or one-to-many conversations between internet users
Online games and virtual worlds
Rule-governed games or themed environments that invite live interaction with other internet users
Social networking
Websites that structure social interaction between members who form subgroups of ‘friends’
An internet-based journal or diary in which a user can post text and digital material while others can comment
Social bookmarking
Users submit their bookmarked web pages to a central site where they can be tagged and found by other users
Recommender systems
Websites aggregate and tag user preferences for items in some domain and thereby make novel recommendations
Collaborative editing
Web tools are used collaboratively to design, construct and distribute a digital product
A web-based service allowing users unrestricted access to create, edit and link pages
Users can "subscribe" to RSS feed-enabled websites so that they are automatically notified of any changes or updates in content via an aggregator

Web 2.0 in the timeline of the web

“Web 2.0 was really about upgrading the "front-end" and user-experience of the Web. Much of the innovation taking place today is about starting to upgrade the "backend" of the Web and I think that will be the focus of Web 3.0 (the front-end will probably not be that different from Web 2.0, but the underlying technologies will advance significantly enabling new capabilities and features).” ([1], retrieved 14:22, 27 April 2007 (MEST))

Nova Spivak in his timeline of the past, present and future of the Web describes evolution of the web in terms of two variables: information connections and social connections, i.e. information links vs. people links plus.

Nova Spivack & Radar Networks Towards a WebOS

The idea being that information and social connections gain from more sophisticate tools and some sort of emerging intelligence as in social software that gain be summarized as tools + services + aggregation)^scale (Lee Bryant, Becta review 2007).

Old vs. new web services

According to Tim O'Reilly (2005), Web 2.0 can be defined through examples of how typical web services did evolve. E.g.

Web 1.0 (past) Web 2.0 (future)
Photo-albums Flickr-like albums
FTP or http-based downloads BitTorrent
mp3.com Peer-to-peer solutions, like Napster
Britannica Online Wikipedia
personal websites blogging
publishing participation
content management systems wikis
directories (taxonomy) tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness syndication

What is common about these example is that “behind the success of the giants born in the Web 1.0 era who have survived to lead the Web 2.0 era appears to be this, that they have embraced the power of the web to harness collective intelligence” (O'Reilly, 2005), in other words Web 2.0 is strongly related to social computing and collective intelligence (the "wisdom of the crowd").

In addition, Web 2.0 is related to enhanced user experience and webservices standards and APIs that allow for more collaboration between machines (data exchange is usually XML-based).

Tim O'Reilly's meme map (dated 2005) illustrates important concepts, some of which we explore in all related articles.

Web 2.0 Meme Map, Copyright © 2007 O'Reilly Media, Inc., reproduced without permission

Improved user experience

Jared Spool [2] points out the power of APIs: A very good example is Google Maps that allows anyone to overlay data onto any place that Google Maps can show. E.g. here is the place where these very words have been written.

See AJAX for the most popular technology used, but rich internet applications can be based on many other technical frameworks.

Relation to semantic web

A few years ago, there was a lot of talk about the semantic web. This didn't happen so far ;). So more and more it appears that Web 2.0 means actually going back to the roots of academic Internet in the 80' and very early 90' which was all about communication and exchange. Internet/Web is also (and has been most of the time) about being easy, open and flexible.

Web 2.0 in education

Web believe that web 2.0 in education refers to very different sort of practice:

  • Web 2.0 as platform, i.e. it allows learners teachers to access all sorts of applications that can't be found on school computers. That includes various "productivity software" (writing, drawing, image manipulation, concept maps, etc.), but also specialized services like LMSs.
  • Web 2.0 as social platform, i.e. using various services to organize collaborative work that extends beyound a single classroom
  • Web 2.0 as collaborative platform, i.e. using services to organize collaborative or collective classwork. A good example are wikis.
  • Web 2.0 as vehicle for new kinds of application, e.g. location-aware computing or 3D interactive environments like Second Life
  • Web 2.0 as background for new organization of learning, e.g. MOOCs

"Web 2.0 in education" is not further covered in this article, see for example:

You also can browse through articles indexed in the social computing category.


See also other categories of rich internet applications, .e.g. virtual office and web widget. There is also list of web 2.0 applications - Daniel K. Schneider


Propaganda / Vision papers

  • Farber, Dan (2007), From semantic Web (3.0) to the WebOS (4.0), ZDNet Article, feb 14, 2007, HTML.
  • O'Reilly, Tim, What Is Web 2.0 - Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software, HTML
  • Spool, Jared M., Web 2.0: The Power Behind the Hype, HTML
  • Graham Attwell, Director, Pontydysgu, Web 2.0 and the changing ways we are using computers for learning: what are the implications for pedagogy and curriculum? PDF

In education (practical/vision)

  • D'Souza, Quentin (2007). Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators, A Guide to RSS and More, Version 2.0. PDF
  • Warlick David (2006). A Day in the Life of Web 2.0, techlearning. HTML
  • Lynne Schrum & Gwen Solomon (2007). Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools, ISTE, ISBN 978-1-56484-234-3 (sales)


  • Michael Thomas (eds.), Handbook of Research on Web 2.0 and Second Language, Idea Group Inc (IGI), ISBN 1605661902.
  • Strampel, K. & Oliver, R. (2010). They think they are learning, but are they? Strategies for implementing Web 2.0 to positively impact student learning. In C.H. Steel, M.J. Keppell, P. Gerbic & S. Housego (Eds.),Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010 (pp.924-935).http://ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney10/procs/Strampel

In education / reports

BECTA (2008) Web 2.0 technologies for learning at KS3 and KS4 - Project overview (a number of free reports on Web 2.0 in the classroom, downloads in PDF/WORD/ODT)