There has been a predictable backlash against “Web 2.0″ as a meaningful movement (above and beyond a set of technologies). In response, I present here a short case in favour of Web 2.0 — what (I think) it means, what (I think) it’s made of, and the very real difference it can make when fully embraced.
Let me begin with a brief introduction to our company. We’ve been going since 1998, and have two core strands: as a developer of software products (a software vendor), and a web consultancy (designing and implementing web solutions). Our most recent product (clickdensity) is what I’d describe as Web 2.0 — I’ll come to my definition shortly.
Although Web 2.0 software is only a part of what we do, the development of a Web 2.0 product has prompted a dramatic culture-shift in our entire organization; from the way we recruit and pitch for work, to the day-to-day management and delivery of projects. A few weeks after launching the product, the number of developer applicants had shot up by 800%.
So, why is this? What are the characteristics of “Web 2.0″ that allow it to permeate through the keyboard and monitor, from technology to society?
I’ll start with some sentimental definitions, before we get analytical:
Web 1.0 was from the head; Web 2.0 is from the heart.
Web 1.0 was created by Scientists; Web 2.0 was created by Society.
What I’m trying to get across is that Web 2.0 is a more ‘real’ Web — an honest, transparent world where people make things that they think are useful for other people, problems are discussed openly, and business models come second to user models (not always a good thing, of course).
This paradigm-shift has obviously been initiated by the consumer (you and me), rather than strategically deployed by commercial organisations and technology vendors.
It signifies a drastic shift from a closed, data-hoarding, product-based online society, where the web was a restricted medium for conducting limited business. Web 2.0 has evolved into an open, trusting, service-based society which provides a unique platform for developing new ways of working.
Benefits of Embracing Web 2.0
The central tenet of Web 2.0 - adopting the web as a unique development platform (rather than just another ‘medium’ for conducting traditional business) - has inherent advantages: it is a low-cost, global, meritocratic environment, where marketing dollars cannot be used to drown out the little guy.
A number of additional high-value benefits are also apparent to adopters of Web 2.0 practices:
- Recruitment. Due to the cutting-edge underlying technologies and usability-focused interfaces (the ‘cool’ factor), organisations adopting Web 2.0 tend to attract sophisticated, high-calibre technical candidates.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Web 2.0 delivery mechanisms - such as blogs and RSS (the ‘blogosphere’) - significantly enhance search engine exposure through the distributed nature of RSS, the likelihood of attracting niche keywords in the volume of blogs, and the quantity/periodicity of content.
- Marketing/PR. By taking advantage of the aforementioned benefits, marketing and PR teams can implement low-cost, wide-coverage, viral strategies.
- Loyalty. The open, participatory Web 2.0 environment encourages user contribution and ‘buy-in’, enhancing customer loyalty and lifespan.
- Reduced cost. Not only are Web 2.0 offerings low-cost, but the same techniques can also be applied to existing (non-Web 2.0) products and services, lowering costs. For example, wikis can enable your users to build documentation and knowledge base systems, with relatively little investment from yourself.
- User requirements/Improved offerings. Blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 mechanisms empower your users to communicate and contribute, enabling you to develop truly market-led (and in turn, market-leading) services and products.
- Scalability. Without getting into the pros/cons of specific programming languages, Web 2.0 services tend to be delivered through websites (rather than packaged software or individual downloads), allowing the services to easily scale through hardware infrastructure. Patching and upgrades also need to be applied only once (at the host), rather than having to roll them out to individuals in your user base.
These are just my initial thoughts on why I personally believe in Web 2.0. In keeping with the theme, I thought I’d release them early to you (this is a beta blog), rather than waiting until they were fully polished and cohesive. As usual, I welcome any comments below - let me know if you’re a believer, a critic, or you just couldn’t care less.