What is Web2.0?

Web2.0, Library2.0, Education2.0 – just what is all this 2.0 jargon, anyway? Since I required my students to write an essay defining web2.0, I thought that maybe I ought to do the same.My first encounter with Web2.0 technology was about three years ago when I was asked to block a web site – a Web2.0 web site. Now, I have a blog (actually several), a wiki, and accounts on Flickr, Google and del.icio.us, MySpace and Facebook making me a Web2.0 user.So, what separates Web2.0 from the original world wide web? In my opinion, there are two features that distinguish Web 2.0: sharing and producing.

Users who began sharing information via e-mail, newsgroups and occasionally personal websites are now not only sharing information but also photos and videos. Amazon was an early adopter of the sharing feature when it granted the customer the ability to write a review. Another site to implement sharing – file sharing – during the infancy of Web2.0 was Napster when it created a network of users sharing music files. The concept of photo sharing evolved from sites dedicated to providing prints from digital pictures. Now we have sites such as Google calendar that allows users to share personal calendars, Flickr that allows users to upload and share pictures with family, friends or the world and YouTube that allows users to upload their videos, sharing them with the world.

This concept of sharing has pushed societal boundaries. Napster challenged the whole concept of copyright when millions of users were trading music without paying anyone for the music. Like Napster, online photo (or video) sharing has challenged societal norms by allowing anyone to share any picture (or video) they please.

In both cases, society is trying to set boundaries. Lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against Napster forced the site into bankruptcy. RIAA also filed lawsuits against the users of Napster and similar music sharing sites. Sites like iTunes and WalMart’s music store developed because of the demand for digital music and the need to compensate the artists. Although most photo sharing sites aren’t violating laws, some of the photos uploaded to those sites may challenge society’s sense of decency. News stories throughout the nation have covered teenagers being disciplined by their schools because of the photos they are posting of themselves online. This issue almost became a 1st amendment issue last spring when Topeka West’s newspaper included an article about the drinking habits of its students that included pictures found on the Internet. Whether this type of backlash will cause users to reconsider posting their pictures is yet to be determined.

Like the ability to share, the ability of the user to produce information is transforming society. Even in the early days of the Internet, users could be producers of information by creating web pages. Many schools, including elementary schools, contributed to the body of knowledge found on the Internet through these web pages. The difference between these early days and now is the ease with which the user can become a producer. Users can now use blogs and wikis to create written content without having to know html code. The creation of video sharing sites like YouTube expanded this ability to be a producer to video. This is becoming evident as major news outlets begin incorporating citizen generated video in their broadcasts. The political arena is also entering the era of citizen produced media as YouTube users produced questions for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate earlier this year.

This ability to be our own producers of information and to rapidly share it is beginning to revolutionize society. What skills will we need in this new society? Where will this revolution take us? Is this good or bad? These are questions that we all will face as the Internet continues to evolve. Welcome to Web2.0

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