It’s just a word.
That’s all. Really. Let’s not let ourselves get held back by whether this or that is web 2.0 or not. I think that’s the most important thing to remember.
With that said, I think Steven Johnson comes closer than anyone else I’ve read. In not so few words, he explains:
Web 2.0 closes the loop.
(Yes, just a few weeks ago I wrote RSS closes the loop, but it’s all part of the same thing.) Seriously though. I think it’s that simple. Web 1.0 was the one-way linking web. As Johnson explains so well in Emergence, hyperlinks are not built for a feedback system. There’s no easy way to tell when you’ve been linked to. Conversations could never really happen. Now everything’s changed. Nothing is wasted anymore. RSS distributes the information to bloggers who blog it and, in turn, distribute their own information via RSS. But that’s just one example of what’s happening all over the web at the moment. In Web 2.0 information is reproductive. Everything’s ready to be repurposed and remixed into something entirely different. Web 2.0 is the evolution of information delivery online. Steven Johnson sums it all up nicely:
Think of information as the energy of the WebÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ecosystem. Those Web 1.0 pages with their crude hyperlinks are like the sunÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rays falling on a desert. A few stragglers are lucky enough to stumble across them, and thus some of that information might get reused if one then decides to e-mail the URL to a friend or to quote from it on another page. But most of the information goes to waste. In the Web 2.0 model, we have thousands of services scrutinizing each new piece of information online, grabbing interesting bits, remixing them in new ways, and passing them along to other services. Each new addition to the mix can be exploited in countless new ways, both by human bloggers and by the software programs that track changes in the overall state of the Web. Information in this new model is analyzed, repackaged, digested, and passed on down to the next link in the chain. It flows.
Web 2.0 is all about the backend, in the same way that tags allow ad-hoc communities to pop-up with no additional infrastructure, web 2.0 delivers information in ways that make it easy to release, repurpose and remix. It’s all ready for reproduction.