We certainly have come a long way from the 1990s Web, where one needed to have a high level of coding skills (and patience) to establish some presence on the Web. Nowadays, we can simply download an app or sign up for an account to get our names out there: today's ubiquitous and accessible Web would be unrecognizable to those who only have experienced Internet's early years.
However, there is an important conference that sought to mark the paradigm shift in the Web industry and foretell its future. Hosted by the famed O'Reilly Media, the 2004 Web 2.0 Conference set out to define the term Web 2.0 and provide various concepts and examples pertaining to this new paradigm. Armed with terms and themes that were then considered groundbreaking, the conference defined Web 2.0 as the generation where users treat the Web as a persistent platform, rather than just a source of information. The conference also predicted that web-based software applications will quickly catch up to desktop-based counterparts, and that customers will become the currency and the building blocks of the Web due to the proliferation of user-generated content.
While Web 2.0 remains illusive in its textbook definition, its characteristics are easily recognizable. Users started to notice prominence of the term web application, and became familiar with the concept of using the Web as a platform, particularly for the following:
The concept of Web 2.0 is also illustrated by comparing products from two different eras:
Netscape Navigator, the browser that started the Internet boom, was originally available for retail purchase until the company opted to focus on enterprise sales. On the other hand, today's modern browsers, including Google Chrome, are available for free. As a service provider rather than a product developer, Google seeks to increase its influence and in turn increase its advertising revenue. Free-to-use software is perceived as in "perpetual beta," as software developers consider their customers as quality assurance testers --- citing the famous adage "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."
Until 2012, Encyclopaedia Britannica would periodically publish a new set of volumes, carefully edited and curated by a small group of academics. Wikipedia, on the other hand, took the opposite approach and allowed anybody to contribute to the database at anytime. Despite the initial reservation, Wikipedia remains a premier source of information on the Web.
A set of buzzwords emerged along with Web 2.0, many of which have entered the common lexicon:
Fueled by architecture of participation and freedom to contribute, the Web facilitated crowdsourcing: the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content from a larger group of people. As a portmanteau of "crowd" and "outsourcing," crowdsourcing allowed for mobilization of self-identified volunteers and part-time workers.
This trend gave birth to reCAPTCHA, a technology that collects valuable human intelligence. Originally started out as a service that blocks robots from accessing the web server programmatically with an impossible-to-automate task, it has evolved as a massive crowdsourcing project that digitizes books and identifies photographs.
With the rise of publicly accessible data on the Web, developers can now build mashup applications: web applications that use and combine existing data, presentation, of functionality to create new services. Characterized by combination, visualization, aggregation, and appropriation, these mashups must be hosted online in order to maintain connectivity with other solutions.
Marketing professionals may use mashups to streamline their workflow, and users may use to curate their content. Mashups, however, take an expected turn when they appropriate personal, intimate user-generated content: We Feel Fine serves as a exhibition of human emotions using personal diaries on the Web, while No Homophobes channels Twitter conversations as a tool for activism and advocacy.
Mashup applications also attract attention of unlikely partners, such as municipalities and financial institutions, who host hack-a-thons: high-pressure developer competitions to promote innovative applications.