What is Web 2.0? What does it mean to you? Can you even remember your life before the likes of Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, or even before you interacted with blogs? Can you remember the internet before this?
Whenever I try to think about life before Wikipedia and YouTube I get visions of dinosaurs in my head. Web 2.0 has truly created a gap in my mind that almost makes 'Web 1.0" into an entirely separate entity. I am shocked to realize this, as I think most people, myself included, imagine the web as a constantly evolving entity, one which never ceases and has no endpoint. This reminds me of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. She must continue running only so she can stay in the same spot, let alone move forward. The internet must continually evolve and adapt to the latest trends and technology.
Can you imagine life without Twitter? Some people will tweet up 20-50 times a day. Congressmen have gotten in trouble for tweeting their location while on a trip in Iraq and Afghanistan. What was your life like before everyone had to know what you were feeling, doing, and thinking 24/7?
I'm really trying to get at the total paradigm shift that has happened since Web 2.0 'happened'. The internet was merely a collection of information. It was like a computer based CNN, newspaper, and encyclopedia all wrapped up in this 'network' of sites. Quite frankly, the internet was just another place to read stuff. There were forums and newsgroups, however these were designed for niche applications, and were not especially easy to find, use, or set up. Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and a plethora of other social networking sites changed all that.
Facebook is still exponentially growing and shows no signs of stopping. The concept of interacting over the internet, in a medium more complex than a simple text chat has revolutionized the general view of the internet. Not only do people use the internet as a resource now, they contribute to make it a better resource.
Wikipedia is a wonderful example of collaborative improvement on the internet. Never before have experts in almost every field imaginable combined to create a vast database of knowledge compared to be as accurate as a traditional encyclopedia. Companies that produce the Encyclopedia Britannica or Microsoft Encarta often have a team of 30-40 editors, and several hundred contributors. Wikipedia has thousands upon thousands of contributors and editors. If you are reading an entry on Wikipedia, and you notice a typo, you click a button, correct the error, and hit save. In a traditional encyclopedia, good luck getting through to the editor, let along convincing them they have made a mistake, and finally waiting another 10 years for the next edition of the encyclopedia.
The collaborative and creative spirit of Web 2.0 has spawned thousands of internet memes. Things ranging from a crying pitiful defense of Brittney Spears on YouTube, to a viral playing of a terrible Rick Astley song, Web 2.0 can often be seen on morning news programs as the 'latest trend'. Gone are the days of needing a network news crew to record a sporting event. Look on YouTube for a famous sports play happening in the past few years and you'll find countless cell phone and digital camera recordings of the event.
Web 2.0 has ushered in a new era of interactivity on the internet and you shouldn't miss the boat. The web is changing from a static resource, to something, and even arguably some place that people can come together to connect, collaborate, and create.