Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Web 2.0 - The internet as platform

This week's lecture introduced the idea of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is the idea of the internet as a platform, rather than a computer as a platform.  It is the web that can be written to as well as read.  Back in the day, if you wanted to put something on the web, it involved learning HTML and writing up a web-page manually.  Waaaaaay back in 1997, I had to go to my college library, get out a book on HTML, learn the basics, sit down in Notepad and type out my website.  Yawn.  And more often than not, it looked pretty pants.

Now fast-forward to 2011.  Why the hell would you want to bother with typing out pages of HTML just to make a website.  Google Sites has pre-made templates for you already.  Dreamweaver can write all the code for you.  Your thoughts can be put up on the web in a matter of minutes if you have a blog.  Seconds if you're on Facebook or Twitter.  And whatever type of computer platform you have, everything all looks and works virtually the same.

This is the crux of Web 2.0.  Everyone can publish on it without having any technical skill at all.  Web 2.0 effectively harnesses network effects that get better the more people use them.  Social networks are at the heart of Web 2.0, and Web 2.0 can be said to be so successful because, through sites like Facebook, they mirror the social networks and interactions in our everyday lives.

Interaction is basically at the heart of Web 2.0.  And this interaction isn't only of the purely social kind.  We all have the ability to become pseudo-experts by contributing to Wikipedia.  We can make Amazon better by leaving reviews.  We can create our own tags on Flickr and Delicious - indeed, in the ocean of un-indexed junk out there, folksonomies are becoming one of the most effective ways of organising web information.

The World Wide Web (version 2.0).

But all this inevitably comes at a price.  Some of the issues we discussed are mapped out here:-

  • Does having the ability to log every mundane event in your everyday life with ease create propensity to narcissism?
  • Is Wikipedia as reliable as, say, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and does it promote a culture of amateurism?
  • Does the internet, as a platform for freedom of speech, promote a 'safe' environment to for people to act in an offensive and derogatory manner?
  • Would it be fair to say that important events somehow become trivialised by the hype of the web?
  • What does the privacy settings change on Facebook in February 2010 have to say about the public nature of the data we may unwittingly put on the web?
  • How do we deal with the ephemeral nature of the web?
What do you think?

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