July 11, 2007

Web 2.0

Next generation web sites, referred to as 'web 2.0' are springing up all over the Internet and changing the way we interact with the humble web page. A recent study by web audience measurement firm Hitwise showed that Web 2.0 style sites now account for 12% of US web activity, up from just 2% two years ago.

Where first generation websites were static and provided static information, next generation web sites let users interact with the page, often without the need to refresh the pages as the user makes changes. Web 2.0 sites rely heavily on programming in AJAX. AJAX sites make web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes. The result is increased interactivity, speed and usability. So much so that often with a web 2.0 site you feel like you are using an application, running locally on your computer.

In fact, in writing this story I am using Google Docs, a web based word processor. Google Docs lets me type as I would into a word processor, like Microsoft Word but instead of running a large, memory and processor intensive application on my computer I am typing into a web browser. Google Docs automatically saves my work every time I type a letter. If my computer was to crash now I'd lose nothing. Apart from this aspect using a web 2.0 site like Google Docs also lets me easily share my work with others. I simply add them as collaborators and they too can add to my story.

Other web 2.0 sites like Geni.com let users from around the world build family trees together. At Geni.com you enter your immediate family details, including email address of everyone and Geni.com automatically emails them and asks them to do the same. Within weeks you can have a family tree that stretches for many generations. And like Google Docs, everything is backed up online so if your computer gets stolen or your hard disk fails you don't need to worry.

Probably the most popular web 2.0 site is wikipedia.com. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia entirely built from user content. Users create topics by adding pages and then other users add to these topics. Any user can edit any information in a web-based text editor. Users are also free to add links to other articles in Wikipedia, or to link to external websites. Wikipedia has become so dense with information a new online game has sprung up called 'Six degrees of Wikipedia' where you try and navigate through Wikipedia articles to get from one random word to another, with the shortest amounts of clicks (if you need help check out http://tools.wikimedia.de/sixdeg/).

The advent of Web 2.0 sites is tied to the increasing prevalence of broadband Internet connections. Without broadband many of these Web 2.0 sites wouldn't function quickly enough to create the 'local' application feel that they do. As broadband penetration and speeds increase expect Web 2.0 sites to become more powerful and feature rich.

Top Web 2.0 Sites

Property.com.au
Search Australia's largest list of properties for rent and sale. With interactive maps and photo galleries finding the home of your dreams has never been this easy.

Myspace.com.au

If you haven't heard of MySpace you must be living under a rock. MySpace virtual community site allows users to network, meet people, browse their profiles, and make friends from all around the world. Also contains spaces for bands to share their music and communicate with their fan base.

Docs.google.com
Purchased from writely.com Google has managed to create the best Free web-based word processor and spreadsheet. Users can share and collaborate easily. It's my word processor of choice.

Maps.google.com.au
Another Google property, Maps.Google provides directions, interactive maps, and satellite/aerial imagery of the whole world. You can also search by keyword such as type of business. In the US they have just introduced Street View that gives you images at street level - scary!

Omnidrive.com
Need to backup your computer but don't have an external drive. Omnidrive is an online storage platform that allows you to edit, share and store your files online and access them from anywhere with the speed of desktop storage.

Gnoos.com.au
A search engine focusing on Australian blogs and media, Gnoos lets users tag results and vote on them. Results can be commented on or expanded to read the full post without leaving the site.

Last.fm
Last.fm taps the wisdom of the crowds, leveraging each user's musical profile to make personalised recommendations, connect users who share similar tastes, provide custom radio streams, and much more. Check it out, you'll be amazed.