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What Exactly is Web 2.0?

What Exactly is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0? This is a discussion that now may seem tired – and was vigorously kicked around months and months ago – but I continue to have formal and informal conversations about it. I don’t claim to have any definitive definition but one of Web 2.0’s fundamental tenets is “openness.”

The creation of APIs and the ability of third parties (i.e., outside developers and programmers) to build on top of applications created by search engines, portals and a host of others is one of the core differentiators from “Web 1.0.” (The extension of this to ordinary people, as Microsoft is trying to do with Live Local/Virtual Earth is probably a next phase.)

Indeed, in one sense Microsoft has been doing this sort of thing for years with software and its extended developer community. But the scope of what’s going on now is unprecedented and contrary to dominant corporate culture of only a few years ago. What you see is openness and third-party creativity permitting a kind of acceleration of the next generation of web-based applications.

Yahoo!’s recent Hack Day is a prime example; and it’s willingness to open up the code to Yahoo! Mail may ultimately result in novel tools and applications that the company wouldn’t have been able to develop internally.

As a vaguely related aside, I’ve finally gotten around to reading NY Times reporter John Markoff’s What the Dormouse Said, which was published a couple of years ago and discusses the run up to and development of the PC industry in Silicon Valley. It’s a terrific piece of writing and much more interesting and philosophical than most writing about the computer industry and the Internet.

Related: Here’s more on Yahoo! Hack Day from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, including the winning all-female team.

Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.