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Understanding emerging technological trends have never ceased to fascinate me; because only if we seek to understand the future, will we get there. Today’s blog is on a concept far away from my line of expertise (that is on ERP and finance). Yet I attempt to explain it since there is a lot in it for everyone no matter what they are concerned with. To begin with, I would not attempt to “define” web 2.0 because of two reasons. One, web 2.0 is a rather blurred concept since its boundaries have not been really set and two, it is still in the process of evolving itself. This post would be a prequel to my future post on Web 2.0 and enterprise applications.

I would not start explaining the evolution from ARPANET(the foundation of the internet as we know it today), but keep it simpler by starting from a relatively recent point in the history of the web. The very first internet experiences which I had were when there were plain web pages which were linked to other webpages on the internet and they were filled with text and small gifs (which I guess were the most entertaining parts of these pages). These websites ran on plain jane html. Using the fledgling technology to achieve what their competitors could not. I would not really complain about the web sites being so not full of content since it was what the poor dialup could carry. The level of interaction the web offered to users was limited to filling up forms, sending out mails and at the maximum carrying out an online purchase. Bulletin boards were available (albeit, with limited functionality) and so was IRC (internet relay chat)

The world of web commerce started inviting more and more businesses and these businesses realized that they only way they could survive was to do things differently and to approach their customers with more and more services and offer them as much on the internet as possible. Rapid developments in internet technologies also allowed for faster internet access and transmission of more bulky content. The line between web 1.0 and 2.0 again is not clearly drawn like I had said earlier their boundaries had not been fixed. (To draw a comparison of this to real life, we never knew that we were a part of the stone age, the machine age and when exactly the electronic age started; we could of course fix up periods but they would not be exact dates since development, progress and innovation are continuous processes). If we really sit down and check out the businesses make the most out of the internet today, we would not that it would be those fledgling companies who had started off doing things differently at that point of time. Though I am not using brand names here, it should not difficult to guess where I am pointing to. 

To discuss the differentiation was not something which was radical development which they did overnight. It constituted of several small bits and pieces of web services which made things a little better, but put together they made the internet experience more engrossing and interesting. The development in bulletin boards -> they became forums and discussion boards; purchase transactions gave way to online auctions; IRC gave way to chat software which could be installed on computers, webmail services started coming up and there were a million domain names on which you could have your free email address (In fact, many companies offered a customized email address even though their business was least related to it) Online commerce grew with better use of gifs (now the network could handle it). I would regard these as the very foundations on which Web 2.0 grew, but they were not web 2.0. They were merely counditions which led to the rise of web 2.0

Technology did not remain static and soon we competitors either gobbling up each other or leaving the field until only a few remained. Smaller players had to either grow up or be eaten up/shut shop. Java and other technology grew on the internet, the web which was plain html gave way to xml, RSS, CSS, AJAX and many others…Advertising and marketing traversed a complete cycle from the initial basic text ads –> flashing gifs –> popups –> unintrusive content sensitive text ads. Customers always ruled the roost in the real world and now it was all the more valid for the internet. Free ad based services where the ones who were most successful in the business now. The advent of Web 2.0 brought in a world wide web where user participation was key. Social networking/bookmarking sites made it big, people wish to communicate with their kind in the way they could have never done even in the real world. Podcasts created a new form of online radio. Online gaming grew with the power of the internet. Blogging made it huge in a big way with millions of people coming ou to the wide web world to write to their heart’s content (This post is one good example) Web 2.0 brought in online chat services, every service provider who had a chat software based on the desktop; had one on the webtop. Wikis which let people edit content allowed people to customize the web in a way never imagined before. Web applications grew in a big way with widgets(small pieces of code which could be embedded on blogs, web pages, desktops and webtops) The popularity of webtops grew which created a single point access for all the relevant activities of a web user. Single sign-ons made things easier and multiple web applications could be accessed at the click of single “login” button.  Web 2.0 never ceased to fascinate its users with web businesses innovating continously. The birth of online applications which allowed spreadsheets, word processing made Web 2.0 all the more engrossing. The growth of web 2.0 had such an impact that it had to affect every application and the ERP was not far away. (A subsequent post would cover that since I realized this post had already become a bit too long)

To sum up it, Web 2.0 made the web more than an online text book. It made things more interactive for the user. Delivered web content where it was required, as and when required. Brought people together and made the internet more about people than just technology.

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