Web 2.0 - Not Your Big Brother's World Wide Web

These days, it seems that everyone's talking about Web 2.0, the new release of the Internet that’s due out from Microsoft some time in 2010, right after they ship Windows 2005.

Just kidding: everyone knows that Microsoft sold the Internet to Apple and Google a few years ago in a super-secret deal that gave Apple ownership over all digital media while Google got everything else. Every time someone downloads a video of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton at the MTV Awards, Steve Jobs buys another jet. But that’s not what Web 2.0 is about. Web 2.0 is fresh! It’s new! And it is nothing, repeat, nothing like Web 1.0, which was full of dirty pictures, popup ads, and e-commerce sites that wanted to sell you appliances over the Internet. This is a meaningful paradigm shift, not some technology fad. You just wait and see.

You know, I still remember Web 0.8, which we called "AOL" (for you young kids, this was before everything had ".com" at the end of its name). Back then, we didn’t have all of these fancy "web apps" and "mashups," with their onscreen functionality and resizable windows. We had text, and we liked it! Sure, there were graphics, but they took so darn long to download on your 2400 baud modem that you turned them off as soon as you could find the settings menu. Placeholders were good enough for us, thank you. Besides, all those smiley faces and flashing dots got in the way of the real purpose of the Web back then, which was to allow random strangers to "chat."

You see, since we didn’t have graphics and dynamic road maps to keep us company, we were very, very lonely. So we turned to each other, forming little communities called "chat rooms" where people who had never met face to face – and, in many cases, hadn’t willingly spoken to a non-relative in well over a year – would gather to pretend that they were handsome, witty, and athletically inclined. A chat room was a singles bar, a masquerade ball, and a typing class all rolled up into one nerdy little package. I still remember the little chill that I got on the day that I learned how to change the font on my chat room window from Courier to Times New Roman. Even today, the siren song of a squealing modem handshake calls to me, quickening my blood and reminding me of late nights spent trading good-humored barbs with HobbitLuvr001 and RandAlThor22157 over the relative merits of J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan’s fantasy series.

Yes, it was a heady time for technology.

Don’t get me wrong: nostalgia aside, Web 2.0 has a lot going for it. For those who are still confused, here’s a quick reference of some of the major differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0:

Web 1.0: Static pages with links
Web 2.0: Dynamic web applications with back-end integration to multiple data sources

Web 1.0: Centralized development with long release cycles
Web 2.0: Decentralized, continuous user-driven development (the constant beta)

Web 1.0: Annoying pop-up ads
Web 2.0: Annoying expandable ads showing people and/or silhouettes dancing like idiots

Web 1.0: Pets.com and their annoying dog hand-puppet spokesperson
Web 2.0: YouTube and its annoying users (and here, of course, I’m thinking specifically of those 5000 Star Wars parodies and the "Things I Ate on Vacation That Made Me Sick" videoblog)

I think that you get the point. It’s a brave new world out there, and Google's ready to give you a guided tour.

What do you think? Is Web 2.0 all it's cracked up to be, or are you, like me, secretly jonesing for a CompuServe fix? Free 2400 baud modem to the first five commenters.
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