THE GROWTH OF THE WEB 2.0 WORLD – Working the Crowd


Web 2.0 and social networks exist and thrive because users communicate with each other. They engage in conversations with each other, commenting and responding to information on the web. The conversation started with email, bulletin boards, forums and newsgroups. Now you will probably update your Twitter status and you will talk about what you are doing on Facebook. You can comment on blogs, take a quick online survey or respond to a poll on a website. You can take notes during a webcast and store them online. All of this and more is possible with Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is a term associated with web applications that allow user interaction.

These applications facilitate interaction, information sharing and collaboration amongst web based communities and social networking sites. For technology influencers, Web 2.0 is about the perpetual beta which is the shift in the way that web applications were developed and deployment. Interaction and feedback between the users and the software designers means that products can continually be updated as the product evolves. The traditional software design life cycle focuses on producing a software product, evaluating and testing it. The product is then launched and used by consumers who often have had no impact on any product design decisions. Web 2.0 allows feedback, interaction and change. Web 2.0 is about constantly changing the technology as people can give feedback on the process by interacting with the software designers and changing the development life cycle.

Consequently Web 2.0 changed the genre of applications. Now there are web applications focused on user centred design, there are sites designed for sharing and there are application mashups. A mashup is a web page or application that combines different sources of data in the form of a service. For example, real-time traffic data in one application can be merged with a mapping application and the merged application used to benefit travellers.

Letting the folks work for you

Web 2.0, with its interaction and dialogue, has brought interoperability and collaboration to the World Wide Web.

The term Web 2.0 is associated with Tim O’Reilly, who ran the O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. This conference is credited with starting the discussion about the term Web 2.0 in the public forum and brought the idea of the collaborative web alive. Now new genres of services and applications have sprung up: video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, podcasts and forums. Formerly, in what is called the age of Web 1.0, we used static websites and were limited to clicking links to view other static websites. Now Web 2.0 allows users to interact with each other, rate content, edit web pages and modify the style of the page.

Web 2.0, which seemed to rise out of the ashes of the dotcom bubble, brought start-up websites with discussions and interaction between companies and their customers.

This type of interaction is completely different from the way we previously interacted with our friends. I used to use traditional ways of communicating like email and instant messaging to chat to my friends and colleagues. Whenever I found out something new or interesting, I’d send out the link or more probably an attachment to the email and send it to my group of friends. I used forum software to ask technical questions and discuss topics with the online community. Now, I share the link on Twitter or Facebook and I ask my extended network of friends if they have the answer to my questions. I use email distribution lists or forum software as a last resort. How times have changed’and social networking sites have enabled that change for me.

Documents can now be found when you search for terms that are relevant to you.

Users now decide how documents are classified or tagged on the web.

These tags, keywords relating to the document or web page, can be grouped together in a ‘tag cloud‘. A tag cloud is a collection of keywords on a web page indicating which keywords have been marked by more people as relevant descriptions of the document. These tag categories, where the same term was used by several people, started to rise in prominence in the form of tag clouds, where more popular tags appear in larger font sizes. Other users can then see which tag name has been classified by the largest number of community members and can use the new tag name. This collaboration encourages new forms of page grouping as the new type of user generated taxonomy emerges.

Figure 3.4 Tag cloud from my blog,

The tag cloud in Figure 3.4 was taken from my blog at It’s easy to see the sort of words I use more often than others in my recent blog entries.

There has been an increase in collaborative technologies that support real-time interactions and user-generated content. Instead of the traditional taxonomy we now have the concept of the folksonomy.

A folksonomy is something that is classified by ‘the folks‘ instead of an unnamed project team who follow a formal structure for classifying documents.

Folksonomies started to appear as users’ tagged content on web pages and assigned categories that were relevant to them. I might classify a topic on the web by a completely different term than you. For example, you might have tagged the story about the Icelandic volcano eruption as ’air travel disruption’, whereas I might tag the same eruption as a ’pyroclastic flow’. Others may tag the same eruption with different terms.

This collaborative approach means that anyone can release a partially finished application onto the web, and due to the efforts and feedback of the many, the application can evolve with active participants throughout the development process. This is a fundamental shift in the way that large companies produce software. Their software development cycles were just not agile enough to cope with this level of interaction.

In the world of Web 2.0, applications are developed with massive amounts of input and collaboration from the online community.

With the potential for a whole world of beta testers collaborating with the application developer, the potential in the industry for disruption is huge. The development teams are now participants in an ongoing cyclical process in which the beta testers use the software and offer feedback. Now with careful co-ordination the developers can listen to feedback from their end users, ordinary folks like you and me. They can redesign and develop that software, improve it with iterations of the code, asking for feedback from people like us and bringing the software closer to the needs and requirements of the users.