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Web 2.0 Is Not About AJAX, Gradients, or Gloss

The next time someone asks you to make their site more Web 2.0, ask them if they really mean Web 2.0

Too often I hear people talk about adding AJAX-enabled fancy UI elements to their website or web application to make it more “Web 2.0″ style. While many Web 2.0 applications do include these elements of AJAX,  gradients,  and glossy style, those features are not what characterizes them as Web 2.0 applications. 

 Web 2.0 is about the culture of participation.  Web 2.0 is about the Internet as a platform.   A typical Web 2.0 site becomes more interesting and valuable as it’s community of users grow.  Web 2.0 puts the user and the content they contribute as the primary actors in most of it’s use cases.  A Web 2.0 site makes it’s data available to be mashed into new applications.

Let’s consider an example.  Imagine that you own a website that presents information about baseball to users. You may hear advice that you should make your site more Web 2.0. That person might tell you to add some gradients, round some corners, and use AJAX to display player stats without reloading an entire page. If you do all that and create a very modern Web 2.0 looking site, have you achieved the goal of making your site more Web 2.0?  The answer is a resounding no. You have given your site a modern makeover but have not created a Web 2.0 site.

So you might then ask, what could I do if I truly wanted a Web 2.0 site for baseball fans? You could start by adding some community features. Let users login to your site and create their own profile. Maybe they want to share who are their favorite teams and players. Let users comment on and rate the stories and articles that you post or better yet, let your users contribute stories and articles. Expose any unique data that you capture through a web service that can be re-purposed by others.

On your home page show the most popular teams and players based on user picks. Integrate a Google map allowing a Detroit Tigers fan to see where other Tigers fans are located. Now you are well on your way to a Web 2.0 fan site.

The next time someone asks you to make their site more Web 2.0, ask them if they really mean Web 2.0 or if they are just asking for a modern makeover for their site.

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More Stories By Timothy Fisher

Timothy Fisher has recognized expertise in the areas of Java, Ruby, Rails, Social Media, Web 2.0, and Enterprise 2.o. He has served in technical leadership and senior architecture roles with companies such as Motorola, Cyclone Commerce, and Compuware. He is the author of the Java Phrasebook, and the Ruby on Rails Bible. Currently he is employed as a senior web architect with Compuware in Detroit, Michigan.

Follow Timothy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tfisher

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