Web 2.0 Tools and Technologies

Jennifer Xue
Web 2.0 Technologies and Tools

Web 1.0 sites were brochure-like static sites without much functionality other than displaying information about the site owners or their businesses. Sites with Web 2.0 functionality are characterized by greater interactivity and collaboration between site owners and visitors, as well as among visitors. Whereas Web 1.0 was "passive," Web 2.0 is more "active" with advanced technologies beyond simple HTML.

Definition and Characteristics

The term "Web 2.0" itself was coined in January 1999 by Darcy DiNucci, an information architecture consultant. She first used it when explaining the potential (at that time) of Internet-based interactivity to occur on a variety of electronics, including TV sets, mobile phones, hand-held machines (like modern tablets), and others. The term was further popularized by Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle when they mentioned "web as platform" in the first Web 2.0 Conference.

While the definition of Web 2.0 isn't written in stone, meaning there is no hard boundary, the characteristics are obvious.

  • Dynamic content: Instead of being static, the content can adjust to accommodate user's needs, such as responsiveness for mobile devices and direct linking to social media accounts.
  • Rich user experience: Users can participate more actively by clicking certain functionalities, like changing the language, the font size, and the size of images.
  • User-generated content: Users can participate in a website more fully with commenting, reviewing, and direct contributing with wiki-like functionality.
  • Folksonomy: Sites allow for the free classification of information, empowering visitors to self-classify with tags and hashtags for categorization.
  • Software as a service (SaaS): The evolution of application program interfaces (APIs) give rise to web-based applications that can be remotely accessed from almost anywhere.
  • Mass participation: More users with no technical knowledge can participate fully with intuitive web functionality, like with social media and social bookmarking.
  • Mash-ups: Users are encouraged to integrate elements from several sources, like in syndicated content where content from one source is disseminated to multiple sites.
  • Scalability: Mass participation, mash-ups, and user-generated content provide unlimited scalability, enabling massive growth quickly.
  • Collective intelligence: Sites can leverage the power of the crowd to create things or solve problems collectively. This has led to such terms as crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and crowdworking.
  • Decentralized download: Many Web 2.0 applications are based on a decentralized download method, as is the case with BitTorrent technology. The concept is such that everyone who downloads the content also acts as a server. This "fog structure" makes sharing more accessible and less taxing on server bandwidth than in the centralized "cloud structure" model.
Responsive web design

Tools and Technologies

The interactivity, collaboration, and scalability characteristics of Web 2.0 require rich technologies, such as the following languages, software, frameworks, and apps or plugins that are integrated to create a dynamic content experience. KeyCDN provides a good list of more than 100 such Web 2.0 tools and technologies. Among them are the following highlights.

  • Dynamic HTML: This umbrella term covers various technologies used in combination to create interactive websites. DHTML consists of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and DOM (Document Object Model), which are then applied together in creating "active" sites.
  • JavaScript: Also known for its acronym JS, JavasSript is one of the three core technologies in Web 2.0, alongside HTML and CSS. It's used to create interactive pages and simple games. Most recent browsers are compatible with JavaScript without the need of any plugin installed.
  • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets help in the separation of content from design by providing a separate "style sheet" file, which defines the entire look of a web page or site. The actual content can be updated independently of this, as is the case with most blog platforms.
  • XML: Extensible Markup Language is a method of categorizing data into nodes, which are like categories of objects and their characteristics. XML helps languages like Ajax access and work with this information in an easier method than traditional databases like ASP or MySQL.
  • Ajax: Short for "asynchronous JavaScript and XML," Ajax is compsed of several technologies on the client side. It can send data to and retrieve data from a server in the background without interfering with the web design and display. This allows the web content to change dynamically without refreshing the page.
  • RSS: Really Simple Syndication is the backbone of the wave of citizen journalism sweeping the web with blogs and podcasts. Readers can subscribe to have content delivered to them in many ways, like through email or an RSS aggregator, rather than having to go to the actual source website.
  • Adobe Flash: Flash is multimedia software that is used for the production of animations, rich web, desktop and mobile applications, mobile games, and web browser video players. It also provides a platform for streaming audio and video. Flash requires a browser plugin to operate. Current plans call for an end to Flash updates by 2020.
  • Ruby on Rails: This server-side web application framework is offered under the MIT License, which operates as a model-view-controller (MVC) to provide default structures for a database and web pages. It facilitates the use of various web elements, like XML, JSON, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Web 2.0 and the Customized Experience

Created by advanced web developers who must work on both front and back ends, Web 2.0 sites provide a much better customized experience for users. These advanced developers who work on both ends are called "full stack developers." If you're a new web designer or developer with aspiration to develop highly functional Web 2.0 sites, it's recommended to equip yourself with comprehensive knowledge on what truly make Web 2.0 sites so dynamic.

Web 2.0 Tools and Technologies