Web 2.0 and Beyond-Participation Culture on the Web

Web 2.0 and Beyond-Participation Culture on the Web

August-Wilhelm Scheer (Institute for Information Systems (IWi), Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch208
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Abstract

The emergence of what we call today the World Wide Web, the WWW, or simply the Web, dates back to 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee proposed a hypertext system to manage information overload at CERN, Switzerland (Berners-Lee, 1989). This article outlines how his approaches evolved into the Web that drives today’s information society and explores its full potentials still ahead. The formerly known wide-area hypertext information retrieval initiative quickly gained momentum due to the fast adoption of graphical browser programs and standardization activities of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In the beginning, based only on the standards of HTML, HTTP, and URL, the sites provided by the Web were static, meaning the information stayed unchanged until the original publisher decided for an update. For a long time, the WWW, today referred to as Web 1.0, was understood as a technical mean to publish information to a vast audience across time and space. Data was kept locally and Web sites were only occasionally updated by uploading files from the client to the Web server. Application software was limited to local desktops and operated only on local data. With the advent of dynamic concepts on server-side (script languages like hypertext preprocessor (PHP) or Perl and Web applications with JSP or ASP) and client-side (e.g., JavaScript), the WWW became more dynamic. Server-side content management systems (CMS) allowed editing Web sites via the browser during run-time. These systems interact with multiple users through PHP-interfaces that push information into server-side databases (e.g., mySQL) which again feed Web sites with content. Thus, the Web became accessible and editable not only for programmers and “techies” but also for the common user. Yet, technological limitations such as slow Internet connections, consumer-unfriendly Internet rates, and poor multimedia support still inhibited a mass-usage of the Web. It needed broad-band Internet access, flat rates, and digitalized media processing to catch on.
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Introduction: From Web 1.0 To Web 2.0

The emergence of what we call today the World Wide Web, the WWW, or simply the Web, dates back to 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee proposed a hypertext system to manage information overload at CERN, Switzerland (Berners-Lee, 1989). This article outlines how his approaches evolved into the Web that drives today’s information society and explores its full potentials still ahead.

The formerly known wide-area hypertext information retrieval initiative quickly gained momentum due to the fast adoption of graphical browser programs and standardization activities of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In the beginning, based only on the standards of HTML, HTTP, and URL, the sites provided by the Web were static, meaning the information stayed unchanged until the original publisher decided for an update. For a long time, the WWW, today referred to as Web 1.0, was understood as a technical mean to publish information to a vast audience across time and space. Data was kept locally and Web sites were only occasionally updated by uploading files from the client to the Web server. Application software was limited to local desktops and operated only on local data.

With the advent of dynamic concepts on server-side (script languages like hypertext preprocessor (PHP) or Perl and Web applications with JSP or ASP) and client-side (e.g., JavaScript), the WWW became more dynamic. Server-side content management systems (CMS) allowed editing Web sites via the browser during run-time. These systems interact with multiple users through PHP-interfaces that push information into server-side databases (e.g., mySQL) which again feed Web sites with content. Thus, the Web became accessible and editable not only for programmers and “techies” but also for the common user. Yet, technological limitations such as slow Internet connections, consumer-unfriendly Internet rates, and poor multimedia support still inhibited a mass-usage of the Web. It needed broad-band Internet access, flat rates, and digitalized media processing to catch on.

Technological and social developments brought about a new concept of everyday Internet computing that is difficult to grasp and can be characterized best by some tendencies:

  • Client- and server-side computing—formerly strictly separated concepts—get integrated with each other. Ordinary users keep their personal data (e.g., pictures) on central Web storages. Search engines search locally stored data. Desktop application access the Web for updates.

  • Roles of publishing and consuming information through the Web—the former once reserved to the technology-skilled—blur. Even inexperienced users contribute to Web content, shifting their private zone into public Web space. The Web of publishing becomes a Web of participation.

  • Enabled by easy-to-use Internet technology, everyone can provide (small) bits to the whole, leveraging synergies of collective intelligence and social networks.

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A Technological Perspective On Web 2.0

This new concept is called “Web 2.0,” which is characterized by U.S. publisher Tim O’Reilly (2006) as “the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.” Millard and Ross (2006) define “interaction, community and openness” as key characteristics.

Within Web 2.0, the content of the WWW is increasingly created by the users themselves, so a “writable Web” evolves from the “read only” approach of the old Web (Kaye, 2006). Web 2.0 allows passive readers to become actively involved authors and thus establishes a world of give-and-take which is also called social computing (Hinchcliffe, 2006). The emergence and integration of the so called social software is frequently mentioned as a facilitator of the phenomenon of Web 2.0 (AMR Research, 2006). All this is facilitated by new kinds of interactive Web applications, enriching the overall Web technology. From a technical point of view, Web 2.0 is to a certain extent a combination of more or less old traditional approaches which were developed at the end of the 90s. The technologies, on which Web 2.0 is considered to be primarily based, are outlined in the following:

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