A web 2.0 FAQ


Based on some initial feedback, I have republished this entry now as a FAQ for web 2.0

What is web 2.0?

Because of my work with mobile web 2.0, I am often asked the question – ‘what is web 2.0′?. This is often a genuine question – since there is a lot of confusion out there and many bandwagon seekers.

In an attempt to explain web 2.0, this blog gives a simple FAQ

Web 2.0 is a ‘Soft concept’ – it’s not a standard, or a formula or a definition – which would have been a lot easier to explain.

Thus, a conventional FAQ would be too long(and would probably become out of date soon)

To me, web 2.0 is the collective application of the seven principles of web 2.0 as outlined by Tim O’ Reilly

Without deviating from the core concepts (i.e. the seven principles) and not adding to the existing confusion surrounding web 2.0,

A web 2.0 FAQ would be as follows ..

What is web 2.0? : It’s the intelligent web.

What makes it intelligent? We (the people) do.

How does it happen? : By harnessing collective intelligence

What do you need to harness collective intelligence? : The six principles of web 2.0 except principle two(which itself is ‘Harnessing collective intelligence’ !

To me, web 2.0 makes perfect sense if you observe that – of the seven principles – all the other principles feed into the second principle(harnessing collective intelligence)

Let me explain ..

web 2.0 can be described as the ‘Intelligent web’ or ‘Harnessing collective intelligence’(which is the second principle of web 2.0)

The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge is intelligence. Knowledge is the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned.

What kind of intelligence can be attributed to the web? How is it different from web 1.0?

IMHO – web 1.0 was hijacked by the marketers, advertisers and the people who wanted to stuff canned content down our throat! Take away all that after the dot com bubble and what’s left is the web as it was originally meant to be – a global means of communication.

The intelligence attributed to the web(web 2.0) arises from us as we begin to communicate.

Thus, when we talk of the ‘Intelligent web’ or ‘harnessing collective intelligence’ – we are talking of the familiar principle of wisdom of crowds

Merely managing a community is not web 2.0! as many web 2.0 masqeraders will find out no doubt soon.

In order to harness collective intelligence

a) Information must flow freely

b) It must be harnessed/processed in some way – else it remains a collection of opinions and not knowledge

c) From a commercial standpoint, there must be a way to monetise the ‘long tail’ – but that’s the topic of another blog!

My essential argument is – if we consider web 2.0 as ‘Intelligent web’ or ‘Harnessing collective intelligence’(Principle two) – and then look at the other six principles feeding into it – it’s all a lot clearer

Since the wisdom of crowds is so important – lets consider that in a bit more detail from the wikipedia entry for the wisdom of crowds

Are all crowds wise?


The four elements required to form a ‘wise’ crowd are

a) Diversity of opinion

b) Independence: People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.

c) Decentralization: People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.

d) Aggregation: Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

Conversely, the wisdom of crowds fails when

a) Decision making is too centralized: The Columbia shuttle disaster occurred because the hierarchical management at NASA was closed to the wisdom of low-level engineers.

b) Decision making is too divided: The U.S. Intelligence community failed to prevent the September 11, 2001 attacks partly because information held by one subdivision was not accessible by another.

c) Decision making is imitative – choices are visible and there are a few strong decision makers who in effect, influence the crowd

Now .. let’s look at the seven principles again ..

1. The Web As Platform

The web is the only true link that unites us all together whoever we are and wherever we are in the world. Hence, to harness collective intelligence and to create the intelligent web – we need to include as many people as we can. The only way we can do this is to treat the web as a platform and use open standards. You can’t harness collective intelligence using the

ESA/390 - however powerful it is!

2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Now becomes the ‘main’ principle or the first principle

3. Data is the Next Intel Inside

By definition, to harness collective intelligence – we must have the capacity to process massive amounts of data. Hence, data is the ‘intelligence’ (Intel)

4. End of the Software Release Cycle

This pertains to ‘Software as a service’. Software as a ‘product’ can never keep upto date with all the changing information.

Ofcourse in the web 2.0 sense, we are dealing with code as well as data – so the service concept keeps the data relevant (and the harnessed decision accurate) by accessing as many sources as possible

5. Lightweight Programming Models

The heavy weight programming models catered for the few. In contrast, using lightweight programming models we can reach many more people(hence sources of information – to

enable data collection and a more intelligent web).

For example: from the seven principles

Amazon.com’s web services are provided in two forms: one adhering to the formalisms of the SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) web services stack, the other simply providing XML data over HTTP, in a lightweight approach sometimes referred to as REST (Representational State Transfer). While high value B2B connections (like those between Amazon and retail partners like ToysRUs) use the SOAP stack, Amazon reports that 95% of the usage is of the lightweight REST service.

6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device

More devices to capture information and better flow of information between these devices leads to a higher degree of collective intelligence

7. Rich User Experiences

A rich user experience is necessary to enable better web applications leading to more web usage and better information flow on the web – leading ofcourse to a more ‘Intelligent’ web.

And you need look no further than this blog .. itself a collaborative exercise and hopefully adding to the intelligence of the web itself

Thoughts/comments welcome at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Note: I first heard of the phrase ‘Intelligent web’ from Michiel de Lange’s comment on another blog which referred to one of my older posts.

His entry using the phrase ‘Intelligent web’ is HERE


  1. /Message says:

    Unifying Theory: People Are The Center Of The Universe 2.0

    Ajit at Open Gardens makes what seems like a small observation (see Open Gardens: A web 2.0 FAQ), that the principle that should take precedence in Tim O’Reilly’s list of Web 2.0 features is the second: harnessing collective intelligence. This