The term web 2.0 is quite misleading as it suggests that a new version of the internet has been developed. In fact, nothing has changed technically with the ‘old’ web, the term refers more to the increasing number of tools that can be applied to the ‘new’ web. First generation internet pages are static, held on a server somewhere and produced by someone who wrote pages in the hope that other people would read them. But web 2.0 is dynamic: the user can choose how the page should look and can even decide on the content.
The human side
With web 2.0 people can contribute information, provide feedback, share ideas and connect to other users with similar interests. There are several examples of this relevant to development organizations in ACP countries: wikis, blogs, social networking, social bookmarking.
'A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it. Ward Cunningham, developer of the first wiki, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as "the simplest online database that could possibly work”. Wikipedia is one of the best known wikis.’
The definition comes from Wikipedia itself, of course. The site exploits the technology perfectly by gathering a community of users who collectively ensure that the information continues to be trustworthy while still allowing edits and contributions from anyone with access to the Internet. This function is characteristic of all wikis; individual pages can be easily created, changed and updated by anyone working with a web browser.
Blogs, shortened from ‘web logs’, are popularly used as online diaries or commentaries. Opinions are expressed on any and every subject with text increasingly accompanied with video and audio files. There are hundreds of possibilities on the web to create your own blog quickly and for free. And because the process is so easy many organizations now use the blog format for their website which means they no longer have to pay for a host server or domain name.
Create your own blog
Here are just a few of the more popular places on the net for setting up a blog.
Users of social networks create a profile and make links with people they already know or who have similar interests. Information can then be shared between these virtual friends. Text, for example, is exchanged through messages, discussion groups and blogs. Photographs, videos and other digital files are also shared while applications (small programmes) can be added to the user’s individual page to play games, listen to music or simply decorate the homepage.
Very specific social networks can also be set up by using sites such as Ning
These are just a few of the many social networking websites available:
After first signing up to a social bookmarking website – de.licio.us, furl, Digg it, reddit, to name just a few – users can then bookmark interesting websites, usually via a toolbar installed on the web browser. Tags (relevant key words) are added to make the page easier to find again and easier for others with similar interests to find too. It is a bit like bookmarking a website, or adding it to your favourites, except that other people can also see what you have added. It offers a way to organize information found on the web and is especially useful when that information has to be shared by several people.
Some social bookmarking websites:
- Meshedlinks :Meshedlinks is a social bookmarking service specifically targeted to Africa. It lets you save, tag and search your bookmarks and also discover, browse and vote on other users' links and stories.
There are now several sites where photographs can be uploaded for others to see. Registered users are given a unique web address where their photos can be viewed. The images can usually also be ‘tagged’ with keywords by anyone visiting the site to make it easier for others to find.
Videos and slide presentations can also be shared in a similar way. YouTube and Video.google are the most popular for sharing video material while SlideShare lets you upload PowerPoint, PDF or OpenOffice presentations that can later be downloaded or commented on by others.
- Google now offers the possibility to customize their famous search engine so that it gives more focused results from specific websites or by giving priority to results from a list of sites. It is also possible to type a group of general keywords, e.g. web 2.0, rural, agriculture, Africa, university, to further concentrate results.
- Focuss.eu Using this technology focuss.eu has developed a search engine for development related information searches. This tool has been created with input from librarians, students, researchers, practitioners and are looking for contributions from anyone who can help develop the resources further.
One advantage of web 2.0 is that the internet browser can be used like a computer desktop – just click on an icon to go to a word processor, database, calendar or even a task list. Documents can be saved online and can therefore be retrieved from any computer with internet access. Also, this ‘software’ is free and will be automatically updated by the providers. Several sites now offer one or more of these applications and some even act as an online operating system, although most are still at the early stages of development.
An online operating system for sharing media, creating office documents and sending email.
An online office system with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, planning and email capabilities.
- GoogleDocs Offers a word processor, spreadsheets and presentation possibilities.
All of the above websites are made possible by using one or more of the following techniques:
RIA: Rich Internet Applications
Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
There is no single, agreed upon definition but a SOA is a mechanism to collect data from different sources and present it as the user demands. The types of applications that make use of SOA are web feeds, RSS and mashups (see below).
What Is Service-Oriented Architecture?
“Service-Oriented Architecture underpins most modern web services. It aims to achieve loose coupling between interacting software agents in order to preserve the benefits of reusability, extensibility and simplicity."
From O’Reilly Webservices XML.com
Many news websites and blogs now provide web feeds to regularly update subscribers with headlines, latest entries or audio files (podcasts) usually using RSS or Atom file formats. Software, called aggregators, automatically search for updates from websites that have been previously subscribed to. A short link – a headline or an update - is then downloaded onto the computer ready to be viewed or downloaded when required.
- Bloglines: A web-based personal news aggregator that can be used in place of a desktop client.
Mashups are applications or websites that take information from many sources and present it in one place. Web feeds are often used to provide the information. Many web applications have their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) available. These set out the necessary commands to retrieve information from the source application. For example, if you wanted to create a mashup which combined videos from YouTube and geographical information from Google Maps to show the exact locations of where the videos were recorded, you would need specific parts from the YouTube API which shows the command to run the videos plus parts of the API from Google Maps which show the commands needed to retrieve geographical information. These can be combined into the code for your mashup application in order for your new application to be able to access the information from both those sources.
How to create a
The first thing you need is an idea. A good place to start is by taking a common task and making it easier or more efficient.