Web 2.0 is a highly overused and almost cliché term anymore, but how many people really have an understanding of what it even is? It is more often looked at as a way of thinking then a set of physical items that function together.

There have been hundreds of attempts to define what Web 2.0 really is, myself included. After stepping back from it a bit though there are a lot of factors that led to the fabled Web 2.0 as we know it now. Some obvious, some really aren’t. What it really is, is a conglomeration of different things that already existed, and something that is relatively new to the Web. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? AJAX was a derivative of a group of technologies as well; the key was just putting them together to make something innovative.

The big keys to the Web 2.0 boom are pretty simple, and many of us use them all the time. The biggest of them being the ease of getting information via API’s and other services that was previously unavailable in any intuitive or convenient way.

Data Access

Data access is probably the biggest and most unrealized part of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. With more data freely available then you then ever before and the addition of friendlier technologies to make your apps function (below),data can be pulled from all over the Web based on a users situation and brought into your application for the user to consume. How much of this was going on 5 years ago?

Data is a highly coveted item to any corporation, and until a few years ago it was highly guarded and nothing was to be released publicly. Now days much of the non critical information is shared freely between sites using highly developed API’s, allowing developers to build on top of already developed technology. Shared data is a huge part of the Web 2.0 revolution. Without it 80% of the applications most of us use regularly would not be possible.

Data doesn’t have to necessarily be from a corporation either. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, are all treasure troves of data that is all user submitted. Other users can take and use some or all of that data within those sites, and in most cases outside as well in the form of feeds or other pre-built tools.

Interactivity

Web applications until a few years ago unless designed with Flash or some other technology were clunky and very difficult to use in relation to their desktop based counter parts.

Standards, Usability, and the introduction of AJAX changed this immensely. Now we have rich applications that respond to what we are doing, are easy to use, and work across multiple platforms and browsers, and are just useful to users in general.

The addition of social sites and letting users talk amongst themselves has been huge. Twitter again is huge letting people express themselves and other users react. Flickr is a great photo tool with huge numbers of options.

Giving the audience great tools to move their “data” around freely and without much restriction is part of the core of the interactivity and data movement of the Web 2.0 era. Interactivity and data access are very closely wound together.

Design Style

We all know about the starburst graphics and the “Beta” or “Alpha” tags. The reflection graphics, bold colors, clean simple designs etc etc etc. This is the most obvious component to the Web 2.0 craze, but was another large part of what made it different and popular.

Is there really a Web 2.0 Bust

Like the bust in the late 90’s of tech companies many are predicting the over saturation of startups in the Web 2.0 market. This is fed primarily on the thought that there are too many starting up only looking to sell their product to a large corporation like Google, AOL, Yahoo, etc.

Web 2.0 isn’t breakable. Users are running the Web 2.0 craze. Big business’s only roll in the 2.0 craze is to buy and ruin most of the applications that were made great by the typical everyday Web geek.

Users want the services that are being put out, and what users want business should give them for the most part. Sure there are going to be Web 2.0 companies that go bust, that’s part of the business model. Some will thrive and be bought for premium dollar, it depends on what service you bring to the table, and if it’s useful.

Web 2.0 is like a new feature on a car. Everyone loves it and wants it. It is a huge craze for a while until most cars include that feature as which time focus is taken away and moved to something newer. The old feature continues to exist but it’s something that is expected rather then something you buy a car for on its own. The same is true for Web 2.0, it will continue to be something users want, until it is so common that it becomes standard at which time focus will shift elsewhere.