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Web 2.0 for the Enterprise

Sunday 08 October 2006 8:21:00 am

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Since the first Web 2.0 conference held in San Francisco in October 2004, "Web 2.0" has been both one of the most hyped and one of the most attacked terms in the realm of internet technologies. While some celebrate Web 2.0 as being the next paradigm for internet usage, others regard it as an insubstantial marketing slogan. To get beyond the ideological discussion, this article asks: What is the essence of "Web 2.0"? Are there new ideas or techniques applicable within enterprise environments? And, most important: How can Web 2.0 ideas add value for enterprises?

What is Web 2.0?

The phrase "Web 2.0" is typically used in two contexts. First, it refers to the technical aspects of building web-based applications, including enhanced user experience via technologies and standards such as AJAX and CSS, and protocols that allow for data portability and reuse such as RSS, SOAP and REST.

These technical aspects enable the second context where the phrase "Web 2.0" is used: the interactive opportunities provided to users. More specifically, the functional aspects of Web 2.0 are based on "user-generated content", which means: enabling people to collectively aggregate and structure large amounts of information; the concept of "folksonomy" that enables collaborative categorising of information; and "social software" that supports individual online identities and promotes social contact and the formation of communities among users.

Some practical examples of these functional aspects:

  • Content production and classification shifts from the owner of the site to the users of the site. Editorial oversight and control is reduced. The relevance of information on the site is determined by users, who use techniques such as rating, voting, and keyword tagging. This form of evaluation is an implementation of " collective intelligence", where the credibility of a large number of users is assumed to be greater than the credibility of a single editor or content owner. The power of this concept has been successfully demonstrated with projects like del.icio.us and digg.
  • Internet portals provide the ability for users to personalise their use of a site. Rather than top-down design that requires the user to view the information that the site owner deems significant, each user can define his or her interaction by filtering and arranging the information provided by the site.
  • Users are given the opportunity to establish site personas. In addition to further personalizing the experience through self-portrayal and a virtual identity, a user's activities on the site (such as submitting content or participating in discussions) can enhance their persona, providing an aspect of reputation.
  • In general, Web 2.0 projects aim at generating " network effects" among users in order to both raise the information value of the site and attract new users. A significant milestone is to reach enough momentum to ensure that the site's community perpetuates itself without external help or editorial input.
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