The Motive Web Design Glossary
‘Web 2.0’ encapsulates a rethinking and reinvention of how the web is used, and might be used—circa late-2004.
The phraseology is that of software engineering, where the release of a new version is denoted by appending a number to the software title.
Taken at face-value, the term has proven problematic. Key criticisms of the term are that the web is not a piece of software, and that many of the ideas collected under the Web 2.0 moniker are not ‘new’ in a either a programmatic or technological sense.
Beyond its initial use to describe an approach to software development, the term has also entered popular usage as a synonym for ‘new-ness’—leading to comparisons with pre dot-com bust buzzwords such as ‘killer app’, ‘bleeding/leading edge’, etc.
Historicising the web
…an attempt to historicise the web-that-was, in order to chart its possible future.
Defining ‘Web 2.0’-ness is often supported by contrasting example-pairs; how Web 2.0: technologies, companies, business models, websites, etc; differ to their 1.0 forebears. However the true value may lie not in the specific examples, but in the attempt to historicise the web-that-was (pre 2004), in order to chart its possible future.
This theme, of summarising the evolution of the web, is also prevalent in the web design community, with a number of keynote speeches at international conferences (2004-2006), exploring similar terrain .
Responses to the term range from (positive) almost evangelical fervor, through to skepticism: that the term only has value as a marketing exercise . The later claim is often supported by noting that the term was first defined (at length) , and used as the moniker for a conference programme initiated by software book publisher Tim O’Reilly.
The lack consensus on the value of the term may even be (unintentionally) fitting, a reflection of the decentralised and discursive character of this ‘new’ web. For example, many references to ‘Web 2.0’ point either to the Wikipedia entry  or have been formulated in response to blog entries.
Rather than charting a possible future, Web 2.0 can be understood as a qualifier that has been assigned to the ‘best-of’ what-has-been. Few of the concepts cited as examples are entirely new, with many having been realised in various guises from the late 1990s.
Key Web 2.0 concepts
- Collective intelligence
- Using the interconnected-ness of the web to prioritise, aggregate or generate new content, for example Google’s page rank algorithm factors the number and quality of incoming links into ordering (ranking) search results. This concept is also described as ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’—a reference to the title and central premise of James Surowiecki’s book.
- Social software
- Software that enables participation, contribution and networking (inter-connecting); for example blogs.
- Software that enables content or services to be combined by third-parties (this combination is often referred to as ‘remixing’ or a ‘mash-up’: a reference to DJ-culture where new compositions are created by sampling and combining existing sounds or recordings).
- Web-based services and applications that do not rely desktop computer operating systems (such as Windows or Macintosh).
- Developing application software/programs that run inside of a web browser.
…a mind map or a collective ‘to-do’ list
If initial uses of the web can be visualised as an electronic book: formal and author-controlled, then Web 2.0 is a mind map  or a collective ‘to-do’ list.
Web 2.0 design and content trends
Both as an attempt to address new interaction models and as response to the conventions that new publishing tools have employed, new navigation systems and aesthetics have emerged. These have also been influenced by the styling of the Windows XP and Macintosh OS X operating systems.
- hyperlinks without underlines
- drag-and-drop interaction
- right-hand navigation (popularised by blogging software default templates)
- tag clouds
- social metadata/tagging
- frequently asked questions (as labels, e.g. ‘What we do’, ‘Who we are’…)
- low contrast text, often grey-on-white
- boxes with rounded corners
- background gradients
- large photographic masthead images (often with rounded corners)
- centered, fixed-width layout
- Lucida Grande (system font for Mac OS X)
- the ‘shiny floor’ look
- transcribed speech
- podcasts (audio recordings)
- frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)
- comments/distributed discussion
blog, convergence, folksonomy, open source, RSS, trackback
References and further reading
-  Examples of keynote speeches historicising the web include:
- State of the Web 2005, Molly Holzschlag (Web Essentials 05)
…shifts in our industry and how they relate directly to the work we do today—and how we’ll work in the future… (podcast)
- Zooming out from the trenches, Douglas Bowman (Web Essentials 05)
Let’s pull back from the pixels and selectors and look at a bigger picture…examine several scenarios of the not-too-distant future, and start asking ourselves how today’s work is impacted by the potential of tomorrow. (podcast)
-  Putting some meat on the Web 2.0 bones (John Zebrowski in a comment to Mark Sigal)
-  What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software (Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Network)
30 Sept 2005: Brief recap on web software development, including Web 2.0 characteristics.
-  Web 2.0 (Wikipedia)
- A spider’s view of Web 2.0 (Michael Wyszomierski and Greg Grothaus, Google)
6 Nov 2007: A spider is a program that builds an index of website content. This index is then used to generate search results. Certain techniques associated with Web 2.0 may have an impact on a spiders ability to index your website.
- Tag [text] cloud of What is Web 2.0? (Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Radar)
Tag/text clouds are an emerging information visualisation technique where the frequency of a word (within an article, speech, etc.) is shown typographically. The more times a word is repeated, the larger the text size. The fewer times a word is used the smaller the text size. In this article a text cloud generating program is used to analyse Tim O’Reilly’s seminal article.
- What is web 2.0? (John Hagel)
25 Sept 2005:
Web 2.0 ultimately refers to an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users. (article expands on each of these concepts).
- Why many Web 2.0 developers are search morons (Chris Smith, Search Engine Land)
- Web 2.0 (OK/Cancel)
Comic strip: Web 2.0 as interface/aesthetic.
- Web 2.0 can be dangerous (Jacob Neilsen, Useit.com)
17 Dec 2007: Features associated with Web 2.0 may add more complexity than they’re worth, and divert design resources.
- Web 2.0 for designers (Richard MacManus & Joshua Porter, Digital Web Magazine)
A grab-bag of 2.0 ideas, including: technology considerations: markup, separation of content and presentation; social considerations: user control, social metadata (tags) and business models: remixing content, web services.
- Web 2.0: The Power Behind the Hype (Jared Spool, UIE)
7 Sept 2005: APIs, RSS, folksonomies, social networking…
- Web 2.0 dead? (Thomas Vander Wal)
19 Dec 2005: Problems with Web 2.0. The rich interface. Web as platform.
- Web 2.0: Mistaking the forest for the trees? (Dave Rogers, Gotomedia)
…how should user advocates—information architects, interaction designers, researchers and user experience specialists—respond to Web 2.0?
- Web 2.0 (Andrew Keen, The Daily Standard)
[The Web 2.0 movement] as an ideology, is based upon a series of ethical assumptions about media, culture, and technology.
Motive Web Design Glossary Trivia