Defining Web 2.0 – At 3 Levels

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 – almost everyone have heard the term – but few are sure about its meaning. Unfortunately, it cannot be defined easily. People in different fields have their own unique definitions for the term. In this article, I will attempt to define the term at three different level – the Philosophy, the Technology and the Design.

Disclaimer: Before anyone reacts violently to the term Web 2.0, let me make myself very clear…
Web 2.0 is an ambiguous buzz word. It has been used and abused so many times that it does not have a consistent meaning – so people are free to interpret it as they see fit. And this is how I interpret it.


The design philosophy of a web site can make it a Web 2.0 site. This is perhaps the key difference between a Web 1.0 site and a Web 2.0 site…

Web 1.0 is a web site where there is a one way communication between the web master to the visitor. A Web 2.0 site is a site where the visitors can communicate with each other.

For example, compare the Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia. In Encyclopedia Britannica, the web master creates the content and gives it to the visitor – the visitor has no way of talking back. But in Wikipedia, the visitor create the content for other visitors.


The keyword here is “Internet as a platform”. In Web 2.0, the net became the platform rather than just a data transfer mechanism. For a simple example, when you visit a site, the videos in it come from YouTube, the images from Flickr, the search is done using Google API and you can bookmark pages using the API from

Some technologies that are described as Web 2.0…

  • Ajax
  • Valid Markup
  • Microformats
  • Tagging, Tag Clouds
  • APIs
  • Feeds
  • Mashups

Some features that makes a technology Web 2.0…

For example, Ajax makes simple tasks much faster.
Ease of Use
A good example of this is Tagging. It is a much easier approach when compared to hierarchies.
Enabling Mashups
APIs, Feeds, etc. makes this possible.
Bringing Web Apps closer to the Desktop
Ajax, AIR, etc.


This is perhaps the only area where the term Web 2.0 can be defined with a reasonable level of accuracy. A site with a Web 2.0 design is one that has at least some of these elements…

Simple Design


Lots of white space

Browse Happy

Nice Icons

37Signal Icons

Violators/Badges/Star Flashes

A List Apart Violator

Big Fonts

37Signal Font




Curve 2 Reflections



And More…

Web 2.0 Design Style Guide

For More Information


  1. I really like this example of what web 2.0 is. There are so many places throwing this idea around, but its become very easy to misunderstand what web 2.0 is. You said it very well in a short article.

  2. It sure is a well written article. The Web 2.0 buzzword is being used on the corporate level in so many messed up ways, It is not funny. What are your thoughts on the “marketing me” strategy that a ton of organizations are taking up using Web 2.0 to increase revenue. Do you think there is any future for Web 2.0 to become a marketing tool??

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