The term Web 2.0 (and, worse, the “2.0” suffix) has gained widespread usage this year. I think it is safe to say that 2.0 is the new .com. But what does it mean?

The term has been used and overused to the point that it vaguely means “something new” as in “AOL is so Web 1.0, MySpace is Web 2.0.”

Tim O’Reilly claims he first coined the term in 2004 and has rather opaquely defined it.

I have been looking for more succinct in response to the queries of my clients and friends. I have now found two answers that satisfy me. [NB: As with anything Internet-related, it has three facets: a creative one, a technical one and a business (strategy) one. Being a fee paying cardholder of the strategist union; I will only speak for my lot.]

I favour two very similar definitions of what Web 2.0 are from a business perspective:

1. A site where user actions increases the value of the service. (I lost the source)

2. Dotcom (Web 1.0) was about ‘taking’. Web 2.0 is about ‘giving’. (thanks Hugh MacLeod)

So, yes, Web 2.0 is something radical. Traditionally companies offered consumers a carefully vetted and edited list of things. Web 1.0 preserved this approach. Web 2.0 let’s the user have more control. Everything you bought was selected by retailers; now you have eBay. All the news you read was vetted by editors; now you have digg. All the programmes you used to watch were picked by channel controllers; now you have YouTube.

Companies should ask themselves how they can open up to consumers. Let them participate. Surely, there is no better way to gain the customer insight than to listen to them. In other words, companies should experiment with being user-centric to the extreme.

tags: web20 user centric