Is “2.0” Just the Latest Buzzword?

Everybody is talking about Web 2.0, and there are several presentations about it at this conference. But what is Web 2.0? I learned some examples of its use in a presentation by Karen Coombs, Head of Web Services at the University of Houston (UH) Libraries. She listed some applicable Web 2.0 concepts and illustrated their application to the UH library’s Web site when it recently underwent a major modification and redeployment.

Radical decentralization. Content for the Web site was formerly created and updated by several people, then updated by a member of the library’s Web management staff. On the new Web site, any staff member can update any of the content, subject to the approval of the owner of the page. In addition, the Web site supports wikis and blogs.

Small pieces loosely joined. Different technologies are used in creating content, depending on what is most appropriate. All the content is loosely joined and is reusable throughout the site. Any piece of the content management system can be replaced as needed.

Perpetual beta status. Systems are deployed early, then input is gathered, and improvements are continuous. Users become part of the development process, so they understand that features may not always work as expected.

Remixable content. Content can be exported into other systems, and content from external sources can be incorporated into the site. Database links can be added to any page, blog, or wiki.

Users become contributors. Users can add and update content on the library’s Web site. Institutional repositories for scholarly content from faculty, students, and staff are easily created. The library can host blogs on the site. Users can tag and review catalog content.

Through these Web2.0 features and capabilities, the user experience is very rich. It can make full use of multimedia and interactivity, and users can personalize their experience as they wish.

Clearly, Web 2.0 is more than just a buzzword, and these applications show that it has considerable promise for the future.

Don Hawkins
IL2006 Blog Coordinator and Columnist, Information Today

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