Web 2.0 and The Read/Write Web
One of the emerging themes of Web 2.0 is the ability for users to add data to web sites directly. In Web 1.0 web content was managed by so-called “webmasters”. The webmaster would update HTML web pages using simple text editors (like Notepad) or advanced web management systems (like DreamWeaver).
In Web 2.0 web sites are reaching out to the users and inviting them to add content directly. Wikis, Weblogs (Blogs), Forums, and Content Management Systems are making this possible.
Wikis (from the Hawaiian “Wiki Wiki” meaning “quick”) are flat web spaces where users can update existing pages and add their own web pages by doing little more than clicking a link. In a Wiki, every page has an “edit” button and any user can then update the text that is displayed.
Wikis use their own special markup language, one that is simpler than HTML. For the most part, whatever you type in the Wiki editor is displayed on the page. Special characters like “*” for itemized lists and “_” for bold face are used to allow the user the ability to add styles to the text.
A unique feature of a Wiki is the naming of the pages. Any text that is typed in “CamelCase” (upper and lower case) becomes a link to a page with that name. This makes creating a network of pages incredibly simple. If the page doesn’t already exist, the link takes on a special appearance (say, the color red). When a user clicks on this link they are automatically shown the page editor and can create the page on the spot. This creates a sort of semantic network of pages – pages linked by concept rather than content.
The side effect of the Wiki is the community becomes the webmaster. Not only can the community add new information, but also the community can determine what is valid or invalid information and edit the pages to keep the information current. An excellent example of this social phenomenon is the Wikipedia at http://wikipedia.com. It is a community-managed encyclopedia with exceptionally good quality information.
Wikis have been implemented in different languages including PHP and Java. The more popular Wiki implementations are tWiki (http://twiki.org/), JSPWiki (java based – http://www.jspwiki.org/) and PHPWiki (http://phpwiki.sourceforge.net/).
Another website updated by users is the Forum. Forums are like bulletin boards of days gone by. Users can post messages on the forum and others can respond. The messages are posted for all to see. Generally forums are geared to a particular topic. Like a hobbyist computer (http://devcybiko.us) or comedy (http://comedysportz.net/fans/).
Many companies have found forums to be a benefit in fielding questions from users. The forums allow users to interact and talk about their experiences with the product and even take customer service requests. Forums attract potential customers who are interested in the product and offer a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” or FAQ.
There are a number of implementations of Forums that are available either as open source or for hire. PHPbb (http://www.phpbb.com/) is a very popular board as is Invision PowerBoard (http://www.invisionpower.com/)
Weblogs are similar to Forums in that users can post messages and others can add comments. But Weblogs are more like personal newspapers. The writer (or Blogger) posts a message or article about a topic they find important. Then, “friends” of the Blogger can leave comments and links back to their blog. This creates another semantic network of information.
Equally importantly, it creates a network of people. Blogger (http://www.blogger.com) and LiveJournal (http://www.blogger.com/start) are examples of straightforward Weblogs. For the more socially advanced, there is MySpace (http://myspace.com) where the point of the website is to create a network of friends and their friends and leave messages in an ever-increasing criss-cross network pattern.
Finally in our survey of data management and social web services, is the Content Management System (CMS). This is one part prefabricated website and one part forum. The CMS allows the web master to create topics and categories of information. The web master can add content using the web browser – without learning HTML. Visitors to the website can add comments and even content in some cases.
Examples of the more advanced CMS systems are Joomla! (http://www.joomla.org/) and Mambo (http://www.mamboserver.com/). These two CMS systems actually spring from the same source. The controversy over their split is beyond the scope of this article, but well documented on the web. Another very nice and mature CMS is phpNuke (http://phpnuke.org/). All three of these CMS systems run under PHP with MySql and are open source.
The promise of Web 2.0 is the ability for users to interact and add content to the web without knowledge of low-level technology. All anyone needs is the ability to point, click, and type. This brings the promise of the Internet as the “people’s medium” home to the ordinary user.
Author : Greg Smith