The 'What is Web 2.0?' meme is everywhere and everyone seems to have a different interpretation. Here are some of the latest:
Om Malik: "a “collection of technologies - be it VoIP, Digital Media, XML, RSS, Google Maps… whatever …. that leverage the power of always on, high speed connections and treat broadband as a platform, and not just a pipe to connect."
John Hagel: “an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.”
Susan Mernit: "The enduring lesson of all of the social media and emerging technologies is that we've created an a la carte, do it yourself platform where users can engage with sophisticated forms of search, feeds, metadata and APIs, social networks and identity, and commerce and fill these vessels with their own information..."
Wikipedia's current definition: "Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications, like Gmail, to end users. The proponents of this thinking expect that ultimately Web 2.0 services will replace desktop computing applications for many purposes."
I of course have had more than a few attempts at defining Web 2.0 - here at the beginning of 2005 (when I linked to a bunch of 2004-era definitions), here again on my ZDNet blog (when I linked to a bunch of Sep 2005-era definitions).
p.s. Ken at technosight.com is holding a blogoposium to try and nut out more definitions.
I go around parroting "The Web is a Platform" as my main definition of Web 2.0 - and 'platform' is a word almost always used when talking about Web 2.0. But obviously that's not the whole story and it's not a suitable definition to tell your family. So here is my current Elevator Pitch for Web 2.0 - two paragraphs, so it'd take a few minutes for me to say it in an elevator. But it's a work in progress... let me know your thoughts and tell me what I've missed.
Richard's Web 2.0 Elevator Pitch
Web 2.0 at its most basic is using services on the Web. Some examples: Gmail for email, Flickr for photo-management, RSS for news delivery, eBay for shopping, Amazon for buying books. That's why the Web is being called a platform - because all of these services are being built and used on the Web. Why Web 2.0 only now though - hasn't Amazon been around since 1995? Why yes, but it's taken until 2005 for broadband and web technology to catch up and reach a 'tipping point' - the Web is fast becoming the platform of choice for developers, business, media, public services, and so on.
So what do I get out of this "Web 2.0", you ask? The advantages of using the Web as a platform is that the services become more social and collaborative - and geographic boundaries are blown away. A lot of the content is actually created by users. For example all of the reviews and ratings entered into Netflix by its users help make it easier to find and filter the thousands of DVDs that are available on its website. Another advantage of using the Web as a platform is that services can be built using data and code from other services - for example Housing Maps is a "mash-up" of Google Maps and real estate listings from craigslist. So Web 2.0 provides services that people can contribute to as well as mix and match.
Oh, I see you have to get out of the elevator now. Did I tell you I have a book coming out on Web 2.0? Wait a minute, I also have two blogs -- why are you running so fast? Hmmm, I guess I need to keep working on my definition :-)