What is Web 2.0?

For the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard the term Web 2.0 but more than likely you’re not too clear on what it means, how you might use it and how it might benefit you. Unsurprisingly, you’re in good company since even the experts can’t agree on how best to define it. Search Google for ‘What is Web 2.0’ to see what I mean.
I’m not going to attempt to provide a final definition of what it is, but I am going to try to explain what most people mean when they say it and hopefully give you food for thought on how you might want to use it on your own web site.
Think back to the late 1990s and consider what the web was like.  Google was attempting to beat Yahoo! as the number 1 search engine, using Napster (pre-legal Napster) to download MP3s was the cool thing to do and broadband was in its infancy. Now consider where we are today and some of the main web brands – Facebook, Blogger, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and Digg. For me, these websites epitomise Web 2.0 technology.  
For me, the first step in allowing technology to flourish on the web was the greater availability of bandwidth.  This allowed you to upload high res pictures and videos and generally create a richer web experience. The second step was the trend of sharing things with a community, whether it was your favourite videos, pictures, websites or your own views on a particular topic, which you could easily publish by creating your own blog. Quite how using the web to share as a community came about I don’t know but arguably it’s what the web was best suited for all along.
The final component which has helped make the web a more pleasant place to work in and which is itself often thought of as Web2.0, is Ajax. Ajax is a combination of JavaScript (a programming language) and XML (a technique of marking data to give it more meaning rather than just a bunch of words/numbers/whatever). 
Ajax isn’t an obvious part of Web2.0 to the end user in the same way that video or blogs are, but it does allow the techies to do some nice stuff that you couldn’t do pre-Web2.0. In its simplest form, Ajax allows you to send small amounts of data backwards and forwards between the server. It doesn’t sound like much but it means that instead of a web page reloading each time you send a form or click a button, just a small part of the web page reloads making interactions with the web page far quicker and responsive and sometimes invisible. To see Ajax in action, take a look at Facebook and scroll through some photos – it works much more like a desktop application (like Picasa) than a web page – that’s Ajax.
So, it’s a very brief overview and I’m expecting lots of comments telling me that I’m totally wrong, but this is my view of Web 2.0 technologies:
1.       Greater use of broadband allows more flexibility of hosting large videos and images
2.       Sharing of information via blogs, recommendations and the forming of large communities
3.       A more pleasant web experience using Ajax technologies.