When the internet started to become popular, typical websites were seen as merely content providers that pushed and retrieved information to the end user. They were usual simple in nature and not viewed as robust as software applications. Instead many of them functioned as a disjointed set of pages that tried their best to keep the user experience as intact as possible.
With involving knowledge and technology, developers and designers alike have learned to push the envelope in creating websites that are seamless, contain many features and are rich in user-ability. This new breed of website was dubbed Web 2.0 starting around 2004. It is important to note however that it is not a new version of the World Wide Web but instead a shift in how the platform is consumed and presented to the end user.
What distinguishes a website as Web 2.0? There isn't one particular feature per se but there are some commonalities that most Web 2.0 websites share. All of them aim to provide the end user with a better user experience. Some of these would be quicker response time, more rich and diverse content and real time information such as RSS feeds or Wiki's
There are many websites that don't use any so called Web 2.0 feature and functions just fine. In fact, most sites, even without their Web 2.0 features, would still be very useful and easy to use websites. They would be a little less user-friendly but all in all would still serve their intended purpose. You can almost think of Web 2.0 feature as a luxury that helps to retain users to your site.
So what are some distinguishable Web 2.0 features? Heavy use of Ajax is one of the most common ones. This technology removed the need to completely re-load a webpage when information on the site has changed. Requests are sent behind the scenes and only the affected part of the webpage is updated. This provides a very ‘software application' like experience and provides the user with a smooth transition from one state to another. Some other common Web 2.0 features would be RSS feeds, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. RSS feeds allow for real time updates to a webpage in order to obtain the latest information available. Both Adobe Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight provide extreme animation and video to a webpage. Some go as far as allowing the user to interact with them in order to provide a very rich user experience.
Web 2.0 does provide an atmosphere that will help keep users returning to your website. As the Internet matures more Web 2.0 functionality will in doubtingly be expected and maybe one day even be demanded from end users.
For the time being however, Web 2.0 is a 'nice to have' feature but not necessary for creating a very effective and user friendly website. We look forward to speaking to you.