Web 2.0 is now here and it represents a fundamental shift in the use of Internet technology. It refers to the interactive information sharing, collaboration and instant interaction that is becoming common. Otherwise known as Social Media, it is characterized by web sites that allow comments on posts made on discussion topics. Some web sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and You Tube, implement Web 2.0 as the main focus of their service. Their user communities number in the hundreds of millions. Often the actions of the users can influence significant actions on the part of individuals. In response to items seen on Web 2.0 web sites, thousands of users can weigh in with their votes, opinions or comments. Governments and businesses that are aware of these actions will often react to address the particular concern of the user community. Because of the size of the communities and the instant nature of the commenting process, massive numbers of people can be moved to support or criticize certain agencies. Many in the online communities know that their cohorts are willing to support particular causes. It is becoming common that posts request that all users visit a particular event, contact agencies deemed to be unworthy of business or event boycott certain establishments completely. Responses by the online communities are mixed. Some calls for action have been essentially ignored while others have resulted in near universal condemnation of the identified agency.
Technically, Web 2.0 isn't actually new at all since the original inventory of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, envisioned the concept as part of his original web specifications. He intended that web sites would be read/write where visitors would be able to add material to the content that was prepared in advance for them. Despite his view, the earliest web browsing programs generally lacked any form of web authoring capabilities. Instead, the creation of web pages was accomplished through various web design or editing programs. The creation of web pages was generally seen as a technical challenge so most regular web users did not contribute any content to the web. Despite the separation of web page writing and reading activities, the web grew enormously over time. As network infrastructure improved, it allowed more content to be displayed to viewers over fast distribution channels. During the same time, computer server technology lowered costs for web site hosting primarily for storage of content. By the late 1990's, fairly inexpensive web servers were available that had the ability to store billions of pages of material and make these available for fast download to the Internet. Web sites, such as Facebook, began to center their activity around the creation of content by the user community and encouraged updates to the content by others in the community. Since storage technology had become inexpensive, there was no restriction placed on the amount of material that could be created by the participants. Videos, music, text and photographs, were encouraged as content to be shared on the web sites.
Early in the 21st century, web sites have proliferated that encourage the instantaneous sharing of information on a variety of topics. You Tube receives video uploads from members of its community. These are flagged by the server as interesting which identifies them to members of the community. These members often share the video with their friends resulting in more viewers. As well, comments about the video are accepted by members of the community. Depending on the subject of the video, the comments may call for viewers to support, boycott or contact businesses with letters of support or condemnation. Businesses should understand the sheer size of the community. A video posted in early August of 2010 depicted excessive aggression by security guards towards handicapped individuals. Within a week, over 525,000 people had viewed the video and over 6200 comments were posted. Many of these expressed loathing for the firm identified in the video. When this business attempted to respond to criticisms, their statement was instantly posted on You Tube as a comment where it received extensive negative comments. Users began to call for a boycott of the business.
Some individuals have found that the Web 2.0 features are very helpful for the positive promotion of web sites. Through a process known as "backlinks", items of interest on one web site are described on another site. In addition to the readers on both sites who may randomly encounter the information, automatic search engine tools read the items and follow redirection referral links. This establishes new items in search engine indexes which then makes them available to users searching for similar information. Many sites have developed, such as Reddit, Dofollow and Digg that concentrate on making such links their primary focus. The sites are generally sustained by advertising that appears at various positions on the web screen. The site operators generally receive a small fee for the display of web advertising on thousands of downloaded pages. In addition, should viewers click on ads to activate them, an additional fee is forwarded to the web site operators. Often these "pay per click" fees are variable according to the budget established by the target business. While many of the web site promoters receive all revenue generated on the site, others have a sharing formula that seeks to benefit the users who contribute to the web site. Sites like Infobarrel.com offer authors the ability to contribute informational articles to the web site. Advertising displayed next to the author's work offers viewers the chance to proactively view additional material related to the article. Revenue collected by Infobarrel is then shared with the author. Additional Web 2.0 features in place give viewers the opportunity to comment on the material presented, vote in favor or not on a topic, post links to other sites and report other comments to the web site operators as inappropriate. As a further service to their community, Infobarrel offers a user forum which gives an additional commenting avenue to the community. This feature is also popular in other Web 2.0 web sites. It further enhances the ability of Web 2.0 to disseminate information quickly to the Internet.
Businesses should watch for the effects that Web 2.0 sites might have on their establishments. At the very least, certain segments of society might ignore their establishment due to particular comments made available on Web 2.0 sites. At worst, a business could find itself identified in a public boycott campaign. In order to alleviate negative effects, and emphasize the positive ones, businesses should make a point of regularly researching themselves in the Internet pages. Simply searching for the name of the business in the popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo might uncover Web 2.0 attention to the business. If negative comments are encountered, the business should make quick and decisive steps to investigate and repair the basis of these comments. Depending of the issue, it may be prudent for the business to actively address the issue on the Web 2.0 site as well. Ignoring the issue by inaction is often sure to compound future problems for the business. Negative reviews and comments may persist on the Internet which are then available to dissuade potential customers. Many customers will use the Web 2.0 to find information on businesses. Negative comments can make the customer reject a particular business instantly and for fairly insignificant reasons. If possible, businesses should establish their own web site in order to give them a venue in which to post their most positive aspects.
Web 2.0 may not be new but it is gaining in popularity and strength. With the advent of smart mobile phones offering Internet connectivity, the opportunities for people to contribute instant Internet content are increasing. With hundreds of millions of users viewing the content available in Web 2.0 sites, they have the ability to alter their buying power and that of countless others in an instant. The interaction features of Web 2.0 are becoming important for businesses, governments and political candidates, many of whom support the concepts with their advertising budgets. Since the Web 2.0 sites target ads to particular groups, many of the advertisers are willing to pay more per individual lead than with conventional advertising campaigns such as television broadcasts or newspaper editions. This action strengthens the Web 2.0 Internet presences which continually boosts the importance of Web 2.0. Businesses large and small are well advised to understand and participate in the Web 2.0 movement.