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Web 2.0 is a term for today's interactive Internet. It is often contrasted with Web 1.0, the earlier Internet of the 1990s, and a future theoretical Web 3.0 which involves additional advanced technologies to enhance how we will likely use the web decades from now.
First, let's start with Web 1.0. In the beginning of the Internet, the interface itself, the use of web browsers to access hosting servers and get information, was characterized as a “read-only” Internet.
For the most part, web users simply surfed the web looking for information, and did not interact with the sites themselves in terms of returning user-generated data.
There were exceptions for early bulletin boards and technologies like IRCq chat rooms, but on the mainstream Internet itself, interactivity was not built-in.
Web 2.0 moved us from a read-only Internet to what experts would call a “read/write” Internet.
Suddenly, users were able to enter a range of information into web fields and send it back to the servers, so that they could communicate with hosting servers in real time.
They could not only access information, but also send information back to the server to get more targeted information or other user generated results. This is where a variety of web services took off as providers were able to use this interactivity to transform software services.
The fundamental tool for these interactions has been hypertext transfer protocol or HTTP. This is where the browser sends the server a message corresponding to the user’s submitted information and establishes the communications that drive Web 2.0.
Web 2.0 also got a major boost from cloud technology, where abstracting server hardware allowed companies to dream bigger when it came to offering web-delivered services.
Suddenly all sorts of functional services were delivered through the Internet instead of being sold on physical media like compact discs.
So, Web 2.0 represents a web where information transfer is a two-way street. Some aspects of Web 2.0 may be debatable — for instance, corporate shopping carts are sometimes ambiguously treated in an analysis of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.
Some would say that because the company site is mainly in the process of delivering catalog information, shopping carts would belong to Web 1.0. However, many more would assert that since shoppers are actually entering all sorts of information including financial identifiers, product choices and more, that these web projects fall squarely into the realm of Web 2.0.
In fact, Amazon's success as an online retailer can be seen as a major result of Web 2.0 interactivity.
As for Web 3.0, Internet gurus dream of the day when semantic web and data mapping will transform the web into what you might call a “read, write and execute” web, where automation programs take over from purely user-driven Internet activity.
Here you might theorize that Internet bots will do the actual work of generating the HTTP requests and responses and surf the web instead of human users.
We’re not there yet — so it’s safe to say that we’re still in the era of Web 2.0.