Why Web 2.0? Why now?

A friend-of-a-friend (“SJ”) and I were talking about Web 2.0 as part of his research for a major London based VC. He asked me, “Why Web 2.0? And Why now?” In large part for Silicon Valley geeks, Web 2.0 is nothing new and it’s an old topic. Guess what, rest of the world and the enterprise are waking up to Web 2.0 now.
Here’s a summary of what I explained to him:
1. Web 2.0 is an attempt to fulfill the promises made during the Web 1.0 days. Office on the web, online calendar, utility Computing for the masses, content sharing, collaboration, anywhere/anytime on-demand storage, one-click publishing, etc. are some of the examples, where we heard lot of chatter during the late 90s but we are seeing real applications only now.
2. Growth of user-created content. Simply put, blogs and wikis are allowing non-geek crowd to participate in the 2-way web. The surge of tools, commoditization of CMS, 1-click publishing and new methods of monetization are pushing the limits and expectations of both consumers and innovative startups.
3. Money is no longer just waiting on the sidelines (it has started talking lately). Web 1.0 bust is now digested and pooped from our intestines. At a recent New Tech Meetup in Palo Alto, I overheard couple of angel investors introducing themselves to the companies demoing over there.
4. Browser as a platform has matured. I gave him a very simple example, of rectangles with smooth/rounded edges rendered on web pages. During the 1.0 days it was quite a hack doing that using tables and images. In 2.0, it is done by a few lines of CSS. And then there is AJAX, which has made the browser a much more mature platform.
All of the 4 are the necessary ingredients in that order of decreasing priority, for making Web 2.0 happen. More than that and contrary to a popular notion, Web 2.0 is not just about the advancements of browser as a platform, or social networking at large, or raw bandwidth/storage for video at cheap prices, or just the sheer volume of user-created content, but it’s the ideas around simple applications which are now being done right (of course, technology has helped). It’s the simple applications which everybody wanted to reduce their drudgery while working with computing devices. That’s why it’s happening now and has a new version number.

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