If you're looking at the web using Firefox 2.0, does that make it Web 2.0?

Our son is pretty technologically minded. A second-year college student majoring in computer science, he's grown up in a house full of computers, networks, and surrounded by the latest and greatest technology most of his life.

So when he started talking about looking up meta-tags for one of his classes, I explained in short order about the importance of meta-meta tagging and Web 3.0; the semantic web. When he immediately told me "Mom, I don't even know what Web 2.0 is, don't start on this Web 3.0 stuff yet. So if you're looking at the web using Firefox 2.0, does that make it Web 2.0?" I figured I was probably too far ahead of the curve, or there wasn't enough basic education on Web 2.0 out there (or he hasn't been listening to me rant for the past year, given his age that's possible). Whatever the reason, this boy lives on the Internet, so when he makes a statement like the one above then I know it's time to step back, take a breath, and start from the beginning.

What is Web 2.0?

The answer to this question varies depending on who you are. If you're Joe or Jill User, then Web 2.0 is social networking, the convergence of video, data, and voice. It's Myspace and YouTube and StumbleUpon. It's about Flash and mashups and dynamic, interactive sites.

But if you're on the technical side of the world, Web 2.0 is about the technologies that make Jill User's cool web sites possible. It's AJAX and Flash/Flex, it's DHTML and SOA, it's VoIP and SIP; it's JSON, it's XML; it's Flash and it's Flex. It's tag clouds and RTSP; it's making a browser do things we never expected it to do, and delivering content over the Internet in ways we never thought possible.

Web 2.0 is dynamic. It is responsive, sexy interfaces that integrate with other cool sites to present it in new and exciting ways. It's Google Maps and Suggest, it's my favorite online game, and it's the Chicago Crime mashup

Web 2.0 is not Internet 2.0, the now rarely referenced "really fast" network built to replace the original connectivity initiated by DARPA that we eventually co-opted for retail and entertainment. It's not even really tangible in most cases. It's a deployment pattern and a user-interface design paradigm enabled by a few key standards-based (and a few key non-standards based) technologies. It's about moving fat-client functionality to the browser, and applying SOA principles to data aggregation techniques to deliver a new generation of rich internet applications (RIA).

It's hard to nail down "Web 2.0". I see a lot of messaging from companies around Web 2.0 this and Web 2.0 that, but that doesn't really say a whole lot because there are so many composite parts to Web 2.0 that "securing Web 2.0" could mean something as meaningful as validation of JSON and XML to something as mundane as turning off JavaScript in your browser.

Like SOA, Web 2.0 is a concept, not a product, and therefore it's not something that you can buy or deploy. It's not something you can always touch, and there isn't a magic "Web 2.0" validator on the Internet that lets you put a cute image on your web site validating your use of the latest and greatest technology.

If you're still confused and going to be at RSA next week stop by the F5 booth. I'm not sure I'll have a better way of explaining it by then, but I'm always willing to try.

Imbibing: Coffee that Don made (i.e. that's espresso strength, methinks!)