At Work: Finance and IT - IT intelligence

Robin Fisk, managing director of software company Fisk Brett

Robin Fisk on how users rather than developers can now control websites.

Do you remember your first website? Microsoft launched its first website in 1994, when the web was seen as a slightly frivolous part of the internet. At that time, the internet hosted serious things called Telnet, FTP and Gopher; but the visual appeal of websites encouraged organisations to go for ever more sophisticated presences on the web, evolving their sites from static shop windows to the content-managed sites we see today.

The web's evolution over the past 15 years or so has been driven by many technologies. Web 2.0 is a term coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004 to describe a supposed second-generation range of technologies and services that allow us to use the web in previously unavailable ways. It elevates websites from mere shop windows to fully interactive applications in which we can participate and communicate with one another. It shifts the website from developer control to user control, and in doing so it makes the web a more democratic communication channel.

Examples of Web 2.0 sites include MySpace, last.fm and YouTube. Defined not by their features, but by the content that people place on them, Web 2.0 businesses often have simple business models and rely on gaining critical mass through user-created content. Some Web 2.0 sites offer the ability for users to tag the site content themselves.

This method (known as a folksonomy) allows content to be categorised and searched according to tags created by the users themselves, not the site developers. Thus, last.fm plays you music according to your declared tastes, selected for you based on other users' tags.

So are there any candidates for the first Web 2.0 charity site? It may be difficult to foretell how our websites will look in the next five years, but it's guaranteed that our current predictions will look as naive then as our first attempts do now.

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