I am finding it quite exciting and interesting to discover, explore and begin to use some of these Web 2.0 sites, despite the fact that I don't always fully understand them conceptually or technologically. But you don't have to know exactly how they work in order to take advantage of them. In fact, the best of these sites are designed to be extremely user-friendly, this being a high value in Web 2.0 thinking. Since, as mentioned earlier, new applications are continually being developed, the following list provides a very brief survey of Web 2.0 applications.
Start (Home) Pages
One of the sites I recently discovered is Netvibes.com, a site that reminds me of the Firefox browser (itself a product of Web 2.0 innovations) in terms of its high intuitiveness and configurability. Netvibes aims to be a place where you can set up your own web "universe". I have already begun using it as a home base on the Internet, gathering together in one place my contacts, calendar, to-do list, blog feeds, news feeds, podcasts, etc. Time Magazine recently selected Netvibes as one of their top 50 websites.
Of course, this is not a new concept. Many sites, such as My Yahoo or iGoogle, have aimed to become the preferred portal to the web for their audiences. Yet while both My Yahoo and especially iGoogle (with its many, often user-designed widgets) have implemented new ideas for personalizing home pages, sites like Netvibes take the innovations to the next level. Thus Netvibes and the similar Pageflakes are probably the top Web 2.0 choices right now for creating customized start pages.
Responding to invitations from friends, I recently joined three social network web sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo Pulse. LinkedIn and Plaxo Pulse both seem geared toward those wanting to link to others professionally, while Facebook seems more a networking tool for friends. All three sites seem are very "Web 2.0" in terms of purpose-- trying to connect people via Internet-- and also in regard to ease of use. Being new to these networks, I can't really give an opinion as to which of them is best-- their functions probably overlap, if using all three. Another popular site along these lines, especially for a younger crowd, is MySpace.com.
A phenomenon related to social networking is that of social bookmarking, in which users create online lists of Internet resources they like or have found useful and share them with others. Sites such as del.icio.us, Simpy, and Furl have become popular networks of this kind. More recently Diigo, Ma.gnolia, Netvouz, and StumbleUpon have also joined this growing web market. You can learn more about social bookmarking in this helpful Wikipedia article. Wikipedia itself is another great example of Web 2.0 in action-- an on-line encyclopedia collaboratively maintained and expanded by its readers.
Do you use programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel to create documents or spreadsheets? What if you could create, collaborate on, access and share such documents on the web? Innovative sites such as Google Documents and Spreadsheets, Zoho.com, Writeboard, ThinkFree.com, and Ajax13.com provide free online software that makes it possible to create spreadsheets and documents compatible with Microsoft Office, even if you don't own Microsoft products. Best of all, you can upload your created documents to the web to share with others or access from any computer with Internet. Recently, Google acquired a company called Jotspot, a Wiki-type site that enables online collaborative projects. This site will soon be integrated with Google's Documents and Spreadsheets. Microsoft has responded to the challenge posed by such Web 2.0 sites with Microsoft Live, which they describe as "services [which] allow you to create a professional online presence without the expense of buying a server, setting up a complicated infrastructure, and hiring technical staff to maintain it."
There are so many more Web 2.0 sites in multiple categories. The following is a mere sampling:
More Web 2.0
City Guides & Reviews
Digital Storage and Remote Access
Email and Communication
Photos, Digital Images and Sharing
And of course, this blog itself is part of the wonderful world of Web 2.0.
Utilizing Web 2.0 wisely
I feel I would be remiss without admonishing (myself, as well as readers) to use the Web wisely. All the technological innovation of Web 2.0 is meant to make modern life easier and more productive, and certainly can be a tremendous asset in this regard. But, as with anything good, there is a danger of the Web becoming an idol in our lives. An idol is anything we allow, by the value and time we spend upon it, to become a kind of "god" to us, something which usurps relationship with the true God. The Web can easily become a totally absorbing and distracting place in which to live, and tracking the endless barrage of information becomes an exhausting addiction, even when the information in itself is good and helpful.
Christians recognize the reality of indwelling sin, which means that the pull of the world and sin are still present. So if you are Christian, please bear this in mind as you explore the world of Web 2.0. And if you are not a Christian, I would suggest that you consider the idea that if God is real He must have a claim on all human life. No activity in this world will ever bring us the true satisfaction and abiding joy that comes from being in relationship with our Creator. And no human activity or philosophy can solve the sin problem which separates us from Him. Visit my Gospel Presentations section for more about this.
What are your favorite "Web 2.0" sites? Do you ever feel that you've become addicted to the spending time on the Web?
50 Best Websites, selected by Time magazine
Web 2.0 by Wikipedia
Review of the Year's Best Web 2.0 explanations
What exactly does Web 2.0 mean?
Best Web 2.0 Sites July 2007 (top 10 from Real World Software Development)
2007 Web 2.0 Awards
2007: Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without
The Best Web 2.0 Software of 2006
Top 100 Web Apps (included are many Web 2.0-type sites)
Top 100 Web 2.0 Sites
The Best of Web 2.0
Brave New Web: 20 Top Web 2.0 sites
Go2Web20.net-the complete web 2.0 directory
Ajax Projects (Web 2.0 sites)