Revisiting the Web 2.0 Framework for insights on the web landscape today


I have just been requested permission by London School of Economics to use my Web 2.0 Framework in their Management and Innovation of eBusiness program for the next four years. The first part of the framework is below, and the industry landscape further down the page.

Web 2.0 Framework

Click on the image for the original description and full pdf

I’m delighted that the framework is still seen as relevant and useful over 3 years after it was created in May 2007. Certainly the original post continues to get plenty of traffic, not least because an image from the framework still appears on the front page of a Google search for ‘Web 2.0’. The phrase ‘Web 2.0’ has been largely replaced with ‘social media’, ‘cloud’ and similar terms, but the underlying concepts remain valid in understanding what is going on today.

I thought it would be worth reviewing the framework today to see what is still current and what I would change.

Overall, my thinking on the space has evolved a fair bit over the last years, and I would certainly create a fairly different framework if I started again from scratch. Then again, I find it hard to identify anything that I think is no longer true – the framework still seems to provide a solid frame to understand what is going on in the social web.

Web 2.0 mechanisms

The heart of the diagram is how Inputs flow through Web 2.0 Mechanisms to Emergent Outcomes. To me, this has always been the heart of the emerging social web. My definition of Web 2.0 offered in the framework, which I still stand by, is:

“Distributed technologies built to integrate, that collectively transform mass participation into valuable emergent outcomes.”

The essence is the creation of something new and worthwhile from participation by many. This is something that is often missed by those who treat ‘social media’ as a new kind of broadcast mechanism. What remains most interesting about the web today is how users’ activities are aggregated to create something that did not exist before. Collaborative filtering, which preceded Web 2.0, is a key aspect, but it also goes beyond this.

Web as global brain

As I’ve written several times recently, the concept of the global brain seems to be on the rise again. Indeed, Tim O’Reilly’s original definition of Web 2.0 referring to “harnessing collective intelligence” is absolutely valid.

Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0

The framework suggests the same principles apply in the open web and the enterprise. That is absolutely true. In Chapter 2 of my book Implementing Enterprise 2.0, written last year, I explained how the Web 2.0 framework applies to the enterprise and the five issues in adapting Web 2.0 to organizations.

Web 2.0 Landscape

The landscape of Web 2.0 companies provided key dimensions for distinguishing different aspects of Web 2.0. One key dimension was distinguishing between Content Sharing and Recommendations/ Filtering, another was between Web Applications and Social Networks. Each pair of these combined to yield another space, to yield 8 dimensions.

Web 2.0 Landscape

Click on the image for the original description and full pdf

Again, I would slice this differently today, but the dimensions remain valid, and in particular the dimension and quadrants each make sense, though some could be renamed.

I briefly considered redoing this landscape with the current crop of web companies, but it would take too much work – it can be an exercise for people to work out for themselves where a company should sit on the landscape.

I find it interesting that back then I placed Twitter as a combination of social network and content sharing. While that is today a great way of describing Twitter, early on few seemed to understand that the core of Twitter’s value is in sharing content.

The aggregation space has receded in importance as RSS has become less prominent, though collaborative filtering is still a core business model. The web applications space has developed into the burgeoning software-as-a-service market. What I describe as widgets/ components is now in many ways a far larger space, which supports cloud computing in its truest sense.

I’d love any thoughts or comments on how the Web 2.0 Framework is (or isn’t) relevant today – where is it still valid and how might it be changed to make it fully current?